Operation Polo is the code name of Hyderabad “police action” in September 1948. On Day 5 of this operation, 17 September 1948, the Nizam announced a ceasefire which ended the armed action. The operation led to massive communal violence and violations by the police. This prompted Jawaharlal Nehru to appoint a commission, led by Pandit Sunderlal, to investigate the situation. The findings of the report remained buried until 2013 when it was finally released and was accessible from Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (New Delhi).
Subject File No. 2. Sunderlal Papers, NMML.
We were asked by the Government of India to proceed to Hyderabad state on a goodwill mission and beg to submit our report. The delegation consisting of Pandit Sunderlal, Qazi Abdul Ghaffar and Maulana Abdulla Misri arrived in Hyderabad on 19th November and left for Delhi on 21st December 1948. During this period, we toured through 9 out of the 16 districts of the state, visiting 7 district headquarters, 21 towns and 23 important villages. In addition, we met over 500 people from 109 villages which we had not visited. Further, 31 public meetings and 27 private gatherings…were addressed by the members of the Mission.
At all these meetings, the main problem discussed was that of the creation and maintenance of cordial relations between the communities. Appeals were made to the people to forget the past and to work unremittingly for the establishment of peace and harmony amongst themselves….special emphasis was laid on the objective which was the established of a secular government…Ours was not a commission of investigation or enquiry into events proceeding of following the police action…All the same we feel it our duty to bring to your notice what we saw and gathered in our two weeks.
Killing and Looting
Hyderabad State has 16 districts comprising nearly 22,000 villages. Out of them only three districts remained practically free of communal trouble which affected the state during first the activities the Razakars and then during the reprisals that followed the collapse of that organisation. In another four districts the trouble had been more serious but nothing like the havoc that overtook the remaining eight. Out of these again the worst sufferers have been the districts of Osmanabad, Gulbarga, Bidar, and Nanded, in which four the number of people killed during and after the police action was not less than 18,000. In the other four districts viz Aurangabad, Bir, Nalgonda and Medak, those who lost their lives numbered at least 5,000. We can say at a very conservative estimate that in the whole state at least 27,000 to 40,000 people lost their lives during and after the police action. It is a significant fact that the four worst affected districts had been the main strongholds of Razakars and the people of these districts had been the worst sufferers at the hands of the Razakars. In the town of Latur, the home of Qasim Razvi, which had been a big business centre, with rich Kuchchi Muslim merchants, the killing continued for over 20 days. Out of a population of about 10,000 Muslims there, we found barely 3,000 still in the town.
Almost everywhere, communal frenzy did not exhaust itself in murder, in which at some places even women and children were not spared. Rape, abduction, loot, arson, desecration of mosques, forcible conversions, seizure of houses and land, followed or accompanied the killing. The sufferers were Muslims who formed a hopeless minority in rural areas. The perpetrators of these atrocities were not limited to those who had suffered at the hands of Razakars, not to the non-Muslims of Hyderabad State. These latter were aided and abetted by individuals and bands of people, with and without arms, from across the borders, who had infiltrated through in the wake of the Indian army. We found definite indications that a numbers armed and trained men belonging to a well-known Hindu communal organisation from Sholapur and other Indian towns as also some local and outside communists participated in these riots and in some areas actually led the rioters.
The Army and the Police
Duty also compels us to add that we had absolutely unimpeachable and independent evidence to the effect that there were instances in which men belonging to the Indian army and also the local police took part in looting and even other crimes. During our tour we gathered, at not a few places, that soldiers encouraged, persuaded and in a few cases even compelled the Hindu mob to loot Muslim shops and houses. At one district town, the present Hindu head of the administration told us that there was a general loot of Muslim shops by the military…Complaints of molestation and abduction of girls, against Sikh soldiers particularly, were by no means rare…unfortunately there was a certain element in the army that was not free from communal feelings probably because some of them could not forget the atrocities committed elsewhere on their kith and kin. Before concluding this summary of atrocities committed we would like to affirm that we have not made any of the above statements lightly or without realising to the full our responsibility in making them…we are prepared to place before you all the relevant material collected.
The Razakar organisation, had in the Muslim mind stood as an effective barrier against the establishment of a Hindu Raj, the latter being synonymous to the average Hyderabadi Muslim with the demand by state Congress of a responsible government as it would in effect be based on the will of the Hindu majority. Barring a microscopic minority, the Muslim masses generally were unable to realise that their sufferings were the inevitable reprisals of the Hindu masses to the atrocities committed on the latter only a few weeks before by the Razakars, who had the active sympathy if not the actual support of practically every single Muslim in Hyderabad from the Nizam downwards. There were some exception of course, but it is doubtful if they number more than a few dozen. Such of them as dared to publicly oppose the Razakars’ activities paid heavily for their temerity. Even those Muslims who traced their happenings to their original cause, the Razakars, considered the police action as their immediate cause for which they held the Indian government responsible. Like the Razakars, the perpetrators of these crimes against the Muslim actively encouraged and nurtured the belief that they had the backing of the administration of the day.
Colour was lent to this belief by some actions and omissions of such people in authority as had been unable to purge their minds of the communal virus. The doubts and suspicions as regards the good faith and the absolute impartiality of the Indian government as between the Hindus and the Muslims, however baseless, were thus not the unnatural outcome of the indiscriminate sufferings of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in which tens of thousands lost their lives…in this campaign of retaliation at least a hundred were made to suffer for the sins of each guilty individual. Unfortunately, the conduct of some of the congressmen added to the distrust of the Muslim population…it was reported to us during our tour that at some places, persons claiming to be congressmen took the law in their own hands and adopted various devices of extracting money from panicky Muslims…such persons were going about approaching Muslims who had not left their homes or those who had returned extracting money from them against promises of so-called protection…Congressmen had auctioned cultivatable land left behind by Muslims on condition that half the crops were to be handed over to the Congress.
Doubts and suspicions in the minds of the literate Muslims were aggravated by yet another factor, namely the complaints of those who had been in state service before the police action and had lost their jobs. We have received a long list of names of persons dismissed, degraded, suspended or otherwise penalised in various departments…we are quite prepared to believe that some of these were men who could not be allowed to continue in the best interest of the administration but we have reasons to believe that a large number have suffered and are suffering for no fault of theirs. There may be cases of mere suspicion or false accusation. In fact, we have incontrovertible evidence of the innocence of some of these men. We are sure these men can be depended upon for their loyalty to the new regime. The fact also remains that these readjustments have landed a large number of Muslims families in considerable difficulties…the fact is that bitter experience has brought home to the Hyderabadi Muslims the dire consequences of communalism. Naturally they now want to live and let live. We believe that they would be perfectly happy and contented if they can be taken out of the present atmosphere of distrust and frustration.