Chapter 1. Challenges of Nation Building

• Independent India faced three kinds of challenges:
1. The first and immediate challenge was to shape a nation that was united, yet accommodative of diversity in our society.
2. The second challenge was to establish democracy. The challenge was to develop democratic practices in accordance with Constitution.
3. The third challenge was to ensure development and well-being of entire society and not only of some sections. The Constitution set out in Directive Principles of State Policy welfare goals that democratic politics must achieve. The real challenge now was to evolve effective policies for economic development and eradication of poverty.

Partition: Displacement and Rehabilitation
• British divided India into India and Pakistan.
• According to ‘two-nation theory’ advanced by Muslim League, India consisted of not one but two ‘people’, Hindus & Muslims. That is why it demanded Pakistan, a separate country for Muslims. The Congress opposed this theory and demand for Pakistan.
• It was decided to follow principle of religious majorities. This means that areas where Muslims were in majority would make up territory of Pakistan. The rest was to stay in India.
• There were lots of problems associated with it.
• There was no single belt of Muslim majority areas in British India. There were two areas of concentration, one in west and one in east. West and East Pakistan were separated by a long expanse of Indian territory.
• All Muslim majority areas did not want to be in Pakistan. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, undisputed leader of North Western Frontier Province and called ‘Frontier Gandhi’, was staunchly opposed to two-nation theory.
• The third problem was that two of Muslim majority provinces of British India, Punjab & Bengal, had very large areas where non-Muslims were in majority. Eventually, it was decided that these two provinces would be bifurcated according to religious majority at district or even lower level.
• There was problem of minorities on both sides of border. Lakhs of Hindus and Sikhs in areas that were now in Pakistan and an equally large number of Muslims on Indian side of Punjab and Bengal found themselves trapped.
• The year 1947 was year of one of largest, most abrupt, unplanned & tragic transfers of population that human history has known.
• There were killings and atrocities on both sides of border. In name of religion people of one community ruthlessly killed and maimed people of other community.
• Forced to abandon their homes and move across borders, people went through immense suffering. Minorities on both sides of border fled their home and often secured temporary shelter in ‘refugee camps’.
• The Partition had already created severe conflict between two communities.
• The Muslim League was formed to protect interests of Muslims in Colonial India. It was at forefront of demand for a separate Muslim nation.
• Similarly, some organisations were trying to organise Hindus to turn India into a Hindu nation.
• Most leaders of national movement believed that India must treat persons of all religions equally and that India should not be a country that gave superior status to adherents of one faith and inferior to those who practiced another religion. All citizens would be equal irrespective of their religious affiliation. Therefore, they cherished ideal of a secular nation. This ideal was enshrined in Indian Constitution.

Integration of Princely States
• British India was divided into what was known as British Indian Provinces and Princely States.
• The British Indian Provinces were directly under control of British Government. On other hand, several large and small states ruled by princes, known as Princely States, enjoyed some form of control over their internal affairs as long as they accepted British supremacy. This was known as paramountcy or suzerainty of British Crown.
• The Princely States covered one-third of land area of British Indian Empire, and one out of four Indians lived under Princely rule.
• It was announced by British that with end of their rule over India, paramountcy of British Crown over Princely States would lapse.
• The British government took view that all these states were free to join either India or Pakistan or remain independent if they so wished. This was a very serious problem and could threaten very existence of a united India.
• Before 15 August 1947, peaceful negotiations had brought almost all states whose territories were contiguous to new boundaries of India into Indian Union.
• The rulers of most of states signed a document known as ‘Instrument of Accession’ which meant that their state agreed to become a part of Union of India. Accession of Princely States of Junagadh, Hyderabad, Kashmir & Manipur proved more difficult than rest.
• The issue of Junagadh was resolved after a plebiscite confirmed people’s desire to join India.
• The Nizam wanted an independent status for Hyderabad. He entered into what was known as Standstill Agreement with India in November 1947 for a year while negotiations with Indian government were going on.
• In meantime, a movement of people of Hyderabad State against Nizam’s rule gathered force. The peasantry in Telangana region, in particular, was victim of Nizam’s oppressive rule and rose against him.
• The Nizam responded by unleashing a para-military force called Razakars on people. The atrocities and communal nature of Razakars knew no bounds.
• The Central Government had to order army to tackle situation. In September 1948, Indian army moved in to control Nizam’s forces. After a few days of intermittent fighting, Nizam surrendered. This led to Hyderabad’s accession to India.

• A few days before Independence, Maharaja of Manipur, Bodhachandra Singh, signed Instrument of Accession with Indian government with assurance that internal autonomy of Manipur would be maintained.
• Under pressure of public opinion, Maharaja held elections in Manipur in June 1948, and State became a constitutional monarchy. Thus, Manipur was first part of India to hold an election based on a Universal Adult Franchise.
• The state Congress wanted merger and other political parties were opposed to this.
• The Government of India succeeded in pressurising Maharaja into signing a Merger Agreement in September 1949, without consulting popularly elected Legislative Assembly of Manipur. This caused a lot of anger and resentment in Manipur.

Reorganisation of States
• During colonial rule, State boundaries were drawn either for administrative convenience or simply coincided with territories annexed by British Government or territories ruled by Princely powers.
• Our national movement had rejected these divisions as artificial and had promised linguistic principle as basis of formation of states.
• Many Provincial Congress Committees were created by linguistic zones, which did not follow administrative divisions of British India.
• Things changed after Independence and Partition. Our leaders felt that carving out states based on language might lead to disruption and disintegration. It was felt that this would draw attention away from other social and economic challenges that country faced.
• Protests began in Telugu-speaking areas of old Madras Province, which included present-day Tamil Nadu, parts of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala & Karnataka.
• The Vishalandhra Movement (as movement for a separate Andhra was called) demanded that Telugu speaking areas should be separated from Madras Province of which they were a part and be made into a separate Andhra Province.
• Potti Sriramulu, a Congress leader and a veteran Gandhian, went on an indefinite fast that led to his death after 56 days. This caused great unrest and resulted in violent outbursts in Andhra region. Finally, Prime Minister announced formation of a separate Andhra State in December 1952.
• The formation of Andhra spurred struggle for making other states on linguistic lines in other parts of country.
• These struggles forced Central Government into appointing a States Reorganisation Commission in 1953 to look into question of redrawing boundaries of States.
• The Commission in its report accepted that boundaries of state should reflect boundaries of different languages.
• On basis of its report, States Reorganisation Act was passed in 1956. This led to creation of 14 States and six Union Territories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *