Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Modern Indian History - I

The Initial Years

- Fifteenth August 1947, Large parts of the two new nations were engulfed by communal riots.

There was a mass exodus of people from both states across the new borders. There was scarcity

of food and other consumer goods, and a fear of administrative breakdown.

- But independence had been accompanied by a multitude of problems, and, of course, centuries

of backwardness, prejudice, inequality, and ignorance still weighed on the land. The debris of

two centuries of colonialism had to be cleared and the promises of the freedom struggle to be


- There were the immediate problems of the territorial and administrative integration of the

princely states, the communal riots that accompanied Partition, the rehabilitation of nearly six

million refugees who had migrated from Pakistan, the protection of Muslims threatened by

communal gangs, the need to avoid war with Pakistan, and the Communist insurgency.

- In addition there were the medium-term problems of framing a constitution and building a

representative democratic and civil libertarian political order, organizing elections to put in

place the system of representative and responsible governments at the Centre and in the states,

and abolishing the semi-feudal agrarian order through thoroughgoing land reforms.

- All these problems had to be dealt with within the framework of the basic values to which the

national movement had been committed and within the parameters of a broad national


- The people and the political leadership set out to handle these short-term and long-term

problems fuelled by an optimism, a certain faith in the country’s future and with a joie de vivre.

This mood was to persist for most of the Nehru years.

- Some of this euphoria disappeared with the India–China war of 1962. The war brought in a

degree of realism but even so neither Nehru nor the country experienced any sense of


- Independent India embarked on its tasks with the benefit of an outstanding leadership, having

tremendous dedication and idealism besides the presence of a strong nationwide party, the


- deputy prime minister, Sardar Patel, a leader who possessed a strong will and was decisive in

action and strong in administration. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the erudite Rajendra Prasad, and

C. Rajagopalachari, endowed with a razor-sharp intellect.

- All these leaders had skills and experience to run a modern and democratic administrative and

political system which they had acquired through organizing a mass movement, building up a

political party, and participating in colonial legislatures for decades.

- Outside the Congress were the Socialists, Acharya Narendra Dev and Jayaprakash Narayan, and

the Dalit leader, Dr B.R. Ambedkar. On the periphery were Dr S. Radhakrishnan, the

distinguished philosopher, Dr Zakir Hussain, the educationist, V.K. Krishna Menon, who had

struggled for India’s freedom in Britain, and a host of dedicated Gandhian leaders.

- The Congress leaders also shared a common vision of independent India. They were committed

to the goals of rapid social and economic change and democratization of the society and polity,

and the values imparted by the national movement.

- Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad and C. Rajagopalachari differed with Nehru primarily on the

question of socialism and class analysis of society. in this context that Patel has been much

misunderstood and misrepresented both by admirers and critics. The right-wingers have used

him to attack the Nehruvian vision and policies, while his leftist critics have portrayed him as the

archetypal rightist.

- Both, however, have been wrong. In any case, it is important that Nehru and the other leaders

shared the belief that for the country’s development the building up of a national consensus

was necessary. The leadership’s position was strengthened by the fact that they enjoyed

tremendous popularity and prestige among almost every section of the people. On top of that,

this team was headed by Jawaharlal Nehru who exercised, after December 1950, unchallenged

authority in the party and the government.

- Another positive feature of the Indian situation was the existence of Congress, a strong,

democratically functioning, India-wide national party, with an established leadership and deep

roots and strong support among the people.

- Congress leadership was aware of the fact that in the troublesome post-Partiton period the

country needed a government which would represent the widest possible consensus and carry

with it different shades of opinion and sections of society for implementing a common

programme. So, even though the Congress was in an overwhelming majority in the Constituent

Assembly, the Congress leadership widened the base of the Constituent Assembly and the

government by the inclusion of distinguished and representative non-Congressmen.

-  The government virtually became a national government. For example, the first Nehru cabinet

of fourteen included five non-Congressmen: Dr B.R. Ambedkar and Syama Prasad Mookerjee,

both of whom had opposed the Congress before 1947, John Mathai, C.H. Bhabha and

Shanmukham Chetty. Dr B.R. Ambedkar was also made the Chairman of the Drafting Committee

of the Constitution. Dr S. Radhakrishnan, the first Vice-President and the second President of

India, had never been a Congressman.

Accession of the Princely States

- In colonial India, nearly 40 per cent of the territory was occupied by fifty-six small and large

states ruled by princes who enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy under the system of British


- rulers of several states claimed that they would become independent from 15 August 1947

when British rule ended.

- The Indian nationalists could hardly accept a situation where the unity of free India would be

endangered by hundreds of large or small independent or autonomous states interspersed

within it which were sovereign. Besides, the people of the states had participated in the process

of nation-

- Naturally, the nationalist leaders in British India and in the repeatedly declared that—the only

option open being whether the state would accede to India or Pakistan on the basis of

contiguity of its territory and the wishes of its people.

- Simultaneously, the people of the states were demanding introduction of a democratic political

order and integration with the rest of the country.

- and using both persuasion and pressure, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel succeeded in integrating the

hundreds of princely states with the Indian Union in two stages.

-  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, publicly announced their desire to claim an

independent status.

-  On 27 June 1947, Sardar Patel assumed additional charge of the newly created States’

Department with V.P. 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.

- Patel’s first step 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 communications.

- Fearful of the rising tide of the peoples’ movements in their states, and of the more extreme

agenda of the radical wing of the Congress, as also Patel’s reputation for firmness and even

ruthlessness, the princes responded to Patel’s appeal and all but three of them—Junagadh,

Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad— acceded to India by 15 August 1947.

- Junagadh ,without any geographical contiguity with Pakistann, announced accession of state to

Pakistan even though the people of the state, overwhelmingly Hindu, desired to join India.

- Pakistan accepted Junagadh’s accession. the people of the state organized a popular movement,

forced the Nawab to flee and established a provisional government.

- The Dewan of Junagadh, Shah Nawaz Bhutto, the father of the more famous Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto,

now decided to invite the Government of India to intervene. Indian troops thereafter marched

in. plebiscite was held in the state in which went overwhelmingly in favour of joining India.

- The state of Kashmir - ruler Hari Singh was a Hindu, while nearly 75 per cent of the population

was Muslim. Hari Singh too did not accede either to India or Pakistan. National Conference and

its leader Sheikh Abdullah wanted to join India.

- The Indian political leaders took no steps to obtain Kashmir’s accession and, wanted the people

of Kashmir to decide whether to link their fate with India or Pakistan.

- But Pakistan not only refused to accept the principle of. On 22 October, with the onset of

winter, several Pathan tribesmen, led unofficially by Pakistani army officers, invaded Kashmir

and rapidly pushed towards Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir.

- 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.

-  Sheikh Abdullah and Sardar Patel too insisted on accession. And so on 26 October, the

Maharaja acceded to India and also agreed to install Abdullah as head of the state’s


-  Even though both the National Conference and the Maharaja wanted firm and permanent

accession, India, in conformity with its democractic commitment and Mountbatten’s advice,

announced that it would hold a referendum on the accession decision once peace and law and

order had been restored in the Valley.

- approval by Gandhiji who told Nehru that there should be no submission to evil in Kashmir and

that the raiders had to be driven out. the raiders were gradually driven out of the Valley, and

the armed conflict continued for months. Fearful of the dangers of a full-scale war between

India and Pakistan, the Government of India agreed, on 30 December 1947, on Mountbatten’s

suggestion, to refer the Kashmir problem to the United Nations Security Council, asking for

vacation of aggression by Pakistan.

- both India and Pakistan accepted a ceasefire on 31 December 1948 which still prevails and the

state was effectively divided along the ceasefire line. Nehru expected to get justice from the

United Nations but The United States and Britain have played a dirty role, Britain probably being

the chief actor behind the scenes.

- 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. Pakistan has

refused to withdraw its forces from what is known as Azad Kashmir.

- India has regarded Kashmir’s accession as final and irrevocable and Kashmir as its integral part.

Pakistan continues to deny this claim. Kashmir has also over time become a symbol as well as a

test of India’s secularism;

- Hyderabad, as the largest state in India and was completely surrounded by Indian territory. The

Nizam of Hyderabad claimed an independent status and, encouraged by Pakistan, began to

expand his armed forces.

-  as the Nizam made a secret commitment to join Pakistan, Patel made it clear that India would

not tolerate ‘an isolated spot which would destroy the very Union which we have built up with

our blood and toil’.

- In November 1947, the Government of India signed a stand– still agreement with the Nizam, to

introduce representative government in the state. But the Nizam had other plans. He hoped to

prolong negotiations and in the meanwhile build up his military strength and force India to

accept his sovereignty; or alternatively he might succeed in acceding to Pakistan, especially in

view of the tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

- Then, on 7 August 1947 the Hyderabad State Congress launched a powerful satyagraha

movement to force democratization on the Nizam. Nearly 20,000 satyagrahis were jailed. As a

result of attacks by the Razakars and repression by the state authorities, thousands of people

fled the state and took shelter in temporary camps in Indian territory.

- The state Congress-led movement now took to arms. By then a powerful Communist led

peasant struggle had developed in the telangana , peasant dalams (squads) organized defence

of the people against attacks by the Razakars, attacked big landlords and distributed their lands

among the peasants and the landless.

- By June 1948, Sardar Patel was getting impatient as the negotiations with the Nizam dragged on.

the Nizam continued to import more and more arms, the Indian army moved into Hyderabad.

The Nizam surrendered.

- The Government of India decided to be generous and not punish the Nizam. He was retained as

formal ruler of the state or its Rajpramukh, was given a privy purse of Rs 5 million, and

permitted to keep most of his immense wealth.

- With the accession of Hyderabad, the merger of princely states with the Indian Union was

completed. The Hyderabad episode marked another triumph of Indian secularism. Not only had

a large number of Muslims in Hyderabad joined the anti-Nizam struggle, Muslims in the rest of

the country had also supported the government’s policy and action.

- The second and the more difficult stage of the full integration of the princely states into the new

Indian nation began in December 1947. Once again Sardar Patel moved with speed, completing

the process within one year. In return for their surrender of all power and authority, the rulers

of major states were given privy purses in perpetuity, free of all taxes guaranteed by the


- Two other trouble spots were the French- and Portuguese-owned settlements dotting India’s

east and west coasts, with Pondicherry and Goa forming their hub. The people of these

settlements were eager to join their newly liberated mother-country.

- The French authorities were more reasonable and after prolonged negotiations handed over

Pondicherry and other French possessions to India in 1954.

-  But the Portuguese were determined to stay on, especially as Portugal’s NATO allies, Britain and

the US, were willing to support this defiant attitude.

-  The Government of India, being committed to a policy of settling disputes between nations by

peaceful means, was not willing to take military steps to liberate Goa and other Portuguese


-  The people of Goa started a movement seeking freedom from the Portuguese, was brutally

suppressed. In the end, after waiting patiently for international opinion to put pressure on

Portugal, Nehru ordered Indian troops to march into Goa on the night of 17 December 1961.

- The Governor-General of Goa immediately surrendered without a fight and the territorial and

political integration of India was completed, even though it had taken over fourteen years to do


The Communal Holocaust

- Partition and the violence which accompanied it led to nearly six million refugees pouring into

India having lost their all. India was in the midst of a communal holocaust. In the span of a few

months, nearly 500,000 people were killed.

- The great danger was that the atmosphere and the mentality generated by Partition and the

riots might persist and strengthen communal tendencies in Indian politics. But Indian

nationalism was able to withstand the is to the credit of the national leadership and the

people that they managed to maintain India’s secular polity.

- The situation was brought under control within a few months through decisive political and

administrative measures. The government also succeeded in protecting the Muslim minority in

the country, so that in the end 45 million Muslims chose to remain in India.

- Communalism was thereby contained and weakened but not eliminated. Nehru carried on a

massive campaign against communalism to instil a sense of security in the minorities. He

repeatedly declared: ‘No State can be civilised except a secular State.

-  Democratic though he was, he even advocated a ban on political organizations based on

religion and got the constitution amended to enable the government to impose ‘reasonable

restrictions’ on the right to free speech and expression in order to curb communal speeches and


- A major setback to the communal forces occurred with Gandhiji’s martyrdom. The tragedy of

the communal riots preceding and accompanying independence deeply affected Gandhiji. When

the entire nation was rejoicing in August 1947, he was touring the hate-torn lands of Bengal and

Bihar, trying to douse the communal fire.

- a Hindu communal fanatic, Nathuram Godse, assassinated Gandhiji or the Father of the Nation.

The whole nation was shocked and stricken with grief and communalism retreated from the

minds of men and women.

- the RSS men had even celebrated it in many places—the government immediately banned the

RSS and arrested most of its leaders and functionaries.

- he stated: ‘We have a great deal of evidence to show that the RSS is an organisation which is in

the nature of a private army and which is definitely proceeding on the strictest Nazi lines, even

following the technique of organisation.’

- The ban on the RSS was lifted in July 1949 after it had accepted the conditions laid down by

Patel as the Home Minister. These conditions were: The RSS would adopt a written and

Published constitution, restrict itself to cultural activities and not meddle with politics, renounce

violence and secrecy, profess loyalty to India’s flag and constitution and organize itself along

democratic lines.

Rehabilitation of Refugees

- The government had to stretch itself to the maximum to give relief to and resettle and

rehabilitate the nearly six million refugees from Pakistan.

- By 1951, the problem of the rehabilitation of the refugees from West Pakistan had been fully


- The task of rehabilitating and resettling refugees from East Bengal was made more difficult by

the fact that the exodus of Hindus from East Bengal continued for years. a large number of

Hindus in East Bengal had stayed on there in the initial years of 1947 and 1948.

- But as communal riots broke out periodically in East Bengal, there was a steady stream of

refugees from there year after year till 1971. Providing them with work and shelter and

psychological assurance, therefore became a continuous and hence a difficult task.

- most of the refugees from west Punjab could occupy the large lands and property left by the

Muslim migrants to Pakistan from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan and could therefore be

resettled on land.

- The resettlement of the refugees from East Bengal could take place only in Bengal and to a

lesser extent in Assam and Tripura. As a result ‘a very large number of people who had been

engaged in agricultural occupations before their displacement were forced to seek survival in

semi-urban and urban contexts as the underclass’, and contributed to ‘the process of

immiserisation’ of West Bengal.

Relations with Pakistan

- Despite the Kashmir issue, Nehru and the Government of India adopted towards Pakistan a

policy of non-rancour and fair dealing and of promoting conciliation and reducing mutual


-  In January 1948, the Government of India, following a fast by Gandhiji, paid Pakistan Rs 550

million as part of the assets of Partition, even when it feared that the money might be used to

finance military action in Kashmir.

- every effort was made to resolve them through negotiations. Along with the Kashmir issue, an

important source of constant tension between the two countries was the strong sense of

insecurity among Hindus in East Bengal, fuelled primarily by the communal character of

Pakistan’s political system.

- This led to the steady migration of the persecuted Hindus from East Bengal to West Bengal and

retaliatory attacks on Muslims in West Bengal, leading to their migration.

- Many urged the Government of India to intervene in East Bengal militarily to protect the

minority there. Nehru and the Government of India refused to get provoked into retaliatory

action. the government tried to solve it through persuasion and pressure.

-  Nehru repeatedly stressed the duty of each country to protect its minorities. On 8 April 1950,

the prime ministers of India and Pakistan signed an agreement known as the Nehru–Liaqat Pact

to resolve the issue of protection of the minorities.

-  The pact met with the strong disapproval of the Hindu communalists and the two ministers

from Bengal, Syama Prasad Mookerjee and K.C. Neogi, resigned from the cabinet in protest.

given Sardar Patel’s support for it. The migration of Hindus from East Bengal, however,

continued despite the pact.

- One of the most ticklish problems faced by the two countries was that of the distribution of

canal water in Punjab. Showing a degree of generosity, the Government of India agreed to

supply an undiminished quantity of water to Pakistan pending a long-term engineering solution

to the problem based on mutual discussion under the World Bank’s auspices.

-  In general, the Government of India followed the policy of trying to improve relations with

Pakistan. Nehru, in particular, repeatedly assured the people of Pakistan that India did not think

of Pakistan as an enemy.

- One of the reasons for this policy was the effort to preserve and strengthen the secular

atmosphere within India, which was being endangered by the Hindu communalists.

Nehru and the Communists

- the Communist Party of India (CPI) proclaimed the beginning of a general revolution in India in

February 1948, declaring the Nehru government of being an agent of imperialist and semi-

feudal forces.

- It initiated militant mass movements in various areas, the most prominent being the attempt to

organize a railway strike all over the country on 9 March 1949. It also continued the armed

struggle in the Telangana area of the Hyderabad state begun earlier against the Nizam.

-  This effort at revolution continued till the middle of 1951. Nehru, though he was highly critical

of the policy and activities of the CPI, he resisted banning it till he felt that there was enough

proof of its violent activities. Even then he permitted the banning of the CPI only in West Bengal

and Madras where it was most active.

- he believed that the best way to combat their politics and violent activities was to remove the

discontent of the people through economic and other reformist measures. Even so, as soon as

the CPI gave up its programme of waging armed struggle, including in Telangana, and declared

its intention to join the parliamentary democratic process, Nehru saw to it that the CPI was

legalized everywhere and its leaders and cadres released.

-  It was also allowed to participate in the general elections of 1951–52. Throughout, Nehru

differentiated between the Communists and the communalists.The communists, with all their

faults, function in terms of serious economic solutions. What we repudiate is all the dogma and

violence of their approach

- .The other parties, like the Jan Sangh and Swatantra, seem to be organized around plainly fascist

and feudal concepts without any social or economic basis. As such, they are dangerous to the

country and our values of democracy and socialism.


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