IAS Preparation History: Princely States and their Merger into the Indian Union

 

As you would know, in the revised syllabus of UPSC, modern or contemporary India i.e., post-independence India is very important. This article talks about the merger of the princely states into the Indian union at the time of independence.

There were about 516 princely states ruled by Maharajas, Rajas and Nawabs, most of whom were not so willing to join the Republic India. They were by and large very loyal to the British as historically their survival depended on the British throne. We have subdivided the topic into the following sections to make preparation for the IAS exam easier.

  1. Historical background of princely states.

This topic deals with how the British set up their stronghold in India bit by bit and the role played by the princely states at that time. The two important battles that established the British in Bengal and subsequently, in India are the battles of Plassey and Buxar. In 1722, the British had direct rule over Bengal. Between 1722 and 1856 they were slowly expanding into the rest of the areas. This ended with the annexation of Awadh. At that time, there were two divisions in India:

Roughly 2/3rd of India became British India.

Roughly 1/3rd were composed of the princely states.

 

The East India Company put forth certain conditions over the princely states: that the local rulers could rule over the area but the sovereignty would lie with the British crown. So, in matters of foreign policy and army, the local rulers had no say. In effect, they were merely puppet rulers with their control being very limited.

 

Revolt of 1857

During this revolt, many princely states supported the sepoys and fought against the British, notably those whose states had been annexed by the British according to the Doctrine of Lapse. Many other states were loyal to the British like the Scindias of Gwalior and the Nizam of Hyderabad.

 

  1. Queen Victoria’s Proclamation (1858)

There were three proclamations but in the context of the princely states only one was important. This proclamation stated that no further state would be annexed by the British. This was a god-sent gift to the native Indian rulers who showed their gratitude by being staunchly loyal to the British throughout. This was evident in 1877 when Queen Victoria came to Delhi in the famous Delhi Durbar when all the Maharajas and Nawabs went to appease the Queen. Again in 1903 and 1911 when King Edward and King George V came to India, the local rulers went to appease them. This showed that they were loyal to the British. The reason was that they knew their survival and power depended on the British.

Even after independence, they did not want to join the Indian republic but were keen on maintaining their independence.

 

  1. The Congress’s Movements
  2. British attitude towards princely states:
  • Wavell Plan (1945)
  • Cabinet Mission (1946)
  • Prime Minister’s Announcement (20th February 1947)
  1. Muslim League’s stand
  2. Mountbatten Plan (March 1947)
  3. India’s Independence Act – was passed in July 1947.
  4. The role played by V P Menon. This is important as previously the British had the idea that the princely states would be free after independence. But, Menon persuaded the British otherwise.
  5. A new States Department was created in June 1947 with Sardar Patel as the Minister-in-charge and V P Menon as its Secretary.
  6. This is very important in the UPSC point of view: the role played by Patel and Menon in the merger of princely states into the Indian union.
  7. States that declared their wish to remain independence:
  8. Jodhpur
  9. Bhopal
  10. Travancore
  11. Junagarh
  12. Hyderabad
  13. Kashmir

The first three did join the union at the time of independence. However, the last three princely states created problems. These were technically not part of India at the time of independence.

Possible questions can be like:

“What were the hurdles to the formation of the union in 1947?”

“Discuss the processes through which the princely states were merged into the Union?”

UPSC will ask questions from different subheadings but you are expected to give a holistic view of the issues.

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