Life of Sardar Patel

Climax 1947 – 1948      

Recognizing the bitter reality about riots, deaths in Punjab, SP had on Aug 16 told Nehru, Mountbatten and Liaqat Ali “the only solution to the Punjab award was transfer of population on a large scale”. None took up SP’s suggestion. 25 days later, after thousand more deaths, the Govt of India decided that priority should be given to the transfer of refugees rather than maintenance of law and order. A month later India and Pakistan formally agreed that East and West Punjab would exchange their minorities.

SP’s was a Hindu heart. He was roused more by a report of 50 Hindus, Sikhs dead rather than 50 Muslim deaths. Yet, he punished Hindu-Sikh offenders out of a sense of duty. Yet, while SP’s frank tongue revealed his Hinduness, many failed to see his effort to enforce law or his anxiety to save Muslim lives. His opponents exchanged notes while Nehru was in Pakistan. If Nehru’s was the voice of charity; SP’s was of reality. Each was right, each was incomplete.

Gandhi, meanwhile was sharing roof with Suhrawardy in one of Calcutta’s riot prone localities. SP rebuked him for living in a ruffian’s den and for choosing such company. Yet Calcutta was peaceful till the end of August only. Eruption of violence provoked a fast by G on Sept 2. Peace returned on Sept 5. G broke his fast with a glass of juice given by Suhrawardy.

Next was Delhi’s turn to riot. After a few days of rioting tough action by SP brought the situation under control by mid Sept. Realizing Mountbatten’s experience of wartime emergencies, SP and Nehru asked him to head a Central Emergency Committee. Good work was done. While SP visited the Dargah of Nizamuddin Chishti to take care of Muslim anxiety he was not going to tolerate Muslim misbehavior. Shots from a building under Muslim control whizzed past him on Sept 13 when he stopped outside the Faiz Bazar police station. Told by a police officer that it was impossible to silence the snipers without blowing it up, he said “Blow it up”.

When the Sikhs intended to attack Muslim convoys on their way to Pakistan, he told them “I think it is in keeping with your dignity, reputations for valor and self-respect that you should raise a volunteer force which will protect these refugees. Break the vicious circle of attacks and retaliation for atleast a week. If the Pakistanis do not respond satisfactorily, India would take them to task”. On his way to the airport he addressed an angry crowd of 1 to 1.5 lakhs and made one of the greatest speeches of his life “ Pledge the safety of Muslim refugees crossing the city. Any obstacles will only worsen the plight of our refugees who are already performing the feats of endurance. If we have to fight, we must fight clean. Such a fight must wait an appropriate time and conditions and you must be watchful in choosing the ground”. The rest of the speech is too long to reproduce here.

The message went home. His speeches marked a turning point in Punjab’s story. Taxed by G with a report that he was encouraging Muslims to go away to Pakistan, SP told G that Muslims not loyal to India must leave, and he could not help adding that he suspected a majority of disloyalty. When the Cabinet considered the question of houses vacated by Muslims in pre-dominantly Muslim localities the majority agreed that the houses must first be offered to Muslims who had fled from other places but wished to remain in India. Believing that incoming Hindu Sikh refugees had an equal right to accommodation, SP opposed the plan while Nehru/Azad backed it. Nehru wanted Delhi’s Sikh Deputy Commissioner transferred because the Muslims did not trust him. SP did not relent under the pressure.

On October 31, 1947 or thereabouts, G asked the Govt to declare that mosques would be protected, forcible conversion to Hinduism and Sikhism not recognized and no Muslim would be thrown out of India or his house. SP ignored G’s advice.
Princely States

On Mountbatten’s urging he had given Hyderabad three months extension for deciding on the accession. Visiting Kashmir between 18 and 23/6/47 Mountbatten had told Maharaja Singh “that if Kashmir joined Pakistan this would not be considered an unfriendly act by the Govt of India”. According to Menon, Mountbatten said, “he had a firm assurance from Patel himself”. Note that the Viceroy was quoting Patel and not Nehru. It was land of Nehru’s forbears, an apple he did not want to loose. Nehru’s friendship was intensified by his friendship with Sheikh Abdullah. Noting Abdullah’s pro-Indian sentiment, G prayed that Kashmir would disprove the 2 nation theory. SP did not share G or Nehru’s enthusiasm for Kashmir, was content leaving the decision to the ruler. Visiting Kashmir in August G had said that it was free to join either Dominion but in accordance with the will of the people. The Hindu king was unable to decide whom to join, India or Pakistan. He had executed a Standstill agreement with Pakistan and wanted to have a similar link with India but its leaders had not responded.

The ruler of Junagarh, a Muslim would probably, have joined India but for his new Dewan, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, a Muslim league politician. On Aug 15, Junnagarh announced its decision to accede to Pakistan. The Govt of India was uncomfortable. If Junagarh could accede what prevented Hyderabad from following suit. If India argued that not Junagarh’s ruler but its people should choose, Jinnah would make sure the same logic is used in Kashmir where the poll would be an Islam in danger one.

This implication was clear, yet on Sept 30 Nehru told Liaqat in Mountbatten’s presence that while India objected to the Nawab’s accession, it would always be willing to abide by the verdict of a plebiscite, referendum, election in Junagarh. Mountbatten played his role by adding that if need arose Nehru would apply the same principle to other States too, whereupon, in Mountbattens words “Nehru nodded his head sadly. Mr Laiqat eyes sparkled. There is no doubt that both of them were thinking of Kashmir”.

Junagarh Won - SP made it clear that a plebiscite in Kashmir would be conditional on one in Hyderabad. Not prepared for the latter, Jinnah offered no plebiscite in Junagarh. On Sept 19, SP sent Menon to Junagarh who found the Nawab and Bhutto evasive. On Sept 24, at Patel’s instance, a brigade consisting of Indian troops and solders from some of the Kathiiwad states were positioned near Junagarh’s frontiers. On Sept 25, residents of Junagarh gathered in Mumbai and formed with Sardar’s knowledge a provisional govt. Four weeks of waiting followed. Patel was giving time to Pakistan to annul the accession or arrange a plebiscite. On October 21, the Cabinet authorized the take over of Junagarh’s three feudatories. Mountbatten tried to argue against the decision, also wanted the Central Reserve Force to be used instead of the army. But SP was opposed to any qualms. Three feudatories of Junagarh were taken over by Nov 1. The Nawab fled to Karachi. Bhutto asked the Govt of India to take over the reins of the state. Prodded by Mounbatten, Nehru and Menon drafted a conciliatory telegram to Pakistan that the GOI was acceding to Bhuto’s request but would ascertain the wishes of the people before accepting the State de jure.

Woken up past midnight by Menon Sardar objected to the offer of plebiscite. It was “unnecessary and uncalled for” he said. In his view, Nehru and Menon “were sissies to want to send any telegram at all”. However after a good deal of persuasion, Patel agreed that a message might go, “subject to the omission of anything that could possibly be interpreted as friendly”. The army entered on Nov 9, disarmed the state’s soldiers and the reins taken over. Arriving in Junagarh four days later, addressing a large gathering,

Patel said “If Hyderabad does not see the writing on the wall, it goes the way Junagarh has gone. Pakistan attempted to set off Kashmir against Junagarh. When we raised the question of settlement in a democratic way, they at once told us that they would consider it if we applied that policy to Kashmir. Our reply was that we would agree to Kashmir if they agreed to Hyderabad”. A referendum was held on February 20, 1948. A total of 130 votes were cast in favor of Pakistan out of 232891 registered voters.

Somanth – after the Junagarh rally, SP visited Somnath. Distressed to see it in ruins, Gadgil suggested that the temple be renovated. Thanks to donations without a rupee of government money the temple was renovated. By the time it was renovated SP was no more. Dr Rajender Prasad inaugurated it much against the wishes of Nehru.

Kashmir – The Maharaja had executed a Standstill agreement with Pakistan and wanted to have a similar link with India but its leaders had not responded. The Agreement had given Pakistan a strong foothold in Kashmir and placed the Postal and Telegraph services under her control. There was one stumbling block, however. Sheikh Abdullah was at loggerheads with Jinnah. Thus Jinnah decided to adopt a policy of coercion and force. Pakistan cut off supply of food, petrol and other commodities. Military pressure was applied through border raids.

SP’s lukewarmness about Kashmir lasted till the day Pakistan had accepted Junagarh’s accession. A series of steps were undertaken. At Patel’s initiative, planes were diverted to the Delhi-Srinagar route, wireless – telegraph equipment were installed between Amritsar and Jammu. Patel wrote to Hari Singh (king of Kashmir) on 21.9.47 “Justice Meher Chand will convey to you personally the gist of our conversation on all matters affecting the interests of Kashmir. I have promised him full support and cooperation on our behalf”. SP had virtually ordered the Maharaja to appoint Meher Chand as his PM. SP also got Guruji Golwalkar to fly to Srinagar on Oct 17. Guruji brought home to the Maharaja the futility of an independent Kashmir. Pakistan would never tolerate it and engineer a revolt. He also assured him that SP would look after Kashmiri people. After the Maharaja expressed his readiness to sign the Instrument of Accession, Guruji left for Delhi on Oct 19 and told SP of what had transpired.

On 15/10/47, the J and K PM had complained about lack of supplies, border raids to the British PM. Silence! On 18/10/47, the J & K State sent a protest to Jinnah on the same issue. Jinnah replied on 20/10/ taking offense against the language and attributed disruption in supplies to disturbances in East Punjab.

Sheikh Abdullah was released on 29/9/47. SP disliked him but Nehru was enthusiastic about him. The Maharaja had arrested Nehru in June 1946 when he fought for the Sheikh and so disliked him. Both SP and Nehru were aware that an understanding between the Maharaja and Sheikh were crucial to the state’s relationship with India. In the last week of Sept Nehru had received reports that the Pakis were making preparations to enter Kashmir in large numbers. According to Nehru, the solution was to bring about the accession of Kashmir ASAP with the cooperation of Abdullah. SP could not refute Nehru’s reasoning. On October 21, SP wrote to PM Mahajan that since the Sheikh was genuinely anxious to cooperate in dealing with external dangers, he urged powersharing between the Maharaja and Abdullah without in any way jeopardizing the Maharaja’s position.

Before Mahajan received the letter, on Oct 22, 5000-armed tribesmen from Pakistan entered Kashmir. They burnt down Muzaffarbad. The Muslims of his battalion shot down Lt Col Narain Singh, in command of the state forces there. Brig Rajinder Singh, Chief of Staff of the States Forces, engaged the raiders for two days at Uri. The Brigadier and his team were killed but precious time had been gained. On Oct 23, Mahajan wrote to the Sardar that nearly the whole of our Muslim military and police had deserted or refused to cooperate. On Oct 24, the raiders captured the powerhouse at Mahura and switched off Srinagar’s electricity. By the night of 24th they were close to Baramulla, only forty miles from the capital.

The Chief Minister of N.W.F.P. encouraged tribesmen to go to Kashmir while the Pakistani General Akbar Khan openly acknowledged his own, country’s involvement. Jinnah told Mounbatten on Nov 1 that if his conditions were satisfied the whole thing would be called off. Gen Akbar was leading the forces who was assisted by some Muslim ex-officers of Subhas Bose’s Indian National Army. The British commander of the Gilgit Scouts, Major Brown, rebelled against the Kashmir govt and handed over Gilgit to Pakistan. Virtually all the Muslims in Hari Singh’s forces crossed to the raiders. 

When the Defence Committee of the Indian Cabinet met on Oct 25, SP supported helping the Maharaja while Nehru’s first reaction was “The Maharaja must associate Abdullah with the resistance”. A crucial meeting on Oct 26 was held at Nehru’s house where Abdullah and Mahajan pleaded that Indian soldiers were urgently needed. Mountbatten’s attitude and Nehru’s own attitude made him hesitate whereupon Mahajan said that Kashmir would seek Jinnah’s help if India did not respond. Nehru reacted by asking Mahajan to go away. SP stopped him “Ofcourse Mahajan”, he said, “you are not going to Pakistan. Menon was now asked to return to Kashmir and tell the Maharaja that the Indian army was on its way.

Mountbatten got SP and Nehru to agree to two points, one that the Instrument of Accession should be secured before the troops were dispatched. The other that an offer of a plebiscite must be included in the Instrument of Accession once law and order is restored. SP agreed to Nehru’s condition that Abdullah should have a place of authority in Kashmir. India needed Brit and Abdullah’s support at that crucial juncture.

On October 26, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession in Jammu and asked in writing for military help and agreed to install Abdullah at once as Head of Administration alongside the de jure Premier Mahajan. It may be noted that the Instrument of Accession does not include any promise or offer of a plebiscite.
By early October 27, over a hundred planes had been assembled. 329 men of the Sikh Regiment’s 1ST Battalion were in Srinagar before dusk. However, the airport was snowbound and unserviceable. Now the RSS Swayamsevaks cleared the snow in time for the Indian planes to land. Action started. SP made his first visit to Srinagar around Nov 3. Said Abdullah “events took a decisive turn after Patel’s visit. The Sardar did not loose even one minute. He studied the situation and said that the enemy must be driven back.” In the last week of October 47, SP said that a 65 mile road between Jammu and Pathankot was to be ready with eight months. Refusing to listen to excuses he said, “You have to do it”. It was done in time.

The Hari Singh-Abdullah formula to let the Abdullah run the valley and leave Jammu to the Maharaj did not work with the Sheikh interfering in Jammu. SP flew into to Jammu on Dec 2 and tried to broker peace between the two but failed. Abdullah wanted to be Premier for the complete state. Wrote Nehru to the Maharaja “Sheikh should be the PM and should be asked to form the govt. Mr Mahajan can be one of the ministers and formally preside over the cabinet. You could be its constitutional head”.

With this letter Nehru took over the shaping of India’s Kashmir policy a role so far played by SP. Viewing Abdullah as the key to Kashmir’s future and believing that SP would mishandle him, Nehru decided to manage Kashmir himself. To assist in Kashmir, he brought into the cabinet as Minister without portfolio, N G Ayyangar, a former Dewan of the state and constitutional expert. Unaware of Nehru’s plans whose lack of frankness with the Sardar created a rift between him and Ayyangar. Nehru and SP exchanged a series of letters in which SP offered his resignation to which Nehru wrote “If I am to continue as PM, I cannot have my freedom restricted and I must have a certain liberty of direction”.

Within days of the attack on Kashmir, Mountbatten had urged Nehru to visit Lahore and talk to Jinnah, Liaqat. SP had protested. Nehru did not go, though illness was as much a reason as Patel’s opposition. Nehru had agreed, on Mountbatten’s persuasion, to refer the matter to the United Nations. On Nov 21, Nehru reiterated his offer of plebiscite under the auspices of the U.N. SP opposed it but Kashmir was Nehru’s baby now. Nehru obtained G’s reluctant consent but not before G had altered the wording of India’s complaint to the UN. A reference to an independent Kashmir as a possible alternative to accession to either India or Pakistan was removed.

With the Indian Army finding that the only way the raiders could be completely removed from Kashmir was by attacking the bases and sources of supply in Pakistan, India warned Pakistan on 22/12/47 that unless Pakistan denied assistance and a base to the invaders, India would be compelled to take such action. Mountbatten urged Nehru “the overwhelming need for caution and constraint”, he stressed “how an embroilment with Pakistan would undermine the whole of Nehru’s foreign policy and progressive social aspirations”. Nehru lodged a complaint with the United Nations on 31/12/1947. He had earlier made a promise for plebiscite in his All India Radio broadcast on 23/12/47.

Patel’s misgivings were fulfilled when, guided by the British delegate, the Security Council seemed to imply that Pakistan’s case was stronger than India. Ayyangar and Abdullah were outperformed by Pakistan’s Zafrullah Khan in the UN. On 13/8/48, the UN passed a resolution whereby a plebiscite would be held under UN auspices after Pakistan withdrew its troops from the state.

Hyderabad – A Standstill Agreement was signed on Nov 29 along with a secret letter to Mountbatten that the Nizam would not accede to Pakistan. The agreement provided for each party to post an Agent General at each other’s headquarters. SP appointed a trusted person K M Munshi after which SP preferred to wait since Mountbatten was interfering in the Hyderabad matter to help his old friend, the Nizam. SP waited since he knew that Mountbatten was to leave in the summer of 1948.

Through a series of carrot, tick approaches SP, ably helped by Menon, got the rulers of  Orissa to form a larger state. Said Menon to the rulers of Patna, Kalahandi and Baudh “The GOI are most anxious to maintain law and order. We cannot allow your state to create problems for the Govt of Orissa and if you had not signed the agreement, we would have been compelled to take over the administration of the State”. SP met 14 rulers of the state of Chhatisgarh in Nagpur on Dec 15. He promised them that privy purses would be included in the Constitution, a promise he fulfilled but Indira Gandhi had different plans. In Kathiawad. Patels’s tactics were different. One he got G’s blessings. Two he did not join the negotiations himself. Said Menon “It is not possible for 222 states to continue their separate existence for much longer. The extinction of a separate existence may not be palatable but unless something is done to stabilize the situation in good time, the march of events may bring about still more unpalatable results”. On Jan 22, 48, 22 of Kathiawar’s major rulers signed a covenant for union.

By the middle of Feb 48, SP and Menon had presented two schemes, one where States merged into provinces and the other where they joined one another to form a Union. So Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Matsya, PEPSU (Patiala and the eastern Punjab states union) came into being with Bombay, Madras, Central Provinces etc. So was formed a new and unified India.

Around this time SP was expecting to leave the govt. Nehru, Azad wanted the Sikh Randhawa transferred but SP had refused. G realized that Delhi’s Hindus and Sikhs would be upset with the transfer but found it difficult to tell Delhi’s Muslims that there was a limit to the sympathy they must expect. G told Patel on Dec 29 or 30 “Either you should run things or Nehru should”. Patel said “I do not have the physical strength. Let him run the show. I will assist him to the extent possible from outside”. G kept quiet. Later Nehru sent Ayyangar to Ajmer (riots) to convey the PM’s regrets but the Commissioner Prasad perceived it as interference, more so by SP. If only Nehru had told SP about the visit, this misunderstanding could have been avoided.

He had written his resignation letter on Dec 23. Since then, he toured extensively as if he was bidding his friend’s farewell. At Calcutta he made two points. Said he “I have been accused of being a friend of the Rajas, capitalists, zamindars. But I claim to be a friend of Labour and the poor. I have resolved not to have property and have none. But I cannot succumb to the prevalent fashion to pose as a leader or attempt to gain leadership by abusing princess and capitalists”.

The other point was on Pakistan’s share of the assets of undivided India. The two countries had in Nov agreed that Rs 55 crs remained to be transferred to Pakistan. Within two hours of the agreement India informed Pakistan – on Patel’s insistence – that implementation would hinge on a settlement on Kashmir. Said SP “In the division of assets we treated Pakistan generously. But we cannot tolerate even a pie being spent for making bullets to be shot at us. The settlement of assets is like a consent decree. The decree will be executed when all the o/s points are satisfactorily settled”.

In Lucknow he said “The Muslim League used to call Gandhi as their enemy number one. Now they have substituted me in his place, for I speak the truth. They believed that if they had Pakistan they would ensure full protection to Muslims. But have they ever sympathized with Muslims in India” To the Indian Muslims I have only one? Why did you not open your mouths on the Kashmir issue? Why did you not condemn the acts of Pakistan? It is your duty to sail in the same boat and sink or swim together. I want to tell you very frankly that you cannot ride two horses. Select one horse. Those who want to go to Pakistan can go there and live in peace. I appeal to Hindu Mahasabhaites to join the Congress. If you think you are the only custodians of Hinduism, you are mistaken. Hinduism preaches a broader outlook; I appeal to the RSS not to be rash and tactless. Do not be aggressive”.

After the Cabinet had backed SP on not giving Pakistan Rs 55 crs, Patel made the same known through a press conference on Jan 12. Prodded by Azad about the conditions of Muslims, G went on an indefinite fast on Jan 12. When SP rushed to meet G, he conveyed to Patel that non-payment of Rs 55 crs seemed immoral. Who says so asked Patel. “Mountbatten” replied G. Apparently G had met Mounbatten last evening and asked what he thought of the decision to withhold Rs 55 crs.

Mounbatten said that it would be “unstatesmanlike and unwise” and be India’s “first dishonorable act”. When SP met Mountbatten and protested he agreed to withdraw the word dishonorable only. SP next G if he had spoken to Nehru. G had just spoken to Nehru who said “Yes, it was passed but we don’t have a case. It is legal quibbling”.

On Jan 14, the cabinet reversed the earlier decision. Earlier in the day, tears ran down G’s face. The Sardar, as he would later admit, uttered extremely bitter words. SP supported the cabinet decision and left for Bhavnagar the next morning for a bid for a united Kathiawad – his gift for G. But the fast was not withdrawn. SP had thought that the fast was directed at him since the Muslims had complained to him against the Home Ministry, particularly SP. G’s defence produced mixed emotions in SP. However, Patel could not resist the feeling, that, irrespective of its origins, the fast was clipping his wings and strengthening Nehru’s.

Meanwhile Azad and Prasad spent hours-collecting pledges from Delhi’s citizens. Representatives of the Sikhs, Hindus, RSS, Hindu Mahasabha joined others in assuring G that mosques occupied by non-Muslims would be vacated, areas set apart for Muslims would not be forcibly occupied and Muslims choosing to return to Delhi could do so. At 12.45 pm on Jan 17, G broke his fast.

After the first attack on G’s life on Jan 20, SP asked G for permission to search everyone coming to meet G or to join the prayer meeting. G refused to give it. At 4 p.m. on January 30, G and SP began their heart to heart to talk at Birla House. G said that Nehru and Patel were indispensable. After about 40 minutes, the two of them and Nehru agreed to meet the next day. As SP entered his house, he got the news that G had been shot dead. SP shown iron courage gave solace to one and all, instructed the police chiefs to impose strict security measures all over the country and not hesitate to say that the assassin was a Hindu. That day Nehru and SP embraced each other, forgetting their differences.

A public outcry demanded SP ‘s resignation. (Probably motivated). SP was all set to send his resignation but was convinced by his aid Vidya Shankar to hold it back. Nehru wrote a lovely letter to SP to which he reciprocated with equally warm sentiments. Addressing the Congress Party in the Constituent Assembly, for the first time he accepted Nehru as his leader.

The RSS was banned in February. Nehru thought it was fascistic while SP believed it to be a misguided patriotic. They disagreed period. SP had to be hospitalized soon thereafter after which he spent four months recovering in Delhi, Dehradun and Mussorie. During this period, Menon reported daily on state merger and to take instructions.

Meanwhile Kriplani’s term as President of the Congress was to expire. With Mountbatten’s departure, Nehru and SP agreed that Rajagopalachari would replace him. On Mountbatten’s advice Nehru shifted residence from his York House (next to SP’s house) to Teen Murthi House. It had the effect of increasing the distance between the two stalwarts because no longer could Nehru drop into 1 Aurangzeb Road frequently.

Hyderabad - Roy Bucher, the army chief visited SP at Dehra Dun. SP was willing to accept a partition of Kashmir conditional to Hyderabad coming to terms with India. Bucher would later on observe that “the Sardar’s reading of the pulse of India was almost uncanny in its accuracy”. The proposal was supposed to be discussed during Liaqat Ali’s visit to Delhi but due to an illness he did not come nor had any agreement been reached between India and Hyderabad.

The Nizam of Hyderabad was under the influence of Kasim Razvi who headed an organization that was dedicated to maintaining Muslim supremacy in the State. On his advice the Nizam replaced his Premier with Mir Laik Ali, a prominent Hyderabadi businessmen who had been on Pakistan’s delegation to the UN. Razvi visited Delhi in November, called on the Sardar and told him “We shall fight and die to the last man”. SP replied “How can I stop you from committing suicide”. Despite this the Standstill Agreement was signed. At the end of Jan Sardar told Laik Ali that India would restrain herself if Hyderabad gave Hindus say in the govt i.e. either accede or introduce a representative govt. To the Nizam both the options were equally were unattractive. They arranged for a secret loan of Rs 20 crs to Pakistan. The Razakars were financed and armed. On the other hand, the Indian Army was withdrawn in terms of the standstill agreement.

Razvi made highly inflammatory speeches, which were denied by the Brit representative in Hyderabad. On April 15/48, SP met Laik Ali and told him “You know as well as I do where power in Hyderabad lies. The gentlemen who dominates Hyderabad, Razvi, has categorically stated that if the Indian Dominion comes to Hyderabad, it will find nothing but the ashes and bones of one and a half crore Hindus. If that is the position, then it seriously undermines the whole future of the Nizam and his dynasty”.

Laik Ali was taken aback by Sardar’s words. This was not the language he had heard from either Nehru or Mountbatten. The Indian govt. made four demands, which the Nizam refused to act upon instead, he sent Laik Ali to Delhi. Menon stated that all that he could do was to draft Heads of Agreement in order to focus the points of discussion. The draft kept on moving to and fro for four weeks till SP wrote to Nehru and Mountbatten that they were wasting time.

Mountbatten was keen on a Hyderabad settlement before he left. When he went to say farewell to SP he gave Patel the new heads of agreement to which he said “I will never initial it”. After lunch Sardar was in an emotional mood when he said, “How can we prove our love and gratitude to you”. Mountbatten said “If you are sincere, sign this document”. Patel initialed the draft and embraced Mountbatten with tears. This is an account given by Mountbatten and could contain some mirch masala in it. Nevertheless Mountbatten was on cloud nine as if his dream were coming true.

The Heads of Agreement just initialed provided that the Nizam’s govt would if requested by the GOI, pass legislation similar to that of India on any matter of defence, external affairs and communications, the Hyderabad army would be restricted to a maximum of 20,000 plus 8,000 irregulars and Hyderabad’s foreign, trade relations would be conducted by India. Also the Nizam would declare a plebiscite, form a Constituent Assembly and install an Interim Govt.

Well luck was on SP’s side. The Nizam had refused to sign and raised afresh set of points. SP was all for an economic blockade, he had persuaded the Cabinet in the middle of May to prepare for military action. Nehru had warned that it could hurt India’s military position in Kashmir, the Chiefs of Armed Forces – all Brits had termed it as a hazardous military gamble. SP response was, excerpts “It is not the action of the Army which maintains law and order – look at Punjab last August, when 55,000 men could not stop the massacres. It is the prestige of the govt backed by potential armed action, which keeps the people in order. But if the Govt delays action in Hyderabad much longer, then its prestige will fall so greatly that no amount of troops will be sufficient for internal security”.

Persuaded, on May 13, a go ahead was given for military preparations. However, Mountbatten recorded “Nehru said at the meeting and assured me privately, that he would not allow any orders to be given for operations to start unless there was a wholesale massacre of Hindus within the state, which would patently justify, in the eyes of the world, action by the GOI”.

The countdown began the day Mountbatten left i.e. July 5. The economic blockade was now official. Hyderabad played into his hands by hiring gunrunners who were taking off at nights from airports in Pakistan and touching down on landing strips in Bidar. Razakars and Communists seem to be forging closer links. A Hindu member of Nizam’s council J V Joshi had resigned, charging the police and Razakars of terrorizing Hindus. Attacks on Indian villages near the border were reported as well as attacks on foreign missionaries and nuns.

Protesting the Nizam approached the UN and the U S President to arbitrate who refused. While SP wanted intervention, Nehru remembered his word to Mountbatten and tried to avoid it. Isolated Nehru yielded. Rajaji wrote to the Nizam asking to ban the Razakars and invited the Indian Army. Both the demands were rejected. At a meeting called by Rajaji, attended by Nehru, Patel and Menon it was decided to occupy Hyderabad. It was decided that the Army would cross over on 13/9/48.

On the night of 11/9/ Jinnah died in Karachi. On the night of 12/9/ Munshi called from Hyderabad to say that he was about to be interned by the Hyderabad govt. Even as action was about to start, telegrams continued. SP wanted a crisp reply to be sent to the Nizam but Rajaji disagreed with their draft. At his instance H M Patel and Menon called on Rajaji at 10 p.m. who argued with him till 1 p.m. They had fulfilled SP’s purpose, which was to delay the despatch of Rajaji’s telegram to Nizam and thus deny the Nizam a chance to change his mind before the troops crossed the border.

Operation Polo started on 13/9/, was over by the 17th. Now, the Nizam acceded to India, withdrew the complaint to the UN, welcomed representative rule and surrendered his vast holdings of land.

SP’s work of unifying India was thus complete. The climax of Patel’s striving, the Nizam’s defeat was the culmination of the process of history that brought Muslim rule over a Hindu majority to end. We see a touch of pride in his encounter with the Nizam: here Patel squares, on behalf of the Hindus, an ancient account with the Muslims. His arraigns and exposes a defeated adversary in front of others. He does so because he cannot entirely forget, in his moment of trump, past wrongs on Hindus. While ready to hurt, Patel was also ready to be friend.

Receive Site Updates