• more than 500 princely states at the eve of integration
  • varied widely in size and status- smallest Bilbari ( annual revenue of Rs. 8) and largest Hyderabad (80,000 square miles)
  • differing levels of economic and political development
  • all were indirectly controlled by the British


Efforts by British (before independence)

  • direct annexation and de facto paramountcy (policy of subordinate isolation) – upto Revolt of 1857
  • indirect rule and de jure paramountcy (policy of subordinate union) following GoT Act, 1858
  • Chamber of Princes-1921
  • Harcourt Butler Committee (alongside Simon Commission)
  • Federal Scheme of GoI Act, 1935

Reasons for Integration

  • termination of paramountcy would have left princes technically free to choose to accede or remain independent, a possibility suggested by Cripps Mission also
  • INC wanted to avoid the ‘balkanisation’ of India and insisted on the incorporation of the princely states into India in its negotiations with Mountbatten
  • development of trade, commerce and communications during the 19th and 20th centuries had bound the princely states to British India through a complex network of interests
  • Mountbatten was convinced that integration of the princely states into independent India would to some extent assuage the wounds of Partition



  • Bikaner and Jawahar were motivated by ideological and patriotic considerations
  • Bhopal, Travancore and Hyderabad planned to remain independent
  • some proposed a confederation of states
  • many dreamt of a return to the situation in 16th century India of several independent principalities
  • Baroda was the first to join the Constituent Assembly. Bikaner made an appeal which led to several states of Rajputana too joining
  • lack of unity


Mountbatten’s role

  • Lumby and Moore take the view that Mountbatten played a crucial role in ensuring that the princely states agreed to accede to India
  • enormous prestige and legitimacy – relative of the King
  • personal friend of many of the rulers like the Nawab of Bhopal
  • princes believed his position as Gov-Gen of Indian dominion following independence would guarantee safeguard of their interests
  • assured them of the most favourable terms of accession as possible
  • told them that Britain would no longer patronize or protect them
  • convinced them that though technically independednt they would be rudderless on their own
  • highlighted the geographic compulsions that meant most of them must choose India and also religious compulsions (otherwise would be violation of 2 Nation theory)
  • dealt with the symbolic and princely courtesies of accession


Pressure and Diplomacy (Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon)

  • Congress’ stated position was that the princely states were not sovereign entities
  • While Nehru and Rajaji took aggressive stances(said they would be treated as enemy states), Patel was more conciliatory in his approach
  • policy of carrot and stick
  • example of realpolitik
  • policy of divide and rule – played princes against one another by winning over support of some early on which unsettled others
  • used democratic tools like plebiscite (in Junagadh)



  • aroused spirit of nationalism in rulers
  • promised protection of their traditional rights (during accession)
  • promised autonomy in internal matters and asked only for surrender of defence, external affairs and communication subjects
  • assured the provisions of a new constitution wouldn’t apply to them
  • offered privy purses, retention of personal property and titles, inducements of Governorships as ‘Rajapramukhs’ (during integration)
  • emphasized that without integration their economies would collapse resulting in situation of anarchy



  • used threat of popular protest
  • encouraged praja mandals to agitate for accession to India – Travancore, Mysore, Kathiawar, Orissa
  • cut off critical supplies and lines of communication to Junagadh
  • threat of military action
  • use of military occupation – Junagadh
  • use of police action – Hyderabad (Operation Polo)
  • Kashmir – threat of proxy war- diminished role of Patel – problem still lingers (other acceeded states – Patel has had a role – no problems since)


Process of Integration

  1. Accession
  • Instruments of Accession (IoA) – Defence, Foreign Policy, Communications
  • produced a rather loose federation, with significant differences in administration and governance across the various states.


  1. Merger
  • Merger Agreements – to merge the smaller states that were not seen by the Government of India to be viable administrative units either into neighbouring provinces
  • Covenants of Merger – convince groups of large states to combine to form a “princely union”  – Eg. PEPSU, Saurashtra, United States of Rajasthan, Travancore-Cochin
  • The only princely states which signed neither Covenants of Merger nor Merger Agreements were Kashmir, Mysore and Hyderabad
  • ended the discrete existence of states (except for 3)


  1. Democratisation
  • special covenant signed by the rajpramukhs of the merged princely unions, binding them to act as constitutional monarchs
  • gave same measure of responsible government to people of erstwhile princely states as the rest of India
  • but these governments still remained insulated from central control save for the 3 subjects specified in IoA


  1.  Centralisation and Constitutionalisation
  • signed new Instruments of Accession which gave the Government of India the power to pass laws in respect of all matters that fell within the seventh schedule of GoI Act,1935
  • only exception was Kashmir, whose relationship with India continued to be governed by the original Instrument of Accession


  1. Reorganisation
  • State Reorganisations Act, 1956
  • Rajpramukhs lost their authority, and were replaced as the constitutional heads of state by Governors appointed by the central government
  • privy purse, the exemption from customs duty, and customary dignities survived, but only till 1971


Post-Integration Issues

  1. Colonial Enclaves
  • French
    • Chandernagore- 1950
    • Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe – 1954 (unofficial) ; 1962 (official)
  • Portugese – after negotiation attempts failed despite popular protests, forced occupation in 1961


  1. Remaining princely states
  • Nepal – recognised by the British and the Government of India as being independent
  • Bhutan – considered a protectorate outside the international frontier of India – treaty in 1949 that Bhutan would abide by India’s direction in external affairs
  • Sikkim
    • Treaty in 1950 with Chogyal Rulers
    • India had responsibility for defence, external affairs and communications, and ultimate responsibility for law and order, but Sikkim was otherwise given full internal autonomy
    • 1973 – anti-Chogyal agitation broke out (led by Kazi Dorji of Sikkim State Congress) – demand for popular elections and democratic government
    • 1975 – the Sikkim Assembly passed a resolution calling for the state to be fully integrated into India – endorsed by referendum
  1. Secessionism
  • Kashmir
  • Tripura
  • Manipur
  1. Sub-nationalism
  • Telengana
  • Vidarbha

Who was responsible for integration ?

  • Sardar Patel – through his wisdom, foresight, diplomacy and intrigue – guiding hand
  • P. Menon – Patel’s right-hand man, ran all the hard yards slowly chipping away at the rulers, without which accession wouldn’t have been possible
  • Bureaucrats – who effected the actual transition by creating the conditions for social and financial integration
  • the faceless masses – through vigorous protests and active praja mandals
    • without the threat of mass agitation from below there would have been no successful integration from above as states wouldnt have ceded so easily

Critical Perspectives

  • Ian Copland and Ramusack – one of the reasons why the princes consented to the demise of their states was that they felt abandoned by the British, and saw themselves as having little other option
  • Lumby, in contrast, take the view that the princely states could not have survived as independent entities after the transfer of power, and that their demise was inevitable. They therefore view successful integration of all princely states into India as a triumph for the Government of India and Lord Mountbatten, and as a tribute to the sagacity of the princes.
  • Bipan Chandra – criticizes Mountbatten for overstating his mandate and his impact on integration. Believes it to be the result of


  • Sardar Patel’s leadership
  • P. Menon’s hard work
  • Urges and aspirations of the Indian people



  1. India’s Struggle for Freedom – Bipan Chandra
  2. India After Gandhi – Ramachandra Guha

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