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Liberating Hyderabad

Book Review

Title: Hyderabad

Author: Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

Publisher: Harper Collins, 2022

The last Nizam of Hyderabad was the world’s richest individual of his time. The gold and jewels he owned would require trucks for transportation. If each person of his state “took one of a jewel or gem or pearl or gold bullion,” as this novel says, “how different would their life look!” But they wouldn’t storm the King Kothi Palace. They loved their king. Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam of Hyderabad, was loved by his people for many reasons.

He looked after the welfare of his people. In the words of this book, “Osman Ali Khan’s rule was a rule of progress and reform. Under his direct rule, the revenue department was reorganized, judicial reforms introduced, communal harmony cemented. He had founded Osmania University, Osmania General Hospital, the new high court, built dams… Wasn’t Hyderabad the first city in India with a reliable supply of drinking water? Hadn’t Nizam VII banned the slaughter of cows to assuage his Hindu subjects? Wasn’t primary school education free and compulsory? Clean trains that ran on time? Streets regularly washed by water tankers? Abundant public gardens…”

It was only natural that the Nizam wanted his State to be independent when India extracted its freedom from the colonial rule of the British. It was only natural that he commanded the support of a sizeable section of his subjects in that matter. It took more than a year for Nehru and Patel as well as a few others to convince the Nizam that Hyderabad could not be an independent state within the new country called India. This novel tells the poignant story of that struggle for Hyderabad.

This is the second in a trilogy. Lahore and Kashmir are the others in the series. History and fiction – the former being predominant – mingle seamlessly in this book. The conflict was not just between the new Indian government and the old princely state. There were the Communists with their own demands and undercover operations. There was the endless undercurrent of Hindu-Muslim conflict too. Much as the Nizam and heroic leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru tried to sow the seeds of love in that hostile Hindu-Muslim field, the specter of hatred played out its macabre rhythm for years in India whose national epic is about a brutal war with ethical pretensions. The multidimensional (physical, ethical and spiritual) violence of the Mahabharata does not belong merely to the epic; it runs in the veins of India. It drank oceans of blood and remained hungry still. It extracted the ultimate sacrifice from the father of the nation. It continues to suck blood to this day.

Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s narrative never tires of reminding us of that stream of violence which runs through the collective subconscious of the nation. The Communist rebels of Hyderabad dreamed of a state without this one form of violence at least. The Communist dreams were destined to be drowned in the bloodlust of religions.

It so happened that the Nehruvian concept of secularism saved India at that time. But the author of this book raises certain questions whose shadows lengthen to the contemporary India where secularism has become a bad word. What does being a Hindu in India mean? There are rich Hindus and poor Hindus. The exploitation of the latter by the former has continued in many ways. “Amongst poor Hindus,” reflects a character in the novel, “there were those like her friend Suguna, whom Jaabili could play with but never enter her house because Suguna’s father was a Brahmin, poor but upper caste. And what of the ‘wretched Malas and Madigas,’ her father would berate because they were untouchables?” Will a Reddy hug a Relli though both are Hindus? “Or a Balija, Idiga, Gouda, Kamma, Kapu, Uppara, Vadla…”

What is the color of the Indus: saffron or green? The river runs through a Muslim country and gives its name to a Hindu country. Does she, the Indus, have a choice? Does it have a religion?

One of the characters says, “The political existence of the Hindus in Hindustan depends on the success or failure of our dharmayuddha in Hyderabad. We must fight the Muslim oppression of centuries in a state run by a handful of Muslims.” Hyderabad was won in that yuddha by the majority. But the dharmayuddha does not seem to have ended. It continues today, as the country celebrates Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. The Mahabharata has no end, it seems.

Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s novel ends with that reminder in the form of a question: “What was destroyed? What prevailed?” This novel make you think. Deeply. That is why I would recommend it to every Indian. Do read it. 


PS. This review is powered by Blogchatter Book Review Program.

Buy the book from Amazon.

 

Comments

  1. Hari OM
    ...or even those of us with extended connections there? You're recommendation piques interest! YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If India's present scenario was different, this book wouldn't have aroused me so much. This novel can throw some light on some of the false propaganda of our times.

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Some insight into history and through it into the present.

      Delete
  3. This is such a nice review... enjoyed the book as well

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not many of the present-day Harper Collins books achieve this standard.

      Delete
  4. Absolutely to the point review Sir , it is book worthy fo spending time with

    ReplyDelete

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