Communicating as a Leader

The Communal History of Hyderabad

Pranay Rupani asked:

The city of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh has seen many Communal ups and downs right from the Razakar movement onwards. There have been periods where it has been secular later communal and then secular again. Mostly modern Hyderabad has been relatively peaceful but just as with the rest of India fallen prey to communally divisive politics. The history of Hyderabad began with the Qutub Shahi dynasty when Golconda was established and later the capital was shifted to Hyderabad with the building of monuments like the Charminar. In the history of the later princely state the importance of the Telangana region holds the key to the way the city was formed. The most prosperous region at one point of time is now in the midst of an economic (barring Hyderabad and the Rangareddy districts) and social struggle for an autonomous state.


The Qutub Shahi rulers were quite accepting of the Telugu culture of the region and embraced the language and culture by learning it and patronizing the arts and encouraging telugu literature. The rulers would converse, read and write in Telugu. The classical dance form Kuchipudi was also born during this time. The Qutub Shahi’s were benevolent rulers who laid emphasis on inclusive progress and assimilated themselves into the culture. The Muslim kings married into the local people of which the most famous example is that of Bhagmati, which gave rise to the name Bhagyanagar to her subsequent conversion to Hyder Mahal from which the name Hyderabad came to be. The dynasty was also very wealthy as a result of the diamond mining (this was where the Kohinoor was excavated) and this prosperity attracted unwarranted attention from the Mughal Empire. The region had an overwhelming majority of Hindus (around 96%) being ruled by Muslim kings which did not present as a problem for nearly 200 years of their rule.


After Aurangazeb’s repeated attacks the dynasty declined and the Mughal inquisition gave rise to the Asaf Jahi dynasty or as they are more popularly known the Nizams of Hyderabad. Under their rule the region of Telangana was the epicentre of the kingdom and Hyderabad was the capital. The Nizam rule saw the rising of the Princely State of Hyderabad and it was some of the most prosperous time for the kingdom. The Hindu population of the state was around 93% but there was not a lot of animosity among the people and the Nizam had signed a treaty with the British Establishment after supporting their annexation of Mysore. So neighbouring Secunderabad and other regions were administered by the British Imperialist forces and the presence of the British Army was a constant. Though the majority population was Hindu it was no secret that the Nizams favoured the Muslims.


Urdu was imposed on the people and Universities (Osmania University) and Schools (Aaliya) established were to enforce Urdu among the Hindus. The administration was also completely dominated by Muslims. This also did not incite any unrest among the people as one of the pillars of the Nizams Sarkar was the support from the Deshmukhs and Jagirdars who were the earlier captured kings from other provinces of India with royal status. All was well till the Nizam demanded dominion status and decided not to join India or Pakistan beginning in 1946. The Hindus (Andhra Mahasaba), Communists and pro-Indian union Muslims started the join India movement, this had the Nizam worried and thus began the Razakar movement with the Majlis-e-Ittehadhul Musalmeen (MIM, separatist dominion group) which included some dalits. This laid the ground for nearly two years of a virtual siege on the Hindus of the state. This led to the police action and the action of the Indian Government to annexe the state and they succeeded on the 18th of September 1948 with the Nizam becoming the ‘Raj Pramukh’


For a city born out of such communal strife and immense religious tension for the years after the struggle the region remained relatively non-communal. There were problems with the violent farmer struggles which grew stronger to the now very evident Naxal problem the contribution of the communists to a peace amongst religions were crucial but laying a virtual siege to official machinery was not (things were non communal even during the Telangana Agitation). Even the rise of Salahuddin Owaisi of the MIM (distanced from the separatist cause) was not the cause of much communal strife. The Babri Masjid demolition changed that and saw the MIM fighting for the rights of Muslims in the city (which made the Owaisis very powerful). This is where the communal harmony in Hyderabad went south. The BJP was making its presence felt like it did in the national arena from 1984 onwards that gave the MIM a slight scare when Badam Bal Reddy almost won (it is alleged that there was massive rigging done to make the MIM win, as a BJP victory would mean a virtual war in the Old City area as it is now known).


The seeds of hatred though had already been laid; Hyderabad after formation of the Andhra Pradesh state saw the worst Hindu-Muslim riots and everything after that became a communal issue. Charminar was basically turned into a MIM bastion and many Hindu traders decided to move out fearing their life. Friday prayer at the Mecca Masjid became the ideal place to start a riot after prayers and anything would set off a stone pelting spree. Then again during the Telugu Desam Party (that was until the alignment with the BJP) and Congress rule in the state there was a lull but very sensitive. During this time many Hindu customs which were earlier welcomed met with opposition and many Muslim practices were deliberately opposed. Both sides wanted to gain political mileage from the communal conflict. Every festival and celebration had to be policed heavily.


Till 1998 Hyderabad had not fully taken off to the current IT city metro status but the division of the Old and New City areas had begun just prior the 90’s. The Babri demolition gave rise to fundamental elements to take advantage of the situation which led to hyper extension of mosques and anti-Hindu tirades at sermons (the most often said thing was to abstain from buying anything from Hindus during Ramzan, now extended to not buy anything from Hindus at any given time). The reactionary response to that was Ganesh Visarjan yatras deliberately causing problems when passing through the Old City or the local Bonalu festival being heavily guarded as the rituals lead to many uncomfortable situations. The MIM was a party to many of these problems but vote-bank politics meant ignorance at best. Islamic fundamentalist elements had permeated locally with an influx of migrants from various parts of the country (plus international influences and migration back and forth).


Sleeper cells of Islamic fundamentalist groups, rise of the RSS now ruled the previously communist (including Maoist Naxal) Telangana. As a result these unchecked happenings eventually led to the Hyderabad Bombings (in Mecca Masjid, Lumbini Park and Gokul Chaat) and the attack of MIM legislators on Taslima Nasreen. The MIM though had shown signs of this when they violently stamped out (there was a shootout where most members were killed, but as always not many clues were found) the opposition from the Majlis-Bachao-Tehreek (MBT) after the death of their leader Amanullah Khan, who had led a successful opposition movement to the MIM. The MIM recently demanded a Muslim state with Warangal as its capital for Telangana, the Communist Party of India had gained significant ground recently as people of the Old City saw through the MIM but the nuclear deal and a passionate speech by Asaduddin Owaisi in support virtually eliminated that near change in thought process. Again Hyderabad is on high alert and the Hindu-Muslim he said-she said will go on but the rising forces of terror will go mostly unchecked in the process. There are enough problems with t
he Naxal groups now the state has to tackle a combination of problems.< br/>

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