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The Story Of Integration Of Princely States


Read about: Princely States in India

  • The early history of British expansion in India was characterised by the co-existence of two approaches towards the existing princely states.
  • The first was a policy of annexation, where the British sought to forcibly absorb the Indian princely states into the provinces which constituted their Empire in India.
  • The second was a policy of indirect rule, where the British assumed suzerainty and paramountcy over princely states, but conceded to them sovereignty and varying degrees of internal self-government.
  • In 1858, the policy of annexation was formally renounced, and with the British crown as ultimate suzerain, but at the same time respected and protected them as allies, taking control of their external relations.
  •  The exact relations between the British and each princely state were regulated by individual treaties and varied widely, with some states having complete internal self-government, others being subject to significant control in their internal affairs, and some rulers being in effect little more than the owners of landed estates, with little autonomy.

Patel And Menon

  • Having made his mark in the Kheda and Bardoli satyagrahas (during which he earned the title of ‘Sardar’), by 1946, Vallabhbhai Patel had already become one of the most popular leaders of the freedom struggle.
  • Which is why he was given the formidable task of integrating the princely states as India’s first deputy prime minister and home minister.
  •  With the swiftness of a military commander and skill of an innate diplomat, he got to work, ably assisted by V.P. Menon (then the Constitutional Adviser to Lord Mountbatten and later, the secretary of the Ministry of the States ).

The Indian Independence Act Of 1947

  • The Indian Independence Act of 1947 (based on the Mountbatten Plan) provided for the lapse of paramountcy of the British Crown over the Indian states. It also gave each of these rulers the option to accede to the newly born dominions India or Pakistan or continue as an independent sovereign state.
  • Realising the need to get these 500-odd chiefdoms to accede to India before the day of independence, Patel and Menon began using all the tricks in the bag — including the use of both force and friendly advice — to achieve their integration with the Indian dominion.

Princely States

  • The rulers of the princely states were not uniformly enthusiastic about integrating their domains into independent India.
  • Some, such as the rulers of Bikaner and Jawhar, were motivated to join India out of ideological and patriotic considerations.
  •  Bhopal, Travancore and Hyderabad announced that they did not intend to join either dominion.


  • Patel and Menon backed up their diplomatic efforts by producing treaties that were designed to be attractive to rulers of princely states. Two key documents were produced.
  • The first was the Standstill Agreement, which confirmed the continuance of the pre-existing agreements and administrative practices.
  • The second was the Instrument of Accession, by which the ruler of the princely state in question agreed to the accession of his kingdom to independent India, granting the latter control over specified subject matters.

Border States

  •  Between May 1947 and the transfer of power on 15 August 1947, the vast majority of states signed Instruments of Accession.
  •  A few, however, held out. Some simply delayed signing the Instrument of Accession. Piploda, a small state in central India, did not accede until March 1948.
  • The ruler of Jodhpur, Hanwant Singh, was antipathetic to the Congress, and did not see much future in India for him or the lifestyle he wished to lead.
  • Along with the ruler of Jaisalmer, he entered into negotiations with Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He offered to permit Jodhpur and Jaisalmer to accede to Pakistan on any terms they chose, giving their rulers blank sheets of paper and asking them to write down their terms, which he would sign.
  • Jaisalmer refused, arguing that it would be difficult for him to side with Muslims against Hindus in the event of communal problems. Hanwant Singh came close to signing.
  • However, the atmosphere in Jodhpur was in general hostile to accession to Pakistan. Hanwant Singh was persuaded  to accede to India.


  • The Nawab of Junagadh, a princely state located on the south-western end of Gujarat and having no common border with Pakistan, chose to accede to Pakistan ignoring Mountbatten’s views.
  • The government pointed out that the state was 80% Hindu, and called for a referendum to decide the question of accession.
  • On 26 October, the Nawab and his family fled.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.


  • At the time of the transfer of power, the state of Jammu and Kashmir  was ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh.He signed a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan and proposed one with India as well,but announced that Kashmir intended to remain independent.
  • Shortly thereafter, Pathan tribesmen  of Pakistan crossed the border and entered Kashmir. The invaders made rapid progress towards Srinagar.
  •  The Maharaja of Kashmir wrote to India, asking for military assistance. India required the signing of an Instrument of Accession and setting up an interim government headed by Sheikh Abdullah in return.
  • Indian troops secured Jammu, Srinagar and the valley.Prime Minister Nehru, recognising the degree of international attention brought to bear on the dispute, declared a ceasefire.


  • Hyderabad was a landlocked state that stretched over 82,000 square miles (over 212,000 square kilometres) in southeastern India. While 87% of its 17 million people were Hindu, its ruler Nizam Osman Ali Khan was a Muslim.
  •  The Muslim nobility and the Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, a powerful pro-Nizam Muslim party, insisted Hyderabad remain independent and stand on an equal footing to India and Pakistan.
  • The Nizam was prepared to enter into a limited treaty with India.India rejected  proposal, arguing that other states would demand similar concessions. A temporary Standstill Agreement was signed as a stopgap measure, even though Hyderabad had not yet agreed to accede to India.
  • The situation deteriorated further in 1948. The Razakars (“volunteers”), a militia affiliated to the Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen and set up under the influence of Muslim radical Qasim Razv,began intensifying its activities and was accused of attempting to intimidate villages.
  •  The Nizam, claiming that he feared an imminent invasion, attempted to approach the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice.
  • On 13 September 1948, the Indian Army was sent into Hyderabad under Operation Polo on the grounds that the law annd order.
  • The troops met little resistance by the Razakars and between 13 and 18 September took complete control of the state. The operation led to massive communal violence.


  • At independence, the regions of Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe and Chandernagore were still colonies of France, and Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Goa remained colonies of Portugal.
  • A plebiscite held in Chandernagore on 19 June 1949 resulted in a vote of 7,463 to 114 in favour of being integrated with India. It was ceded to India  on 14 August 1949.A referendum in Pondicherry and Karaikal in October 1954 resulted in a vote in favour.
  • In July 1954, an uprising in Dadra and Nagar Haveli threw off Portuguese rule.The Portuguese attempted to send forces from Daman to reoccupy the enclaves, but were prevented from doing so by Indian troops And in 1961 GOA by military operation



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