Friday, April 4, 2014

Butler Committee Report (1926) and Indian Princely States

Meanwhile the Princes were getting restive. The gradual Indianisation of the Government made them very sensitive about their position and prestige. They shrank from the idea of acknowledging the suzerainty of Indian ministers responsible to popularly elected legislatures. For some time past they had been protesting against the extent to which the Paramount Power interested in their domestic affairs. Besides, they had their grievances in regard to the tariff policy of the Government and the collection of customs revenue. Hence in 1927 the Secretary of States appointed the Indian States Committee presided over by Sir Harcourt Butler to investigate the nature of relationship between the Paramount Power and the Indian States and to make recommendations for adjusting the fiscal relations between British India and the Indian States. The report of the Butler Committee was published in 1929. It insisted that “Paramountcy must remain paramount” but at the same time declared that a new Indian Government responsible to an Indian legislature could not take over the existing duties of the British Government towards the States without their rulers’ consent. The Government of India Act of 1935 provided for a scheme for the accession of the States to the proposed Federation. But the Federal part of the Act was to come into force only when a specific number of States had acceded to it.

The main recommendation of the Butler Committee were:

  1. Paramountcy must remain paramount and it must fulfil its obligations by defining and adopting itself according to the shifting necessities, of the time and the progressive development of States.

  2. The States were bound with the Crown by treaties and so they should not be handed over to the Indian Government without their prior consent.

  3. The Viceroy, not the Governor-General-in-Council, was to be the Crown agent in dealing with the States.

  4. The scheme regarding the creation of a State Council should be rejected.

  5. Intervention in the administration of a State should be left to be decision of the Viceroy. Special committees should be set up to inquire into disputes that might arise between the States and British India.


The report of the Committee failed to satisfy the rulers to the desired extent. It enunciated the theory of direct relationship between the British Crown and the Indian States. So it was criticised not only by the rulers but by other leaders of our country as well. For instance, Sir C. Y. Chintamani said: “The Butler Committee was bad in its origin, bad in the time chosen for its appointment, bad in its terms of reference, bad in its personnel, and bad in its line of inquiry, while its report is bad in reasoning and bad in its conclusions. ” Sir M. Visvesaryya commented that the Butler proposals “are unsympathetic, unhistorical, hardly constitutional or legal. ” The Nehru Committee accused it of being an attempt 'to convert the Indian States into an Indian Ulster. ’ At the Round Tale Conferences the representatives of the Indian States hesitatingly supported the case of a federation as put forth by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. The Nawab of Bhopal declared: “We can only federate with a self-governing and federal British India. ”

Praja Mandal and All-India States People’s Conference (AISPC)

Butler Committee Report (1926) and Indian Princely StatesIt was after the launching of the Non-Cooperation Movement the I. N. C., came forward to support the peoples of Princely States. The Nagpur session of the Congress (1920) earnestly requested all the princes of India to establish full responsible government in their states. The Non-Cooperation Movement and Khilafat agitation in 1920s exercised considerable influence over the people of States. It was increasingly being realized that British India could never achieve effective self-government or dominion status unless the states shared in democratic political advance. Under the impact of national movement, numerous local organizations such as Praja Mandals (States Peoples Conferences) began to be established to agitate for democratic institutions in advanced states like Mysore, Hyderabad, Baroda, Kathiavad, etc. Since most princes proscribed all forms of political opposition to their administration and policies, these newly formed associations usually met on the British Indian territory, preferably near state boundaries. They contained a sizeable number of British Indians and state subjects living in British India. The different regional groups were converted into an All India States People’s. Conference (A1SPC) in 1927 under the leadership of Balwant Rai Mehta, Manila! Kothari and G. R. Abhayankar with its headquarters in Bombay.

Early Congress Attitude Towards States People’s Movement

The leaders of the Praja Mandals looked towards the Indian National Congress for encouragement and support. The policy of the Indian National Congress towards the Indian states was first enunciated in 1920 at the Nagpur session which called upon the princes to grant full responsible government in their states. But the Congress believed in the policy of non-intervention in the affairs of the states. The Congressmen were called upon not to initiate political activity in the states in the name of Congress (they could function in their individual capacity). Given the great difference in the political conditions of British India and the Indian states, the general-lack of civil liberties and political backwardness of the people of the states, and the fact that Indian states were legally independent entities, there were certain restrictions on the Congress. Hence, the main emphasis was that the people of the states should build up their own strength and demonstrate their own capacity to struggle for their demands. However, the informal links between the Indian National Congress and AISPC continued. In 1927, Congress reiterated its resolution of 1920. In 1929, Nehru as President of INC declared that ‘the Indian states cannot live apart from the rest of India.... the only people who have a right to determine their future of the states must be the peoples of those states. But it was decided that political activities should be left to the Praja Mandals or State Peoples Conference.


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