Sunday, May 18, 2014

INDIAN INDEPENDENCE ACT

The Indian Independence Act passed by the British Parliament in July 1947 provided the legal provision for the transfer of power. Its provisions were :

  1. Setting up of ‘two independent Dominions... to be known respectively as India and Pakistan’ on August 15, 1947.

  2. The Indian Dominion would include the whole of British India with the exception of the territories constituting Pakistan, i. e., West Punjab, Baluchistan, North West Frontier Province, Sind and East Bengal

  3. Each Dominion was to have a Governor-General appointed by His Majesty and represent His Majesty for the purpose of the government of the Dominion. The Legislature of each Dominion would have full power to make laws for that Dominion. After August 15, 1947 no Act passed by the British Parliament would have validity in either of the Dominions.

  4. With immediate effect from August 15, 1947, the British Government would cease to have any responsibility for the Government of India. This implied that any terms and agreements made between the British Government with either the Princely States or Tribal areas would also cease to exist.

  5. The two Dominions along with the Provinces would continue to be governed in accordance with the Act of 1935 till the time the Constituent Assembly made alternate arrangements.

  6. It also made provisions for the division of Armed Forces and Civil Services between the two Dominions and each was to exercise authority over its own sections.

  7. A new Constituent Assembly was to be formed in Pakistan which would also exercise the powers of Legislature in that Dominion.


However, in reality things worked out a little differently. To summarize, the Constituent Assembly of the Indian Union met on the night of August 14, 1947 and in a stirring speech by Nehru known as the Tryst with destiny’ India’s independence was declared at the stroke of midnight. Lord Mountbatten was asked by Nehru and Patel to continue as the Governor-General of the newly formed Indian Dominion and he continued the office till June 21, 1948. Rajagopalchari was his first and the last Indian successor till January 25, 1959. On January 26, 1950 India became a Republic and adopted the Constitution framed by the Constituent Assembly that was finalized on November 26, 1949. With this India ceased to have any constitutional links with the British Crown, The office of the governor-General was abolished. The President of the Constituent Assembly and the Head of the Republic, Rajendra Prasad became the first President of India.

Jinnah left for Karachi on August 7, 1947. On August 11 the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan elected him as the first President and on August 14 Jinnah was also sworn in as the Governor-General the newly created Dominion of Pakistan.

INTEGRATION OF INDIAN STATES


The partition of the country and the resultant mass exodus of population to and from the divided nations were not the only grave problems of the newly-born independent India. The British India was divided into provinces and Indian States, ruled by princes, who were bound by treaties to the British Crown. The integration of about 552 big and small Indian States in the Union of India was one of the most serious immediate problems that India had to face on the eve of her independence. The Independence Act, 1947, provided that “the suzerainty of His Majesty over the Indian States, and with it all treaties and agreements in force on that date would lapse”. The act did not contemplate that the Indian States would become ‘Independent States’ as such and thereby disrupt the unity of India. On June 15, 1947, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) laid down its policy towards the Indian States and declared that the AICC cannot admit the right of any State in India, to declare its independence and to live in isolation from the rest of India.

INDIAN INDEPENDENCE ACTThe Congress was able to tackle the problem of the Indian States successfully and the credit for it goes to Sardar Patel and V. P. Menon. The net result of their efforts was that by August 15, 1947, with the exception of Junagarh, Hyderabad and Kashmir, as many as 136 states acceded to the Indian Union. On August 15, 1947, Junagarh announced her accession to Pakistan and on September 13, 1947, the Government of Pakistan informed the Government of India that she had accepted the accession of Junagarh to Pakistan and also signed a Stand Still Agreement. The accession of Junagarh to Pakistan was condemned by the rulers and people of other States. A panic gripped the Hindus of the State and thousands of Hindus ran away from the State of Junagarh. In September, 1947, the Government of India decided to disperse around Junagarh troops of the acceding States and the Congress leaders of Gujarat established a provisional Government of Junagarh. But when the Junagarh troops entered the State of Mangarol, the Government of India decided to send Indian troops to occupy the State of Mangarol which had acceded to the Dominion of India. In order to prevent a flare up in the State, Junagarh was also taken over on October 22, 1947. When the Nawab of Junagarh found that help from Pakistan was not enough to keep him on the throne, he ran away to Pakistan from the State towards the end of the October, 1947. Ultimately, through a referendum the people of Junagarh decided in favour of merger in the Indian Union.

The position of the Hyderabad was still more difficult. The Nizam of Hyderabad wanted to maintain Dominion Status. When the Government of India put pressure on the Nizam, he started secret negotiations for the merger of Hyderabad with Pakistan. The Nizam’s minister Kasim Razvi who played a leading role in opposing Hyderabad’s merger with the Indian Union, declared that Hyderabad would never surrender its independence and “if the Government of India insisted on a plebiscite, the sword would be the final-arbiter”. Kasim Razvi organised an army of the Razakars, whom he represented as the liberators of the Muslims of India, and started inflaming communal passions inside and outside Hyderabad State. The Razakars began to attack the neighbouring provinces like Madras, Bombay and Central Provinces. There was a virtual reign of terror. There was huge loss of life and property. Attacks on the through trains created panic. It was under these circumstances that the Government of India decided to take police action. On September 13, 1948, Indian forces commanded by Maj. Gen. J. N. Choudhuri entered the Hyderabad State. On the evening of Septembner 17, 1948, the Hyderabad army surrendered. Kasim Razvi was arrested and the Razakars were disbanded. The Nizam’s Government after being badly humbled down and humiliated resigned.

The problem of Kashmir proved to be the most difficult and led to a war between India and Pakistan shortly after independence. State of Jammu & Kashmir has great strategic importance on account of its international boundaries. To its East was Tibet, to the North East was the Sinkiang province of Chine and to the North-West was Afghanistan. The position of Jammu & Kashmir was still more peculiar, because the Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh was a Hindu and his subjects in Kashmir were predominantly Muslims, in Jammu Hindus and in Ladakh Buddhists. Since Jammu & Kashmir’s accession to any Dominion was to be decided by ascertaining the wishes of the majority of the people, the Maharaja kept on wavering in taking a decision to join either of the two Dominions.

Shortly before 15 August, 1947 the Government of Jammu & Kashmir announced its intention of entering into Stand Still Agreement both with India and Pakistan. Pakistan soon signed a Stand Still Agreement, but with an ulterior motive. It used diplomatic, political and military pressures on Jammu & Kashmir and also aroused communal passions. Pakistan also cut off vital supplies to the State. Soon after this Pakistan tribal raiders and regular Pakistan forces raided Kashmir from different sides.

Under such critical situation the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir sent on appeal for help to the Government of India on October 24, 1947. After two days (October 26) the Maharaja of Kashmir signed an Instrument of Accession for merging Jammu & Kashmir with the Union of India. Next day (October 27) the Indian troops were airlifted to Kashmir to expel the Pakistani raiders. It was to the great courage and chivalry of the Indian troops that within a few months the Pakistani raiders were expelled from Leh and Ladakh to Baramula and Poonch. Finally, at the intervention of the United Nations cease fire was declared on January 1, 1949.

Inspite of long efforts under the auspices of the U. N. and three wars (1947-48, 1965 and 1971) between India and Pakistan, the Kashmir problem still remains unresolved and is a painful thorn in the body-politic of India.

Integration and Democratisation of States


The accession of States with the Indian Union was only a partial solution of the problem of the States. After centuries-long feudal administration, the States needed democratisation and modernisation. To that end in view several smaller states were consolidated into larger political units by means of the union of the States. Some states were merged into neighbouring provinces or make centrally administered areas. In the unions of the states and the centrally administered areas the people of the States were given the rights as enjoyed by the people of the provinces concerned. But this arrangement, was not only unrealistic and against the principles of administration, but even detrimental to the unity and integration of India. Therefore, the Government of India appointed ‘The States Reorganisation Commission’ in November 1953.


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