Operation Polo in Hyderabad: Explained

Operation Polo in Hyderabad

Context: In the book “Remaking History — 1948 Police Action and the Muslims of Hyderabad”, Afsar Mohammed delves into the events surrounding the ‘Police Action’ and sheds light on how people coped with the trauma and changes in their social fabric during Operation Polo. 


  • In the wake of World War II, the British government came up with a series of diplomatic measures to break the deadlock with the Indian Congress, which had embraced a policy of non-cooperation: 
  • Princely States’ demand for Sovereignty: They considered forming their own union, conceiving themselves as either sovereign entities or as an influential third force in India’s political arena.
  • June 3rd Plan, played an integral role in clarifying the princely states’ status. It was determined that the states had the freedom to choose between joining either of the two dominions, India or Pakistan. Importantly, Lord Mountbatten did not grant sovereign status to the princely states during this time.
  • Sardar Patel was responsible for overseeing the states’ ministry within the interim cabinet, worked to secure the allegiance of the princely states to the Indian dominion. Assisted by V.P. Menon, the ministry’s secretary, Patel appealed to the princely rulers, particularly in matters of defence, communication, and external affairs.
  • By August 15, 1947, a total of 136 princely states had joined the Indian Union.
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Brief history of Hyderabad

  • Quli Qutb Shah had taken control from the Bahamani kingdom in 1512 and laid the foundation of the fortified city of Golconda.
  • In the year 1591, under the leadership of Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah, the fifth sultan of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, Hyderabad was founded.
  • Aurangazeb successfully captured Golconda in 1687.
  • Asaf Jah I, the viceroy of Mughal empire declared himself the Nizam and established an independent rule over the Deccan. Hyderabad assumed the role of a prominent capital city, now under the successive rule of Nizams belonging to the Asaf Jahi dynasty.
  • In 1798, a subsidiary alliance, was forged between the Nizam and the British East India Company.

Accession of Hyderabad to Indian Union

1. Geographical and Demographic Position:

  • Hyderabad, a landlocked state in southeastern India, had a distinctive geographical. 
  • Despite a predominantly Hindu population, comprising 87%, Hyderabad was under the rule of Nizam Osman Ali Khan, a Muslim ruler.
  • Hyderabad’s political landscape was marked by the dominance of a Muslim elite, with the Muslim nobility and the influential pro-Nizam Muslim party, Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, at the forefront.

2. Demand for Independence:

  • In June 1947, Nizam Osman Ali Khan issued a declaration (firman) expressing Hyderabad’s desire to regain its independence upon the transfer of power.
  • The Government of India, however, rejected this declaration, viewing it as a “legalistic claim of doubtful validity.”

3. Concerns:

  • India argued that Hyderabad’s strategic location, situated at the crossroads of the main communication routes connecting northern and southern India, had the potential to pose a threat to national security by serving foreign interests.
  • Therefore, as a provisional measure, a temporary Standstill Agreement was established, although Hyderabad had not yet agreed to accede to India and the agreement only assured that Hyderabad would not join Pakistan.

4. Negotiations:

  • Negotiations were initiated through intermediaries, with K.M. Munshi representing India and the Nizam’s envoys, Laik Ali and Sir Walter Monckton, guided by Lord Mountbatten.
  • By December 1947, India accused Hyderabad of repeatedly violating the Standstill Agreement, while the Nizam claimed that India was blockading the state, which India denied

5. ‘Heads of Agreement’ Deal:

  • In June 1948, Lord Mountbatten proposed the ‘Heads of Agreement’ deal, offering Hyderabad the status of an autonomous dominion within India.
  • The plan outlined restrictions on Hyderabadi armed forces and the disbanding of voluntary forces.
  • Although the plan was approved and signed by the India, it was rejected by the Nizam, who insisted on complete independence or dominion status within the British Commonwealth.

6. International Mediations:

  • The Nizam attempted to seek arbitration from U.S. President Harry S. Truman and intervention from the United Nations

7. Communist Uprising: 

  • A communist-led uprising in Telangana, stemming from a peasant revolt in 1946 against feudal elements, escalated in 1948, creating a situation the Nizam struggled to suppress.
  • The Razakars, a militia affiliated with Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, supported the Muslim ruling class and carried out acts of intimidation against Hindu communities.
  • The state police and Razakar militia suppressed communist and peasant revolts, involving atrocities against the Hindu population, forced conversions, and the resettlement of Muslims from outside the state.

Operation Polo

  • The Indian Army was deployed to Hyderabad in response to the deteriorating law and order situation and the operation was referred to as a “Police Action” because it was viewed as an internal matter within India.
  • The Indian government was deeply concerned about the idea of Hyderabad arming itself with support from Pakistan. Sardar Patel likened the concept of an independent Hyderabad to “an ulcer in the heart of India” that required surgical removal.
  • This period marked the initiation of negotiations between India and Hyderabad, culminating in the annexation of Hyderabad, known as “Operation Polo” or sometimes referred to as “Operation Caterpillar.”
  • Fearing potential reactions from other regions of India, a state of emergency was declared as 36,000 Indian troops entered Hyderabad to ensure order and stability.
  • Following the surrender of Hyderabad, the Nizam of Hyderabad delivered a radio address on the 23rd of September 1948.
  • After the annexation, the Nizam retained his position as the head of state, in line with other princely rulers who had acceded to India.
  • The Nizam disavowed the complaints made to the United Nations, despite protests from Pakistan and criticism from other nations. The UN Security Council did not pursue the matter further, ultimately leading to Hyderabad’s integration into India.

Prelims Previous Year Question (2021)

Q. With reference to Indian history, which of the following statements is/are correct?

1. The Nizamat of Arcot emerged out of Hyderabad State.

2. The Mysore Kingdom emerged out of Vijayanagara Empire.

3. Rohilkhand Kingdom was formed out of the territories occupied by Ahmad Shah Durrani.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3
(d) 3 only

Answer: (a)

Mains Practice Question

Q. Discuss the process of Hyderabad’s accession and integration into the Indian Union, highlighting the key political, social, and strategic factors that shaped this historic event. (15 marks; 250 Words)

Source: The Hindu

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