Princely States of India

Polity

Princely States of India

During the pre-independence phase, many princely states enjoyed the patronage of the British rule and were not eager to part with their privileges when the integration of States were proposed. Some of the rulers were looking forward to establishing finally their own independent State, and assert their autonomy, post-independence. A unification of princely states meant the end of British rule, as well as the dissolving of the princely states, and provinces. In 1947, the unification process began amidst high politics, diplomatic

negotiations and violence. The British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, when addressing the House of Commons on 15th March 1946 acknowledged the fight for freedom and the lives lost towards the struggle for an independent nation. He also put forth the challenges that India would face given its complex cultural heritage. He said, “I am well aware, when I speak of India, that I speak of a country containing a congeries of races, religions and languages, and I know well all the difficulties thereby created. But those difficulties can only be overcome by Indians. We are very mindful of the rights of minorities and minorities should be able to live free from fear.”

Nevertheless, the process towards nation building and negotiations to merge the States began in April 1947. Some of the problems faced towards nation building were communal riots, partition, and refugee crisis. Once India became independent, Sardar Vallabhai Patel took over as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Aff airs and the merging of 565 princely states began. He along with VP Menon, his Secretary, who did the groundwork as he was formerly an Indian civil servant, who had served the last three British viceroys, made political integration possible.

Sardar Patel and VP Menon convinced the heads of the Princely States to cooperate by joining the Indian Constituent Assembly. They were also promised that their personal assets and possessions would not be taken over by the government. Many princely states consented, except Junagadh, Kashmir, and Hyderabad who wanted to remain independent.

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