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Internal Violence: The “Police Action” in Hyderabad

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 March 2015

Sunil Purushotham*
University of Cambridge


Through an examination of the September 1948 event known as the “Police Action,” this article argues that “internal violence” was an important engine of state formation in India in the period following independence in 1947. The mid-century ruptures in the subcontinent were neither incidental to nor undermining of the nascent Indian nation-state project—they were constitutive events through which a new state and regime of sovereignty emerged. A dispersal and mobilization of violence in and around the princely state of Hyderabad culminated in an event of violence directed primarily at Hyderabad's Muslims during and just after the Police Action. This violent mediation of the incorporation of India's Muslims into the postcolonial order left significant legacies in subsequent decades. These events in the heart of peninsular India, and the processes behind them, have remained largely invisible or obscured in the historical record. Here I substantially revise the historiography of what happened in Hyderabad, and draw on my findings to offer an alternative perspective on decolonization in India.

Research Article
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 2015 

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35 In the pamphlet, the State Congress claimed to have destroyed 182 customs nakas (posts), forty-seven police stations, and sixty Razakar centers. Further, they distributed the grain of twenty-three government-owned godowns (storehouses), damaged railway lines at thirty-five different places, derailed two train wagons, set two government buses on fire, blew up four bridges, destroyed four government buildings and six railway stations, and exploded five bombs near police stations. They claimed to have killed forty-two police officials, 205 constables, 361 Razakars, and thirty-six “Rohilas & Arabs,” for a total of 844, while seventeen “martyrs” were “killed in actions.” Moreover, they said they had organized 214 “Village Kisan Dals” and “liberated” the people of 250 villages by August 1948. “Thus Fought Marathwada,” by Hyderabad State Congress, Maharashtra Provincial Office, Bombay, MoS, 337-H/48.

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58 Colonel Ganguly, General Officer Commanding the Home Guards in C.P. and Berar, paraphrased in Times of India, 14 July 1949.

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88 Noorani, “Massacre Untold”; and Destruction of Hyderabad.

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93 Hyderabad Reborn, 101.

94 Ibid., 106.

95 Ibid., 107.

96 Ibid.

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100 “Complaints against the Workers of the Hyderabad State Congress and Certain Officials of the State Administration,” MoS, 1(61)-H/49.

101 “Confidential Report of the Rehabilitation Committee Appointed by the Government of Hyderabad,” MoS, 17(1)-H/52.

102 Rahman to Nehru, 9 Jan. 1950, MoS, 1(71)-H/49.

103 SL Reports.

104 Ibid.

105 Hyderabad Reborn, 112.

106 Ibid., 112.

107 Ibid., 124.

108 Ibid., 124.

109 Ibid., 128.

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122 Hyderabad Reborn, 30.

123 Nagendra Bahadur, Home Secretary, Government of Hyderabad to S. Narayanaswamy, 4 Jan. 1952, MoS, 17(1)-H/52.

124 SL Reports.

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128 Chaudhuri, “Report on Certain Aspects.”

129 Nehru to Dr. Paul Ruegger, 30 July 1949, MoS, 1(15)-H/49.

130 Nehru to Patel, 19 Oct. 1950; and Patel to Nehru, 26 Oct. 1950, both MoS, 1(44)-H/50.

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132 D. S. Bakhle to V. P. Menon, 3 Oct. 1948, MoS, 327-H/48.

133 Vellodi, 16 June 1949, MoS, 1(50)-H/49.

134 Chaudhuri to Ministry of States, 17 June 1949. At the time of the amnesty, the “number of cases arising out of retaliation of Police action” was 875, including 114 murders and involving 3,031 accused; NIA, MoS, 1(50)-H/49.

135 Vellodi to A. V. Pai, 2 June 1949, MoS, file 1(15)-H/49.

136 Bakhle to Patel, 6 Nov. 1948, Sardar Patel's Correspondence, vol. 7, 275; Nagendra Bahadur to Ministry of States, 4 Jan. 1952, MoS, 17(1)-H/52.

137 Ministry of States' telegram to Military Governor, MoS, 103-H/48.

138 SL Reports.

139 Ibid.

140 Chaudhuri, “Report on Certain Aspects.”

141 Tirtha to V. P. Menon, cited by Chaudhuri to Vellodi, 31 May 1949, MoS, 1(50)-H/49.

142 Tirtha to Patel, 10 May 1949, ibid.

143 M. Narsing Rao et al. to President, Indian National Congress, 11 Nov. 1948, AISPC Papers, Nehru Museum and Memorial Library, file 72.

144 Chaudhuri to Ministry of States, 17 June 1949, MoS, 1(50)-H/49.

145 “Note on the Situation.”

146 Times of India, 30 Sept. 1948.

147 Chaudhuri to Ministry of States, 17 June 1949, MoS, 1(50)-H/49.

148 Mohammed Hyder, October Coup: A Memoir of the Struggle for Hyderabad (New Delhi, 2012), 79.

149 SL Reports.

150 Chaudhuri to Vellodi, 29 May 1949, and “Supplementary Note on Visit to Osmanabad,” 29 May 1949, MoS, 1(61)-H/49. See also MoS, 1(11)-H/48.

151 Bindu to Nehru, 21 Dec. 1950, and Bindu to Patel, 21 May 1950, both in MoS, 1(5)-H/51. See also, Hyderabad State Congress to President, Indian National Congress, 11 Nov. 1948, AISPC Papers, Nehru Museum and Memorial Library, file 72.

152 SL Reports.

153 “Note on the Situation.”

154 “Inner C.C. No. 6,” Jawaharlal Nehru University, Archive of Contemporary History, 1949/56.

155 Zamindar, Safeena, Ehsan, and Mahgrabi Pakistan all made such claims. Press Intelligence Reports, 28 Oct. and 6 Nov. 1948, Punjab State Archives, East Punjab Liaison Agency records, LVI/16/23-G, pt. II.

156 Chaudhuri to Vellodi, 31 May 1948, MoS, 1(50)-H/49.

157 Chaudhuri, “Report on Certain Aspects.”

158 SL Reports; Rahman to Nehru, 1 Jan. 1950, MoS, 1(71)-H/49; “Report of the Rehabilitation Committee Appointed by the Government of Hyderabad,” MoS, 17(1)-H/52.

159 Omvedt, Dalits, 298.

160 Ibid., 313.

161 SL Reports. Choties are the tuft of hair left unshaven by Hindu men to signify their twice-born status.

162 Extract from Civil Intelligence Report, 11 Nov. 1948, MoS, 112-H/48, vol. I.

163 Abstract of Intelligence, Hyderabad Police, 24 Mar. 1949, MoS, 11(9)-H/49.

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166 Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers.

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