India, as we see it today took pain and effort. Many citizens of the country don’t know what the people experienced at the time of independence and what challenges the country faced. It is very easy to criticize the actions of the leaders now, but at that time they were faced with very difficult circumstances and their decisions led us to become what we are today.
Colonial India, which was ruled over by the British had two types of territories. One where the British ruled directly and the other were the princely states who had accepted the suzerainty of the British and were merely puppets.
When the British left India, they created a divide between us on the basis of religion. Two countries became independent in the year 1947, Pakistan and India. It was on the basis of religion that the territories of the two countries were divided.
The British leaving India meant that the princely states were now legitimately free and could choose whatever they wanted to do. They were given three choices, to join India, join Pakistan or remain independent. This choice was given to the rulers of the princely states and not the people. This was a grave threat to the unity of India, which was already under fire from the recent trauma and memories of the brutality that had occurred in the partition.
Princely states numbered more than 500. Each and every single princely state was a unique case on its own. It took time and effort, in some cases loss of life, to convince them to join the Indian Union. The responsibility of uniting the princely states was handed over to the then Deputy Prime Minister and Home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. He personally went and met many of the rulers of the princely states in a hope to convince them into joining the union. His hard work and dedication is immeasurable. Without his contributions, India may not have its present form.
The process of the unification of the princely states, as stated above was not easy, in this article we will focus on two of the princely states; to illustrate the problems aforementioned.
The state of Hyderabad was in the middle of India, i.e. it was surrounded on all sides by the territory of India. The problem that had arised was that the Nizam of Hyderabad, Osman Ali Khan, Asif Jah VII had declared that he desired his princely state of Hyderabad would reamin independent from India.
Though the decision of whether the state was to stay with India or not lied with the ruler, the decision of the Nizam brought about a huge revolt from the people of the state. An-anti Nizam movement began in the Telengana region, Hyderabad town was the center of this rebellion.
The Nizam retaliated by unleashing a very brutal and highly communal para-military force called the ‘Razakars’ on the people. This force, particularly targeted the non-muslim population of the state. Their brutality was such that the Indian government had to intervene. They sent the Indian army to intercept the Razakar forces and after a few days of intense fighting the forces of the Nizam surrendered. After a bloody conflict, where almost 200,000 civilians were killed. The result was the successful accession of the state of Hyderabad into the Union of India.
The state of Manipur was ruled by Maharaja Bodhachandra Singh. He signed the agreement of accession (or more commonly known as ‘Instrument of Accession’) in the August of 1947 under the condition that the internal autonomy would not be removed.
The very next year, 1948, the Maharaja was forced to hold elections due to dissent in ‘public opinion.’ India witnessed its first elections with universal adult franchise being held in the state of Manipur. The people opted for a constitutional monarchy. There was a varying opinions over the merging of Manipur with the Union of India, the State legislative assemble of Manipur was against this merger whereas the Manipur Congress Party was in support of this move.
The government of India was successful in pressurizing the Maharaja to sign the ‘accession treaty’ without consulting the legislative assembly. This created resentment among the people as this decision was against their views and that their rights had been infringed upon by the Maharaja when he decided not to consult with the state legislative assembly. The repercussions of this decision are felt even today. Though it is now completely integrated with the Union. The people continue to have some animosity.
The two examples of Hyderabad and Manipur are very significant, they show how difficult it was for the leaders to maintain the unity of India. During this unification process there were doubts in the minds of many learned men and even the common people on whether the country would survive with the existence of such diverse communities, religions and even geographical differentiations within the same political boundary.
India is the largest democracy in the world, not only in terms of population, but the various diversities that exist within it and the steps that have been taken to protect them and even let them flourish. Setting aside my own personal patriotic feelings, as a student of political science, India is a wonderful example of how democracy is really supposed to be and that even if the people don’t share the same language, they can still live within the same boundaries peacefully and strive for a better nation.
“There is something unique in this soil, which despite many obstacles has always remained the abode of great souls.” – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
This quote from the man who was responsible for the unification of India is very appropriate and displays how this country has survived due to the contributions so many great men and women.
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