Question – The biggest impediments in integration of Princely States after independence came from Junagadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir. In this context, bring out the strategies adopted for integration of these states in India. – 30 March 2022
Answer – The integration of India after partition was one of the most difficult tasks for the political leadership. The Indian Independence Act, 1947 gave the option to the princely states to join the Dominion of India or Pakistan, or to establish themselves as an independent sovereign state. It provided the princely states with the option of joining the newly created Dominiums of India or Pakistan, or to remain as independent sovereign states. Many large princely states had clearly declared their hopes of remaining independent, and had started plans for this purpose.
The Indian leadership could not accept a situation where the unity of independent India was threatened by the existence of such large or small independent states within its territory.
These princely states were an assistant to the colonial government in controlling the rise of nationalist tendencies and other colonial powers.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was entrusted with the task of integration of the princely states with the help of VP Menon. Expressing the apprehension of anarchy if the call for nationalism among the kings was not included, Sardar Patel made every effort to integrate the kings into India. He also reinstated the concept of ‘privy purse’. Some princely states decided to join India, some wanted to remain independent, while some princely states wanted to be part of Pakistan.
The leadership was successful in integrating all but three princely states—Junagarh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Hyderabad—within the Indian Union. The Indian leadership under the chairmanship of Sardar Patel was finally compelled to use means of diplomacy, persuasion and coercion to integrate these states into India, the details of which are as follows:
Junagadh was a state in south-west Gujarat, which had no geographical connection with Pakistan. The ruler here was Muslim, and the majority of the population was Hindu. Ignoring the wishes of the common man, the Nawab announced to join Pakistan. After that people turned against the rule of the Nawab, and people forced him and his family to immigrate to Karachi and there he established a provisional government. Sardar Patel believed that, if Junagadh was allowed to join Pakistan, it would further aggravate the already prevailing communal tension in Gujarat. India cut off fuel and coal supplies to Junagadh, cut off air and postal links, sent troops to the border, and annexed the princely states of Mangrol and Babariyawar into India. A referendum was held in February 1948, the decision of which was almost unanimously in favor of joining India.
The border state of Kashmir was ruled by a Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, and the majority of the population was Muslim. The Maharaja had envisaged a sovereign status for the state, and he was reluctant to accept any dominions. However, popular political forces led by Sheikh Abdullah expressed their intention to join India. In line with its general approach, it was the desire of the Indian leadership that the subjects of Kashmir should decide their own future for themselves. The ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, proposed a status quo settlement for both India and Pakistan, pending a final decision on the state’s accession.
Pakistan attempted to consolidate the issue through tribal incursions from the North-West Frontier and later launched an official military offensive in September 1947. The Maharaja appealed to India for military assistance. Mountbatten said that under international law, India can send its troops to Kashmir only after the formal accession of Kashmir to India. Thus, India then agreed to provide military assistance on the condition that the Maharaja would first sign the Instrument of Accession. Maharaja Hari Singh decided to join India and signed the Instrument of Accession. Later, Article 35A and Article 370 were included in the Constitution, under which provisions were made that the residents of the state of Jammu and Kashmir would have rights under different laws, including rights related to citizenship, property ownership and fundamental rights.
Hyderabad aspired to a sovereign status and in November 1947 it signed a status quo agreement with India. The ruling faction in Hyderabad and the Nizam (the largest and most prosperous of all the princely states) categorically refused to join the Indian dominion.
The requests and threats from Sardar Patel and other mediators failed to change the Nizam’s point of view. He was expanding his army by importing weapons from Europe. The situation worsened when the armed radical Razakars started committing violent acts targeting the Hindu population of Hyderabad.
On 17 September 1948, the Indian Army entered Hyderabad and this military operation was codenamed “Operation Polo”. The Nizam surrendered and Hyderabad joined the Indian dominion. Later, in an effort to reward the Nizam for accepting subjugation, he was appointed governor of Hyderabad state.
After independent India, the privileges of the rulers of the Indian princely states were gradually abolished. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal to ban the Privy Purse as per the Presidential order, but finally in 1971 AD the privileges of the princely states and the Privy Purse were abolished.