Unification

How did the task of unifying post – Partition India and princely states take place? Give a critical account. (200 Words)

The lapse of British paramountcy over the princely states posed a big challenge to integrity of the nation soon to be independent. This coupled with communal carnage and partition needed to be handled deftly. Sardar Patel, ably assisted by V.P. Menon, took the challenge head on.
There were more than 550 princely states that recognised British suzerainty and legally became independent with the passage of Indian Independence Act. They could join Dominions of India or Pakistan or remain sovereign within the Commonwealth, as they wished. Many decided to join India due to its secular character and people’s mood and also due to assurance, convincing, cajoling and coercion by the duo but many states nourished dreams of independence.
On the eve of independence, three states namely Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagadh were independent with Junagadh and Hyderabad wishing to join Pakistan. Strict action and army interference forced their accession.
Initially all states were to sign Instrument of Accession whereby they surrendered Defense, Foreign Affairs and Communications to the government of India. Later they signed supplementary treaties and were formally merged into states to very closely resemble India as we know today.
However, the entire process had certain issues:
  1. Privy purse were guaranteed constitutionally to the princes in lieu of their surrender of power, villages, land and railways networks. While its burden was not much on the Indian exchequer, it was abolished by legislative action. This is sought as a betrayal of trust reposed by Sardar Patel.
  2. Certain issues like Kashmir were taken to United Nations even after Kashmir had signed Instrument of Accession to India. So it was then an internal security issues and involvement of UN is regretted even today. Article 370 has always been debatable.
  3. While the choice to join whether India or Pakistan must have been of the king, popular mood of people was always prioritised. Also states chose or were forced to choose on religious lines.
  4. Pakistan’s army left no stone unturned in planning geostrategic warfare against India, like using Junagadh as a military post. Also it was accused of human rights violation in Baluchistan and Kashmir. Similar situation happened in Hyderabad by Razakars.
But it was indeed a monumental achievement of Sardar Patel and Menon to stitch the politic fabric of the nation.