Police Action and the End of Nizam’s Rule- Operation polo
Operation Polo was the name used to refer to the Hyderabad Police Action which was essentially a military operation under which the Indian armed forces encroached the State of Hyderabad and defeated the Nizam, obtaining the state of Hyderabad for the Indian Union.
This clash began after the Nizam of Hyderabad, Osman Ali Khan Asaf Jah VII decided that the Princely State of Hyderabad will not join India nor Pakistan after Partition. The decision of the Nizam was supported by Pakistan. Being cautious of an opposing independent state in the middle of India, Sardar Patel, the then Deputy Prime Minister, made a decision to annex the state of Hyderabad to India and sent the Indian Army to Hyderabad for the same.
Spread over most of the Deccan Plateau, the Hyderabad State was established by Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah in 1724 after the end of the Mughal Empire. The Nizam was a Muslim, but most of his subjects (85%) were Hindu. In 1798 the Royal state of Hyderabad was the first state to agree to British Protection under the policy of Subsidiary Alliance. In 1947 when the British left India, they gave princely states the choice to either join India or Pakistan or remain as independent states.
Under the rule of Mir Usman Ali, the Hyderabad state was very prosperous and had its own army, railway and airline network, postal system and radio network. The Nizam wanted to keep Hyderabad independent, though the Indian union did not like the idea of having an independent and possibly hostile state in the middle of the country and decided to annex Hyderabad state and make it part of the Indian Union. Most other 565 princely states had either decided to join India or Pakistan by then.
Initially, the Nizam of Hyderabad approached the British Government with a request to get the status of an independent constitutional monarchy under the British Commonwealth of Nations. The British did not agree to the Nizam’s request. The then Indian Home Minister Sardar Patel requested the Nizam to join India, but he refused and instead declared Hyderabad an independent nation on 15th August 1947, the day Indian received Independence. Shocked by the idea on an independent Hyderabad right in the heart of India, Sardar Patel consulted with the Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten and he suggested Patel to resolve the challenge without having to resort to force.
The Indian Government then offered Hyderabad a Standstill Agreement, which assured the state that no military action would be taken against it. Unlike the other princely states which acceded to either India or Pakistan, Hyderabad only promised India that it would not join Pakistan. Hyderabadi ambassadors accused India of economically isolating the state and the Indians on the other hand accused the Hyderabadis of importing firearms from Pakistan.
In June 1948, Lord Mountbatten proposed the Heads of Agreement deal which gave Hyderabad the status of an autonomous dominion nation under India. The deal required the restriction of its armed forces and the adjourning of its voluntary forces. Hyderabad would be allowed to govern its territory, but only foreign affairs would be handled by the Indian Government. The deal was signed by India, but the Nizam refused to sign this saying that he either wanted complete independence or the status of a dominion under the British Commonwealth of Nations. While these negotiations were being carried out, communal riots between Hindus and Muslims had broken out in Hyderabad. The state was also busy arming itself and was receiving arms from Pakistan and the Portuguese administration in Goa.
As soon as the Indian Government received information that Hyderabad was arming itself and planning to ally with Pakistan, Sardar Patel described the idea of an Independent Hyderabad as “an ulcer in the heart of India which needed to be removed surgically”. This was when talks between India and Hyderabad broke down and India decided to annex Hyderabad.
The battle between India and Hyderabad began on 13th September 1948 and ended on 18th September 1948 after which the Nizam’s army surrendered to the Indian Army and Hyderabad became a part of the Union of India. This war which lasted five days resulted in loss of life and casualties and it is estimated that 32 were killed and 97 injured on the Indian side and 490 killed and 122 wounded on the Hyderabadi side.
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