A princely state, also called native state (legally, under the British) or Indian state (for those states on the subcontinent), was a nominally sovereign monarchy under a local or regional ruler in a subsidiary alliance with a greater power.
Unifying post partition India & princely states under one administration was perhaps the most important task faced by then political leadership. In colonial India, nearly 40% of the territory was occupied by 565 small & large states ruled by princes who enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy under the system of British Paramountcy.
- Many of 565 princely states began to dream of an independent state of their own after independence.
- But in the speech of Indian independence bill the British Prime Minister Attlee said “all the princely states should compulsory integrate into the new states of India or Pakistan.
- With this announcement, some of the states had shown their wisdom and realism and perhaps a degree of patriotism by joining the Constituent Assembly in April 1947.
- On 27 June 1947, Sardar Patel assumed additional charge of the newly created States’ Department with V.P. Menon as its Secretary.
- Under the leadership of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the new Government of India employed political negotiations backed with the option of military action to ensure the primacy of the central government and of the Constitution then being drafted.
- Sardar Patel and P. Menonconvinced the rulers of princely states contiguous to India to accede to India. Many rights and privileges of the rulers of the princely states, especially their personal estates and privy purses, were guaranteed to convince them to accede
- Most princely states joined Constituent Assembly with wisdom but others like of Junagadh, Kashmir, and Hyderabad publicly announced their desire to claim an independent status.
- A small state on the coast of Saurashtra surrounded by Indian Territory
- Had no link with Pakistan yet Nawab announced accession to Pak
- But majority of the people (majorly Hindu), desired to join India
- This led to a violent movement against Nawab along with Indian troops marching into the state
- A plebiscite was held which favoured joining India
- Hindu ruler Hari Singh tried to negotiate with India & Pak to have an independent status for his state.
- Since majority population of the state was Muslim, the Pakistan thought Kashmir ‘belonged‘ to them.
- On 15th August Harisingh offered standstill agreement with both countries which allowed the free movement of people & goods.
- Pakistan signed the agreement but India didn’t.
- Pakistan became impatient & started violating standstill agreement.
- 24th October Hari Singh demanded military assistance from India.
- Mountbatten pointed out that under international law India can send its troops only after state signs a formal instrument of accession
- Thus on 26thOct Maharaja signed instrument of accession which got ratified in 1954.
- On 27th Oct. morning nearly 100 planes airlifted men and weapons to Srinagar.
- Pakistan army left the main valley region but continue to occupy a large chunk of territory of Gilgit, Baltistan region – Pak occupied Kashmir.
- Largest princely state of India which was ruled by Nizam
- Nizam led to tyrannical ways & aspired to set up a Muslim dominion rather than integration with India
- He wanted an independent status for Hyderabad & thus entered into negotiation of standstill agreement with India
- Meanwhile people revolted against Nizam’s rule, particularly the peasants of Telangana due to his worst oppression measures.
- Nizam retaliated on popular movement by unleashing a para-military force
- 150,000 soldiers were mobilized by Nizam to fight against the Indian Union
- They murdered, maimed, raped and looted, targeting particularly the non-Muslims
- In Sep 1948, Indian army under operation Polo invaded Hyderabad state & overthrew its Nizam, annexing the state merged it into the Indian Union.
By the end of 1948, however, the three reluctant states too were forced to fall in line.
With great skill and masterful diplomacy & using both persuasion & pressure, Patel succeeded in integrating hundreds of princely states.