Integration of Princely States of Independent India- Problems, UPSC PDF

By K Balaji|Updated : November 17th, 2022

Integration of princely states post-Indian independence was an important subject that holds much importance in Indian history. India gained independence on 15th August 1947, which gave rise to two new dominions of India and Pakistan. At the time of independence, in 1947, India was divided into two territories, out of which one was directly under the control of British rule. In contrast, the second was under the British Crown's authority, where their hereditary rulers controlled the states' internal affairs. This article furnishes the whole cognizance around the integration of princely states.

This led to the subject of the integration of princely states which was considered necessary for achieving independence from British rule completely. The British Crown had 562 princely states under its control. The political integration of princely states in independent India was the main aim of the Indian National Congress & the Indian government at the time.

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Integration of Princely States into the Indian Union

At the time of Indian independence, all the princely states under British Crown authority were also supposed to gain independence with the end of British rule. Therefore, the integration of princely states was another subject of concern for the Indian leaders. In respect of the area, these 562 states covered around 48% of India before independence, forming a major chunk of the Indian state.

Integration of Princely States UPSC PDF

  • As per the Indian Independence Act 1947, these princely states were offered to either integrate into India or Pakistan or retain their status as independent sovereign states.
  • India’s first Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, was handed over the responsibility of accomplishing this task of integration of Indian states into the Indian union.

Sardar Patel tried to convince the Indian princes to merge their states by reminding them of the risk of anarchy in case they denied it. Certain states didn’t like either of the options and wanted to merge with Pakistan and become a part of it.

Why was the Integration of Princely States Important?

After India's independence, one of the major tasks was the integration of Indian states into the Indian union. This was important because integrating the princely states into India meant transferring authority and power from the British Crown to India.

  • The main idea was to create one united independent nation called India.
  • Although there were many roadblocks while fulfilling this purpose, many states were unwilling to merge with India or Pakistan and were not in favour of losing their freedom and authority.
  • The new Indian government was not in favour of having independent small states within the country as it would lead to a high-security risk for the entire country. These independent princely states could be targeted in case of a foreign attack and could put the nation at risk.
  • On the other hand, Pakistan was also in the race to merge these states and increase its power; therefore, it was all the more important for India to fasten the process of integration of princely states into the Indian union as soon as possible.

Role of Sardar Patel In Integration of Princely States

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first deputy prime minister of India and the home minister, was handed over this integration task of Indian states. V.P.Menon (secretary of the Ministry of the States) was supposed to assist him in this task.

  • Sardar Patel adopted various measures to achieve his goal, looking at the seriousness of the situation at the time. He tried to instill patriotism in the Indian princes to convince them to integrate their states into the Indian union.
  • The concept of “privy purses” was also introduced by Sardar Patel while trying to make the integration of princely states possible. The concept of “privy purses” referred to the payment made to the royal families if they agreed to the merger of their state with India.
  • The role of Sardar Patel in the integration of princely states can never be ignored or denied. Let us see how other states were made to agree to this integration of princely states in India.

How Did India Achieve the Integration Of Princely States?

Bikaner, Gwalior, Baroda, and Patiala were the first to integrate their states into India on 28th April 1947. Trace the path to find out the way India achieved the integration of princely states.

The Princely State of Travancore

Travancore was a princely state in southwestern India, now part of Kerela. It was earlier known as the kingdom of Travancore, which was quite popular then. Today, it is called Kerela. Travancore was also known as the maritime state and therefore contributed to the maritime trade for the country as well.

It also possessed abundant natural resources, due to which it thought of itself as a self-sufficient state and therefore did not want to merge with the Indian union.

  • The Dewan of Travancore, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, had officially declared in 1946 that he was unwilling to let go of the independence of his state & refused to merge.
  • He was then invited to Delhi by Jawaharlal Nehru so that he could be convinced, but he did not change his decision & did not agree to sign the ‘Instrument of Accession’.
  • He only changed his decision when he survived an assassination attempt made by a member of the Kerala Socialist Party. He advised the king of Travancore from his hospital bed to sign the Instrument of Accession.
  • Travancore joined the Indian union on 30th July 1947.

Bhopal

The state of Bhopal was also one of the princely states that declined the integration of princely states. The situation in Bhopal was slightly different from other states where a Muslim Nawab, Hamidullah Khan, was ruling the Hindu-dominated population. The Nawab of Bhopal was ordered a close aide of the Muslim League & thus strictly opposed the integration of princely states.

  • Lord Mountbatten offered the Nawab of Bhopal the Instrument of Accession.
  • The Nawab of Bhopal refused to sign the Accession claiming the protection of Muslim rights in a Hindu-dominated state.
  • By July 1947, he finally accepted and signed the Instrument of Accession as the people of Bhopal also realized that the Nawab was only interested in gaining power.

Jodhpur

The princely state of Jodhpur was a Rajput state with a Hindu population ruled by a Hindu king. It still was more inclined towards merging with Pakistan. The Hindu king ruling over Jodhpur, Hanvant Singh, was young and had less experience, so he easily got attracted to the deal from Pakistan.

  • The deal he received from Jinnah was a blank signed paper where the Prince was asked to list his demands along with free access to the Karachi port.
  • Sardar Patel instantly offered some perks to the king of Jodhpur and tried to stop him from acceding to Pakistan.
  • The Dewan of Bikaner was also said to have convinced the Jodhpur king to accept the integration of the princely states.
  • The king of Jodhpur finally signed the Instrument of Accession on 11th August 1947.

Junagarh

The princely state of Junagarh was situated in southwestern Gujarat. This state also showed disinterest in merging with the Indian union. It comprised a large Hindu population and was ruled by a Muslim Nawab, Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III.

  • The king of Junagarh had initially agreed to merge with Pakistan on 15th September 1947, claiming it adjoined Pakistan by sea.
  • Later on, two states, Mangrol and Babariawad, under the purview of Junagarh, announced their independence by acceding to the Indian union. The Nawab, in response, forcefully took control of these states by adopting military measures.
  • The rulers of Mangrol and Babariawad pleaded for assistance from the Indian Government.
  • Looking at the complex situation, Sardar Patel & V.P.Menon tried to convince the Dewan of Junagarh to call for a plebiscite.
  • After many clashes & hardships, the plebiscite was held, resulting in Junagarh acceding to India.

Hyderabad

Nizam Mir Usman Ali was the Muslim king ruling over the large Hindu population of Hyderabad. It was the richest among all the princely states of India. The king of Hyderabad denied the possibility of acceding the Indian union.

  • The king also led a group of Muslims called Ittehadaul Muslameen & a militia called Razakars to cause disruption and threatened the idea of a unified Indian state.
  • This led to a police action being taken against Hyderabad by the Indian Government in 1948, when on 13th September, it sent troops under ‘Operation Polo’.
  • All these instances eventually led the Nawab to surrender Hyderabad and later sign the Instrument of Accession.

Integration of Kashmir

Kashmir has always been a much-debated topic for years for India and Pakistan. At the time of Indian independence, Kashmir was neither a part of India nor Pakistan. It was when some Pakistanis attacked Kashmir on 22nd Oct 1947 and the King of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, had to request the Indian Government to rescue his state.

  • Only after the king signed the Instrument of Accession did the Indian Government send its Army for Kashmir’s rescue.
  • After the Indian Army was sent for assistance, a ceasefire occurred between Indian and Pakistan on 31st December 1948.
  • India then raised concerns to the United Nations, resulting in Pakistan being asked by the UN to withdraw its army. However, Pakistan has not removed its army from Kashmir even today, which has been a concern for India for years.
  • India was later asked to hold a plebiscite in the state.
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FAQs on Integration of Princely States

  • India, after independence, was still divided into two different territories, out of which one was directly under the control of the British. In contrast, the other was under the authority of the British Crown but was ruled by their respective hereditary rulers. There were more than 500 princely states that came under this category. Therefore, after independence, these independent states were supposed to be merged with India's common and unified state. This was known as the integration of princely states.

  • The responsibility of integration of the Indian states was given to the deputy prime minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. He was also the home minister of India then. He devised many strategies and convinced the rulers to merge their states with India and make it a unified nation.

  • Sardar Patel played the most important role in the integration of Indian states. He was assisted by V.P.Menon in his efforts to convince the rulers of the princely states who were of being initially unwilling to sign the Instrument of Accession. He also introduced the concept of “privy purses” to convince the rulers to merge their states with India.

  • Around 562 princely states in India were recognized at the time of independence. All these states were ruled by their legal heirs and came under the purview of the British crown but were independent of the direct control of the British.

  • The integration of Indian states was an important task as it would lead to a large and stronger India as a nation. There would just be “one”, undivided nation. The integration also meant the transfer of power from the British to India. Thus it was imperative for an independent India as a nation.

  • The richest and largest princely state in India was Hyderabad. It covered a major portion of the Deccan Plateau. Hyderabad was a Hindu-populated state but was ruled by a Muslim Nawab Nizam Mir Usman Ali.

  • Sardar Patel was the one who was responsible to accomplish the task of integration of princely states. He adopted various measures to achieve this integration such as invoking the patriotic emotions of the princes, by warning them of a situation of anarchy if they do not accede & introduced the concept of “privy purses” also.

  • Before 1947, i.e. before India attained independence from British rule, there were 584 princely states in the country. These states were not in control of British rule completely & officially. These were also called ‘native states’.

  • After India attained independence from British rule, the integration of princely states was a natural step to be followed. The major problem arose due to the division of India into two territories & the princely states were free to join either India or Pakistan. Many states initially refused to join India & also showed interest in Pakistan.

  • There were more than one princely states that decided to join the state of India. Among all the princely states, Bikaner, Gwalior, Baroda, and Patiala were the first to integrate their states into India on 28th April 1947.

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