New Delhi, April 10:
Not a little excited when I got an invitation from the Anwar-ul-Uloom College, Hyderabad, Deccan, to an Indo-Pak mushaira and seminar, I thought this was a chance to see something of India beyond the usual Pakistani run of Delhi and Agra. But excitement mixed with some trepidation, I must confess. For Anwar-ul-Uloom sounded more madressah than college. I wasn’t travelling across half the subcontinent to visit a madressah. There were enough of those in Pakistan. To my great relief, Anwar-ul-Uloom College was not the bleak madressah of my frightened imagination. It’s a great institution dispensing modern knowledge, with about 18,000 students on its rolls. Today education is a big buzzword among the Muslims of Hyderabad. Everywhere you go they talk education both as an end in itself and as a means to improve the condition of the community. But it wasn’t always like this. What in Muslim folklore is still referred to as Saqoot-i-Hyderabad or the Fall of Hyderabad was a traumatic experience for the Muslims of the state. Many of the rich, losing their landholdings, became paupers overnight. The best of the educated and upper classes fled or migrated to Pakistan. A general massacre in some of the outlying districts completed the circle of tragedy for the Muslim population.
At this juncture, institutions like Anwar-ul-Uloom College stepped forward to resurrect the shattered spirit of the Muslim community. The Aligarh of the south, that’s what Mehboob Alam Khan, the honorary head of the college, calls it. Today the Muslims of Hyderabad are a self-confident people, conscious of their culture and heritage. Was the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, right in not making his peace with India? I put this question to many of the very articulate Hyderabadis I met. They felt that the Nizam could have protected the interests of Hyderabad and its people by entering into some kind of an agreement with India: the cession of sovereignty in return for internal autonomy, something offered to him by Pandit Nehru.
A week after Muhammad Ali Jinnah died on September 11, 1948, the Congress strongman, Vallabhbhai Patel oversaw the invasion of Hyderabad and its annexation to the Indian Union.
Mir Osman Ali Khan was reputed to be a wise ruler. Why did he procrastinate over the question of Hyderabad’s future? Joining Pakistan was not really an option. Nor, with no outlet to the sea, was independence. Part of the blame must be borne by hardline Muslim elements represented by the likes of Qasim Rizvi and his Razakars who wove fanciful accounts of how they would inflict a crushing defeat on the Indian army if it dared attack Hyderabad. In this charged atmosphere compromise became a dirty word. Thus the Nizam, no longer his own man, was a prisoner of events he couldn’t control. My other question: should the Muslim elite have migrated to Pakistan? The universal answer: no. They should have stayed on, for what they did was cut and run, leaving the rest of the Muslim community, which badly needed leadership, high and dry.
In a way these tribulations have been good for the Muslim soul. For, it is only by facing challenges and standing up to discrimination that the Muslims of Hyderabad have acquired resilience and fortitude, the will to stand on their feet and the ambition to move ahead.
Hyderabadi Muslims are very strong in their religious beliefs, a bit too strong for my taste. But as I was told more than once, their Muslimness did not come at the cost of their Indianness.
They felt strongly about Pakistan as a Muslim country. If something good happened to it they felt happy. But they deeply resented the fact that because of Pakistan and its fraught relations with India they had to prove their Indianness over and over again.
When we talk of India in this country it somehow slips our mind that there are 150 million Muslims in India. What happens to them when tensions rise somehow does not figure in our calculations. Which is a great slippage of memory for the aim of the Pakistan movement was to protect the Muslims of Hindu-majority India — UP, Bihar, Bhopal, Hyderabad, etc, those who felt vulnerable and insecure — not the Muslims of Punjab, Sindh, the Frontier, Balochistan and Bengal who needed no protection.
Thanks to the BJP and its spiritual godfathers — in the RSS, the Shiv Sena and the like — the fires of communalism are burning bright in India. The entire philosophy of Hindutva turns on India being a land meant only for Hindus. To India’s credit, liberal Indians get as much upset by such talk as Muslims or Christians. It’s a bit different with the young. That technology and being into the latest gizmos can go hand in hand with fascism in politics is something which, I suspect, very many young educated Indians, riding the crest of consumerism, do not realise.
One of the raw materials of Hindu fascism is hatred for Pakistan. The more cricket is played between the two nations, the more travel there is between them, the more this raw material is depleted.
Pakistan’s problem is different. It lies not in the fire-spouting religious firebrand for that would be to over-state his importance. It lies in the generals dressed in khaki who think they know the answers to everything. The less India is demonised, the more difficult it becomes for them to sustain their commanding position. Both countries thus have a vested interest in good relations.