Friday, October 1, 1999

The Tables Turned

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad-50

The Tables Turned
By Narendra Luther

B.P.R. Vithal, an I.A.S officer who retired as principal secretary of the Finance Department of the Government of Andhra Pradesh and then served as a member of the 10th Finance Commission was, at the time of Police Action, a young man of 21, studying at Madras (now Chennai).
Arbitrary Removal

His father, Ram Narsu was an assistant professor in the Nizam College. He was an outspoken non-conformist and did not hesitate to utilize his lecture on British history to underline the justification of the aspiration for freedom amongst Indians. The principal, an Englishman called Turner, did not like him and terminated his service one day on the plea that post had ceased to exist.

Narsu’s wife was a good veena player and that had brought her close to Laila, wife of Hasan Latif, a chief engineer in the Hyderabad State. He was and father of Air Chief Marshall I.H. Latif, who became the Chief of Staff of the Indian Air Force, and later served as governor of Maharashtra, and ambassador to France. She was the niece of Sir Akbar Hydari and, on the death of her father, had been brought up by him. She sought Sir Akbar’s intercession in the case of the termination of Narsu’s services. Seeing the injustice and arbitrariness on the part of the principal, Sir Akbar ordered Narsu’s immediate reinstatement.
Father or son

Vithal, meanwhile, had finished his schooling at the Aliya, and joined the Nizam College. A keen, sensitive student, Vithal became interested in politics and took part in the ‘Quit India’ Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942. He also used to wear khadi. The new principal of the college, Khader Hussain Khan did not approve of his conduct. His warning to Vithal having failed, he called Narsu and told him about his son’s ‘undesirable’ activities. He then gave him an ultimatum: ”One of you will have to leave the college -- you or your son.”

The father mentioned this to the son. Vithal said that the father needed to stay in Hyderabad to provide for the family. Therefore, he would go away. He then went and joined the Christian College at Madras. He found comparatively greater freedom to indulge in his innocent politics in the then British Indian Presidency of Madras.

Like some sensitive young people, Vithal started maintaining a private journal in which he recorded what seemed to be important incidents to him and his observation on various matters.

In Hyderabad and around, tension had started mounting in 1948. Razakars began to pose a threat to citizens who did not share their ideology of establishing an independent Islamic state in Hyderabad. Ram Narsu, anticipating the danger ahead, called a student of his, Makhdoom Ali Khan. He was an active member of the Razakar Party – the Majlis–e-Ittehad-ul-Mussalmeem. At that time he was its treasurer. Narsu asked him whether he would keep his jewelry and valuable in safe custody, just in case...

Makhdoom readily agreed. Narsu then gave him a packet.

“Don’t worry, Sir", replied Makhdoom respectfully, as he took the packet, "Insha Allah, everything will be alright."

From the newspapers in Madras in September 1948, Vithal gathered that something serious was in the offing. He therefore decided to pay a visit to his parents. He took the train from Madras on 11 September and found that train services from Vijayawada to Secunderabad had been cancelled. The train was diverted via Wadi. On the early morning of the 12th, three Razakars with third class tickets got into Vithal’s second class compartment at Wadi. No one objected. Vithal heard them say that Jinnah had died that day. Vithal reached home on the evening of the 12th to the mild surprise of his family.

The Police Action

The Indian forces moved into the State early next morning. Vithal was lucky. Now he wondered what would happen and how long he would be stuck in Hyderabad.
On the 17th when the Nizam read his surrender speech over the radio, Vithal noted in his journal that he tried to sound innocent as if he had been misled. ‘The Nizam is the villain of the piece, though Seshu (his cousin whom he later married) and Indu don’t agree.’

The next day Vithal went to the telegraph office to send a telegram to his relatives in Vijayawada to inform them that the family was safe. As he stood in a queue, a Muslim youth walked in nonchalantly to the head of the line. Vithal told him that there was a queue and that he should not break it. The young man quietly withdrew and stood behind Vithal. That night Vithal recorded the incident in his journal and added a comment: ‘Can you imagine my doing such a thing a few days ago!’

Return of the Trust

The same afternoon Makhdoom Ali Khan came to Ram Narsu. He returned the packet of jewellry, which had been in his safekeeping to his teacher. Then, rather sheepishly he handed Ram Narsu another packet.
“What is this?” the teacher asked in wonder.

“Sir, now it is my turn to request you to keep our jewellry in safe custody with you. If you don’t mind...”.
The gentle teacher’s voice choked as he accepted the packet and absorbed the implications of changed circumstances. He patted the young man reassuringly and said, ‘Don’t worry. With God’s grace things will be alright.’
In due course, the packet was returned to the owner in tact.

Archived by