Operation Polo was the code name of the Hyderabad “police action” in September 1948, by the then newly independent Dominion of India against Hyderabad State.
What was It?
It was a military operation in which the Indian Armed Forces invaded the Nizam-ruled princely state, annexing it into the Indian Union.
At the time of Partition in 1947, the princely states of India, who in principle had self-government within their own territories, were subject to subsidiary alliances with the British, giving them control of their external relations.
In the Indian Independence Act 1947 the British abandoned all such alliances, leaving the states with the option of opting for full independence. However, by 1948 almost all had acceded to either India or Pakistan.
One major exception was that of the wealthiest and most powerful principality, Hyderabad, where the Nizam, Mir Sir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII, a Muslim ruler who presided over a largely Hindu population, chose independence and hoped to maintain this with an irregular army recruited from the Muslim aristocracy, known as the Razakars. The Nizam was also beset by the Telangana uprising, which he was unable to subjugate.
In November 1947, Hyderabad signed a standstill agreement with the dominion of India, continuing all previous arrangements except for the stationing of Indian troops in the state. However, with the rise of militant Razakars, India found it necessary to station Indian troops and invaded the state in September 1948 to compel the Nizam. Subsequently, the Nizam signed an instrument of accession, joining India.
The operation led to massive violence on communal lines. The Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, appointed a commission known as the Sunderlal Committee. Its report, which was not released until 2013, concluded that “as a very reasonable & modest estimate…the total number of deaths in the state…somewhere between 30,000 & 40,000.” Other responsible observers estimated the number of deaths to be 200,000 or higher.