Research Project

In September 1948, the newly independent republic of India annexed the princely state of Hyderabad, through the “police action” dubbed Operation Polo, which resulted in massive violence on communal lines. A government investigation – the Sunderlal Committee Report – estimated a death toll between thirty to forty thousand, while others claim even higher numbers. Through both a statistical analysis of the 1931, 1941, and 1951 censuses of the Hyderabad state, and a qualitative analysis of the first-hand accounts of the period, this paper finds demographic changes – particularly the gradual but steady increase of Hindus in a state headed by Muslims – to be a key reason in the exacerbation of communal tensions and the eruption of the communal violence. Also explored are questions regarding the validity and caveats of the census data, and its political implications. Ultimately, this study finds that communal tensions in India are not solely a byproduct of the enduring rivalry between Hindus and Muslims, but rather a result of a complex set of factors that include community and class.