From Subjects to Citizens: Society and the Everyday State in India and Pakistan 1947 - 1964

Hyderabad, India

The Princely State of Hyderabad is central to understanding many developments in early postcolonial India.

Situated in the heart of peninsular India, Hyderabad was home to four linguistic groups (speaking Kannada, Marathi, Telugu and Urdu). Speakers of South Indian languages were often connected to the surrounding territories of Madras, Bombay, Madhya Pradesh and Mysore through kinship and trade networks, just as Urdu-speakers often had strong ties to North India. The State was also linked to Afghanistan, Iran, the Arab world and Indonesia through migration and the patronage networks of the Nizam. Because of its cosmopolitan culture and its links to South Asia and beyond, the study of Hyderabad is never a parochial affair. Nonetheless, Hyderabad has been marginalised in studies of partition, independence and early postcolonial rule in South Asia. Often told alongside that of the other princely states, Hyderabad’s history is widely ignored after the Police Action of 1948 forcibly integrated the state into the Indian Union. But the history of Hyderabad after 1948 is not simply the story of the end of an anachronism.

Map of India Highlighting Hyderabad

Because the State was governed more or less directly by the Government of India in Delhi between 1948 and 1952, it provides a window into the thinking of the Centre on several important issues such as citizenship, land reform and political representation. As Hyderabad contained a significant Muslim population which had considerable political and social influence before 1948, Hyderabad’s postcolonial history tells us much about postcolonial Hindu-Muslim relations. Hyderabad’s postcolonial history demonstrates that questions of citizenship and belonging were just as complicated outside the provinces directly affected by partition as they were in Punjab, Bengal and Sindh.

In addition, the state was home to the Communist-inspired Telangana uprising (1944-1951). Thus, it provides insight into central government thinking on issues such as land reform and peasant rights, which were central to the agenda of the postcolonial state across India. Moreover, the suppression of the Telangana movement through a mix of coercion and economic persuasion was an early test of nationalist promises to provide freedom and development to the people of India.

Eight years after the Police Action, the state was trifurcated when the political map of southern India was redrawn along linguistic lines. Through a history of the dissolution of Hyderabad into linguistic provinces, one can examine the connections between language, political representation and state-centred economic development in early postcolonial India.

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