Review: A.G. Noorani’s The Destruction of Hyderabad

HyderabadA.G. Noorani’s book The Destruction of Hyderabad is about the ultimate, forced incorporation of Hyderabad into India. Noorani’s charge, pursued with considerable zeal, is that Patel was communal in his outlook and he “hated the Nizam personally and ideologically opposed Hyderabad’s composite culture.” (Page 214). But is that really an issue in the larger story of forging the nation-state that India is today?
If one looks at the map of India as it existed in 1947, one can see a large chunk of territory ruled by the British that free India inherited. A large number of states, not under direct colonial administration, were interspersed with British India giving the sub-continent a pockmarked appearance. Trade, commerce and economic activity as we know them today would have been impossible had these states remained independent. But far more potent threats would have emerged had this so-called forcible union not occurred. Hyderabad’s flirtation with Pakistan, encouraged by Jinnah, would have certainly created problems in the later decades given the bitter history of the two countries. Noorani, of course, does not deal with such counterfactuals as the solid lawyer and scholar that he is. One wishes that he had spared some thought on why India’s strategic planners did what they did, their personal and allegedly communal outlook notwithstanding.