Razakar Files: BJP’s desperate attempt to communalise Deccan region?

‘Razakar’ literally means ‘volunteers’. They were khaki-clad Hyderabad nationalist paramilitary formed in 1938 led by Bahadur Yar Jung.

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  12 Sep 2023 11:00 AM GMT
Razakar Files: BJP’s desperate attempt to communalise Deccan region?

Telangana: A co-passenger in a packed train from Hyderabad to Vijayawada had an intense look on his face, engrossed in his phone while biting his bottom lip. My curiosity forced me to glimpse at his screen to find that he was watching the movie Kashmir Files. I had read about Kashmir Files being a huge propaganda movie with false claims.

Immediately images came to my mind as described by journalist Rana Ayub when she went to a theatre to watch this movie. She described how people were shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Sab Mulle Attankwadi’ in response to the onscreen terrorist’s call of ‘Allah hu Akbar’. This movie saw massive success.

Propaganda is definitely a crucial part of the larger sinister agenda for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. It has the potential to create a toxic intolerant society hypnotised by such ‘othering’ campaigns which, some say, is the first step towards pogroms.

Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch, who warned about the impending genocide in Rwanda five years before it happened, had cautioned us in 2022 that India stands second in the world where genocide is a possibility in the near future. He further reminded us that it is the mobs that carry out the genocides, not the state which will be ordered to look the other way.

“After seeing Kashmir Files, I asked Gudur Narayana Reddy (who was Congress party’s treasurer before joining BJP in 2021) to make a ‘Paata Basti (Old City of Hyderabad) Files’ saying he has so much money. But film director Yata Satyanarayana said ‘Let’s make Razakar Files first’. Thus, the movie came into existence,” said Bandi Sanjay (sitting MP of Karimnagar from BJP) on the launch of the movie poster of Razakars: The Silent Genocide of Hyderabad. The poster depicts blood and violence; a Brahmin boy speared by the bayonet of a rifle among other dead bodies.

The poster had all the signs of being a ‘propaganda movie’, inspired by an ongoing series of hate-spreading movies based on lies and fake news like Kerala Story, 72 Hoorain or the pioneer for all of them, Kashmir Files.

Who were Razakars?

‘Razakar’ literally means ‘volunteers’. They were khaki-clad Hyderabad nationalist paramilitary formed in 1938 led by Bahadur Yar Jung. Until 1947, their activities were generally limited to parading, saluting the Nizam’s Asaf Jahi flag, and maintaining order at public meetings. After Bahadur Yar Jung’s unexpected death in June 1944, Razakars came under the command of Qasim Razvi in 1946.

Qasim Razvi was a fanatic and an Aligarh-educated lawyer from Latur. Under him, the purpose and operations of Razakars expanded dramatically, as they were mobilised to defend the integrity of the Nizam’s state as he made his push for autonomy and independence. The Razakars' purpose arose out of and in response to a wider context of violent contestation in and around Hyderabad.

From mid-1946, the peasantry of Telangana, under the leadership of the Andhra Mahasabha and the Communist Party of India, waged a revolutionary struggle, first against landlords and then against the Nizam-led state itself.

From August 1947, the Hyderabad State Congress, the Socialist Party, the Arya Samaj, and the Hindu Mahasabha set up camps on the western borders of the state and conducted armed campaigns of sabotage and guerrilla warfare. Their aim was to manufacture a ‘law and order’ crisis, which would, in turn, give the Indian government a pretext for a military intervention.

On the other hand, the members of the growing Razakar militia, with no control from the state, were terrorising many civilians in the remote parts of Hyderabad State, committing unchecked atrocities on the local populace which was largely Hindu. This gave then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel the pretext needed to send the Indian Army to invade Hyderabad in September 1948.

The swift operation — named Operation Polo — started on September 13 and took only five days to claim Hyderabad. The Indian Army suffered the loss of only 10 men, compared to 807 and 1,373 personnel losses for the Hyderabad Army and the Razakars respectively.

There is now enough evidence to reasonably conclude that Operation Polo precipitated a wider event of violence targeting Muslims in Hyderabad state, although the exact scale of the violence remains unclear. But this claim was denied by the Nehru government to avoid UN interference, which preferred to call Operation Polo an internal ‘Police Action’. It is still erroneously widely known as the latter.

Damning revelations

A worried Nehru dispatched a fact-finding mission called the Goodwill Commission, consisting of Pandit Sunderlal and Qazi Abdul Gaffar. But the commission report which was called Sunderlal Report was never made public until a British historian got it out in 2013.

As per the report, there is undeniable proof that at least 27,000 to 40,000 people were killed which in their own words could be a gross underestimate. Other estimates reported 2,00,000 to 5,00,000 casualties with arguably 20 per cent of Muslim males killed among them. The report said that atrocities including murdering women and looting Muslim shops and properties went on for almost two months.

This violence was covered up and explained away as the natural ‘retaliation’ of Hyderabad’s Hindus and Sardar Patel went to the extent of calling it ‘nothing short of revolution’. While such an explanation cannot be completely dismissed as entirely irrelevant, it also ignores much of the wider context.

The Government of India’s White Paper on Hyderabad, for example, referred to Hyderabad as a ‘communal’ state ‘founded by the agents of foreign invaders’ and ruled by a ‘fascist minority’ in which ‘the majority has no civil liberties and lives in a State of utter serfdom’. The Police Action, as an event of majoritarian violence, was integral to the making of Indian Muslims a political minority after 1947.

Asaf Jah dynasts, commonly known as Nizams, were not foreigners and Osman Ali Pasha was the seventh Nizam. It was a typical feudal monarchy where most of the lands were concentrated in the hands of land-rich aristocrats known as ‘Doras’. The Hyderabad state, though plagued by feudal problems like much of India then, was not divided on communal lines and remained largely peaceful. Until the nearing of the partition of India, which was done on religious lines, the Hyderabad state was divided based on class and caste but not on religious identities.

Telangana Sayyudu Pooratam, the communist armed struggle that started in 1946, was against the Zamindari system which later turned into an uprising against the Nizams. The Hyderabad Congress had also joined the struggle as it was against Nizam’s rule. Interestingly, like the freedom struggle, BJP (then Jan Sangh) or RSS, had no role in these uprisings.

Now a desperate BJP is seeking Razakars’ help to rescue it from total decimation in Telangana post-Karanataka elections. Everyone has their prejudices of what happened in Hyderabad, owing to Nizam’s reluctance to immediately join the Indian Union, thanks to the British formula of allowing autonomy to princely states if they wanted, or joining either India or Pakistan based on demographics.

The deep cleavages during the Independence or annexation of Hyderabad were used to communalise the Telangana statehood struggle, which includes a series of communal violence incidents in Bhainsa (2008), Hyderabad (March 2010) Karimnagar (August 2010, March 2011), Tandur (Feb 2011) and Miryalaguda (July 2011) and Siddipet (9th October 2011).

Luckily, post Telangana formation the KCR government did well to keep communal politics at bay and the right wing lost the plot except for three flare-ups in Bhainsa (2020-21). But the lone BJP MLA Raja Singh managed to keep the pot boiling with his utterances, including abusing the Prophet for which he was promptly arrested and the situation was defused. He was given bail on the condition of stopping hate speeches, which he continues to flout with a series of hate speeches in Hyderabad and also in Mumbai, thanks to police inaction.

A constant worry

The minority community in Telangana is perpetually worried about the rise of BJP and communalism in Telangana.

The different versions of the history of Telangana, with effective amplification of false narratives demonising the Nizam directly, the entire Muslim population indirectly would justify the police action and clear the minds for supporting the future possibility of extermination of Muslims who are commonly referred to as turkulus (Turkish outsiders).

The new generation is not aware of the Razakars or the massacre during the so-called Police Action. But the debate of Liberation Day, Integration Day, or Independence Day brings the spotlight on the past which can be easily manipulated according to the side of the story one wants to believe.

People have forgotten Ramji Gond, Chakalli Illama, Doddi Kommariah, the peasant struggle, armed uprising, and communist efforts against feudalism (which was not against any religion). They now only talk about Muslims ruling a Hindu-majority area with false narratives of atrocities.

The Nirmal area saw the first uprising in 1857 against the British and its ally Nizam by Gonds, Rohillas, and Deccanis fighting together for over two years. The rebels were crushed and 1,000 Gond bodies were hanged from a banyan tree to crush their morale. The tree is now called the ‘Vayi Urrula Marri’ or Thousand Nooses Tree.

Unfortunately, today, Nirmal is remembered for the hate speech by Akbaruddin Owaisi and is in the epicentre with a ticking time bomb of communal conflict. Over the past decade hate speeches kept coming from BJP MLA Raja Singh and MP Bandi Sanjay and the BRS government has turned a blind eye.

A melting pot for many generations

Since the 14th century, Deccan has been a melting pot of civilisations, far less a place of two mutually exclusive sacred realms, as it was a cosmopolitan crossroads. People of many cultures are intermixed through overlapping religious, political, and commercial networks.

Long-distance merchants brought horses, precious metals, and other goods from the coasts to the Deccan’s interior. Jain, Hindu, and Muslim pilgrims moved in all directions. Sufis, ascetics, and lay seekers circulated from place to place, or from person to person, pursuing salvation, wisdom, or more mundane goals. For thousands of capable soldiers, Deccan was to place of employment by commanders or rulers.

Religion was never a barrier until the British fanned the flames of hatred resulting in the partition of India. The Deccan past is not based on religious identities but is filled with the memory of the prestigious Chalukyas maharajas of Kalyana, and the prestige associated with the Persian language and culture.

American journalist and writer Andrew Breitbart’s popular quote says, “Politics is downstream of culture.” This can be extended to say that culture is the downstream of religion. Religion provides the foundation of belief, culture provides the enrichment of knowledge, and politics provides opinion and activism to recalibrate power as necessary to sustain unity.

Gregory Stanton writes “Ultimately the best antidote to genocide is popular education and the development of social and cultural tolerance for diversity.” Communal politics has made deep inroads in Telangana with about 20 per cent voting for BJP’s overtly communal agenda with Yogi Adityanath or ‘bulldozer baba’ as star campaigner.

The uplifting of fiery speaker and hate-mongering Bandi Sanjay has not given the desired results for the BJP. To avoid further escalation and hatred spreading, without wasting any time, the government and civil society should engage to detoxify the society.

Much like the Karnataka government’s stringent laws, Telangana also needs to enact the same for checking fake news and hate speeches and prompt action should be taken to arrest the spread of hatred which will lead to violence.

The Telangana region, reeling from the partition past and the rise of the Ayodhya conflict, had undergone a series of communal riots in the 80s and 90s. The fastest-growing state and upcoming capital of trade and commerce cannot be allowed to slip into the medieval age by fanning feelings of communal hatred through movies like Rakazar Files. This is the time for speaking up and confronting misinformation or the spread of hatred.

Remember, Martin Luther King once said, “We will know who is against us not by what they have said but by their silence.”

(This article is written by Mohammed Imran, Historian Enthusiast and Activist. Views reflected in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of NewsMeter)

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