Hyderabad is convoluted, touching, and well-written historical fiction about India after Independence. this part of history is too complex and controversial and the author perfectly captured the essence and atmosphere of the time period.
Hyderabad (The Partition Trilogy, #2) by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar
Publication Date : September 25, 2022
Publisher : HarperCollins India
Read Date : January 29, 2023
Genre : Historical Fiction
Pages : 328
Tea for this book :
Previous book in this series I read-
Disclaimer : I received this book as part of Blogchatter Book Review Program, in exchange for an honest review.
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Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII, is the Nizam of Hyderabad, the largest Princely State of the Crown. It sits in the belly of newly independent India to which Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel want Hyderabad to accede. The Communists have concurrently mounted a state-wide rebellion.
But the Nizam’s family has ruled Hyderabad for 200 years. As the wealthiest man in the world, whom the British consider numero uno amongst India’s princes, he will not deal with two-penny Indian politicians! An ancient prophecy, however, hangs over the Nizam – the Asaf Jahi dynasty will last only seven generations. So, he keeps his jewel-laden trucks ready for flight even as he schemes with his army of militant Razakars.
Meanwhile, in the palace thick with intrigue, the maid Uzma must decide where her loyalties lie: with the peasantry or the Nizam. Among the Communist recruits, Jaabili finds love in unexpected quarters. Violence escalates and lawlessness mounts. Caught between a volatile Nizam and a resolute India, what price will Hyderabad pay?
historical fiction about India after Independence
Hyderabad, second book in the Partition trilogy, picks up from where the first book, Lahore, ended. A month before the Independent Day in August 1947, more than 500 princely states acceded to India except three- Hyderabad, Kashmir and Junagadh- as the author said, King, Queen, and Pawn in game of partition and independence- two states with Muslim rulers and one with majority Muslim people. This is the story of the refusal of Hyderbad’s Nizam to accede to India at any cost and Prime Minister of India- Jawaharlal Nehru, the last Viceroy of India- Mountbatten, and Deputy Prime Minister – Vallabhbhai Patel trying to make Hyderabad accede to India.
Now before you go into a book or even through review, let me tell you the problem with Hyderabad– Princely states were given two options, accede to India or Pakistan. Hyderabad’s Nizam wanted to join Pakistan but Hyderabad is landlocked, surrounded by free India. Its population was 85% non-muslim majority. If it was left independent it could cause Balkanization (that will be more clear why in next paragraph).
Hyderabad didn’t accede to India even after Independent day, Nizam was taking advice from all wrong people and relying on Jinha and the British crown to help Hyderbabd stay independent but Jinha is more focused on taking Kashmir and Junagadh from India and was only creating trouble for India by advising Nizam from signing any agreement except The Standstill agreement for a year. India kept the agreement but in that one year Hyderabad erupted in chaos. Many different communist groups stirred up- Kasim Razvi’s Razakars who wanted Hyderabad to be ‘the only Muslim’ and independent country, Hindu Mahasabha and Arya Samaj wanted to protect the majority Hindu population and dethrone the Nizam (some of them wanted to accede to Indian while some didn’t), and there was peasants’ struggle creating other small communist parties. They all were so hostile with each other. At one point Razakara wanted to kill all Non-Muslims or convert them into Muslims! If India didn’t go to war with Hyderabad or forced it to accede, the people in Hyderabad will surely fight each other and die without any war with free India.
Right or wrong, this part of history is too complex and controversial and the author perfectly captured the essence and atmosphere of the time period. The author not just focused on the situation and chaos in Hyderabad but also on Delhi and the troubles of the newly independent India and ministers had their heads full with all the problems – there was a mob of Hindus and Muslims cutting each other’s throats. Delhi was swarmed with refugees coming to Delhi from Punjab and Bangladesh. There was a war with Pakistan in Kashmir. The political play was at its peak for taking Junagadh in India which also had the same situation as Hyderabad. There were opposing opinions and a rift between Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel that made Gandhiji go one another big fast. And then Gandhiji’s murder plunged India into darkness of sorrow and grief.
All the problems and the events that happened during the one year of the Standstill agreement made me, just a reader, impatient and tired of all dramas, chaos, and unnecessary mindless bloodshed… I can’t imagine what leaders and people of that time might have gone through. I’m not surprised people were frustrated with the instability Hydebad was causing all over India, with leaders for being lenient with all the dramas and theatrics of Nizam and his political leaders, trying to keep peace and agreement, trying to have bloodless accession… but at the same time I admired Nehru and Patel for having patience (okay not Saradar Patel) thinking about people foremost and writing and rewriting agreements countless times for Nizam to sign and agree to accede to India.
It was amazing all the details the author gave on the situation of Hyderabad. It didn’t stand a chance against the army of India and yet Nizam didn’t yield! It made me really want to go into the mind of Nizam and know what exactly the old king was thinking!
I also liked the aspect that showed how the efforts of Patel and Nehru trying to accede Hyderabad to India was seen as bullying by some people around the world. Most of all I liked seeing how different resistance groups in Hyderabad worked and how they developed their networking. It was interesting to get a realistic view of the situation of normal people through secondary characters that not just included poor or resistant groups but also included Nizam’s household.
I enjoyed reading details on Nizam’s own house, his many palaces, his treasury and how he kept it, and how he lived. It shocked me ton read the richest person of the world at that time has no regard to hygiene and appearance! I loved reading about his daughter-in-law, Princess Nilufer. I never heard of her story before and it was great to read her perspective towards Nizam which was different than all other people. It made me have a little respect for Nizam.
What was most heartbreaking was how in all the chaos it was poor and women and children who suffered most, how the wildfire of Hindu-Muslim differences ruined people’s lives, how toxic that fire is that it still exists and still leaders are fueling that toxicity!! It was poignant to read the death report at the end. I can’t help but agree with what author said,
“What is undeniable is this: Hindu-Muslim harmony as facet of Hyderabad was gone… We got what we wanted but we lost what we had.”
I can’t wait to see how the author writes Kasmir, the last book of this trilogy.
Why 4 Stars-
While I loved the portrayal of India during and after Independence and all the struggle it has to face before and after freedom with a closer look at the situation in Hyderabad and Delhi in chronological order, I found the pace slow and I felt all the frustrations and tiredness with the slow process of annexing Hyderabad in India. I didn’t have the patience of the first Prime Minister of India and after a certain point, I just wanted to flip pages fast so I can finally reach to the main point of how exactly they carried out Operation Polo which took less than a week. I also have a question about who exactly ordered the Hyderabad force to fall back and not engage with the Indian army in its capital, was it Nizam or Laik Ali? (I don’t think this was answered straightforwardly, let me know if I’m wrong)
Overall, Hyderabad is convoluted, touching, and well-written historical fiction on the political upheaval India faced around and after the Independence.
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