Declassify report on the 1948 Hyderabad massacre

The Gujarat election will revive charges that Narendra Modi killed a thousand Muslims in the 2002 Gujarat riots, with the BJP accusing Rajiv Gandhi of killing 3000 Sikhs in the 1984 Delhi riots. To get a sense of perspective, i did some research on communal riots in past decades. I was astounded to find that the greatest communal slaughter occurred under neither Modi nor Rajiv but Nehru. His takeover of Hyderabad in 1948 caused maybe 50,000-200,000 deaths. The Sunderlal report on this massacre has been kept an official secret for over 60 years. While other princes acceded to either India or Pakistan in 1947, the Nizam of Hyderabad aimed to remain independent. This was complicated by a Marxist uprising. The Nizam’s Islamic militia, the Razakars, killed and raped many Hindus. This incensed Sardar Patel and Nehru, who ordered the Army into Hyderabad. The Army’s swift victory led to revenge killings and rapes by Hindus on an unprecedented scale.

Civil rights activist AG Noorani has cited Prof Cantwell Smith, a critic of Jinnah, in The Middle Eastern Journal, 1950. “The only careful report on what happened in this period was made a few months later by investigators – including a Congress Muslim and a sympathetic and admired Hindu (Professor Sunderlal) – commissioned by the Indian government. The report was submitted but has not been published; presumably it makes unpleasant reading. It is widely held that the figure mentioned therein for the number of Muslims massacred is 50,000. Other estimates by responsible observers run as high as 200,000.”

A lower but still horrific estimate comes from UCLA Professor Perry Anderson. “When the Indian Army took over Hyderabad, massive Hindu pogroms against the Muslim population broke out, aided and abetted by its regulars. On learning something of them, the figurehead Muslim Congressman in Delhi, Maulana Azad, then minister of education, prevailed on Nehru to let a team investigate. It reported that at a conservative estimate between 27,000 and 40,000 Muslims had been slaughtered in the space of a few weeks after the Indian takeover. This was the largest single massacre in the history of the Indian Union, dwarfing the killings by the Pathan raiders en route to Srinagar which India has ever since used as the casus belli for its annexation of Kashmir.

“Nehru, on proclaiming Indian victory in Hyderabad, had announced that ‘not a single communal incident’ marred the triumph. What action did he take on receiving the report? He suppressed it, and at Patel’s urging cancelled the appointment of one of its authors as ambassador in the Middle East. No word about the pogroms, in which his own troops had taken eager part, could be allowed to leak out. Twenty years later, when news of the report finally surfaced, his daughter banned the publication of the document as injurious to national interests.”

Perry Andersen is accused by some of anti-Indian bias. This cannot be said of author William Dalrymple. In The Age of Kali, Dalrymple says the Sunderlal report has been leaked and published abroad, and “estimates that as many as 200,000 Hyderabadi Muslims were slaughtered.”

Our textbooks and TV programmes show Sardar Patel and Nehru as demi-gods who created a unified India. The truth is more sordid. You will not find any mention of the Hyderabad massacre in our standard history books (just as Pakistani textbooks have deleted reference to the East Pakistan massacre of 1971). The air-brushing of Patel and Nehru is complete. My friends ask, why rake up the 1948 horrors now? You sound like an apologist for Modi’s killings of 2002.

I can only say that the killings of 1948 cannot possibly justify the killings of 2002, or 1984, or any others. Modi has blood on his hands, whether or not he was directly culpable. But why pretend that others had spotlessly clean hands? There is a macabre logic in the praises Modi has recently heaped on Patel: the two were not entirely dissimilar. Nations need to acknowledge their past errors in order to avoid them in the future. Germany acknowledged the horrors of fascism and militarism, and this helped it build a new anti-war society focused on human rights.

Something is terribly wrong when Indian citizens are kept in dark about the biggest pogrom since Independence, even after foreign sources have lifted the lid. India’s jihadi press is fully aware of the 1948 massacre, and projects its censorship as evidence of Hindu oppression. This is not how a liberal democracy should function. India cannot become a truly unified nation on the basis of suppressed reports and sanitized textbooks. The Sunderlal report must be made public.

6 thoughts on “Declassify report on the 1948 Hyderabad massacre

  • 2012.Dec.04 at 11:26

    In most of these massacres involving Hindus, it can be seen that they have acted in retaliation, and not as initiators of violence.

  • 2012.Dec.05 at 22:26

    I fully agree that a democracy needs to come to terms with it’s troubled events which is what will make it more resilient.
    But this article shows a bias that is typical of the leftist media . I have read your columns and have found them to be more balanced. But not this article.
    While you quote several reports on the Muslim casualties, you just make a passing mention that ” the nizam’s militia killed and raped many hindus” . With all due respects, may I ask , is there no report to put an actual number of the “many” Hindus killed?
    The same seems to be case with the Kashmir rebellion where we have the number of Muslims killed but not many report of thousands if kasmiri Hindus killed raped, looted and massacred.
    Lop-sided reporting makes calls for coming to terms with our past sound hollow and flimsy.

  • 2012.Dec.15 at 11:49

    I do not think most of the killed people are Muslims. Communist revolutionaries in Telangana and coastal Andhra Pradesh were killed by the army. The military force involved is larger than that of Kashmir war with Pakistan in 1948. The surrender military chief of razakars got imprisonment generously by the army but captured revolutionaries were killed by the army. The number of people (up to 2,00,000) killed is surprising figure to all. The report findings must be made public.

  • 2012.Dec.31 at 11:08

    The “maybe” in the article is a good reason why “maybe” this kind of inflammatory article should not have been published. This is when there are hawks on both side. Such speculations without well corroborate facts can be dangerous.

    Maybe more than 200,000 muslims were actually slaughtered. And if it is a fact which you can corroborate conclusively, then we surely have to reflect on this monstrosity and condemn it with our hearts so that it never happens.

    But it will be such a tragedy if even 10 people are killed further by someone invoking this article and if this “maybe” was untrue or way of the mark. You too will have blood on your hands Mr. Anklesaria.

    This might be just the grist for Mr. Owaisi again. I hope you have seen his speech in Adilabad where you see exactly the same number of people frothing in the mouth for all true and imagined justices.

    I doubt if the vast tract of India is as evolved and understanding as the Germans and that even they, despite their educational and economic levels, have buried all the demons of the past.

  • 2013.Jan.05 at 01:22

    Dear Mr. Aiyer,

    After going through the article again, I think there is something amiss. I never voted BJP and will never vote for Narendra Modi. But do feel you are letting off Congress mildly.

    If Narendra Modi is Sardar patel who let those ghastly massacre of the muslims happen, the article is shy of nailing the Congress. The Gandhi family/congress too have blood on their hands. Murder by intent or by bumbling idiots is still a murder. By that token Sardar Patel, Narendra Modi, Congress/Gandhi family, Nero all fall into the same bracket. Why let off Congress. It is hard to digest that their are no proportionately ghastly villains to compare to Congress’s villainy in the sikh massacre. Or do you think you can let off congress because they do not have Sardar Patel equivalent to compare them with.

    I do know there is no currency and glory in raking up issues of less glamorous massacres-like those of the sikhs. And I do understand that practically there is not merits in being brave if the bullies are vile enough to get back at you. I would love to see how congress takes to you if you prick their conscience about the sikh massacre.

    Having said that, I continue to have high regards for your intellect and do not expect too much of courage and bravery from you. It is foolish to be brave in the world where people have the intent and capability to harm you for in as much as adverse comment. However would really request you to avoid blatant oversight or lopsided view of things or be partisan in your judgement unless you are really coerced to do so.



  • 2015.Jul.17 at 13:53

    If the massacres really took place as proposed, then it is a serious blot on the secular credentials of people like Nehru, believed to be entirely free of communal bias.

    I want to live in a truly secular and bias-free nation. But I won’t believe India is a secular country unless people also acknowledge this massacre while mentioning the razakaar atrocities; I won’t believe this is a fair country unless people involved in Bombay riots are also hanged just the way yakub memon is about to be hanged.
    Else all this talk of secularism is just hogwash to soothe the conscience of hidden communalists.

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