The Infamous Razakars of the Nizam and East Pakistan
Who are Razakars
Razakar is etymologically a word derived from the Arabic language which when translated means volunteer. The word is also common in the Urdu language and is often referred to as a soldier of Allah. In Bangladesh, Razakar is a pejorative word meaning a traitor or Judas. The word was extensively used in the erstwhile Hyderabad state to denote an armed group to perpetuate the rule of the Nizam. In 1947 when the Indian Independence Act was passed, the states had the choice to either accede to Pakistan or India.There was no option of independence.
Many rulers felt this was an act of betrayal, as in 1858 Queen Victoria had in her proclamation announced, that the Raj will not destabilize the princely states who would continue to be independent, under the overall suzerainty of the Raj.The Nizam opted for independence and to give muscle to his dream, he organized a militia force consisting of mainly Muslims from Bihar and outside Hyderabad to give effect to his dream of an independent Hyderabad state.
He called this force Razakars, which began a systematic campaign to terrorize the mainly Telugu speaking population. The Nizam and his court used only Urdu.
One noteworthy reform of the Nizam was the incorporation of some women from Hyderabad into a women Razakar force, but they were mainly used for marches and parades.
Razakars of Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan
Razakars were a private army organized by Qasim Razvi to support the rule of Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan. The idea was to resist the integration of Hyderabad state into independent Dominion of India. The aim was independence, as Hyderabad state had been in existence for close to 200 years.If independence was not feasible, the Nizam had decided on the advice of his Prime Minister to sign the instrument of accession to Pakistan.
The Razakars were part of this scheme and the prime minister of the state Mir Ali Laik boasted that if "the government of India took some action against Hyderabad, 100,000 men are willing to fight". This turned out to be an empty boast, as Sardar Patel fearing another blunder like Kashmir decided to nip the idea of independence and accession to Pakistan in the bud. He decided to launch an attack by the Indian army. Southern Command was instructed to prepare the plan to invade Hyderabad state. The operation was over in five days and the Nizam surrendered. He later claimed he had been misled and was allowed to remain free.
The Razakars who were expected to give battle collapsed like a house of cards and at the first contact with Indian army showed no will to fight. Their Commanding General accepted the surrender terms of General JN Choudhry the head of the Indian invasion force. For political expediency, this action against Hyderabad by the India army is termed a "police action" though no police were involved.
Emergence of Razakar Force in East Pakistan
In 1969, Sheikh Mujibar Rehman won the general election and should have been asked to be Prime Minister of Pakistan. The strong Punjabi lobby led by ZA Bhutto and Yahiya Khan, the president decided that power cannot be handed over to a Bengali Muslim and ordered a crackdown in East Pakistan.
To help in the crackdown the Pak army recruited Bihari Muslims to man a force called the Razakars. These so-called soldiers were supposed to help the Pak army. They were guilty of untold atrocities on the local Bengali populace including widespread rapes.
The Razakars were armed by the Pak army and it was expected that they would give battle to Indian forces. The Razakars however failed and at the first contact with hardened troops surrendered. The force disintegrated in no time.
Many of the Razakar leaders were tried and some of the death sentences of the collaborators have been carried out in 2017, after45 years of the end of the war.
The Razakars in both Bangladesh( East Pakistan) and Hyderabad failed. Militarily they were easy fodder for a professional force. The Regular battalions disintegrated in no time and also suffered heavy casualties. In hindsight they served no purpose.