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How the plan to vivisect India was foiled

By Ashutosh Kumar Thakur
There was no dearth of secessionist claims. It seems like throughout the second half of the century, after the Indian Union came into being, almost every corner of the country wanted a separate nation, every province harbored a desire to be declared a sovereign state.

The idea was to create a third dominion called “Princestan” where the 565 princely states would stay outside the ambit of the two free states and retain paramountcy under the aegis of the departing British. The success of such a malevolent plan would have made the newly independent nation unstable and vulnerable.

However, three persons stood in the way of the nefarious British plan to balkanize India. This is the hitherto untold story of how Jawaharlal Nehru, Lord Mountbatten and Sardar Patel battled the rulers of the princely states at every twist and turn to foil that cunning plan, even as the process of decolonization had begun.

According to the author Sandeep Bamzai, this was how “Princestan” was formed. An intricately researched and elegantly written epic history peopled with larger-than-life characters, it is the work of a major scholar at the peak of his abilities. He puts in great effort to add perspectives from a variety of sources – letters, memoirs, biographies, news reports and even his personal experiences – to ensure that we understand what was going through the minds of not only those in power, but also those fighting to oppose them.

The beauty of this book (Princestan: How Nehru, Patel and Mountbatten Made India; by Sandeep Bamzai; Rupa & Co) lies in the author’s sincere and unbiased approach blended with a unique writing style. The sensitivity and thoughtfulness that the writer has displayed while describing every anecdote are incredible.

Princestan’ is principally a political history – Bamzai covers the major events that occurred in India right after Independence, and their impact on the political and social landscape.

How a section of diabolical princes actually managed to a large extent to stay out of the ambit of Hindustan and Pakistan till brought to heel by Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel and Lord Mountbatten in what people believed was a relay run. The princes never wanted independence. The Nizam of Hyderabad convinced the British to be called His Exalted Highness.

The princes together representing the British Monarchy in India actually had something called Narender Mandal which was the chamber of princes and the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes was the Nawab of Bhopal Hamidullah Khan.

Further, you come across in the book many reference points about a diabolical plan being hatched at the behest of British PM Winston Churchill and Viceroy Lord Wavell using Mohd Ali Jinnah and the canny head of the Political Department Sir Conrad Corfield to ‘keep a bit of India’ as they pushed forward with a plan to decolonize India. To balkanize India, they encouraged a catalogue of crafty Indian Princes to speak the forked tongue of freedom from the Indian National Congress and independence for themselves.

Led by the saboteur Nawab of Bhopal and a handful of other powerful princes, they wanted to create a Third Dominion called Princestan in parallel to India and Pakistan. This is the story of how that plan to vivisect India was foiled.

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India Latest News

Sardar Patel and the Kashmir question

By Ram Madhav

Napoleon once called history “a fable mutually agreed upon”. What we call history is sometimes a popular myth that is politically and ideologically convenient. The history of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)’s accession to India is a classic case of this myth-making. A lot of haze surrounds the historic accession of the princely state that took place on October 26, 1947. That allows for leaders in Kashmir to repeat the myth of “conditional accession”.

 

Three people — Louis Mountbatten, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and VP Menon — played a critical role in the political integration of India. The British government’s political department was replaced with the “states department” in May 1947 to facilitate the process. Patel was made the minister and Menon the administrative head.

 

Although all three leaders played crucial roles in the integration of states, Patel was rightfully credited with the epithet of iron man, on the lines of the German iron chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck, a Prussian general, was responsible for the integration of German-speaking kingdoms into a united Germany in 1871.

 

Mountbatten, entrusted by the Cabinet with the responsibility of accession, convened a meeting of the princes on July 25, 1947, and managed to secure the accession papers signed by almost all of them before August 15, 1947. The three princely states that refused to accede — Hyderabad, Junagadh and Kashmir — became Patel’s responsibility. It is the final accession of these three, which Patel secured through various methods, that won him the title Bismarck of India.

 

Compared to the accession of Hyderabad and Junagadh, where Patel had to use force or the threat of it, Kashmir’s case was more complicated. Jawaharlal Nehru’s fondness for Sheikh Abdullah, on the one hand, and Maharaja Hari Singh’s ambition to remain independent, on the other, made Patel’s task difficult. Nehru and Patel wanted the Maharaja to build a friendship with Abdullah while simultaneously acceding his state to the Indian dominion.

 

The Maharaja dithered on both counts, until the Pakistani tribesmen from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa invaded his state on October 22, 1947, and marched towards Srinagar. Mountbatten’s conversations with Jinnah on November 1, 1947, revealed the involvement of Pakistan in the invasion.

 

The tribal invasion and Patel’s persuasion finally led the Maharaja to hand over signed accession papers to Menon on October 26, 1947. Patel lost no time in sending the Indian Army to Srinagar. By the end of the year, the invaders were pushed back across the Jhelum.

 

Winter halted the progress of the operation. The Pakistan army arrived on the scene by the time the winter ended, forcing a stand-off between the two countries at what is described today as the Line of Control. Once the Pakistan army got involved, Nehru insisted that the issue became international and removed it from Patel’s purview. The rest is a history of blunders, which the present government is seeking to ameliorate.

 

Patel continued with his unfinished agenda of the accession of Junagadh and Hyderabad. Junagadh came under the control of the Indian administration in November 1947, while Hyderabad needed a police action in September 1948 to fall in line. He ensured that in spite of the recalcitrant rulers and restive populations, both Junagadh and Hyderabad integrated fully with India without any difficulty. But Kashmir, taken out of his purview, would fester for long.

 

Sardar Patel was a loyal disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. He was not ambitious. When Gandhi asked him about his mission after Independence, Patel’s reply was that he would become a sadhu.

 

His modesty helped Nehru climb the political ladder easily. History doesn’t have if and buts. Yet, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi was not off the mark when he said in the Rajya Sabha last year, “It is our belief that if Sardar Patel was the first PM of India there would not have been a Jammu and Kashmir problem.”

 

(Ram Madhav is a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The article appeared in The Hindustan Times)

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Latest News USA

Enacte Arts presents virtual adaptation of ‘Letters to a daughter from prison’

San Francisco: Bay Area-based EnActe Arts has announced a virtual adaptation of Letters to a Daughter from Prison, a play by Lavonne Mueller based on the letters between Jawaharlal Nehru and his adolescent daughter Indira, written between 1930 and 1942, before he became India’s first Prime Minister. The original play made its debut in 1988 during the first International Festival of the Arts in New York City before going on to tour India. It has been adapted for this production by Deesh Mariwala (Director), Denzil Smith and Vinita Sud Belani (Founder and Artistic Director of EnActe Arts). 

Set against the backdrop of the freedom struggle and Gandhi’s non-violent protests, the play reveals the richness of the father daughter relationship in the formative years, before her eventual emergence on the world stage, as Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, told through the exchange of letters between them during his numerous imprisonments for his role as a leader of the Indian independence movement while she was growing up. One of which included the prophetic line, ‘Little one, may you grow up into a brave soldier in India’s service!’

The playwright was inspired to write the story because Nehru the statesman was being continually separated from his shy, intellectual daughter Indira due to the turmoil that came with the freeing and building of the world’s largest democracy. “They forged the bonds of a loving, nurturing and formative relationship through their detailed, prolific letters to each other. I felt compelled to write this story because I could not find a parallel in the Western world of a statesman father who nurtured his daughter in such a way.” 

Notes the play’s director Deesh Mariwala: “Funnily enough what started as a delving into the lives of two Prime Ministers who shaped the land I grew up in, has become a warm, companionable relationship with two people I have never met, but now feel I know almost intimately.”

Letters to a Daughter from Prison is a co-production of EnActe Arts and Stagesmith Productions.

It is partially sponsored by indiaspora.org and is being co-presented by Indiaspora, ICC (India Community Centre, Silicon Valley) and DIAC (Dallas Indian Arts Collective, Texas).

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