Process of National Consolidation and Integration of Indian States

The situation held dangerous potentialities and that if we did not handle it promptly and effectively, our hard – earned  freedom might disappear through the States’ door.

–  Sardar Vallabhai Patel


The process of national consolidation and integration of princely states into Indian territory had already started before and just after India attained Independence . However, quite an effort had to be made in the post-independence era for consolidation of Indian territory. Given the vast diversity in culture,customs, languages etc certain strands of a common cultural heritage had developed over the centuries, uniting its people together and giving them a sense of oneness, even while inculcating tolerance of diversity and dissent. Thus Indias ‘the unity in diversity’ lies with the ‘unity of spirit’.

The broad strategy for national consolidation after 1947 involved territorial integration, to build the tools of development, i.e. industries and agricultural sector, so as to enable social and economic transformation of the country and building a secular society, against the vast religious, linguistic and ethnic diversity in the nation. But, the immediate pressing issue was consolidation of Indian territory.

Integration of Indian States

The most arduous and difficult task for the Indian leadership in the post-independence era was the unification of India under one administration. Prior to independence, there were 565 Princely States in India. These  states were widely different in size, population and economic resources. Some  of the States like Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, Patiala, Jaipur, Jodhpur,  Bikaner and Kashmir were quite large. Over 400 Princely States were smaller  than twenty square miles. There were apparent anomalies within the States.  Hyderabad, for instance, with Hindu majority had a Muslim Nizam. Similarly,  Kashmir with Muslim majority had a Hindu Maharaja. The population of the Princely States formed 26% of the total population covering 46% of the total  area of the British India and thus integrating these  Princely States was an important task.

The larger princely states were the product of Indian history as much as of British policy. Some states made much of having resisted the waves of Muslim invaders who swept through north India between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries. Others owed their very history to association with these invaders, as for instance the Asaf Jah dynasty of Hyderabad, which began life in the early eighteenth century as a vassal state of the great Mughal Empire. Yet other states, such as Cooch Behar in the east and Garhwal in the Himalayan north, were scarcely touched by Islamic influence at all.

Whatever their past history, these states owed their shape and powers to the British rule in India.  The Company forced treaties on these states, which recognized it as the ‘paramount power’. Thus, while legally the territories the various Nawabs and Maharajas ruled over were their own, the British retained to themselves the right to appoint ministers and control succession, and to extract a large subsidy for the provision of administrative and military support. In many cases the treaties also transferred valuable areas from the Indian states to the British. It was no accident that, except for the states comprising Kathiawar and two chiefdoms in the south, no Indian state had a coastline. The political dependence was made more acute by economic dependence, with the states relying on British India for raw materials, industrial goods, and employment opportunities.













Fig. 1 (a)

Indian Provinces and Princely States before 14 August 1947

Pink color shade- Princely States





















Fig. 2 (b) – Indian States before 1 November 1956





In 1947 the future of these princely states once the British left became a matter of concern. Many of the larger princes began to dream of independence and wanted to achieve it. These states claimed that the paramountcy could not be transferred to the new states like India and Pakistan. Their ambitions were fuelled by the then British prime minister, Clement Attlee’s announcement on 20 February, 1947 that ‘His Majesty’s Government does not intend to hand over their powers and obligations under paramountcy to any government of British India.’ As a result of which rulers of several states claimed that they would become independent from 15 August 1947 with the end of British rule in India. Further they were ignited by the encouragement from M.A. Jinnah who publicly declared on 18 June 1947 that ‘the States would be independent sovereign States on the termination of paramountcy’ and were ‘free to remain independent if they so desired.’ Again the British also desired that the princely states either join India or Pakistan or else can remain independent of their own.

Operation Princes

Viceroy Mountbatten launched Operation Princes on 25 July 1947 at a  meeting of the Chamber of Princes,’ The Viceroy made two points clear: I) the  Princes would be offered an Instrument of Accession, conceding rights on  foreign affairs, defence and communication which they had never enjoyed before;  and 2) they had to decide whether to accede or to remain independent well  before 15 August  August 1947. By making himself unequivocal, Mountbatten’s strategy  proved to  be “the best method of penetrating what seemed to be quite a high proportion of thick  skulls”.’ Consequently, an overwhelming number of Princely . except Travancore, Kashmir, Junagath and Hyderabad, acceded to India.

Integration of Princely States

On 27 June 1947, a separate States’ Department was created in New  Delhi, under  the stewardship of Sardar Vallabhai Patel with V.P.Menon as his  Secretary, with a view to get the consent of the Princes to the Act of Accession. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s role was immense in the integration of Indian states. With his great skill and masterful diplomacy and using both persuasion and pressure, he succeeded in integrating the hundreds of princely states with the Indian union in two stages. Although, some states had shown wisdom and realism and perhaps a degree of patriotism by joining the Constituent Assembly in April 1947. But the majority of princes had stayed away and a few, such as those of Travancore, Bhopal and Hyderabad, etc. publicly announced their desire to remain as an independent nation. However, on 27 June 1947, Sardar Patel assumed additional charge of the newly created States’ Department with VP Menon as its Secretary, Patel was fully aware of the danger posed to Indian unity by the possible intransigence of the rulers of the states.

The first step of Sardar Patel was to appeal to the princes whose territories fell inside India to accede to the Indian union in three subjects which affected the common interests of the country, namely, foreign relations, defence and commmunications. He had also given an implied threat that he would not be able to restrain the impatient people of the states and the government’s terms after 15 August would be rigid. Scared of the rising tide of the peoples’ movements in their states, and of the more the extreme agenda of the radical wing of the Congress, as also Patel’s reputation for determination and even ruthlessness, the princes responded to Patel’s appeal. Although many states joined the Indian Union by acceding to India by 15 August 1947. But three of them like Junagadh, Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad did not accede. By the ‘end of 1948, however, the three recalcitrant states too were forced to fall in line. Those states who did not accede to the Indian states, Patel adopted the policy of pressure and attack.


Accession of Travancore

Travancore, in Kerala, rich in resources, was far-advanced than other  sister states. Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer, the all-power Diwan of the Princely State. As early as February 1946 Sir C. P. had made clear his belief that, when the British left, Travancore would become a ‘perfectly independent unit’, as it had been before 1795, when it first signed a treaty with the East India Company. In the summer of 1947 he held a series of press conferences seeking the co-operation of the people of Travancore in his bid for independence. He reminded them of the antiquity of their ruling dynasty and of Travancore’s sinking of a Dutch fleet back in the year 1741.

Then, he entered into negotiations with a British Company to explore and exploit the thorium deposits in the state! He also contacted the American  Consul at Madras to seek U.S. recognition for the States independence.  The  Government, in its effort to assert its independence, imposed an undemocratic  autocratic constitution, allegedly based on the ‘American Model’.”  Also Travancore’s bid for independence was welcomed by Mohammad All Jinnah. On 20 June he sent Sir C. P. a wire indicating chat Pakistan was ‘ready to establish relationship with Travancore which will be of mutual advantage’

People of the Princely State rose in revolt against the autocratic rule of  the Diwan. In October 1946 the State witnessed a violent upsurge led by the  Communists. Then the State People’s Organisation, backed by the Congress  and supported by Sardar Patel, carried forward the struggle with the backing of  the Ezavas. At the end of July, the Diwan Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer was assaulted.  Driven to the wall, the Maharaja finally On 30 July the maharaja wired the viceroy of his decision to accede to the Indian Union.

Accession of Junagath

Junagadh was a tiny Princely Principality in Kathiawar peninsula on the coast of Sourashtra near Bombay. This small state had 620,000 impoverished   subjects. A Muslim Nawab was the head of this Hindu majority State: His state  shared common border with Pakistan.  Although the states were in theory free to choose whether they wished to accede to India or Pakistan, Mountbatten had pointed out that “geographic compulsions” meant that most of them must choose India. In effect, he took the position that only the states that shared a border with Pakistan could choose to accede to it. The Nawab loved his dogs more than his  subjects. Fearing that his pets would be poisoned, the Nawab  declared the accession of his State to Pakistan.

India believed that if Junagadh was permitted to go to Pakistan, the communal tension already simmering in Gujarat would worsen, and refused to accept the accession. The government pointed out that the state was 80% Hindu, and called for a plebiscite to decide the question of accession.

The people of Junagadh opposed the Nawab’s decision, rose in rebellion  against him and staged satyagraha. Finding the Nawab fled to Karachi, Pakistan and Shah Nawaz  Bhutto, the Diwan of Junagath invited the Government of India to intervene. Though Mountbatten was against any military option, but Patel insisted in  sending Indian troops into the trouble-torn Junagath. The Indian armed  forces marched into the State and restored law and order.

Pakistan agreed to discuss a plebiscite, subject to the withdrawal of Indian troops, but India rejected to this condition. On 26 October, the Nawab and his family fled to Pakistan following clashes with Indian troops. On 7 November, Junagadh’s court, facing collapse, invited the Government of India to take over the State’s administration. The Government of India agreed. A plebiscite was conducted in February 1948, which went almost unanimously in favour of accession to India. Thus, Junagarh joined the Indian Union.

Accession of Kashmir

The Kashmir issue has become a matter of great concern both for India and Pakistan since independence. The state of Kashmir had strategic importance on account of its international boundaries and it also bordered on both India and Pakistan. The State of Jammu and Kashmir was largest in size, but less populated  and economically unviable than Hyderabad. Three fourth of its population was  Muslim. The State was strategically located at a vital cross road where India,  Pakistan, China and Afghanistan were destained to meet. Kashmir was ruled by Maharaja Hari  Singh, the fourth and last successor of Gulab Singh of Dogra  dynasty, notorious for feudal extravagance.

Maharaja’s Stand

When the British Paramountcy lapsed, Maharaja Hari Singh was toying  with the idea of maintaining the independence of Kashmir since he feared democracy in India and communalism in Pakistan, he hoped, to stay out of both and to continue to wield power as an independent ruler. Hence he rejected  the Instrument of Accession forwarded to him by the Governments of India and  Pakistan. However, three days before Partition the Maharaja proposed a Stand-  still Agreement with India and Pakistan. The latter readily accepted the offer  but the former did not commit her sell for such a deal. The popular political forces led by the National Conference and its leader Sheikh Abdullah, however, wanted to join India. The Indian political leaders took no steps to obtain Kashmir’s accession and, in line with their general approach, wanted the people of Kashmir to decide whether to link their fate with India or Pakistan. Nehru and Patel declared in August 1947 that Kashmir was free to join either India or Pakistan in accordance with the will of the people.

Attack from Tribals from Pakistan

Pakistan accepted the Stand-still Agreement with Maharaja Hari Singh  with the hope of annexing Kashmir with Pakistan. Since the Maharaja was  reluctant to oblige Pakistan, the latter exercised economic pressure on Kashmir.  Then Pakistan engineered ‘a tribal invasion’ of Kashmir, on 15 October 1947.  By 22 October the ‘raiders’ mounted an attack on Kashmir. The tribal operation  was carefully planned and meticulously executed. They were on their way to  Srinagar, the Venice of the Orient (24 Oct).

Kashmir’s Accession

In panic, on 24 October, the Maharaja appealed to India for military assistance. Nehru, even at this stage, did not favour accession without ascertaining the will of the people. But Mountbatten, the Governor-General, pointed out that under international law India could send its troops to Kashmir only after the state’s formal accession to India.  On 26  October 1947 the Maharaja formally acceded Kashmir to India, and agreed  to install Sheik Abdulla as head of the State. In Law, Jammu and Kashmir  became an integral part of India.

Kashmir Issue and the UNO

In 1951, the UN passed a resolution providing for a referendum under UN supervision after Pakistan had withdrawn its troops from the part of Kashmir under its control. The resolution has remained unproductive since Pakistan has refused to withdraw its forces from what is known as Azad Kashmir. The northern and western portions of Kashmir came under Pakistan’s control in 1947, and are today POK or Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Since then Kashmir has been the main obstacle in the path of friendly relations between India and Pakistan. India has regarded Kashmir’s accession as final and irrevocable and Kashmir as its integral part. Pakistan continues to deny the claim of the accession of Kashmir to India. Thus, the accession of Kashmir into Indian union is still an apple of discord between India and Pakistan

On 1 January 1948, Nehru made a specific reference to the UN Security  Council. In August 1948, the U.N. Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP)  proposed the withdrawal of troops including Pakistan’s retreat from Gilgit.  America continued to support a Pakistan withdrawal from Kashmir. Mountbatten  was eager to settle the Kashmir dispute before he relinquished the Governor  Generalship in June 1948, India accepted in December 1948 a ceasefire on UNCIP  terms. Pakistan had secured an arc of mountains round the Kashmir Valley,  known as the ‘Northern Areas’ plus the Western end of the Valley, known as
‘Azad (free) Kashmir or Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). India held the  rest of Jammu and Kashmir. The Ceasefire Line remained the line at which  firing was supposed to have stopped. In effect, it partitioned the State. The  U.N. Corps, the longest serving peace-keeping force, remained there to observe  and monitor violations, if any.

The Security Council appointed a Five member United Nation’s Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) consisting of the representatives of Argentina, Belgium, Columbia, Czechoslovakia and USA to suggest acceptable solution. It submitted its first report on 13th August 1948 which was accepted by India but rejected by

Pakistan. It made fresh negotiations with the representatives of India and Pakistan and made fresh proposals on 11th December 1948. Both the countries accepted proposals of the commission. In the meantime, the UNO changed the nomenclature of the resolution from the “Kashmir issue” to “India-Pakistan issue” to which Indian delegate opposed. On the midnight of 1st January 1949, both of them went to ceasefire. The UNCIP submitted three interim reports and in the third report it suggested that as the military situation had changed, the task of solving the entire issue be entrusted to one person who would act as a mediator instead of a commission. On recommendation of the commission, the Security Council appointed its President General McNaughton as mediator. He forwarded various proposals which could not make any breakthrough. On the 12th April 1950 the Security Council appointed Sir Owen Dixon of Australia to implement McNaughton’s proposals for the demilitarization of the state, but he too failed. Dixon’s proposals were not accepted. He submitted his report on15th September 1950 suggesting the partition of Kashmir rather than holding on overall plebiscite which was rejected.

The Kashmir problem became one of the monumental proofs to the partial attitude and failure of the UNO. The UN reports and debates on it add up to a fair-sized library. But nothing came out of it, except adding to the cacophony on the subject, making the confusion worse confounded. At the same time, not only has much water flowed down the Jhelum, but this and several other rivers have been rendered red in colour because of blood spilled in wars in 1965 and 1971. The UNO, instead of bringing a viable settlement, added fuel to the burning crisis of Kashmir and always pursued a Pro-Pakistani aptitude. As if, sometimes it gave the impression that the parties to dispute over Kashmir were not Pakistan and India, but India and West, trying to fan that Indo-Pak hostility. Really, it is a matter of great shock that the UNO, which should have stood as a solid bedrock of international peace to withstand all the disputes which should have acted as a beacon of hope and light hour of peace, has become a failure, and a bent of international rivalry. Had it not been so, Kashmir crisis might have been solved by the impartial stand of UNO. In fact, Kashmir has been a ‘prestige issue’ for both India and Pakistan. This had left a legacy of insolvable legal wrangling.  The Kashmir issue since then remains “like a fuse-box”.

Accession of Hyderabad

Hyderabad was the largest princely state in India and was completely surrounded by Indian territory. It was a landlocked state in southeastern India. While 87% of its 17 million people were Hindu, its ruler Nizam Osman Ali Khan was a Muslim, and its politics were dominated by a Muslim elite.


The Nizam of Hyderabad,  like the Nawab of Junagadh and the  Maharaja of Kashmir, had not acceded to either India or Pakistan before 15  August 1947. Hyderabad strategically located and independent Hyderabad meant that the main lines of communication between northern and southern India could easily be used by “foreign interests” to threaten India, and that in consequence, the issue involved national-security concerns as well.

The Nizam indulged in intrigues and manoeuvres to keep Hyderabad  State outside India as a “Third Dominion’. But a vast majority of his subjects  wanted the State to accede to India.

The peasantry in the Telangana region in particular, was the victim of Nizam’s oppressive rule and rose against him. Women who had seen the worst of this oppression joined the movement in large numbers. Hyderabad town was the nerve centre of this movement. The Communists and the Hyderabad Congress were in the forefront of the movement.

The Hyderabad State Congress launched  the Join India Movement in May 1947. Jayaprakash Narayan visited Hyderabad and extended his moral support to the movement. The moderate section of the  Congress Party observed Join India Day on 7 August 1947. The Nizam responded by unleashing a para-military force known as the Razakars on the people.  Thousands of Muslims enrolled themselves as Razakars and were determined  to maintain the supremacy of the Muslim power in the Deccan. The atrocities and communal nature of the Razakars knew no bounds. They murdered, maimed, raped and looted, targeting particularly the non-Muslims. The central government had to order the army to tackle the situation. The Nizam and the higher officials supported the Razakars to further their political ambitions.  The Nizam on 27 August 1947 issued a ‘Firman’ stating that he had assumed  the status of an independent sovereign. On 31 October, he threatened to accede  to Pakistan if the negotiations with Delhi failed.


Standstill Agreement


Persuaded by Mountbatten, the Government of India signed a standstill Agreement with the Nizam on 29 November 1947 with an understanding that  within that period the problems of accession would be satisfactorily  solved.

The Nizam showed scant respect to the Stand-still Agreement. He  recklessly violated the agreement with immunity. He announced that the Indian  currency ceased to be legal tender in his State. On 31 March 1948, Kasim Razvi  declared that Hyderabad was an Islamic State and its army would march to Delhi  to re-establish Muslim rule in India! In retaliation, the Congress and the  communists stepped up their struggle against the Nizam.”


In June 1948, Mountbatten, before laying down office as Governor –  General, made an attempt to persuade the Nizam to accede to India but failed.  Patel was impatient with the inordinate delay and was for firm, swift and decisive  action.” Government of India’s intention of solving the Hyderabad problem  through peaceful means was taken by the Nizam as weakness. Situation in
Hyderabad was deteriorating from bad to worse.


‘Operation Polo’


On 7 September 1948, Nehru announced that a contingent of the Indian
army would be sent to re-station itself in the old Indian cantonment in Hyderabad. On 13 September, India launched, what was called ‘Police Action ‘ on Hyderabad.
The Indian Army, under the command of J.N.Choudhary, entered Hyderabad
State from five directions.

In 17th September 1948, Indian army moved in to control the Nizam’s forces. After a few days of intermittent fighting, the Nizam surrendered. This led to Hyderabad’s accession to India. In the army Head Quarters the military action was code named as ‘Operation Polo’ .The problem of the  States was finally settled and the central Government was recognized as paramount all over India”.


A few days before Independence, the Maharaja of Manipur, Bodhachandra Singh, signed the Instrument of Accession with the Indian government on the assurance that the internal autonomy of Manipur would be maintained. Under the pressure of public opinion, the Maharaja held elections in Manipur in June 1948 and the state became a constitutional monarchy. Thus Manipur was the first part of India to hold an election based on universal adult franchise.

In the Legislative Assembly of Manipur there were sharp differences over the question of merger of Manipur with India. While the state Congress wanted the merger, other political parties were opposed to this. The Government of India succeeded in pressurising the Maharaja into signing a Merger Agreement in September 1949, without consulting the popularly elected Legislative Assembly of Manipur. This caused a lot of anger and resentment in Manipur, the repercussions of which are still being felt today.


Complete Integration


In return for their accession to India, the rulers of the erstwhile Princely  States were given privy purses in perpetuity and were allowed certain privileges.  They were later guaranteed by the Constitution. With this the integration of  princely states into India was complete, thanks to Sardar Patel’s masterful  diplomacy, administrative skill, firm handling of the situation and ruthless  execution, when necessary. Thus, the stupendous task of a ‘bloodless  revolution’ was achieved by Vallabhai Patel “with amazing rapidity and
success” within a couple of years.



















Fig. 1 (c) – Indian States in 1975


Merger of Pondicherri, 1956

Nehru wanted the merger of Pondicherry with India through negotiated  settlement with France. But negotiations with the French dragged on till 1954.  The people of Pondicherry were eager to join India. Mendes-France, the Prime  Minister of France, was reasonable and came to a honourable settlement with  India.

An agreement was reached by which de facto transfer of Pondicherry  and other French territory in India was to be effected. The modalities were  settled without difficulty and the agreement was signed on 28 May 1956.  Accordingly, Chandran agar and Mahi were merged with Pondicherry.
Parliamentary government was introduced in the territory. The Pondy Assembly  consisted of 30 members and it was given one seat in Lok Sabha and one in  Rajya Sabha. It was only on 16 August 1962, the French Parliament ratified the  decision of the French Government to transfer the French settlements in India  including Pondicherry, Karaikal and Mahi to the care of Indian union.


Annexation of Goa, 1962

Goa, a small Portuguese possession of about 3,700 on the west  coast of India remained to be integrated. The Portuguese, unlike the French,  were determined to stay put in Goa. They had no intention of leaving their  Indian settlement! Worse still, Portugal ‘adopted an attitude of aggressive  hostility”.

Nehru was consistently insisting that India would seek a solution to  this problem by peaceful means and diplomatic methods. But it was not possible  to mobilize international support to India’s stand. Nor was Nehru for promoting  a popular liberation movement in Goa. He was also reluctant to order economic  sanctions against Goa since that might adversely affect the people of Goa,  though Nehru authorized the Congress Party in India to assist any effort in Goa  for integration with India and permitted Goans settled in India to enter Portuguese  territory. He discouraged all other Indians from supporting, what he regarded,  “a freedom movement within Goa”.

Dr.Antonio de Gliverira Salazar of Portugal, the dean of Europe’s  dictators, amended the Portuguese constitution to make foreign possessions  parts of metropolitan Portugal. He was hell bent on suppressing civil liberties in  Portuguese Colonies including Goa, which was blacked out from the outside  world. The detachments in Goa were reinforced.


In August 1955, the Jan Sangh, the socialist and communist parties  organized amass satyagraha against Portugal and attempted to cross the border  and enter into Goa. The Portuguese Guards opened fire, killed about twenty  non-violent agitations in the first few days and suppressed the Satyagraha.  Fearing a mass massacre, Nehru dissuaded the campaign and closed the border.  Agitated Indians clamoured for the annexation of Goa with India. But Nehru  stuck to his policy of peace and refused to take military action to liberate Goa,
which continued to be a headache.”


Police Action

Dr.Salazar ‘s dictatorship ruthlessly repressed all attempts at the  liberation of Goa.: Those who were arrested were deported to the Dungeons in  Portugal. Late in 1961, there were raids by the Portuguese on the Indian coast.  The provocation over Goa was mounting. The Government of India was left  with no alternative but to decide on police action. The collusion between
Portugal and Pakistan made the decision imminent. Elaborate precaution was  taken. The Indian armed forces were repositioned. A mountain of military  movement into Goa brought forth a mountain-rat of resistance! The Governor-General of Go a surrendered without fight.


Merger of Goa, 1962

The police action, in Goa was as painless as that of Hyderabad. “The  freedom battle was won without bloodshed?”. After nagging negotiations the  Portuguese territories of Go a, Damn and Diu were formally integrated with India  on 12 March 1961. Soon, representative government was introduced in the  union territory of Go a, which got an Assembly 000 members and 2 seats in Lok  Sabha. Goa attained its statehood on 30 May 1987 with an enlarged Assembly of 40 members.