Five states that refused to join India after Independence

Some of them thought this to be the best moment to acquire independent statehood, while there were others who wanted to become a part of Pakistan. Here are the cases of five princely states that opposed the idea of joining India.

Written by Adrija Roychowdhury | New Delhi | Updated: August 17, 2017 1:29 pm
Independence day India, princely states of India, 70 years of independence, 70th independence day, August 15, 15th august, 15th august 1947, 15th august 2017, India, India history, India news, Indian Express The princely states, both pampered and exploited by the British, maintained a position of semi-autonomy under the colonisers and were the toughest challenge facing free India. (Wikimedia Commons)

The midnight of August 15, 1947 is perhaps noted as the most significant in the pages of Indian history. In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, India awoke to life and freedom. But if freedom is the hard earned dream come true for the nationalist leaders of India, then stitching together the hundreds of territorial pieces into a distinct whole was an aspiration much harder to realise and as of August 15, lay yet unfulfilled. The departure of the British from Indian territory was accompanied by the question of how to bring together the 500-odd chiefdoms and states they had left behind.

The princely states, both pampered and exploited by the British, maintained a position of semi-autonomy under the colonisers and were the toughest challenge facing free India. Remarking upon the complicated relationship between the princes and the British, historian Barbara Ramusack notes “British colonial officials had claimed them as faithful military allies, denounced them as autocrats, praised them as natural leaders of their subjects, chided them as profligate playboys, and taken advantage of their lavish hospitality.” For the British these states were the necessary allies, to keep in check the rise of their common enemy, the French. Accordingly, the princes were given autonomy over their territories, but the British acquired for themselves the right to appoint ministers and get military support as and when required.

Independence day India, princely states of India, 70 years of independence, 70th independence day, August 15, 15th august, 15th august 1947, 15th august 2017, India, India history, India news, Indian Express The princes were given autonomy over their territories, but the British acquired for themselves the right to appoint ministers and get military support as and when required. (Wikimedia Commons)

Once the withdrawal of the British was announced, the issue of the princely states had to be settled for the new government that would be in power. By the late 1930s itself, the Congress had made clear their intention of integrating the states into the Indian union. In the 1938 Haripura session of the Congress, the objective was made clear in the following words:

“The Congress stands for the same political, social and economic freedom in the States as in the rest of India and considers the States as integral parts of India which cannot be separated. The Purna Swaraj or complete independence, which is the objective of the Congress, is for the whole of India, inclusive of the States, for the integrity and unity of India must be maintained in freedom as it has been maintained in subjection.”

To aid in the process a new states department was set up with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as its head and V. P. Menon as the secretary. Together they, under the guidance of Lord Mountbatten, were given the responsibility to coax, cajole and convince the princes to accede to the Indian union. Bikaner, Baroda and few other states from Rajasthan were the first ones to join the union. Alternatively, there were several other states that were adamant to not shake hands with India. Some of them thought this to be the best moment to acquire independent statehood, while there were others who wanted to become a part of Pakistan. Here are the cases of five states that opposed the idea of joining India.

Travancore

The southern Indian maritime state was one of the first princely states to refuse accession to the Indian union and question the Congress’ leadership of the nation. The state was strategically placed for maritime trade and was rich in both human and mineral resources.

Independence day India, princely states of India, 70 years of independence, 70th independence day, August 15, 15th august, 15th august 1947, 15th august 2017, India, India history, India news, Indian Express Sir C. P. Ramamswamy Aiyar (Wikimedia Commons)

Sir C. P. Ramamswamy Aiyar, the dewan of Travancore and a distinguished lawyer by profession, had by 1946 declared his intention of forming an independent state of Travancore that would be open to the idea of signing a treaty with the Indian union. Historian Ramachandra Guha notes that Travancore’s bid to independence was in fact propelled by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Sir C.P. Aiyar is also said to have had secret ties with the UK government who were in support of an independent Travancore in the hope that they would get exclusive access to a mineral called monazite that the area was rich in, and would give an edge to Britain in the nuclear arms race. While the Dewan stuck to his position till as late as July 1947, he changed his mind soon after he survived an assassination attempt by a member of the Kerala Socialist Party. On July 30 1947, Travancore joined India.

Jodhpur

The Rajput princely state of Jodhpur was a strange case of tilting towards Pakistan despite having a Hindu king and a large Hindu population. While the prince, Maharaja Hanvant Singh, was strong in his willingness to join India, he somehow got the idea that it might be more beneficial for him to join Pakistan on account of the fact that his state shared border with the soon to be born country. Further, he was lured into joining Pakistan by Jinnah who offered him full port facilities in Karachi along with military and agrarian support. However, when Vallabhbhai Patel was made aware of the possibility of Jodhpur going to Pakistan, he immediately contacted the prince and offered him sufficient benefits and explained to him the problems of joining a Muslim state. Eventually the Jodhpur prince was won back. Historian Ramchandra Guha, in his work “India after Gandhi”, notes that on being presented with the Instrument of Accession, the Jodhpur prince dramatically took out a revolver and held it on the secretary’s head saying, “I will not accept your dictation”. However, few minutes later he calmed down and signed the document.

Bhopal

Another state that wished to declare independence was Bhopal, which had a Muslim Nawab, Hamidullah Khan, ruling over a majority Hindu population. A close friend of the Muslim League, the Nawab was staunchly opposed to Congress rule. He had made clear his decision to attain independence to Mountbatten. However, the latter wrote back to him stating that “no ruler could run away from the dominion closest to him”. By July 1947, the prince became aware of the large number of princes who had acceded to India and decided to follow suit.

Hyderabad

The case of Hyderabad was by far the most significant and complicated challenge among the princely states. Lying in the Deccan plateau, the state covered a large portion of the centre of India. During the independence of the country, Nizam Mir Usman Ali was presiding over a largely Hindu population. When the British decided to leave, the Nizam was very clear on his demand for an independent state and consequently becoming a member of the British commonwealth of nations. Lord Mountbatten, however, made it very clear that the Crown would not agree to Hyderabad becoming member of the British commonwealth, except through either of the two new dominions.

While the tussle over Hyderabad grew stronger over time, violence and demonstrations across the state became a regular feature. The Nizam also drew support from Jinnah who pledged to defend the oldest Muslim dynasty in India. For Patel, however, an independent Hyderabad was equivalent to having cancer in the belly of India.

Once Lord Mountbatten resigned in June 1948, the Congress government decided to make a more decisive turn. On September 13, Indian troops were sent to Hyderabad in what came to be known as ‘Operation Polo’. In an armed encounter that lasted for about four days, the Indian army gained full control of the state. Later, in an attempt to reward the Nizam for his submission, he was made the governor of the state of Hyderabad.

Junagadh

Apart from Hyderabad, there was one more state that had not acceded to the Indian union by August 15, 1947, the Gujarati state of Junagadh. Junagadh was the most important among the group of Kathiawar states. Here too, the Nawab, Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III ruled over a large Hindu population. However, when on July 25, 1947 Lord Mountbatten addressed the princes, the Dewan of Junagadh had made very clear his decision to advise the Nawab on joining the Indian union.

Independence day India, princely states of India, 70 years of independence, 70th independence day, August 15, 15th august, 15th august 1947, 15th august 2017, India, India history, India news, Indian Express Junagadh was the most important among the group of Kathiawar states. Here too, the Nawab, Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III ruled over a large Hindu population. (Wikimedia Commons)

In early 1947, the Dewan of Junagadh, Nabi Baksh invited Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto of the Muslim league to join the state council of minister. In the absence of the existing dewan, Bhutto took over the office and pressed the Nawab to accede to Pakistan. When Pakistan accepted Junagadh’s request for accession, the Indian leaders were enraged as it went against Jinnah’s two nation theory.

The disturbed situation in Junagadh led to a complete breakdown of the economy and consequently the Nawab fled to Karachi. Vallabhbhai Patel requested Pakistan to allow a plebiscite in Junagadh and eventually sent in troops to force annexation of three of its principalities. In the face of acute shortage of funds and forces, the Dewan was forced to accede to the Indian government. Eventually, on February 20, 1948, a plebiscite was held in the state wherein 91 percent of the voters chose to join India.

Read the story in Malayalam

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  1. R
    R.U.K. Menon
    Aug 15, 2017 at 11:43 am
    The Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has nothing to do with the tragedy in the BRD Hospital. Infant mortality in UP is high and that at this hospital has been historically unacceptable. See the table below that shows total infant deaths in previous years: 2012 557 2013 650 2014 525 2015 491 2016 641 2017 163 (Until August 11) Perhaps the BJP government can convert this tragedy into an opportunity to promote hygiene and quality health care in this state unlike the ineffective former prime ministers of the country and the many media darling CMs from UP.
    Reply
    1. A
      Ahmad
      Aug 15, 2017 at 11:03 am
      Thankful to the editor, you have given the facts of Independent India... dia still need to be free from ill minded parties and people.......
      Reply
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        2. S
          Sarfaraz
          Aug 9, 2017 at 5:14 pm
          Tell the whole truth about Hyderabad, where 40,000 Muslims were massacred by Hindus and the Indian Army.
          Reply
          1. P
            Pdy
            Aug 10, 2017 at 10:28 am
            roaches deserve to be massacred.
            Reply
            1. S
              Support Modi
              Aug 11, 2017 at 10:46 pm
              And more number of Hindus were massacred by 'Razakars'
              Reply
              1. K
                Karti
                Aug 12, 2017 at 1:49 pm
                poor guy still thinks India is under the Moghuls
                Reply
              2. S
                Sarfaraz
                Aug 9, 2017 at 5:10 pm
                It also proves that India was never a united country, as is given the impression.
                Reply
                1. P
                  Pdy
                  Aug 10, 2017 at 10:25 am
                  Is it a holiday in madrasa today? Or are you skipping suicide bombing class in madrasa?
                  Reply
                  1. W
                    whatever
                    Aug 11, 2017 at 5:56 pm
                    Refute him with facts. U guys can only abuse n mob lynch wen ua mind stops to think
                2. S
                  Sarfaraz
                  Aug 9, 2017 at 5:08 pm
                  "The Rajput princely state of Jodhpur was a strange case of tilting towards Pakistan despite having a Hindu king and a large Hindu population." - Maybe because they knew the bitter truth about Brahmin fashism.
                  Reply
                  1. E
                    Editor
                    Aug 8, 2017 at 2:25 pm
                    This seems to be Guha's history but there are ceratain things he deliberately missed to not give full credit of this entire exercise to Mr Vallabhnhai Patel an iron man and his secretary Mr V.P.Menon a genius bureaucrat.But as Irish poet Oscar Wilde has rightly said to do justice to history it should be rewritten.
                    Reply
                    1. D
                      Dwarika Nath Dhungel
                      Aug 7, 2017 at 9:31 am
                      An interesting article to read.
                      Reply
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