The Tribune - Spectrum

, March 17, 2002

Warrior recollects history he shaped
Sandhya Chaudhri

An Old Soldier Speaks Out
by S.R. Nanda. Har-Anand Publication Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi. Pages 168. Rs.295

THE book portrays the experiences of the life of an Army officer. He reminisces about the prestige commanded by an Army officer in British India. According to the writer, armed forces play a major role in cementing India's unity as a nation. In 1947 when India got independence, the country witnessed the tragedy of Partition. The British not only divided India into Hindustan and Pakistan but also allowed the princes to float adrift on the Indian subcontinent. The princes were relieved of their obligation to the Crown and were given the choice to join either India or Pakistan.

The book deals with a very sensitive aspect of India's Independence and National reconstruction. It portrays vividly the last days of the Nizam's rule and the intelligence operations undertaken by the author, who acted as an aide-Deputy Secretary to K. M. Munshi, the Agent General of Government of India in Hyderabad.

Col Nanda narrates the two most important events that changed the fate of Hyderabad. The first was a speech delivered by Kasim Rizvi, President Ittehad-ul-Mussalmin, a rank communal and fascist organisation, on March 31, 1948 in Hyderabad. It changed the course of history. The address, according to the author, was full of venom against the Hindus. Col (then Major) Nanda got a copy of the speech and reported the facts to K. M. Munshi at Birla House, Delhi. This caused major disquiet in Delhi. Both Lord Louis Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru were furious. Consequently, the negotiations were called off.


The second episode dealt with smuggling of arms from Pakistan by Hyderabad State. Sydney Cotton was hired to smuggle arms and ammunition from Pakistan. A Hindu havildar commanding the unloading party informed the author and gave him a copy of the cargo manifest. K.M. Munshi was apprised about the episode and the latter sent a secret signal to Delhi regarding the smuggling of arms.

The Nizam had hoped that Sir Walter Monekton, the legal adviser, would be able to secure better terms through Mountbatten. Efforts, therefore, were renewed to arrive at mutually agreed settlement. A tentative draft was drawn and approved by the government, though Sardar Patel found it unsatisfactory for India and the people of Hyderabad. Yet, after Mountbatten's persuasion, he signed it.

Lord Mountbatten however left India on June 21, 1948 and Sir Monekton followed a few days later. With their departure, the hope of any amicable settlement vanished.

Nehru was disgusted and Patel repeated his warning that Hyderabad would go the way of Junagarh if they did not accede the Indian Union. The Nizam started strengthening his armed forces. He sent emissaries to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to seek their support and to London and America to plead their case at the United Nations. A propaganda barge was launched against India.

The Nizam's adamant attitude forced the government to take recourse to police action. The author again hit the jackpot by cultivating friendship with a senior state army officer who procured the complete Hyderabad Army Operational Plan. This was a major contribution to the success of the Indian operation.

On the September 13, at about 3.30 a.m. the armoured division launched the police action named 'Operation Polo' which lasted for barely 108 hours. The operation went smoothly with negligible resistance. The only opposition the the Army encountered was the extensive mining all along the roads.

General Chaudhri of the Indian Army was authorised to accept surrender which took place at Sholapur-Hyderabad Road at 4.30 pm on September 18, 1947. Major Nanda was also present.

The factual account of accession of Hyderabad from the pen of a soldier is a significant contribution in the history of the nation. It also has ramifications on the question whether history should repeat itself in solving the Kashmir problem. The experiences of the author as the member of the Control Commission (1962-63) are shared through letters to his daughter, Neeru Nanda. She has carefully preserved them for the last 40 years.

The author feels that politicians and civil services have underrated the role of the armed forces. According to him, the neglect of the Army was due to fear of military dictatorship. Our intelligence agencies also lack experience and exposure and failed miserably in 1962 and 1965 and even now in Kargil. The book, on the whole, is interesting for a layman. It is of major significance for serious scholars and researchers working on Indian history and politics.