In 1853, Marx wrote in London in his “The Future Results of British Rule in India” that “the whole of her past history is the history of the successive conquests she has undergone at the hands of successive intruders who founded their empires on the basis of its passive, unresisting and unchanging society.” Most of the history of India is that of the multiplicity of its fragmented kingdoms, just as Marx put it, India’s overbearing attitude toward its neighboring countries today had in fact taken shape as early as at the time of its independence. With land area ranking seventh in the world, and inseparable also from the powerful military force (it built up) after independence thanks to the British colonialists who ruled India for 200 years.
Surfeit of Princely States
In 1849, after British colonialists finally conquered India, they adopted a very Indian-style ruling technique in accordance with local conditions. At that time, the British colonialists established two administrative systems in India. One the system of direct rule, the direct establishment of political power at all levels with overall control of Indian society and resources. The area under its direct rule was called British India. The other was an indirect system of ruling by 562 Crown Princes, Princes and Chief Executives who governed within their own territories but with the hand of the British colonialists land and behind the scenes. These administrative areas were called the India of Princely States. These Princely States accepted the crown kingship of the King (of England) and recognized the King as the nominally supreme ruler by signing treaties with Britain. Faced with the might of the British colonialists, (the Princely States) had no right to make contact with other States or foreign countries but enjoying substantial autonomy and internally.
World ‘s richest man
(The city of) Hyderabad, formerly known as Bhagyanagar, was won over by the Mughal Kingdom in 1685 and became the capital of Hyderabad in 1763 and changed its name to Hyderabad. With the decline of the Mughal dynasty, the Asaf Jahi monarchy, which ruled Hyderabad, declared independence and founded the Nizam dynasty in 1724. The State of Hyderabad witnessed the rule of seven Nizams.
When the last king, Mirza Osman Ali Khan, succeeded to the throne in August 1911, Hyderabad was a kingdom of 223,000 square kilometers covering the Deccan Plateau in India, surpassing the area of England and Scotland combined with nearly 20 million subjects. On February 22, 1937, he (the Nizam) was named the world’s richest man worth $ 2 billion on the cover of Time magazine (below). The money was estimated to be the equivalent of 225 billion U.S. dollars in 2008, while Warren Buffett, the investment icon, had only 62 billion U.S. dollars in 2008 when declared as the world’s richest man!
At that time, “Time magazine” said that Ali Khan not only had a lot of gold, but also a huge collection of expensive jewelry, which was enough , if strung together, to girdle London Piccadilly Circus. Most impressive was that the jewelry included the legendary Jacob diamond that weighed 185 karats net, and was even bigger than the diamond’s in the British monarch’s crown.This priceless, rare giant diamond was used by the Nizam as a piece of paperweight!
For the people of Hyderabad, Ali Khan was more than just “the world’s richest man”. During his 37 year reign, Hyderabad not only built and improved farmland irrigation, electricity, railways, highways and aviation infrastructure, built hundreds of schools and hospitals, but also set up his own Central bank and became the governing center of British rule. It was the only State that could issue banknotes independently. He also funded construction of the Hyderabad Palace in downtown New Delhi to facilitate his stay there and which is now the most important State Guest House used as a meeting place by the Indian government. During his reign, Ali Khan was totally loyal to the (British) monarch during World War II and even provided warships and two air squadrons, including the “loyalty allies”, to Britain out of his pocket. In addition to several medal titles of the British Empire, he was made an honorary Lieutenant General of the British Indian Army.
In August 1947, in accordance with the religion based division (of British India), the “Mountbatten Plan” proposed partition (of the colony) into India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan (thus) won their independence and (the Princely States) would choose to join India or Pakistan after the transfer of power by the British government. Like all the other Princely States, Ali Khan faced a historic choice as to where to place the lot of his destiny.
On the eve of Independence, the leaders of India and Pakistan were both trying very hard to woo the Princely States, but with entirely different approaches. The interim Indian Prime Minister, Nehru, considered: “No recognition to any kind of independent state within India”. Pakistan’s (founding) father, Jinnah, was, on the contrary, opposed to Nehru’s argument and considered that “the Princely States will be an independent, sovereign country with freedom to join India or Pakistan, or choose to remain independent”. On June 15, 1947, the Indian Congress party issued a statement rejecting all requests from the Princely States for independence. And, established a States Department under the Central Government (Provisional Government of India) to deal exclusively with the problem of Princely States, as per the suggestion of the No. 2 personage of the Congress Party and India’s first Interior Minister, Sardar Patel, on July 5, 1947. As a result of the Interim Government’s lobbying and pressure, the vast majority of the Princely States felt that the situation has evolved and that they would have to choose between joining India and Pakistan. However, by the time India became independent on August 15, 1947, most of the Princely States joined India, but a few such as Junagadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir remained independent.
Independence hard to find
In the beginning, in the immediate aftermath of Partition, Ali Khan’s first choice was to become a member of the Commonwealth as an independent kingdom. To this end, Hyderabad State declared its intention to remain independent, as was its right, after transfer of power by Britain. Also that his second choice was to join Pakistan. But this plan faced many obstacles. Though a Muslim himself, 80% of the Nizam’s subjects were Hindus. More importantly, unlike the location of Kashmir on the India-Pakistan border, Hyderabad was not adjacent to Pakistan but thousands of miles away from the new Muslim homeland. Even if Pakistan would be willing to accept it, it was too far away and could not provide any assistance.
To succeed, it would have to rely on itself. To this end, Ali Khan organised armed militias loyal to Hyderabad, not only to protect his subjects from bloody clashes between Hindus and Muslims but, at the same time, also as a bargaining chip for dealing with New Delhi. But how could others be allowed to sleep soundly by the side of the couch ? Due to Hyderabad’s special and important geographical location, especially Hyderabad’s idea of becoming a Pakistani “enclave” in India, it was anathema to Nehru. India immediately began to help Hyderabad plan its “integration” with India.
Forced to surrender
Being surrounded by Indian territory on all sides, Hyderabad was not easy to defend. On September 13, 1948, India sent an overall attack force to Hyderabad on the plea that its armed militia forces were cracking down on peasants and inciting violence. Ali Khan’s huge wealth could not reverse the balance of power between the two sides. In just five days, Ali Khan’s militias were fully defeated and they officially surrendered to India, Hyderabad was formally incorporated into Indian territory. For the next nine years, Ali Khan was nominally a Prince in Hyderabad. On November 1, 1956, the Indian Government reorganised the entire federal administrative regional structured and Hyderabad became the capital of Andhra Pradesh. In 1957, Ali Khan was compelled to resign from office and passed away ten years later. In recent years, Indian historians disclosed that the report of the Parliamentary Panel of that time showed that the death toll was as high as 27,000 to 40,000 people before and after the annexation of Hyderabad, and had aroused media attention.
More than 80% of the locals were Hindus in Junagadh State, quite similar to the situation in Hyderabad, but the Prince was Muslim. In 1947, the Junagadh Prince finally decided to join Pakistan, causing massive riots in the area before India “took over” the local government. Now, apart from the unclear status of Kashmir which still troubles normalization of relations between India and Pakistan, the Indian government has finally made tem (Princely States) a page of history through their merger and reorganization and the redemption of the rulers after independence.
(Translator’s Note: Words/phrases in brackets are additions that help in deriving meaning out of a literal translation of the original characters)