Monday, September 30, 2013

Sunderlal Report and Hyderabad’s Fall

Sunderlal Report and Hyderabad’s Fall
  By Syed Ali Mujtaba

There are so many facts that the successive Indian government has hidden from its citizens and one such is the publication of the Sunderlal report that probed the Hyderabad communal flare up, soon after the military action against India’s largest Muslim Princely state in 1948.

The report that has been kept in wraps, chronicles the horrendous crime committed against humanity in the aftermath of the amalgamation of the Princely state with the Indian dominion.  More than 40,000 people perished in that act of retribution and revenge.

The report that was commissioned by the government of India was considered to be so sensitive and inflammable that it was kept under lock and keys and was never brought to the public domain.Now almost Sixty Five years after its submission, the report is available at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi, as part of declassified document.

 The State of Hyderabad was one of 500 Princely states of India that enjoyed autonomy under the British rule. At the time independence, all of the Princely states agreed to join the Indian Union, except Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir.

While the story of Junagarh and Kashmir is a different narrative,   Hyderabad’s Muslim ruler Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam, insisted on remaining independent.  This led to an acrimonious stand-off between New Delhi and Hyderabad and the dispute was taken to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, armed militia called Razakar, sprung up to protect the Hyderabad state. Some say, it had tacit support of the ruler, but apparently, it was the armed wing of a Muslim political party, that had issues with the princely rule.

The members of the militia supposedly held drills in and around Hyderabad and terrorized the non Muslims population. This incensed people and New Delhi was ceased of the matter.

After a yearlong high drama and without any settlement in sight, the government in New Delhi sent its armed forces to take over Hyderabad in September 1948.

One division of the Indian army and a tank brigade under Major General Choudhry marched into Hyderabad. The battle was swift, the Nizam’s troops and the Razakars were defeated within few days of army’s invasion.

Since the case of Hyderabad at the United Nation, the military action was called ‘Police Action’ and was code named ‘Operation Polo.’

Surprisingly, the so called Police Action was peaceful in taking over Hyderabad and there was no significant loss of life of the civilian population in the city.

The Nizam saved himself and his kith and kin, with witnesses saying that he had tacit agreement with the government India. Facts or fiction, some say, the Hyderabad ruler allowed the India army to plunder his treasury, and each solider made a killing in that loot of the treasure trove.

However, what followed the invasion of the Indian army in the ruler areas of Hyderabad was a sordid tale against humanity about which the current generation is totally unaware.

The poor Muslim population was left at the mercy of the wolves and for several days’ arson, looting, rape and massacre continued with impunity in many districts. The Hindus formed special vigilante groups and singled out poor Muslims in the villages and put them to death.  There was total silence in Hyderabad, when bigotry, savagery, and brutality nakedly danced at its diabolic best in its districts.

Those innocent Muslims who perished in that organized crime,  had nothing to do with the standoff between the ruler of Hyderabad and the Indian Union. They were left with no protection and became scapegoat to the Hindus anger against the Princely state.

Commentators have analyzed the animosity as the desire of the Hindu populace to extinguish a Muslim state at the heart of India. Some call it extraction of cancer from the predominantly Hindu country. It’s estimated that more than 40,000 people perished in that act of retribution.  

The tale of the atrocities of this crime were so horrifying that then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru commissioned a small team of Congress leaders to investigate the matter.The commission was led by a Congressman, Pandit Sunderlal and included Kazi Abdul Ghaffar and Moulana Abdulla Misri as its other members.

The Sunderlal team made a three weeks tour of Hyderabad in Nov-Dec 1948. It visited 7 district headquarters, 21 towns and 23 important villages, and interviewed over 500 people from 109 such villages. At each place the team carefully chronicled the accounts of Muslims who had survived the appalling violence.

The Sunderlal report which is now available, mentions; "We had absolutely unimpeachable evidence to the effect that there were instances in which men belonging to the Indian Army and also to the local police took part in looting and even other crimes. At a number of places members of the armed forces brought out Muslim adult males... and massacred them.”

"During our tour we gathered, at many places, soldiers encouraged, persuaded and in a few cases even compelled the Hindu mob to loot Muslim shops and houses." The team reported that while Muslims villagers were disarmed by the Indian Army, Hindus were often left with their weapons.

In some cases, it said, Indian soldiers themselves took an active part in the butchery: "At a number of places, members of the armed forces brought out Muslim adult males from villages and towns and massacred them. They were lined up and shot in cold blooded manner.”

The investigation team also reported, however, in many other instances the Indian Army had behaved well and protected Muslims.

In confidential notes attached to the Sunderlal report, its authors detailed the gruesome nature of the Hindu revenge: "In many places we were shown wells still full of corpses that were rotting. In one such we counted 11 bodies, which included that of a woman with a small child sticking to her breast. "

And it goes on: "We saw remnants of corpses lying in ditches. At several places the bodies had been burnt and we would see the charred bones and skulls still lying there."

The Sunderlal report estimated that between 27,000 to 40,000 people lost their lives. The worst sufferers were in the districts of Osmanabad, Gulburga, Bidar and Nanded, where the loss of life was estimated to be 18,000. This retribution was said to be in response to years of intimidation and violence by the Razakars.

Well, there were three forces at work in Hyderabad leading towards its fall. The first was the Asafjahi dynasty that symbolized the last flicker of the Muslim rule in India. It steadfastly liked to cling to power, and drew its strength from the British rule. When it was clear that the colonial masters were certain to leave Indian shores, like other Princely states Hyderabad too was left rudderless. Its fervent appeal to British for independence felt on deaf ears due to the landlocked nature of the Princely state.

To the rulers of Hyderabad, Congress was an anathema due to latter’s stand to end the entire princely rule. The Nizam was not interested in Muslim League either. He shouted on top of his voice when Jinnah visited Hyderabad to enlist his support. Perhaps he never thought that he would ever be dethroned! Alas, when the end came, as its last hope, the same person tried to latch on to the moth eaten Pakistan which proved to be his nemesis. Soon Hyderabad state was consigned to the pages of history.

The second force was the communist movement that was seething in the under belly of Hyderabad state due to its feudal character. The class struggle had begun much before the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917. The communist wanted to carve out a separate state on the same geographical space of the princely kingdom. The communist leaders had even gone to Moscow, to get endorsement for the first communist state to be carved out of India. Their proposal too was shot down for the same reasons having lacking in port facility. Nonetheless, the anti feudal agenda of the communists worked against the Princely state.

In this triangular contest, the Indian National Congress was the rising force that rode the wave of freedom struggle. It was among these band of nationalist were some black sheep’s, who nursed the anti Muslims sentiments. Their activities were checked by the Razakars, but this in turn solidified the anti Muslim anger among them. During the endgame, they took it out on the poor Muslim masses, leading to one of the bloodiest anti- Muslim program in independent Indian history.

The Sunderlal report that investigated this massacre in Hyderabad was so horrifying that it was never shown the light of the day. Few Indians, today have any idea about this shocking event. Though no official explanation has been given to keep the report under wraps, it’s widely speculated that in the powder-keg years that followed independence, the news of what happened in Hyderabad might have sparked Hindu- Muslim riots.

Now when the Sunderlal report is available in the public domain, one wonders, why there is stock silence in the media, opinion makers and secular leaders about this event.

Even all these decades later, does not the nation have the right to know why the government-commissioned report was not published?  What happened in the Hyderabad state, after its fall?  Why such a important piece of history is being kept aside even when the Sunderlal report is now available for public discussion.

It is such a pity, when we watch some ludicrous topics being discussed on the TV, and a host of analysts with diverse opinion making their point of view, why there is no discussion on the TV channels. More shocking is, no editorials are being written, no social media is trying to un-layer this gory past.

What a shame, as Indians we, abhor to mention how inhuman and brutal some people were when they slaughtered 40,000 human lives. Well some say this may not serve any purpose, but for those who feel claustrophobic about the whole incident, it  may at least help them to breathe easy.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at


My earlier write up on same issue
The Endgame at Hyderabad State-


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Muzafarnagar Riots demand Communal Violence Prevention Bill

Muzafarnagar Riots demand Communal Violence Prevention Bill
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There are two things that warrant attention for the immediate passing of Communal Violence Prevention Bill, in the post Muzafarnagar riots analysis. Can India which is slipping closer to the ‘Hindu rate of growth’ that’s 3.5 per cent, afford the burden of communal riots and internal turmoil in the country and further slow down its economic progress?

Second, can the identity politics that’s so vigorously perused in the country be would be allowed to gallop, inviting the tag of ‘India a moving anarchy and shoo away the investor?’

If India likes to drive on the growth curb, can it afford such developments? If not, then there is an urgent need to pass the Communal Violence Prevention Bill for maintaining peace and prosperity in the country.    

The Communal Violence Bill announced by the UPA government in May 2004, soon after coming to power, was a revolutionary call. The bill aimed to stop the repeat of 2002 post Godhara riots in Gujarat, and gave a huge relief to the minority community, living under the constant shadow of insecurity.

However, somewhere done the line, the plot seems to be lost. The incumbent government has more reasons to pilot other bills than make efforts to see through the Communal Violence Prevention Bill.

In the wake of Muzafarnagar riot, Home Minister Shushil Kumar Shinde came out with a statement that the communal situation in the country is going to deteriorate ahead of the general elections due in 2014 but  was at a total loss of memory about the Communal Violence Prevention Bill.

It’s an irony that from past nine years, consensus on the Communal Violence Prevention Bill is eluding. The result innocent lives are being lost and communal riots a crime against humanity is at large.

As of now, the Union government cannot interfere in the affairs of the states as law and order is state subject and can only appeal to it to control the situation.

The Communal Violence Prevention Bill is supposed to give residual powers to the Central government to intervene in wake of a breakdown of the law and order situation in any state. However, there are two contentious issues that are begging to be ironed out, before it’s tabled in the Parliament.

First, can a communal situation in a state be dealt with by the Central government without encroaching upon the state’s rights of maintaining law and order?

Second, can the deployment of central forces be done independently and such forces can act independently or it has to do at the request of the state government and act under its command?

Opinion seems to be divided on both the issue and the resistance from the state governments is keeping the Bill in abeyance.

Notwithstanding the rights of the states, the fact remains that in the name of state autonomy and its exclusive right over 'law and order', the state government cannot be allowed to have a free run when communal orgy is taking place. The Centre has to intervene with all its firmness to stop the loss of life and property.

The 2002 post Godhara riots in Gujarat, that warranted the Bill, has lived up to its reputation. Communal riots are happening in the country with immunity, the state governments have repeatedly failed to control the situation. In such case how long the Central government can remain a spectator? Is it a bankruptcy of ideas or a deliberate design to keep the communal pot boiling?    

Muzafarnagar riots, that has so far claimed nearly 50 lives has once again reiterated the necessity for the passing of the Communal Violence Prevention Bill.

Muzafarnagar is closer to Delhi and if Communal Violence Prevention Bill would have been in place and if the Central government had acted swiftly to control the situation the loss of life and property could have been prevented.

As it happens after every riot, motives are attributed to the events and the blame game circulates stories of aggrieved and revenge. The fact remains, in all such situation, its innocent people who lose their lives.
It’s ominous that the fatalities could have been avoided if the state administration had acted with a little intelligence and responsibility. However, its total sloppy approach to maintain law and order allowed the situation to deteriorate leading to carry out a communal
program against the minorities, similar to the post Godhra riots.

A cursory look at the history of all the communal riots in the country suggests that Muzafarnagar riot was not isolated event. In the larger picture of the communal program carried out intermittently, tells the similar story, as others.

The communal violence invariably flares up around skirmishes among religious communities and the state administration allows it to escalate. The extremists then go on the rampage unleashing an orgy of death and mayhem. When enough damage is done and media pressure becomes unmanageable, the authorities then put their act together to control the situation.

In case of Muzafarnagar riot, this is exactly what had happened. Here the naked vote bank politics for consolidating the majority and minority vote banks was at its lethal display.

Since last sixty years, this is the pet theme of communal politics in India. The negative politics of creating hate and generating insecurity is a tried and tested formula. First, create a sharp polarization in the society, and then ride on the insecurity wave of the communities.  It happens each time at the expense of the minority community.

Since communalism is one of the many tools on which politics centers in the country, no political party wants to get it eliminated. Some parties may talk against it; but in hearts view it as a holy cow to be milked any time for electoral gains.

The Muzafarnagar riot has given enough indication of what future has in store, ahead of the general elections of 2014. If future communal riots have to be controlled, then Communal Violence Prevention Bill has to be brought out at once.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai, India. He can be contacted at

Saturday, September 7, 2013

MASC – An idea that failed

MASC – An idea that failed
Syed Ali Mujtaba

I am tempted to write a note of obituary for Media Arts and Science College ( Chennai where I worked for six months as Head, Media Studies.  It’s pity to say that MASC for all practical purposes is defunct if not dead.

MASC was an enterprising idea to promote media studies in Chennai. However, what appears that it was totally messed up by its promoter. Dreaming big is one thing, but to have the wherewithal to run the show is another. To break even is hard ball game where the promoter has floundered this wonderful venture.

I have been told that now the majestic MASC building on the East Coast Road (ECR) is under lock up. The building rental bill has accumulated to astronomical figures, making the land-lord to seal the premises, sources have said.

Debts have accumulated and my personal dues towards my salary is 1 lakh rupees, other staff, plus the vendors have their dues also to be settled. Every one wants their dues to be settled. This is nine month since the dues are kept in abeyance.

I am lucky to leave MASC in January, 2013 and found my way to a small Company, eking out my living but others are still waiting for their arrears.When the dues will be settled is the question mark?

The most hotly debated point among the staff members is when the promoter knew that MASC requires the exact sums to be spent annually, he should have arranged such fund before embarking on the project. What he actually did was to arrange some funds and started the venture hoping to break even and make it a profitable venture. However, he it appears he lost the way and apparently left with no funds when he raised his hands. He promised all to clear all the dues soon.

Its debated that if he had no resources to sustain such high profile venture why he started it in the first place? He should have known his limitations and may have applied breaks but he carried on adding to his expenses till he found  himself in red. He pushed the project, till it reached a dead-end.

Its widely speculated,  the reality is the promoter has no further funds and it is impossible for him to get back on the track.

The talk of the town is there anything left in MASC. Sources say, all the talk of its sales, joint ventures, is humbug. All such assumption that someone will come for joint venture and share litigation  is just farce, the sources added.

Still someone like me may have sympathies with the promoter but then the dues have to be recovered. Its a long wait for me and the promise is  not being fulfilled. In such case what should the aggrieved persons like me may do. Some one have suggested to make coordinated or individual effort and file a case to recover the dues. It’s the only way to recover the dues.

It’s really a sad commentary about MASC – An idea that failed.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at