Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Mehdi Ali’s Irony of Fate

Legends and anecdotes of Hyderabad—48

Mehdi Ali’s Irony of Fate
By Narendra Luther

One of the rare men of conscience in the civil service under the Nizam was Mehdi Ali. Born in 1917, he was educated at Aligarh and joined the Hyderabad Civil Service in 1941. Things were hotting up in Hyderabad politically at that time.

Encounter with razakars

In 1948 he was posted as Deputy Collector at Madhira in the Khammam district. The razakars were every where and the administration also was afraid of them. They would enter trains, loot passengers and otherwise misbehave with them. Once they detained a group of Marwaris and accused them of smuggling gold in their jars which, on search, were found to contain only pickles. The police were on the side of the razakars and in spite of the intervention of Mehdi Ali, they were harassed for twelve hours before they were allowed to go.

Mehdi Ali’s boss was the Commissioner of Warangal. He was an Arab named Habeeb Mohammad. He had a good reputation, but after the ascendancy of the razakars, he became a fanatic Muslim. He used to declare that he would mix the blood of Hindus with the water of the Bay of Bengal. Mehdi Ali did not like his rabid views, but could do little as a subordinate official.

The Hindu population was so terror-stricken that a large percent of it moved across into the neighbouring Indian territory.

Arabs Loot

Under the Nizam the Arabs guarded the treasury in the district and talukas. They were very good at their job and were fiercely loyal. With deteriorating conditions, they became a law unto themselves. One night they attacked Dindkur village, which was about five kilometers from Madhira. The indulged in loot arson and rape. They even removed the mangala sutras of women, which are held very sacred by every married Hindu woman. The next morning a silent procession of panic-stricken women came to Mehdi Ali to protest about that and demanding action against the guilty persons. The police station was just opposite the residence of Mehdi Ali. At that time the officer in charge of the Police Station, Habeebullah was with him.

The Boss Annoyed

Mehdi Ali ordered the apprehension of the Arabs. The Police did nothing. The Arabs freely moved around and waited for the train at the railway station. When the train came they quietly boarded it with all the loot. Mehdi Ali felt humiliation and pain at the incident. He wrote to the commissioner protesting against the incident and general lawlessness. The Commissioner felt enraged that the Deputy Collector should complain about his brethren in faith. He wrote to the Government asking for his immediate transfer.

Kasim Razvi also had written to Mehdi Ali accusing him of harassing razakars unnecessarily, and threatened him with dire consequences unless he changed his ways. Razvi also added that if he did not mend his ways, he might soon see ‘Warangal’. Mehdi Ali did not understand the meaning of that expression. He learnt later that it meant that he would be sodomized.

Mehdi Ali was promptly transferred. However, luckily for him the Police Action took place soon and Hyderabad became a part of India. He thus escaped the ‘dire consequences’ threatened by the Razakar leader.

Promotion Denied

Soon thereafter, he resumed he resumed duty under the new dispensation. When in 1949, his turn came for promotion as collector, he found that his name was missing from the list of eight officers who were promoted. All the promoted officers were Hindus. Thereupon Mehdi Ali contacted Mulla Basith Ali who was one of the seven ‘Mirzas’ who had opposed the policies of the Nizam and had advocated the establishment of responsible government, and accession to India. Both met the Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru and complained about the injustice and discrimination under the new dispensation. Nehru did not believe it. Basith showed hi a copy of the order. On seeing that Nehru was shocked. He immediately rang up Bakhle, the Chief Civil Administrator of Hyderabad. Bakhle was naturally surprised on receiving a call from the Prim Minister of India. Nehru asked him if some officers had recently been promoted as collectors.

‘Yes, sir,’ replied Bakhle nervously.
‘How many’?
‘Eight, Sir.’
‘ Any Muslim amongst them?’
‘No, Sir.’
We have done some screening, Sir, and we are trying to redress the imbalance against the Hindus.’
‘This is too much and too sudden. Go slow. Let them not feel that we are discriminating.’
‘Yes, Sir'. I shall review the decision’, replied Bakhle.

The list was revised. Three Muslims wee included in the new list. Mehdi Ali got his due promotion.

Unjust Aspersion

But he did not advance further. Some years when his name came up for the next promotion, he was overlooked. He could not imagine the reason. Vohra, an ICS officer who was trained along with him and who was in a high position in the Government of India told him confidentially that some superior officer of Mehdi Ali had recorded in his confidential roll that ‘his loyalties are divided.’

It was a most brutal cut. Such a remark against an officer who had the courage to oppose the razakars at the height of their power and who risked his entire career for the sake of justice to the oppressed! Thousands of Muslims had gone away to Pakistan after the Police Action. He too could have done that. But he stayed on. He was too shocked to appeal or agitate. How could a Muslim fight such an allegation? They were so vulnerable on that point. He just kept quiet and wondered at the irony of his fate.

When I met him some years ago, he was over eighty. He did not exhibit any trace of bitterness even if he felt any. He had a forgiving smile. Destiny plays strange games with human beings. Prejudice will never be eradicated from the human mind!

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1 comment:

Sadiq said...

I indebted to Mr. Luther for writing a detailed and sympathetic article on my uncle Mr. Mehdi Ali who served in the Hyderabad civil service with convictions of principal and duty. I am grateful to Mr. Luther for researching this long forgotten period and narrating it as the story of a decent human being.
Sadiq Majid
Jouy-en-Josas, France