Friday, September 1, 2000

Nizam and the Radio

Nizam and the Radio
By Narendra Luther

Nizam VII was reputed to be the richest man of his time. However, his appearance and his style of living suggested the contrary. He was indifferent about his dress and appearance. It will surprise many to know that he did not have even a radio set.

After India became independent in August 1947, he did not join the new Union. Instead, he decided to become independent. That led to prolonged negotiations between him and the government of India. During the period, the Prime Minister of India, Nehru once made a broadcast about Hyderabad. It was proposed that the Nizam should listen to the broadcast. The director of the Hyderabad State Radio was asked to send a radio station to the Nizam’s palace, the ‘King Kothi’. When the Nizam heard Nehru’s voice, he asked where the speaker was sitting. He even looked at the back of the radio set to see whether Nehru was sitting inside the box. The director then explained to him how the speech was being transmitted from Delhi.

Police Action

Finally, the Police Action against Hyderabad was started on Monday, 13th September 1948. There was hardly any resistance from the Hyderabad forces. The Indian forces reached the outskirts of the city four days later.

On the noon of 17th September, a messenger brought a personal note from the Nizam to K.M.Munshi asking him whether he could see the Nizam at 4-00 p.m. He had not granted Munshi an interview since his appointment as India’s Agent General ten months ago.

Earlier, the Nizam had spent the morning in hectic consultations. His premier had seen him twice already. The Nizam had summoned him the previous day and asked for his resignation by the morning of the next day. The cabinet decided to resign forthwith.

Resignation of Laik Ali

As soon as Munshi entered the sitting room, the desolate ruler said: “The vultures have resigned. I don't know what to do”. He handed him the letter of resignation of Laik Ali, the Prime Minister. His hands were shaking. He had had this problem for some time, which became pronounced, when he was tense or angry.

Munshi had come to know about the resignation earlier from Laik Ali himself. He said that he was worried about the safety of the citizens. He suggested that General El Edroos should be asked to take steps to preserve law and order in the city.

Th Nizam sent for his commander-in-chief and told him accordingly

Nizam’s broadcast

Munshi also suggested that the Nizam might make a broadcast welcoming the Police Action and withdrawing his complaint to the Security Council.

“Broadcast! How is that done?” asked the Nizam innocently.

Munshi explained and offered to help draft the speech.

It was the Nizam's first visit to the Radio Station. No red carpet was spread for him; no formalities were observed. No music, no anthem was played before or after the broadcast. The speech was in English. Nobody bothered to translate it into Urdu.

After the broadcast the Nizam drove back to King Kothi to brood. Munshi on his way to Bolarum found the streets full of excited crowds shouting national slogans. Munshi was mobbed and had to address groups of people en route. They wanted to be told by India's official representative that they were now part of the great motherland.

That night the city changed a great deal. Many khaki uniforms were discarded, many beards shaved. The shouting, rampaging crowds of razakars disappeared magically. The citizens emerged from their cocoons. People of all ages came out in throngs waving the tricolour of India. Suddenly where there was fear and restraint, now there was life and laughter. There was a general release of tension and a new, quivering anticipation.

The surrender ceremony

The surrender ceremony was fixed at 4 p.m.

General Choudhuri spoke gravely: “I have been ordered by Lt. General Maharaj Rajendresinhji, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command to take the surrender of your army”.

“You have it”.
“You understand that this surrender is unconditional”.
“Yes, I understand”.

Choudhuri smiled and shook hands with Edroos. Then he opened his cigarette case and offered him a cigarette. Edroos proffered a lighter. Choudhuri's team joined them.

The party drove to the residence of India's Agent General. A jubilant crowd cheered the victorious general there. He waved in return and then sat down to discuss the details with Munshi, Edroos and others.

Enthusiastic crowds

Crowds had begun to gather at the corner of the Parade Ground in Secunderabad since morning to greet the Indian army.

It was a sea of humanity, heads, heads, heads, bare and covered. Men and women, ten deep, twenty deep, children on shoulders, on heads of adults, young people perched on the railings, on tree-tops, even on telephone poles. It was a riot of colours, dresses of all types in all the colours of rainbow, only deeper, like a field of flowers of different hues. And then tricolours, thousands of them, each hand holding one, even two, green, white and ochre, fluttering joyously. Flags made of cloth, and of paper quivered in the gentle breeze. They reflected the joy of the hands holding them. There was clapping and wild cheering, shouting and shrieking. People threw flowers at soldiers sitting on top of armoured cars and waving to crowds. Throngs of people shouting slogans, which could not be uttered, till the previous day.

‘Quami nara’ - a shrill, lone voice shouted. And the mob shouted back in unison, in loud abandon -- Jai Hind. This was taken up and repeated from different groups.

“Mahatma Gandhi” cried one voice -- “Ki Jai” responded the chorus.

‘Pandit Nehru’ ... ‘Zindabad’
‘Sardar Patel’ ... ‘Zindabad’
‘General Choudhuri’ ... ‘Zindabad’
‘Hindustani Fauj’ ... ‘Zindabad’
‘Bharat Mata’ ... ‘Ki Jai’

There was no order; no sequence but one slogan followed another without any interruption. Each time as a thousand throats shouted in unison flags went up. The din multiplied. Far in the distance some people were dancing. There was celebration everywhere. People had this brief spell to squander recklessly all their pent-up emotions of these past weeks when the flame of life had burnt low.

Then light began to fade. Vans were going up and down announcing the imposition of the curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. The crowds began to melt. They hurried to reach their houses in time. There would be celebrations there too.

Soon there was quiet everywhere. Silence and knowledge of security such that the city had not felt for the last many months overcame it. A feeling of peace wrapped it, like a snug coverlet. It too slid into asleep -- exhausted and relieved.

* * *

Archived by

Kishen Pershad --a multifaceted noble

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad -- 61

Kishen Pershad --a multifaceted noble
By Narendra Luther

One of the most colourful and powerful nobles of Hyderabad whose life spanned two centuries was Maharaja Sir Kishen Pershad.

He traced his lineage to Raja Todar Mall, the revenue minister of the Mughal emperor, Akbar. His father was Hari Kishen who was a son-in-law of Raja Narender Bahadur, who in turn, was a grandson of Maharaja Chandulal. The latter was the hereditary Peshkar of Hyderabad and Prime Minister during 1832-1842. The Peshkar ranked next only to the Diwan - the Prime Minister.

Originally, named Purshottam Dass, the chronogram drawn up for Kishen Pershad was Farzand-e-Farkhunda (the fortunate son) which yielded the date of his birth -- 1280 Hijri (1864).

Early life

Due to his father's early death Kishen Pershad was brought up by Raja Narender Bahadur. He was taught various languages, and the martial arts. He knew Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Hindu, Gurumukhi, and English. His early life was spent in the company of the young Nizam VI and the sons of Salar Jung I. They were all educated together. The British Resident insisted that the pubescent Nizam VI should shift from Chow Mohalla complex because he did not want him to be in female company all the time. So he was lodged in the Purani Haveli. A high wall separated the bachelor's residence from the ladies' quarters in the Purani Haveli. Mehboob was allowed to spend a night in the ladies quarters once a week.

One evening Mehboob wanted to spend an extra night in the zenana. Special permission was required for that and the quarters were closely guarded. Mehboob asked Kishen Pershad to get hold of a ladder. That was placed against the wall adjoining the female quarters. Then Laik Ali, Salar Jung's son was asked to scale the wall and pull out one of the maids from the other side with a `rope’ made of a number of dupattas - head scarves.

The incident came to the notice of Salar Jung I. He sent a note to Raja Narender finding fault with Kishen Pershad for procuring the ladder. Kishen Pershad explained that he was duty-bound to carry out the orders of his ruler. Raja Narender agreed with the explanation given by his grandson and told Salar Jung that he would have done likewise in similar circumstances.

Prime Minister

In 1895, he was appointed Minister for Military Affairs and in 1900 he succeeded Vicar-ul-Umra as Prime Minister.

In 1911 Mir Osman Ali Khan became Nizam VII. He was led to believe that Kishen Pershad was one of those nobles who had petitioned to the Viceroy against his accession. On that suspicion the Nizam dismissed him. The signatures later proved to be a forgery.

His wit

He then travelled in India extensively. He learnt painting adding one more to his varied hobbies including playing on harmonium and sitar, and cooking. On a visit to Lahore, he developed a deep and abiding friendship with the famous poet Dr.Mohd. Iqbal. He himself wrote poetry in Persian and Urdu and sported the pen name of `Shad' (The Happy One). His palace became renowned for its mushaiaras (Urdu poetic gatherings) and the best poets of India recited their compositions there. His were the only poetic assemblies in which the poems composed by the Nizam could be recited. Kishen Pershad used to receive the poems by touching them with his forehead eyes and then give it to the messenger for recitation. Every line in it was so vociferously lauded as if the poet himself was present. People still remember the elaborate ritual and grand scale of those events. One of the poets in his mushairas used to be Abid Ali `Begum'. He dressed wrote and recited as if he was woman. He thus provided a humorous touch to the proceedings. In one mushaira he read a couplet in which he expressed gratitude to his patron Maharaja Kishen Pershad who had granted him a monthly stipend. Using a double entendre, he said, "Thanks to the Maharaja, I still get my monthly.” The Maharaja retorted: "Strange, I have grown old but you still get your monthlies."

Patronage of letters

Kishen Pershad also wrote prose, travelogues and authored over 60 books and pamphlets. Nawab Mehdi Nawaz Jung, who served, as his secretary believed that charity was his most outstanding virtue. According to Mohd bin Ali Bawahb, his daily charities, and alms giving amounted to 300 rupees. Whenever he travelled, he used to keep two bagfuls of coins in his car from which he threw handfuls with both hands to crowds of poor people who would chase his car. It is said that he never looked at the eyes of the person whom he was giving charity so as not to embarrass him.
Second term

In 1927 he was again called upon to become Prime Minister and he stayed in that job for 9 years.
Kishen Pershad was courteous and generous to a fault. He used to refer to himself as a fakir i.e. a person of no means. Given his lifestyle, his unbounded generosity, and the neglect of his estate, he ended up in debt.


Kishen Pershad was very secular in his outlook and this was manifested in very interested manner. He married three Hindu and four Muslim women and sired 30 children from them. Quite a few of them died during his lifetime. The children born of Muslim wives were given Muslim names, brought up as Muslims and married to Muslim spouses while those born of Hindu wives similarly continued to be Hindus. This is perhaps the only example of a personage’s children following the faith not of the father but of the mother. In his will, however, he advised, the practice of monogamy.

The Maharaja was given the title of Yamin-ul-sultanat (the 'right hand of the ruler') by the Nizam and those of KCIE and GCIE by the British.

Shad Nagar town in the Mehboob Nagar district is named after his pen name.

He enjoyed equal popularity amongst all the communities. Many people often said that he was a Muslim while others maintained that he was a Hindu. His responded with a couplet:

Mai hoon Hindu, main hoon Musalmaan, har mazhab hai mera imaan
`Shad' ka mazhab `Shad' hee jaane Azaadi azad he jaane.

(I am a Hindu, I am a Muslim, and all religions are mine
Only Shad knows his religion, just as only the Free know freedom)

He died in 1940 at the age of 76. His palace, `Shad Mansion’ saw great glory. Some time ago, two lions at the gate were all that was left of it. Recently some of us tried in vain to locate even those traces.

* * *
Archived by

Tuesday, August 1, 2000


A Thug in Hyderabad
By Narendra Luther

Since its founding in 1591, many persons from different walks of life - both Indians and foreign - have given glowing testimonials to the city of Hyderabad. Amongst them are Ferishta, the Persian historian; Tavernier, a dealer in diamonds; Thevenot, a linguist; Bernier a physician and Abbe Carre a priest – all French. Others were Manucci, an Italian physician, Schoerer, a Dutch factor in the Dutch East Indian Company and Methwold, an Englishman in its British rival company. Except Ferishta who wrote sitting at Bijapur, they all visited Golconda in the 17th century. Another Frenchman, Modave, an army officer, visited Hyderabad in the 18th century.


In the 19th century, a ‘thug’ joined this gallery of notables. ‘Thuggee’ was extensively practiced all over India in the 18th and early 19th century. Its practitioners both Hindus and Muslims worshipped the goddess Bhawani and observed many Hindus rituals. Their modus operandi was to break the neck of the victim by throwing a handkerchief, one end of which had a coin tied to it, around the neck of the victim. It was an instant and painless death. Travelers, merchants, and soldiers were befriended by the thugs and murdered in cold blood. Lord William Bentinck, Governor-General of India (1828-35) banned thugee and charged Captain Sleeman with the task of rooting it out from the country. According to Moorehouse Geoffrey, in five yeas more than 3000 thugs were convicted.

Amongst them was one Ameer Ali. He was one of the notorious leaders of a gang of thugs who operated in Central and Western India. His life was spared when he turned an approver. On his own admission made by him when he was about forty, he was responsible for the death of 719 persons. And his boast was that if he had not been in jail for the last 12 years (at the time of making his confessions) the number would have been a thousand! Meadows Taylor who was an Assistant Resident in Hyderabad recorded his ‘confessions’. They were first published in England in 1839.

Ameer Ali belonged to a prosperous family. Thugs had murdered his parents. The leader of that gang, Ismail, who was childless, spared Ameer Ali and adopted him. Ameer Ali then about five, grew into a strong and fearless lad and while still in his teens was initiated into thugee.

Ameer Ali in Hyderabad

He came to Hyderabad on his very first expedition when he was barely out of his teens. Nizam III (1803-29) was the ruler of Hyderabad. On his way to Hyderabad he had rescued a dancing girl Zora by name from the captivity of the Nawab of Adilabad. He brought her to Hyderabad and restored her to her old mother - and to their profession. His compensation was a mere night of pleasure with her.

Ameer Ali came to Hyderabad via Alwal and he describes the temple and the village tank. In the background of the Hussain Sagar Lake, he saw the glittering encampment of the British army.

He had heard much about the lake from many persons on his journey, “and as we passed it a strong breeze had arisen, and the surface was curled into a thousand waves, whose white crests as they broke sparkled like diamonds, and threw their spray into our faces as they dashed against the stone work of the embankment. We stood a long time gazing upon the beautiful prospect, so new to us all, and wondering whether the sea, of which we had heard so much, could be anything like what was before us.”

Then he saw Naubat Pahad in front of him and spurred his horse to climb it so that he could get a glimpse of the city. “Beneath lay Hyderabad, the object of many a conjecture, of many an ardent desire to reach it - the first city of the Dukhun justly celebrated throughout the countries I had passed.”

Of all the visitors to the city, he is the only one to have noticed and described the Banjara Hills - “rude rocky hills” on his right which “on the left appeared gradually to descend into a plain, which stretched away almost uninterruptedly to the horizon. Before me, on the gentle rise of the valley, and beyond where I supposed the river to be, lay the city, its white terraced houses gleaming brightly in the sunlight from amidst what seemed to me at the distance almost a forest of trees. The Char Minar and Mecca Musjid rose proudly from the masses of buildings by which they were surrounded.” He also observed white smaller mosques “ in hundreds.”

“The city seemed to be of immense extent; but I thought from the number of trees that it was composed principally of gardens and inclosures, and was much surprised afterwards, when I entered it, to find its streets so filed with houses, and the whole so thickly peopled.”

When Ameer Ali entered the city with his companions, the Char Minar, ‘burst at once upon our view’. Its minarets seemed to pierce the clouds. ‘To see this alone is worth a journey from Delhi.’

Ameer Ali is also the only one to have described the Qutb Shahi tombs near the Golconda Fort. This place is unique in the sense that the entire dynasty (except for the last ruler) lies together in one necropolis. The occasion to visit this out-of-the-way place was provided by Ameer Ali’s handsomeness and chivalry. A young beautiful woman, Azima, who, married to an old debauch had seen Ameer Ali ride by when she was lounging in her balcony. Struck at first sight, she sent her maid after him and besought him to rescue her.

To cut a long story short, they decided to elope and agreed to meet the next morning at the dargah of Shah Wali near the tombs. Ameer Ali reached the rendezvous on time but Azima was delayed. To while away the time the thug decided to see the tombs, which suddenly appeared, on his right. “Astonished at their size and magnificence even from that distance”, inside, he found “the silence and desolation were oppressive ... some of them dark and gloomy and filled with bats and wild pigeons, whose cooing re-echoed within the lofty domes

Though constituting the third wave of visitors and in the third century after the founding of Hyderabad, Ameer Ali confirms the observations of the earlier travellers and chroniclers about the garden-city character for the city, its richness, and the splendour of its monuments.

His account is fascinating partly because of his romantic escapades set in the city.

Incidentally, Azima did keep the rendezvous. They got married and she proved a very good wife and bore him a son. And, if a thug’s word can be believed in these matters, he was faithful to her and they lived happily ever after - that is for about ten years till he was caught and put in jail. She never knew about the nature of his job and when she learnt about it on his arrest, she committed suicide.

‘Confessions’ is actually a novel and Taylor seems to have used this format to describe Hyderabad as he saw it. Though seemingly fiction, it is an important source material on the history of Hyderabad - and of India.

* * *
Archived by

Saturday, July 1, 2000

How Hyderabad’s Last Premier Fled

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad -59

How Hyderabad’s Last Premier Fled
By Narendra Luther

Most of us have heard the story of the ingenious escape of Sivaji from Aurangzeb’s captivity in 1666. We also tend to believe that such a thing could only happen in the distant past.

But the story of the dramatic escape of the last Prime Minister of Hyderabad from house arrest in 1950 is equally, if not more, interesting. It was a plot brilliantly conceived and superbly executed. It embarrassed the government acutely and amused the rest of the world.

Laik Ali

Mir Laik Ali was the last Prime Minister of Hyderabad. He was appointed on 1st December 1947. He was an engineer who had become an industrialist. At the time of his appointment, he was the Representative of Pakistan in the United Nations.

After the Police Action, in September 1948, he was put under house arrest at Begumpet where Amruta Mall now stands.

Time passed. India promulgated its new Constitution on 26th January 1950. He expected to be released then, but nothing happened. His wife and sister along with some friends then prepared a plan. An advocate, Abdul Quvi made frequent visits to Pakistan and prepared the necessary documents for his escape to Pakistan.

‘Illness’ of Laik Ali

Though police guard was kept at his house, Laik Ali’s family including his wife was free to come and go. The ladies used to come in car, which had purdah on the windows according to the custom of those days. Every time the car went out of the house, a female guard used to look into it to check who was inside. In course of time the security became lax because it was mostly Mrs. Laik Ali who was coming in or going out.

One day Mrs. Laik Ali announced that her husband had been taken ill. From then on Laik Ali started behaving like a sick man while his wife started making frantic trips to consult his physician and to bring medicines. Her assumed nervousness and the flurry of traffic made the illness known to everybody including the guards within the house and at the gate. This went on for about a fortnight and even the guards started making inquiries about their important detainee.

Meanwhile it was announced that a marriage was about to be celebrated in the house of one of the relatives of Laik Ali. A lorry came and carried utensils and other things from the house. The lambadas started coming daily and performing dance. They were given tips on behalf of Laik Ali and often some sweets were also distributed. That provided welcome diversion to the guards.

The Purdah Car

On the morning of 3rd March 1950 the maid called for the car saying that the Begum was ready to go the doctor. When the car pulled in under the portico, Laik Ali quietly slipped in. The unsuspecting guards were on the other side. Some pillows had been so arranged in his bed as to give the impression that the patient was lying under the sheet. Mrs. Laik Ali hid herself in the upper portion of the house. Laik Ali drove straight to his sister’s house. From there, he drove away to the house of Abdul Quvi I another car. The original car then returned to the house and the maid casually announced that her mistress had come back with medicines. Mrs. Laik Ali then emerged from her hiding place and went to her husband’s bedroom. She addressed the covered pillows and told them that the physician had changed the medicines. She then pretended to administer the medicine to the patient. The female sleuth posted at the window did not take any notice of that.

A taxi with curtains was waiting at the residence of Abdul Quvi. Laik Ali and his sister’s son joined him and the threesome drove towards Gulbarga. After they got out of the city, the curtains were drawn and Laik Ali had a look at the countryside for the last time.

A four-berth first class compartment had been booked in the train at Secunderabad with instructions that the passengers would board at Gulbarga. Though there were only three passengers, it was thought prudent to reserve the entire compartment so that nobody else entered the compartment.

The party offered prayers at the shrine of the saint of Gulbarga and then proceeded to the railway station. The train took them to Bombay early in the morning. After bath and breakfast, they left for the airport. Laik Ali flew under the name of Gulam Ahmed.

Police chief pushes the car

Back in Hyderabad, for two days the charade was kept up. Mrs. Laik Ali kept on administering medicines to the pillows. Groups of Holi revellers came and were given tips on behalf of the ‘ailing’ ex-premier. On the next day, Mrs. Laik Ali made a number of neat bundles of currency notes. She gave them to her old trust Arab servant with instructions that they should be disbursed to the named servants on Sunday. She then drove to her brother’s house. From there she went to the airport in a purdah car to catch the flight o Bombay. Just short of the airport, the car broke down. The driver got down to pushes it. From behind came the car of the Inspector General of Police, Jetley. Noticing a purdah car stalled, the chivalrous police chief got down to give it a push!

As Laik Ali boarded the flight to Karachi, his family took the boat ‘S.S.Sabarmati’ to Karachi

The first news about the escape came from Radio Pakistan. It announced that Laik Ali attended a reception at the India House. Sri Prakasa who was the High Commissioner of India in Pakistan rang up the then Home Minister of India, Sardar Patel to ask whether Laik Ali had been released. Patel said no and then checked with Hyderabad. It was only then that the administration came to know what a hoax had been played on them.

Case against Shoukatunissa

The Government initiated action against the negligent officials. A case for abetting the escape was also filed against Laik Ali’s sister, Shoukatunissa Begum. However the court held that since the Hyderabad Public Safety and public Interest Regulation and the Hyderabad Penal Code under which Laik Ali had been detained had lapsed after the promulgation of the Constitution of India, the detention itself was illegal. There could therefore be no abetment to a non-existent offence. She along with other accused was acquitted.

Laik Ali expired in New York during his Morning Prayer on 24th October 1970. His body was brought to Madina and laid to rest there.

Archived by

Thursday, June 1, 2000

The Story of Kasim Razvi

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad --58

The Story of Kasim Razvi
By Narendra Luther

Kasim Razvi was the one man for giving Hyderabad its only traumatic experience in its history. More than anybody else, he invited the ‘Police Action’ on Hyderabad.

Razvi hailed from Uttar Pradesh and became a lawyer in Latur in Osmanabad, a district of the Hyderabad State. He became a member of the Majlis-e- Ittehad-ul Mussalmeen of which Bahadur Yar Jung was the president. Razvi was a highly emotional person. Once when the Bahadur Yar Jung came to Latur to set up the Party office there, Razvi offered his house for that purpose and starting throwing out his furniture in the street to vacate it.

President of the Majlis

On the sudden and untimely death of Bahadur Yar Jung in 1946, Razvi succeeded him as President of the party. He imparted a sharp militancy to it and delivered highly provocative speeches. He exhorted Muslims to remember that they had conquered India by sword and that they were destined to rule.

When India became independent in 1947, Nizam tried to become an independent ruler. Razvi encouraged him in his ambition. He declared that the waters of the Bay of Bengal would wash his feet. He also bragged that the Nizam’s flag would flutter on the Red Fort at Delhi.


Razvi fanned communalism in a State, which was generally known for its communal harmony. He created a para- military force composed of volunteers called ‘razakars’. Every razakar had to take pledge that he would lay down his life for the leader and the party and he would fight to the last to maintain the Muslim hegemony in the State. The razakars were given military training and they were armed with sticks, swords, and some with guns. Razvi was the Field Marshal of the outfit and like his followers wore khaki uniform.

When after protracted negotiations, the Nizam and the Government of India decided to enter a Standstill Agreement in 1947, Razvi’s razakars prevented the members of the State delegation from leaving for Delhi to sign it. They also manhandled the Prime Minister and others. They spread a reign of terror in the State and Razvi issued severe threats to everyone who dared to oppose or even differed from him. A young journalist, Shoebullah Khan was murdered by razakars because he wrote in favour of State’s integration with India.

Razvi’s power grew and he and his people came to wield increasingly greater influence with the Nizam and the his government. The moderate Prime Minister, Sir Mirza Ismail was hounded out of the State. So was Nawab Chhatari who had returned to Hyderabad for a second term as Premier in 1947.

In January 1948, Razvi imposed a new government on the State. Mir Laik Ali was appointed its Prime Minister. The Muslims affected by the Partition riots were encourage to come to Hyderabad. Many harassed Hindu families left the state for the safety of India.

Police Action

The Government of India launched the ‘Police Action’ against Hyderabad on 13 September 1948. Four days later, the Nizam declared an unconditional surrender and General J.N. Choudhuri was appointed the military Governor of the State.
All ministers and some prominent leaders of the Ittehad including Razvi were taken into custody.

After detailed investigation, three criminal cases were filed against Razvi and six others: the Aland Murder Case; the Shoebullah Khan Murder Case; and the Bibinagar Dacoity Case. A special tribunal with three judges -- one Christian, one Muslim, and one Hindu was constituted to try the accused. Later, the Government withdrew the Aland Murder case for want of sufficient evidence. Askar Yar Jung, a former member of the State Judicial Committee was appointed the defense counsel along with some others to assist him. At the argument stage, Razvi asked for the removal of the counsels and argued his own case.

Jail for Razvi

On 10 September 1950 the Tribunal awarded Razvi seven years hard labour in the case of the Bibinagar Dacoity Case, and life sentence in the Shoebullah Khan Murder Case. On appeal in the High Court, the life sentence was quashed but the sentence for seven years hard labour was upheld. The Razkar supremo was sent to the Chanchalguda Jail in the city, put in fetters and asked to cut grass in the jail compound.

Zahid Ali Kamil was a young advocate and an admirer of Razvi. On his own admission, he used to smuggle messages to and from Razvi in the jail. A copy of Razvi’s strong letter written to Nehru, the Prime Minister of India was smuggled out. So was his threat to resort to hunger strike for the harsh treatment meted out to the razakars by the Government. To put a stop to that, the Government shifted Razvi to Yervada Jail in Pune in 1954. He served the rest of his term there.

Deserted by followers

Razvi was released on 11 September 1957. Kamil went to Pune and drove him to his house in Adikmet in his car. He summoned a meeting of the general body of the party. Only about forty of the 140 members responded to the invitation. At the meeting he invited leading members of the Party to take up the Presidentship of the party. No one came forward. Razvi was so disappointed that he declared that he was willing to offer the job to any male Muslim above the age of twelve! Finally, Abdul Wahid Owaisi was made the president of the Party. Now his son, Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi is the president of the party. Thereafter, at a press conference, he announced that having no future in India, he would be leaving for Pakistan.

Leaves for Pakistan

Having settled the issue of party presidentship, Razvi left for Pakistan on 18 September –exactly to the day of the completion of the Police Action nine years ago. Kamil flew with him up to Mumbai and then saw him off.

Razvi received no reception in Pakistan, not even support, or recognition. He set up his legal practice amongst the refuges from India in Karachi. He died at the age of sixty-seven on 15 January 1970, unwept and unwept in a land far distant from the one which he had dreamt about making an independent Islamic kingdom.

Archived by

Monday, May 1, 2000

How the revolt in Telangana ended

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad -- 57

How the revolt in Telangana ended
By Narendra Luther

The Communist Party in Hyderabad wanted the overthrow of the regime. In September 1947, their leaders gave a call to their cadres to 'intensify the liberation struggle and t take to arms'.

They acquired arms by all sorts of means including violence and looting of the Police Stations, army posts and landlords. Special squads called 'dalams' were constituted and the volunteers vowed to fight to death.

At its height before the Police Action, over 2000 villages ad been 'liberated' by the Communists in the Nalagonda district. There they introduced land reforms. Land in excess of 200 acres was taken over from landlords and distributed amongst the landless. Wages of agricultural were raised. Toddy tappers were given palmyrah trees at low price People contributed voluntary labour to dig canals, tanks and wells for irrigation. Wood was made available free from the government forestland for making agricultural implements and carts. People's courts were constituted. Widow remarriages were organized adult literacy through night schools was propagated A new social and political consciousness was created amongst the people.

They controlled vast stretches of countryside. The people in villages welcomed them and at one time, it seemed that a 'red revolution' was in the offing.

Then came the Police Action in September 1948. Three days later, the Communist Party was banned again. Some of the members of the Communist Party had already emerged in the open and others were preparing to do so. Inside the Party, a debate was raging whether the insurrection should be abandoned or carried on. Most of those who had been in the thick of the struggle were in favour of giving it up but others, sitting at a distance, favored its continuance. Ranadive, the General Secretary of the Party that the country had not yet become free. Nehru was an agent of the Anglo-American imperialists and so the struggle must continue.

Meanwhile the mood of the peasantry had also changed. The Military Governor had abolished the abhorrent jagirdari with an administrative order in August 1949. The civil administration had provided for the protection of the rights of tenants. What was there to fight for now? The new' regime seemed to be going on the right lines. When the late Chandra Rajeshwara Rao, who later rose to be the head of the Communist Party in India sought refuge in a field of his old hosts, the tribals in Damelakonta in Karimnagar, he perceived a certain lack of warmth on their part. As of old, he plucked some ears of millet and started roasting them to appease his hunger. Suddenly, he noticed that the tribals were looking around with shifty eyes. Instinct told him that he had been betrayed to the army. In fact, the solders were closing in on the field. He at once jumped, bolted and was barely able to escape.

The same villagers who used to welcome the dalams now begged them not to come to them. There was no protection against the army because the comrades did not stay in the village as they used to earlier. The police and the military followed their visit. It was then that the staying gained currency in the countryside that the communists were the lords of the night, and police the lords of the day.

The Indian army started pressing hard against the Communists by end of 1950. In 1951, they adopted the ruthless 'Briggs Plan' which has been implemented earlier in Malaysia. They burnt the tribal villages, collected all the tribals set them up in barbed-wire encampments and while members of the family were allowed to go to the forest to collect the produce, an adult male member was kept as a hostage to ensure their turn. Thus, having isolated and trapped the guerillas, they set out to annihilate them. The crunch was acute.

It had been easy to fight the Nizam's outfit; that was not the case with the Indian army. In a matter of three days, the communists lost two hundred of their men. It was been decided by the leadership to go underground. Most retreated into the forests of Godavari, and Karimnagar districts.

When the party leadership could not settle the issue of the continuance of the armed struggle, a delegation was called to Moscow in 1951 to discuss the issue with Stalin, the leader of International Communism. The delegation consisted of four leaders. Dange and Ajoy Gosh were in favour of the withdrawal. Chandra Rajeshwara Rao and Basavapunniah were against the proposal - or not quite sure.

The four men stayed in Moscow for six months. They had a number of meetings with the top leadership. They met Stalin in the Kremlin. Molotov, Malekov and Suzlov were also present. A stack of documents had been sent to Moscow. They had been translated into Russian.

Stalin asked for a map of the area in question. A map of India and another of southern peninsula were spread before him. He filled up his pipe, lighted it, and asked:

"Is there a foreign country close to the area?"
"Is there a port from which you can escape?"
"Is there any other sanctuary where you can take refuge?"

Stalin took a deep pull at his pipe, pushed the maps away to clear his table and observed: "In the circumstance it would seem difficult for you to sustain the resistance."

As a result of his verdict, he party line in India changed. But by that time, the Government of India had all but crushed the resistance physically.

That is how the Telangana armed struggle ended.

Archived by

Saturday, April 1, 2000

Poet, Lover, Revolutionary

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad --56

Poet, Lover, Revolutionary
By Narendra Luther

A multi-faceted genius became a legend in his – and my -- lifetime in Hyderabad.

Makhdoom Mohiuddin was born in 1908 in a village in Medak district of poor parents. His father died when he was an infant. His mother left him in the care of his paternal uncle and got remarried. Makhdoom did not know for forty years that his mother was alive.

Life of deprivation

The orphan boy was brought up in poverty and orthodoxy. His uncle however narrated stories to him and one of them was about the Russian Revolution. Unable to grasp the metaphor, the child’s brain strained to imagine how everybody could be equal and what the size of the spread would be from which every one ate together!

Coming to the city for schooling, he had to earn his keep by selling calendars of film stars -- and gods.

In the Osmania University he became famous for his wit and repartee. He adapted George Bernard Shaw’s play Widower’s House in Urdu and earned the distinction of staging the first play in the University. He was also the first and the only student to appear before the Nizam without the formal dress of bugloos and dastar and earned praise from the ruler for his poem on the Peela Doshala (Yellow Shawl).

Religious instruction was compulsory for Muslim students in the University. The non- Muslim students were taught Ethics. Makhdoom failed in that subject and was shunted out to Ethics. He did part-time work in papers and the Deccan Radio to complete his MA in Urdu.

Choosing a career

Thereafter, armed with a recommendatory letter from Sarojini Naidu, he prepared to go to Bangalore for a job. Qazi Muhammad Hussain, who understood Makhdoom well, advised him against the plan. He recited a couplet from the poet Iqbal to drive home his point: ‘Thou art a seeker, an eternal traveller. Don’t accept a destination. Even if thou hast Laila for a companion, don’t enter the palanquin’. It was as if this piece gave Makhdoom a glimpse of his future.

He became a lecturer in the City College. There he was often caught by the principal for reciting poetry — mostly his own on popular demand — than teaching. In 1942, he left teaching and became a full-time member of the Communist Party. He played an important part in organizing the trade union movement in the State and, after 1946, was mostly either in jail or underground.

Muslim ‘princes’

Makhdoom ridiculed the doctrine of the Majlis-e-Ittehad e Mussalmeen party according to which, in Hyderabad, every Muslim was a sovereign. By logical deduction therefrom, argued Makhdoom that every Muslim child was a prince. Once Sir Mirza Ismail, the Prime Minister, visited a factory where children were manufacturing buttons. Makhdoom taunted the premier: ‘Meet our princes. You too have a Prince in the Bella Vista’. He was referring to the luxury-loving Prince of Berar. Sir Mirza left in a huff.

Makhdoom was a romantic idealist. That is what drew him to Communism. Though not bothered too much about the fine points of the ideology, he was a faithful worker of the Party and obeyed its dictat even when he disagreed with it. That was the case regarding the withdrawal of the armed struggle of the Communists in Telangana after the integration of the State with India. Makhdoom, favouring withdrawal, bowed to the Party’s decision to continue the movement.

Tremendous popularity

Because of his views and his poetry, he was immensely popular amongst all sections of society. If a policeman apprehended him when he was underground, he would let him go after making him recite his latest poem. His poetry did a lot to spread the message of Communism in Telangana – and indeed all over the country. He was conscious of his popularity when he wrote:

Shehar mein dhoom hai ik shola nava ki Makhdoom
Tazkare raston mein hain charchen hain pari khanon mein

(The city resounds with the thunder of one,
Who is the topic on footpaths and mansions alike)

He wrote poems on diverse subjects ranging from propaganda of the Party promising the ‘Red Dawn’, to pure lyrics. His poetic tribute to Bhagmati – the beloved of the founder of the city – after whom the city got its original name of Bhagnagar is a classic of its own type. In that poem, unlike Sahir Ludhyanvi’s satire on Taj Mahal, the romantic got the better of the revolutionary. He felt Bhagmati’s presence by his side and wrote:

Whenever your name escapes my lips
A lotus blossoms and my eye drips
.... Although you aren’t here, there is your supervision. (Tranlation)

One of his poems ‘Chambeli ke mandhwe tale’ (‘Under the Chameli Bush’) was sung everywhere. Later it was became popular as a lyric in a film. His poetry extended his appeal all over India and made him one of the leading lights of the Progressive Writers’ Movement. I sat beside him while a local singer, Jamila, then a young slim girl, sang his compositions at the house of the late Abid Ali Khan, founder of the Urdu daily Siasat. He looked young for his 50 years. I then approaching thirty asked him the secret of his youth. ‘Don’t worry about yourself. Take up bigger impersonal concerns’, he advised me.

Worker’s psychology

A few days later, in the discharge of my official duties, I issued orders for his arrest for defying a ban on unlawful assembly. He chided the Chief Secretary in the presence of the Chief Minister for not understanding the human need for being together in the face of collective danger of arrest or harassment. The Chief Minister, Sanjeevaiah, himself a political worker, understood and ordered his release. He then shook hand with a crestfallen Chief Secretary – and, with a conspiratorial wink, with me.

In 1957 he was elected to the State Legislative Council of Andhra Pradesh and remained the leader of his Legislature Party till his death in 1969. He had a tremendous sense of humour, which did not desert him in the most adverse circumstances. He named his first daughter ‘Asavari’- an evening raga. When his son was born during his underground days, he christened him ‘Second Front’. He is now known as Nusrat -- meaning victory.

Raj Bahadur’s daughter, Tamara, now a physician, was his particular favourite. In August 1969, V.V. Giri was contesting for Presidentship of the country. Makhdoom promised her a cone of ice cream if he was elected. Then he went away to Delhi.

On the morning of 25 August, felling uneasy, he woke up Raj Bahadur Gour. He was moved to the Pant Hospital where he passed away in the afternoon. That was the only time he did not keep his promise, says Tamara.

Hyderabad had not seen a crowd like that when his body was brought from Delhi. At the cemetery of Hazrat Shah Khamosh, the orthodox section raised an objection that a non-believer like him could not be given the honour of a burial there. But the defiant crowd of his admirers pushed on chanting zindabad and laid him to rest there. On his grave is insribed the second hemistich from a couplet of his own ghazal:

Bazm mein door woh gata raha tanha, tanha
So gaya saz par sar rakh ke sahar se pehale

(Away from the assembly, he kept singing, all by himself
Before dawn, head resting on his instrument, he went to sleep.)

No person, either before or after him has had such a hero’s farewell. Now his statue stands on the Tank Bund amongst the twenty ‘greats’ of Andhra Pradesh.

Today it seems incredible that one knew such a charismatic human phenomenon rather well.


Archived by

Wednesday, March 1, 2000

Nizam VII as a poet and a publisher

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad - 55

Nizam VII as a poet and a publisher
By Narendra Luther

An ideal Muslim ruler is expected to be ‘ master of sword as well as of pen’. Four out of the seven Nizams of Hyderabad were poets. The first two wrote in Persian and the last two both in Persian as well as in Urdu. The last two had also employed poetic preceptors – ustad - well known poets to give them instruction in the art of composing poesy, and to correct their compositions. Jaleel Manikpuri was the last ustad.

The ustad had to be available at all times of the day and night. There was no knowing when the Nizam would get inspiration to compose a couplet or a ghazal. As soon as that happened, it was rushed to the teacher for necessary action. Sometimes only an idea would strike him and the ustad had to give it shape and form. The corrections and improvements in the ruler’s composition were made in a most respectful manner. If the ustad had to modify a word or a phrase, he first praised the original in superlatives, congratulated the royal pupil and then suggested that in his ‘humble opinion’ it could perhaps be put differently!

The last Nizam used often to send his poems to local newspapers. They had to be published on the front page prominently along with the modifications suggested by the ustad. By the time he was about 30, the ruler had composed a large number of poems in different genres and so decided to publish an anthology. In that connection he issued a detailed firman (royal order) on 18th February 1919. It is amusing to note some of the contents of that order:

“My ghazals which represent my random thoughts and which number 750 have been published in 6 separate volumes containing 150 ghazals each. All interested readers and critics are informed that they can obtain them at one guinea per copy. The second edition will not be published unless it becomes absolutely necessary.

Every purchaser will have to buy all the six sets. Single volumes will not be sold.

The price i.e. 6 guineas will be uniform for all buyers within the state and outside.

The purchaser will bear the postal expenses.

Every volume will carry an official seal. In the absence of that it will be deemed to have been stolen.

Printing any copy of these volumes is forbidden. Anyone found doing so would be responsible for the consequences.

The books will be sold within a month and can be had from the Nazri Bagh (Nizam’s palace).

The price is to be paid in advance.

A copy of the above order should be published in a Gazette Extraordinary.”

A guinea was one pound and one shilling and at that time was equal to 21 rupees. In those days, a book of that size in Urdu would ordinarily sell for a fraction of a rupee. At the present rate the amount would be easily over 1,000 rupees per copy.

Needless to say that the sets sold out in no time. All those who wished to demonstrate their loyalty to the young ruler purchased copies at that exorbitant price.

It’s a pity that none of those volumes is available today.

Once, some claque amongst the courtiers praised the Nizam’s poetry to the skies and suggested that it deserved to be prescribed as a text for the graduate course in the Osmania University. The Nizam approved the idea. Moulvi Abdul Haq, popularly known as the ‘Father of Urdu’ was the professor of Urdu at the University and it fell to his lot to implement the orders. He was in a fix. If he did not carry out the edict, he would attract the royal ire; on the other hand if he obeyed, he would become the laughing stock amongst the men of letters. He asked for an audience to attempt to get the orders cancelled. When he reached the Presence, he saw the Nizam sitting in his usual rickety easy chair. Manzoor Jung, Hosh Bilgrami and Zain Yar Jung were standing in front of him.

“Yes, Moulvi. Have you seen our orders?” asked the Nizam as he saw the savant.

“Yes, Ala Hazrat,” submitted the professor as he made the customary seven bows, “I am here in that connection. Your compositions are royal amongst verses. What can be a greater honour for me than to explicate them to our students. But my humble submission is that this worthless creature lacks the necessary depth of scholarship to be able to explain it adequately to students. Your Lordship’s slave thought of presenting himself before His Master many times in order to obtain adequate understanding of the subtle points in the royal verses but I couldn’t gather enough courage for fear that if in spite of the expostulation of His Exalted Highness, my limited brains could not grasp them, then what would I do?”

The Nizam looked at his acolyte, Hosh Bilgrami and chuckled: “Do you hear what he says?” Hosh stepped forward with folded hands. “Yes, Ala Hazrat, the royal composition is indeed royal amongst the common compositions. It is not easy to explain it.”

“You are right,” observed the Nizam, “if the teacher himself can’t understand, what will he explain to the students? That’s right. But,” he added after a pause, “how long do you think it will take for the University to get such teachers who can appreciate my poetry adequately?”

“Exalted Highness,” submitted Hosh, “it depends not on the poetry but on the intelligence of the reader.”

“Right you are. It is the intelligence that matters. I can give them my poems, but I can’t invest them the intelligence necessary to grasp them. Cancel the orders for teaching my poems in the University. Let the teachers understand them first.”

So the ‘mad’ Maulvi, as the Nizam used to call Professor Abdul Haq, saved the students from the imposition – and his own face amongst the academia.
Some of the Nizam’s poems were translated into English by Sir Nizamat Jung, a Cantabrian and a former judge and a minister of Hyderabad who himself was a very good poet in English. Some of them were reproduced in D.F. Karaka’s biographical book on the Nizam: “ The Fabulous Mogul”

Such was the urge of the Nizam for writing poetry, that after India became a republic on 26th January, 1950, and he became the Raj Pramukh of Hyderabad, he composed a poem in Persian to mark the event. He had it translated into English by Sir Nizamat and sent the original along with its English translation to the chief minister of Hyderabad, M.K.Vellodi. Addressing him as ‘My dear Friend’, in his covering letter marked ‘Personal’, he wrote: “I shall be grateful if you kindly forward this to the high authorities in Delhi, on my behalf, and ask them that if they have no objection, I would like this poem to published in English papers in India, in commemoration of that historic declaration as it was an unique event in the annals of India”. He signed it as ‘Nizam VII (MOAK)’. The initials stood for Mir Osman Ali Khan.

The chief minister wrote to V.P. Menon who was secretary of the ministry of states of India. Menon showed the letter to Prime Minister Nehru. He felt that it would be better if both the original and the translation were published together. When this view was conveyed to the Nizam, he sent both the versions with a letter to say that the translation could never convey the original sense fully. The 16-line poem concluded:
The New Dawn’s greetings, “OSMAN”, rich and strange,
And the four quarters hail the promised change!
However, it is not known whether any paper published the poem.

The number of his poem was indeed very large. He had established a trust and appointed a committee for the purpose of publishing his poems in Persian and Urdu. The Trustees thought it would take a long time to sift through the whole body of his outpourings and so decided to publish two volumes in the first instance. Accordingly, in 1975 the Trust published one volume of three hundred poems in Urdu and Persian covering four different genres. The second volume is yet to come. Ironically, the volume does not indicate any price!

* * *

Archived by

Saturday, January 1, 2000

Visvesvaraya- the Hyderabad Connection

Visvesvaraya- the Hyderabad Connection
By Narendra Luther

Mokshagundam Visvesaraya was one of those rare persons who dazzle the world by their versatility, vision and integrity. From the Sindh river (now in Pakistan) in the west to the Mahanadi river in the east; from the Ganga in the north to the Kaveri in the south he tapped many a river to quench human thirst, to irrigate parched tracts of land, and to supply energy to homes and to industries. From Aden to Hyderabad, he left the imprint of his giant strides in urban planning and renewal.

Born in 1962 to a Telugu family settled in Mysore, he lost his father at an early age and was brought up by an uncle. A topper in the University, he joined as an engineer in the Bombay Presidency. His technical knowledge, innovativeness, dedication and integrity were recognized and he earned out-of-turn promotions even over Europeans. However, realizing that he wouldn’t become chief engineer – a post reserved for the British -- he resigned two years before he was due to retire and proceeded to Europe for a tour.

The Musi Flood of 1908:
Meanwhile Hyderabad had its worst flood in history in 1908.
It occurred on Monday, the 28th September and was caused by a cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal. A cloud-burst developed at mid-night over an extensive area. Rain descended in sheets flooding small tanks and overburdening their weirs. Resultantly, 221 of the 788 tanks in the catchment area breached. In one day the rainfall recorded was 32.5 centimeters, which was more than double the maximum ever recorded earlier.

The flood rose about 16 feet in less than three-and-a-half hours. All the four bridges were over-topped and their parapet walls were carried away. The approaches to the oldest bridge, the Purana Pul were damaged but the bridge itself did not suffer any damage. The newest, that is, the Afzal Bridge suffered most.

More than two-and-a-half square kilometers of thickly populated area were devastated on the north bank and about half of that on the south bank. Nearly, 19,000 houses collapsed and about 80,000 people, roughly one quarter of the entire population of the city, were left homeless. About 15,000 lives were lost and property worth 3 crore rupees was destroyed.

The Nizam’s Gesture
An interesting sidelight of the tragedy was that the sixth Nizam, Mir Mehboob Ali Khan willingly performed the arti of goddess Bhawani to placate her since she was believed to have caused the flood. He also threw open his palaces to the victims and official feeding was organized for them.

Against the British move to send an English expert, it was decided to seek Visvesvarya’s advice on measures to prevent the recurrence of such a tragedy. A cable was sent to him in Italy to return to India.

He came on two conditions -- that he would be paid the same salary as an Englishman, and that he would be given full freedom to employ anyone he liked. Those conceded, he got down to the job with his customary thoroughness. He collected the data of rainfall in the neighbouring Bombay and Madras provinces and studied the figures of heavy rainfall in different parts of the world.

Visvesvaraya stayed in Hyderabad only seven months – one of the briefest stays anywhere.

Osman Sagar & Himayat Sagar

He submitted his report on 1st October 1909. In it he recommended permanent flood prevention works which included the bunding of the river. He also suggested the establishment of a City Improvement Board and recommended an allocation of 2 million rupees per year for the next six years for flood prevention and city improvement works. It was the first time since the founding of the city in 1591 that any scheme of urban renewal was undertaken. Most of the city walls were damaged in the floods were not reconstructed. Hyderabad, therefore, ceased to be a walled city and emerged into the open. The area between the Char Minar and the Musi was reconstructed. A wide bazar was planned and one can see the contrast, which the Pathargatti Bazar offers to the narrow 16th-century Lad Bazar standing perpendicular to it. A City Improvement Board was established in 1912 and that inaugurated the era of modern town planning.

From Hyderabad, Visvesvaraya went to Mysore where he was appointed chief engineer. After three years as chief engineer, he became the Dewan of Mysore and served the State in that capacity for six years – till 1918.

Reforms in Mysore

As Dewan he inaugurated an era of reforms and all-round development in Mysore. He established the Mysore University, the first in any Indian state, and the Mysore State Bank. He constructed the Krishnaraja Sagar dam -- then biggest in India. He initiated the scheme of free and compulsory primary education in 68 centres with the aim of doubling the number in five years. He advocated the concept of five-year planning with the objective of doubling the national income every decade. For India to progress, he suggested reduced dependence on agriculture and advocated industrialization of the country. To that end he prepared a scheme for the establishment of an automobile factory. The British thwarted this proposal. He protested. The aircraft industry in Bangalore owes its existence to his proposal. He organized the first Economic Conference in 1911, which became an annual feature thereafter. His crusade for development suffered a setback when he had to resign in 1918 due to differences with the Maharaja.

However, that did not end his career; on the other hand, it only expanded it. Now the whole country began to call upon his services from time to time. And he responded – without any fees or honorarium.

Visvesvarayya and Gandhi:
He differed with Mahatma Gandhi on the question of industrialization. He also advised the Mahatma to wear a better dress than his langoti. That led Rajaji to quip that tVisveswarayya’s clothes were so well ironed that one couldn’t say whether they were ironed before or after he got into them!

‘A Rough Guide to Wants’:

In 1930 submitted a comprehensive city development plan for Hyderabad. It covered an area of about 2/3rd of the present area of the Municipal Corporation. Unfamiliar with the latter-day jargon of town planners, he called it ‘ a rough guide to the wants that should be provided for’.

That report ushered in an era of comprehensive urban planning for the city. His ‘rough guide’ can be considered a precursor of the Master Plan of Hyderabad promulgated in 1975. It is interesting to note that most of the features of the statutory Master Plan and some of the schemes of the Mega City were forestalled by Visvesvaraya more than 60 years ago -- including ring roads, zoning plans and even the circular railway and the ‘necklace road’ around Hussain Sagar, though he did not used that term.

Salar Jung I modernized the administration of Hyderabad in the 19th Century. He was, however, not allowed even to blacktop the roads inside the walled city because of Nizam’s fear that it would facilitate the entry of the British into the city. It therefore fell to Visvesvaraya’s lot to herald the era of urban planning at the beginning of the 20th Century. Any one interested in the problems of the city can not but marvel at the insights and the farsight that he brought to bear upon his proposals to improve the prevailing urban situation. His signal contributions in various fields serve to underline the point that one doesn’t have to be an ‘expert’ to devise solutions to human problems.

India’s highest civilian honour, ‘Bharat Ratna’ was conferred upon him in 1955. It is one of the few instances in which the honour was fully deserved.

Loaded with honours, Visvsvesaraya lived to cross the Vedic span of 100 years. He died in 1962 at the age of 102. Very few people can boast of so much achievement and more fulfilled life.

Freedom from the cycle of birth and death is the ultimate aim of every Hindu. Once when Visvesavaya was asked if he would like to be reborn, he replied: “Yes, with pleasure”.

The pleasure would indeed be of the country and the community in which he is reborn. For, according, to the theory of rebirth, he would start from the level at which he left off in his previous birth.

It is not given to us to know when and where he would take his new birth. It doesn’t seem to have happened so far. Not in India at least!

Archived by