The greatest achievement of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: Indian integration of Hyderabad
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the founding fathers of the Republic of India. As one of the most prominent leaders during the Indian independence movement, he played a crucial role in the unification of India which involved political integration of the various princely states as while as the erstwhile British colonies. It was no easy task and Sardar Patel’s role was extremely crucial in the whole process of the political integration of India.
The princely states were given three choices.
- Join India
- Join the newly formed Pakistan
- Remain independent
Majority of the states decided to merge with India, some of them opted for Pakistan, and three states decided to remain independent. These three states were Jammu and Kashmir, Junagadh, and Hyderabad. Out of these states, the Indian integration of Hyderabad was probably the greatest achievement of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Let me tell you why.
Hyderabad was the largest out of all the princely states in India. It was also the wealthiest and it covered parts of Telangana, Karnataka (present day Hyderabad Karnataka region excluding Ballari), and Maharashtra (Marathawada region). It was ruled by the Nizam Osman Ali Khan, Asif Jah-VII. The Nizam chose to remain independent very much against the wishes of majority of his people and hoped to maintain the state with his irregular army.
The period from 15 August 1947 to 17 September 1948 was a horrible one for the people in this region. Most of the people living in the region wanted to join the Indian Union and numerous revolts rose against the Nizam. The Nizam responded by creating a private militia unit known as the Razakars. The Razakars were most brutal and they held the actual power during this time.
The Nizam was no more than a puppet and the Razakars had the free will to do what they wanted. The Razakar militia brutally put down the armed revolts by Communists and the peasantry and committed horrendous atrocities on the population. Countless women became victims of rape and thousands went to jail and faced inhuman atrocities of the oppressive regime.
As the tyranny of the Razakars continued to increase, the Indian Home Minister Sardar Patel decided to annex Hyderabad and end Nizam’s rule once for all. As a result of this, the Indian Armed Forces came up with an operation to make sure that Hyderabad was integrated into the Indian union. This operation came to be called as Operation Polo.
The Indian army came up with the Goddard Plan (envisioned by Lt. Gen. E. N. Goddard, the Commander-in-Chief of the Southern Command back then). The plan involved two main units from Vijayawada in the East and Solapur in the West while the smaller units pinned down the Hyderabadi army along the border. Lt. Gen. Rajendrasinghji, DSO was the commander of the operation.
After 5 days of fighting, the Razakars and the rest of the Nizam’s forces were completely routed on all fronts. At 5 pm on 17 September, the Nizam announced ceasefire thus ending the armed action. Finally the Nizam was defeated. The brutal Razakars were routed. But there was a flipside to the entire operation. Large scale communal violence took place both during and after the operation.
Nevertheless, with the defeat of the Hyderabad State, it brought joy to millions of people who had fled from their homes prior to these incidents. People finally came back from wherever they had been to and got back their homes and their livelihood.
All this was possible because of just one man who dared to actually attack the Nizam. All this was possible because of Sardar Patel. Sardar Patel’s single greatest achievement obviously was unification of India. But out of that, Indian integration of Hyderabad State was his single largest achievement. Thousands of people were saved from the Razakars.
The Balkanization of Hyderabad state was prevented and most importantly, people who had lost everything prior to this, got back most of the things that they had lost. That is why the people from erstwhile Hyderabad state celebrate independence day twice in the year. Once along with the rest of the country on August 15th and once more on September 17th as Hyderabad Liberation Day. Sardar Patel, thanks a lot for being the savior and being the hero, we dearly needed during those dark days.
PS: My roots are from Gulbarga or Kalaburagi district of present day Karnataka. It was a part of the Hyderabad State before and my ancestors were forced to migrate and leave behind everything to escape the tyranny of the Razakars. Had it not been for Sardar Patel’s bold decision and Operation Polo, probably we would have been living like refugees in our own country. This is why I consider the integration of Hyderabad as his greatest achievement.