K Chandrasekhar Rao has refused to buckle under BJP pressure to celebrate 17 September as Telangana Liberation Day. 17 September 1948 is the day when Hyderabad state (largely present-day Telangana) ruled by the Nizam, became a part of the Indian Union, 13 months after India gained Independence.
The BJP sees the defeat of the Nizam as a feather in the cap of Sardar Patel, who it idolises and therefore wants the Liberation Day to be a state government event. During the days of the Telangana agitation, KCR too had demanded that Hyderabad Liberation Day be celebrated as an official function but he changed tack after coming to power. Since 2014, there is no state event on 17 September and the TRS marks the occasion by unfurling the national flag at its party office.
KCR has now sought to downplay the importance of 17 September in Telangana’s history saying the argument that Nizam was defeated and relegated to history is not entirely true.
“The Nizam was made the Rajpramukh (equivalent to Governor) of the state by the same Sardar Patel,” KCR said in the Telangana assembly.
Pointing out that the merger of Hyderabad with India was followed by large-scale violence, KCR said within a few years of the liberation from Nizam’s rule, the then Government of India made Telangana a slave to Andhra Pradesh. Which is why in KCR’s book, the real liberation for Telangana came only on 2 June, 2014.
This will be seen as a controversial statement because it downplays the significance of 17 September when the princely kingdom of Hyderabad became part of India and instead gives the creation of a state within the Indian Union more importance. It pits the sentiment of nationalism and integration of India against regionalism.
The BJP is also not likely to take kindly to KCR referring to Sardar Patel as “Vallabhbhai Patel … this Patel … that Patel…”
The BJP has its political reasons to spend lung power on this issue. Its allegation has been that because the AIMIM is KCR’s ally, the CM does not want to offend Asaduddin Owaisi. That is because Qasim Rizvi, the much-feared chief of the Razakars, the Muslim militia that inflicted violence on the people of Hyderabad in 1947-48 was also the MIM chief. When he was subsequently arrested and sent away to Karachi, the mantle of the MIM fell on a young Abdul Wahen Owaisi, the grandfather of Asaduddin Owaisi.
The interesting part according to Hyderabad historians, is that Owaisi was not even part of the Majlis at that point in time and was apparently present at the meeting out of curiosity. It is this link with Rizvi that is used to discredit the present-day AIMIM, saying they were on the same side of the Razakars.
The BJP sees this as an opportunity to attack Owaisi and make this into a Hindu vs Muslim issue. But over seventy years after Hyderabad became part of India, it is doubtful how much traction this slice of history will have in political and electoral terms.
Incidentally, KCR himself has had a healthy respect for the institutions of excellence created by the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, be it the Osmania Hospital, the airport or the drainage system. Reason why he refuses to see historical figures in black and white.