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Integration of Indian States


Integration of Princely States in India

The origin of the process of the integration of Indian States could be traced back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries when the England East India Company began acquiring large tracts of land in India through the conquest of the native kingdoms and principalities on one pretext or the other. The Subsidiary Alliance System of Wellesley had reduced many Indian States into a subordinate position vis-a-vis the Company. And quite a few of them were brought under the British rule by Dalhousie through the Doctrine of Lapse. The rest, though remained independent in theory, were practically controlled by the British through their Residencies in these States. But when the Revolt of 1857 made it clear that the Indian princes were not happy with the dubious policy of the company, the British declared through the Queen's proclamation that there would be no further annexations and no interference in the internal affairs of any Indian State except in the case of gross mismanagement and disloyalty to the British crown. In 1876 during the Vice royalty of Lord Lytton, the British queen was proclaimed as the Empress of India including the Indian States, and the British paramountcy in India was formally announced. Thus, by the second half of the 19th century the Indian subcontinent came to consist of the British India, ruled directly by the Viceroy, and a large number of princely states, ruled indirectly by the British.

The Movements of the People of these Indian States played a significant role in their final integration with the Indian Union. The origins of these movements could be traced to the numerous spontaneous local peasant uprisings against oppresive taxation in several princely states like Mewar, Kashmir, Travancore, Mysore, Hyderabad, etc., from the beginning of the 20th century. But all these peasant uprisings were violently suppressed by the rulers with the active support of the British. However, urban nationalism, in the form of urban middle class "prajaparishads" with nationalistic ideas, began emerging in the 1920s in most of the princely states, when subjects' (later renamed People's) Conference began to meet annually. In order to counter this rising nationalist trend in the princely States as well as British India, the British set up the Chamber of. Princes in 1921. This was in tune with their general policy of divide and rule. And in 1927 along with the appointment of the Simon Commission (meant for British India only), the British also appointed the Harcourt Butler Commission to recommend measures for the establishment of better relationships between the Indian states and Central Government of British India. In response to this Government move, nationalists among the States' people, such as Balwantrai Mehta and Manila! Kothari of Kathiwar and G.R.Abhyanka of the Deccan, convened an All-India States Peoples' Conference (AISPC) in December 1927, which was attended by 700 delegates from all over India. The aim of the AISPC was to influence the rulers of the Indian States to initiate the necessary reforms in the Administration and to emphasise popular representation and self. Government in all of them. Further, AlPSC stood for the establishment of constitutional relations between British India and the Indian States, and also an effective voice for the state's people in this relationship. This, in its opinion, would hasten the attainment of independence by the whole of India.

As a direct consequence of its stand that the Indian States should be treated as integral parts of the whole of India, the AISPC had requested the British Government to allow the people of states to be represented at the First Round Table Conference, which was, however, not permitted by the British. The AISPC then presented a memorandum to the Congress Party advocating an all-India federal Constitution in which all fundamental rights and privileges which the Karachi Session of the Congress (1929) had called for in British India would be accorded to the people of the states as well.

But till the late 1930s, the Congress maintained a non-intervention stand towards the affairs of the Indian States. For, it felt that political activities in each state should be organised and controlled by the local Praja Mandal, that a movement started externally could not be successful, and that the people of the states should learn self-reliance. It was only in 1938 at its Haripura Session that the Congress included the independence of the princely states as well in its goal of Poorna Swaraj. At the same time, it insisted that for the time being it could only give its moral support and sympathy to states people's movements, which should not be conducted in the name of the Congress. However, the Tripuri Session (1939) decided that the organisation should involve itself closely with the movements in the princely states. As if to emphasize the Common national aims of the political struggles in British India and in the states, Jawaharlal Nehru became the president of the AISPC in, 1939. Thus the States Peoples Movements, besides awakening national consciousness among the people of the states, also spread a new consciousness of unity all over India.


With the impending lapse of British paramountcy, the question of the future of the princely states became a vital one. The more ambitious rulers or their dewans were dreaming of an independence which would keep them as autocratic as before, and such hopes received considerable encouragement from the British Indian Government till Mountbatten followed a more realistic policy.

Meanwhile a new upsurge of the states people's movement had begun in 1946-47, demanding political rights and elective representation in the Constituent Assembly. The Congress criticized the Cabinet Mission Plan for not providing for elected members from the Indian States. Nehru presided over the Udaipur and Gwalior Sessions of the AISPC (1945 & 47) and declared at Gwalior that the states refusing to join the constituent Assembly would be treated as hostile. But verbal threats and speeches apart, the Congress leadership, or more precisely Sardar Patel tackled (he situation very cleverly, using popular movements as a lever to extort concessions from princes while simultaneously restraining them or even using force to suppress them once the princes has been brought to heel as in Hyderabad.

When the British decided to transfer power to Indians, they no doubt found it the best solution to a difficult problem to declare that the paramountcy which they exercised over the Indian states would automatically lapse. Thus, the edifice which the British themselves built up laboriously for more than 150 years was demolished overnight. But there were many British conversant with the problem of the Indian states, who said at the time that the seriousness of the problem had not been appreciated at ail by the British Government and that it was graver than any other that faced the country. Even in India there were very few who realised the magnitude of the threatened danger of balkanization. At the same time, there is no doubt that had paramountcy been transferred to a free India with all the obligations which had been assumed by the British Government under the various treaties, it would scarcely have been possible for us to have solved the problem of the Indian states in the way we did. By the lapse of paramountcy we were able to write on a clean state unhampered by an obligations.

The main problems was the existence of too many small states, the total number being over 550. So, our primary task was to bring the states into some form of organic relationship with the center in order to prevent the balkanization of the country and to stop any possible inveiglement of the states by Pakistan. This we did by means of accession on three subjects (defense, external affairs, and communication) as well as a Standstill Agreement which kept alive the existing relations between the states and the Government of India.

A number of states like Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Gwalior, Indore, Baroda, Travancore, Mysore, etc. were quite large, and were economically as well as militarily viable. Travancore, for instance, had decided in June 1947 to become an independent state, and it was followed by Hyderabad. The rulers of Jammu and Kashmir and Junagadh were also thinking of similar lines. Sardar Patel, who took charge of the newly created Ministry of States in June 1947, handled the situation with skill, speed and firmness. He was ably assisted in this by Mr.P.V.Menon, who was especially selected for the post of Secretary of the New Ministry. By August 15, 1947 all states geographically contiguous to India, except Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagadh, had acceded to India by signing the Instrument of Accession. The rulers of these three states created problems for the Government of India before being finally compelled to accede to India.

Junagadh in Kathiwar, whose population was overwhelmingly Hindu (80%), was ruled by a Muslim ruler. In total disregard of the popular feeling, the Nawab had decided to accede to Pakistan on 15th August, 1947. This caused a spontaneous popular uprising among the people of the state, forcing the Nawab and Dewan to flee Pakistan. The Government of India acted immediately by taking "Police action" (i.e. military intervention) and Junagadh was, thus, acceded to India.

In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the conditions were the reverse, with the ruler being a Hindu and the population, overwhelmingly Muslim (75%). But here the external factors played a far more important, role than the internal factors. Despite the serious efforts of Lord Mountbatten to persuade the Maharaja to accede either to India or to Pakistan, the latter had remained intransigent and hoped to remain independent. But the invasion of Kashmir by Pakistan instigated tribesmen and their attempt to take Srinagar by force left him with no choice but to seek Indian help. Thus, the Maharaja, overwhelmed by the developments, was compelled to sign the "Instrument of Accession" with the Government of India. The latter, though promised at that time to conduct a plebiscite for seeking people's verdict on the state's accession to India, did not fulfill the promise due to the continued hostile activities of Paksitan.

The case of Hyderabad was, however, somewhat similar to that of Junagadh. Here also, as in Junagadh, the ruler was a Muslim, but majority of the population was Hindu (85%). The Nizam, with the indirect support of Pakistan, wanted to remain independent. Pending a negotiated settlement, the Government of India concluded a Standstill Agreement with the Nizam in November, 1947. Notwithstanding this agreement, the Nizam started arming his troops heavily in anticipation of military intervention by India. This, combined with the communal atrocities perpetuated by the Razakars (a volunteer corps belonging to Muslim Communal Organisation founded by a person called Kasim Razvi) in and around the state, led to the breakdown of, negotiations between the two sides in June 1948. The situation was further worsened by the Telangana armed struggle carried on by the Communists, against the landlords in the State. When the Nizam failed to contain this lawlessness perpetuated by. The Razaakars on the one hand and the Communists on the other, the Government of India got convinced of the need to take "Police action" in the State. Accordingly the Indian Army marched into the state and occupied it in September 1948. Thus, the state of Hyderabad was the last one to accede to India.

The accession of Indian States went side by side with their physical integration and reorganization, 310 states were organized into six unions while 215 were merged with their neighboring provinces. Another 5states were converted into Chief Commissioners' Provinces, but Hyderabad and Mysore were left untouched initially. In all 15 administrative units came into existence by the late 1940s. Responsible Governments were set up in all these units, and the former rulers were given the title of "Raj Pramukhs". Besides, they were allowed to retain their personal privileges, and tax free privy purses were granted to them. The 1956 reorganisation of states has left almost all the former states totally changed.


Dennis Mweetwa on March 03, 2016:

i have really enjoyed this vital piece of information. it has greatly helped me in my assignment. am studying history of India this semester....Thanks a lot.

vitoka sukhalu on January 28, 2016:

This is really helpful i am studying this topic in my current semester and really helped me alot... Thank you

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pramodgokhale from Pune( India) on December 21, 2015:

Princely state around 500 no. before independence and their merger with Indian Union was a great job done Nehru-Patel duo.Otherwise British imperialist wants to play fire in our land. We were lucky and blood shed was avoided.

India was made nation state which wanot earlier, it was a fractured set up. If 500 princely states freed then it could have been Balkans of East Asia.

Anil sharma on June 16, 2015:

Thanks a lot for sharing the information

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on April 13, 2012:


This Hub of yours is very useful for the student of Modern Indian History. Thanks for sharing the information. Voted up and shared.

dialogue (author) on April 09, 2012:

Hello Lee (Drtruthman), Thank you for your kind comment.

Drtruthman from Harlingen, Texas on April 09, 2012:

This is most interesting. I am somewhat familiar with this being a history minor in college but have never read such a concise explanation to the unification process. I enjoyed very much. I voted Up all across. Great job. Lee

dialogue (author) on April 05, 2012:

Thank you Laura for your kind comments.

Laura Tykarski from Pittsburgh PA on April 05, 2012:

I agree I just think a more World-Wide focus needs to be implemented in the USA to better prepare our younger students for topics/careers etc. that they might want to learn about at at an more mature age at a more in-depth level i.e. colleges/universities in the USA. Thank-you again for a very well written and informative hub.

dialogue (author) on April 05, 2012:

Well i guess since it is the history of another country there is no much focus on this topic in your school system. Even many other events too i feel might not have been covered over there and the reason i believe, modern history of most of the republics are not so important as the ancient and medieval of the same.

Laura Tykarski from Pittsburgh PA on April 05, 2012:

ty dialogue I found this hub extremely interesting---and useful as well in knowing historically the "Real Deal" and progression of Indian integration. Why these topics are not covered as well and as extensively as you have done here in our school systems is beyond my limited understanding. Some if not all that you wrote I did know but I wonder if the average 11th grader here in the United States does?

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