Book Review: October Coup, A memoir of struggle for Hyderabad by Mohammed Hyder

On 17 September 1948, the Indian army led by Gen Chaudhary marched into Hyderabad and the state of Hyderabad ruled by the Nizams since 1724 came to an end. We in our history books read this as Police Action undertaken by GOI. Much of the massacre and bloodshed that accompanied this Police Action has been erased from our history books though. This book is the memoir of the then Collector of Osmanabad, Muhammad Hyder, which he wrote during his incarceration in 1949 after Hyderabad was incorporated in the Indian Union. While much of the book concerns his personal fights for vindication against the charges brought against him as the officer of the Nizam, it also offers some important insights into the times, administration and personalities in the last days of the Nizam. Some interesting nuggets are;

  1. The author devotes an entire chapter on his meeting with the famous (or infamous; your call) Syed Qasim Rizvi, the leader of the MIM and the Supremo of the Razakars. This chapter provides important insights into the thought process and the personality of Rizvi who had emerged as the most powerful leader in the last days of the state of Hyderabad. In fact the title of the book ‘October Coup’ draws from the huge demonstration that he organised against the administration gheraoing the house of the PM of Hyderabad protesting against the signing of the Standstill agreement with India. The team was to leave for Delhi that day; the plan was shelved and the agreement could only be signed later. He is said to have told the author that Muslims were better fit to rule than Hindus and one day he foresaw the Nizam’s flag flying over the Red Fort in Delhi. There is a reference in the book where he is said to have distributed large amounts of arms and ammunition to the Razakars with a view to initiate a Hindu massacre in Hyderabad on the news of the Indian Army closing in. It was only with great persuasion of the police chief of the state that he could be dissuaded and persuaded to retrieve the distributed weapons to his supporters.
  2. The whole administration of the PM Laiq Ali had become ostrich like and delusional. They had great belief and faith that Hyderabad could indeed take on the Indian Army. This bravado was based on the larger than life personality of the commander Gen Edroos, the belief that all shortcomings of the ill trained and ill equipped army were exaggerated and could be immediately rectified (Laiq Ali in his conversations to the author is quoted as saying that the Hyderabad army was 50 times more powerful than it appeared) and that Nizams friends (ie. Pakistan) will intervene on their behalf. The author writes that all his attempts at raising the issue of Hyderabad’s weakness were politely scuttled and he was asked to keep quiet. He hilariously mentions army officers of Hyderabad posted in Osmanabad who used to start suffering from bouts of dysentery on the mere mention of a fight against the Indian Army.
  3. The book also mentions the collapse of administration especially in the border areas of the Hyderabad with the constant harassment by the camps set up by the freedom fighters in the areas under the administrative control of GOI. These included both Congress and the Communists as well as anti social elements. There is a reference to a dacoit who is said to have out paced a running car with his sprints. It also mentions (though in passing) the prevailing latent communal tension in the state. No wonder there was large scale massacre of Muslims during the police action.

While I would not say that the book is exceptional, it would qualify as an easy and decent read.

PS: Found the references to some known names like Mr. Pimputkar ICS who succeeded the author as Collector of Osmanabad, who was my father’s Director in LBSNAA, Mussoorie, when he joined as an IAS probationer in 1967.




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