Musings On The Constituition – XVI
The most ambitious of Indian Princes was the Nizam of Hyderabad who declared on June 12th, 1947, that “the departure of the paramount power in the near future will mean that I shall become entitled to resume the status of an independent sovereign.” He also demanded the ‘retrocession’ of Berar, that had once formed part of his State, and started negotiations with Portugal to acquire the port of Goa, to secure an outlet for his State to the sea.
“Sardar asked me (Dr. K.M. Munshi) to go to Hyderabad as the Agent-General of the Union of India, as one had to be appointed by each party under the terms of the Standstill Agreement. When I consulted Gandhiji, he approved of the idea; so I accepted the commission, but refused to take any remuneration”.
My (K.M. Munshi’s) position in Hyderabad was most embarrassing to me because of the parallel approaches to the Hyderabad problem by those who held power in New Delhi. Sardar and V.P. Menon were dealing with the situation through me to secure the accession of the State on the same terms as the accession of other States. Lord Mountbatten, the Governor-General, carried on negotiations with the Nizam’s Prime Minister, Laik Ali, supported by Sir Walter Monckton, and was prepared to concede substantial autonomy to Hyderabad if the Nizam only signed a document to come into the Union.
Jawaharlal Nehru was averse to the line followed by Sardar. At one stage, it was suggested to Sardar that I should be replaced by someone else at Hyderabad. Sardar would not think of it. More than once I was disgusted at being distrusted by my Prime Minister, having had to provide independent corroboration every time I reported an atrocity on the part of the Ittehad. I would have thrown up the job but for Sardar’s confidence in me.
Rao Bahadur Vappala Pangunni Menon
As the Hyderabad situation was inexorably moving towards a climax, due to the intransigence of the Nizam and his advisers, Sardar considered it advisable to let the Nizam’s Government know clearly that the patience of the Government of India was fast getting exhausted. Accordingly a communication to that effect was sent from the States Ministry by V.P. Menon.
When Jawaharlal Nehru came to hear of this, he was extremely upset. A day before our army was scheduled to march into Hyderabad he called a special meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, excluding the three Chiefs of Staff. The meeting, held in the Prime Minister’s room, was attended by Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar, Maulana Azad, the then Defence and Finance Ministers, the State Secretary V.P. Menon and the Defence Secretary H.M. Patel.
Hyderabad House, Delhi
The discussion had scarcely begun when Jawaharlal Nehru flew into a rage and upbraided Sardar for his action and attitude towards Hyderabad. He also directed his wrath against V.P. Menon. He concluded his outburst with the remark that in future he would himself attend to all matters relating to Hyderabad. The vehemence of his attack, as well as its timing, shocked everyone present. Throughout the outburst Sardar sat still without uttering a word. He then rose and left the meeting accompanied by V.P. Menon. The meeting dispersed without transacting any business.
V.P. Menon registered his protest by letting Jawaharlal Nehru know that if that was how he felt about things there was no point in his (Menon’s) continuing in the States Ministry.
By then the Prime Minister felt that he had overshot the mark and apologized to Menon. He never carried out his threat to take the Hyderabad portfolio out of Sardar’s hands, and the latter adhered to his schedule regarding the police action. There was no further discussion between the two on the subject of Hyderabad.
Shri V.P. Menon and H.M. Patel have borne out the truth of the foregoing incident. Even a little while before zero hour for the police action attempts were made by the British army chief to defer action, but Sardar stuck to the time-table and our forces marched into Hyderabad. Swift action followed. No sooner had the military appeared on the scene than the straw-stuffed power of the Nizam collapsed.
After the successful Army Action, Shri K.M. Munshi tendered his resignation from the office of Agent General. The States Ministry issued a press note generously acknowledging how Munshiji had worked with single minded devotion to achieve the task assigned to him.
Munshi says in his book- Pilgrimage to Freedom:
“When I was back in Delhi Sardar insisted that I should call on Jawaharlal Nehru as a matter of courtesy. When I went to the Prime Minister’s office in Parliament House, he came out in the ante-room and frigidly accosted me: “Hello Munshi”. “I have come to call on you, now that I am back in Delhi,” I said. He almost turned as if to go; then he turned round, shook hands with me and left.
I told Sardar how sorry I was to have accepted his advice to see Jawaharlal Nehru. Sardar laughed and said: “Some of them are angry that you helped in liquidating the Ittehad power. Some others are angry that you did not allow them to remove the Nizam from Hyderabad straightway. Some cannot vent their anger on me, and therefore make you the target”.”
No wonder BJP and the Congress fight for the legacy of SardarPatel vis a vis that of Jawaharlal Nehru. My God, there is so much to hark back and read on them for if we fail to read history, we are condemned to repeat it. Except that, we can surely say with affirmation and no contradiction that we have neither a Nehru nor a Patel in our midst and surely no Munshi too.
Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi
Coming back to the contribution of K M Munshi as member of the Constituent Assembly, it is immense. Firstly, he wrote a draft of his own like B N Rau did and submitted it to the Drafting Committee. Then his interventions during the proceedings were sharp and incisive and Chairman Ambedkar took serious note of it as well. Apart from his note on Fundamental Rights, which included Right to Privacy as an independent fundamental right, he had a huge role to play on the language issue too.
Language has always been a sensitive issue any nation. It goes to the very core and root of identity of the citizen, community, city, State, region and country itself. The debate in the Assembly was hot and heated. The members were patriots. But each had a reason to back the language of their choice. Ambedkar, for instance, floated the idea of Sanskrit as the national language, with support from many members. But it was spiked with opposition led by Syama Prasad Mookerkee, later to become founder of Jan Sangh. Hindi became the dominant language. There was then a seeming difference of opinion morphing into a divisive tool.
In the Draft Constitution of India, 1948 there were no provisions related to national or official language. It was only on….
(Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)