Quaid-i-Azam, Muslim League and the Accession of Princely States
By Arbab Adnan
The study of princely States is a fascinating chapter in Indian history and is mainly consisted of confused facts and deviating policies. The areas which come under direct British subjugation were called as British India while the remaining territories entered into the British government through treaties and agreements were known as Indian states.
It is commonly believed that Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah and All India Muslim League had a weak policy towards princely states and thus they are mainly responsible for the mess created in shape of the illogical accession and merger of princely States in India and Pakistan. But let's analyze the sequence of events which created that mess and then decide was Mr. Jinnah only and solely responsible for it:
The question of political future of some 565 Indian states, ruled by native princes, constituted about one fourth of India's population, had engaged the serious attention of the British rulers, the Congress and Muslim League leadership. Unfortunately, the widely divergent policy approaches of the three major actors in respect of states' future created challenging situation for Quaid-i-Azam who was already pre-occupied with more and severe problems arising out of partition. The manner in which the British implemented their laconic policies through Crown Representative Mountbatten, who due to his open conflict with the Quaid and blatant commitment of the proto-Indian Government's policy, made the Quaid's task difficult indeed.
The 3rd June Plan was, on purpose, kept ambiguous about the future of the States. It merely affirmed that the British Government's policy towards Indian states remained as enunciated in the Cabinet Mission's Memorandum of 12 May 1946, which stipulated that paramountcy would lapse with the withdrawal of the British from India and would in no circumstances be transferred to an Indian government. The void crated by the lapse of paramountcy and the cessation of political and other arrangement s between the states and the British Crown was "to be filled either by the States entering into a federal relationship with the successor government or governments in British India, or failing this , entering into particular political arrangements with it or them". 1 In their statement of 16 May 1946, the Cabinet Mission pronounced that paramountcy would neither be retained by the British Crown nor transferred to any new government in India. The states, released from the obligations of paramountcy, would work out their own relationship with the succession states, and it by no means followed that such relationship would be identical for all the states. 2
These policy parameters did not define the precise status of the states after the British colonial rule in India had come to an end rather it had confused the whole situation. However, during discussions with the States Negotiating Committee, which comprised the Rulers or their representatives, the Crown Representative observed that, in order that no administrative vacuum might result from the lapse of paramountcy, standstill arrangement would have to be made for the interim period until fresh agreements had been made. He also confirmed that the accession of a State to one or the other Constituent Assembly was a matter of free choice". 3 But the same Mountbatten only some three months later, in a volte-face urged that the rulers take into account the geographical factor in deciding which dominion to join, so that the balkanization of India be avoided. Moreover, although the right of the states to determine their own future had been conceded by the British Government, Mountbatten chose to go along with the Congress plan to pressure the princes into accession before 15 August 1947.
The policy of Mountbatten was scarcely compatible with the states policy of the British Government. Referring to the deadline of 14 August 1947 that Mountbatten had given the States for accession, Secretary of State Listowel reminded him that his "statement was inconsistent with the thrust of the debate in Parliament on the Indian Independence Bill." 4
Whereas the States had accepted the British plan for the transfer of power in so far as it concerned them, this was far from true of both the Congress and the Muslim League leadership. At a meeting between Mountbatten and the Indian leaders on 13 June 1947, Nehru reiterated the oft-repeated Congress policy that paramountcy would devolve on the succession states upon the transfer of power. He claimed that the states had no right to declare independence and that the Cabinet Mission's Memorandum of 12 May 1946 did not permit of this. Jinnah had a legalistic approach towards the states. The British Government policy of not merging the Indian states and retaining their status quo was far beyond any logical justification. The only justification we find is their policy of indirect rule. Now Jinnah had to cope with the legacy, so special care was needed. Jinnah took the view that the States would regain sovereignty with the lapse of paramountcy and their treaties and agreements with the British would cease to be valid until fresh agreements were concluded on a voluntary basis with the Succession states. Nehru had to concede that "he was not intending to lay down that every state must join one or other Constituent Assembly; but if they did not come in, they would have to come to some other arrangement could not and should not be preceded by declaration of independence." 5
Jinnah reaffirmed that, constitutionally and legally, the states could not be mandated by the British Government to join one Constituent Assembly or the other. If a state wished to come in, he said, it could do so by agreement.
Jinnah's stand was in conformity with that of the Nawab Hameedullah Khan of Bhopal, Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes, who held that the states should be free to decide which constituent Assembly to join and suggested that the All India Muslim, League (AIML) offer liberal terms for future relationship with Pakistan to those States that might wish to associate with it. The states should be assured that "their sovereignty, integrity and autonomy are in no manner to be jeopardized". 6 He even resigned as Chancellor and declined to attend the meeting of the States Negotiating Committee called for 25 July 1947 protesting that the Rulers have been invited like the oysters to attend the tea party with the walrus and the carpenter.
A firm believer in constitutional process and political fair play, Jinnah's statement of 17 June 1947 exhibited his legalistic and constitutional approach. He said that "constitutionally and legally the Indian States will be independent sovereign states on the termination of paramountcy and they will be free to decide for themselves to adopt any course they like. It is open to them to join the Hindustan Constituent Assembly, or the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, or decide to remain independent". 7
The policy of the All Indian Muslim League, as clarified by Quaid-i-Azam was that "we do no wish to interfere with the internal affairs of any state… Such States as wish to enter the Pakistan Constituent Assembly of their free will and desire to negotiate with us, shall find us ready and willing to do so. If they wish to remain independent and … to negotiate... any political or any other relationship… with Pakistan, we shall be glad to come to settlement which will be in the interest of both". 8
The Muslim League leadership from the very beginning stood for faithful adherence to the doctrine of non-interference in the affairs of the states which in turn overlook the insidious political developments taking place in states of vital interest to Pakistan like Jammu and Kashmir. Even among the 12 states located within the geographic limits of Pakistan, at least two rulers initially attempted to keep away from Pakistan. Mountbatten quoted in an aid-memoir that "a large state-Kalat-approached the Government of India for political relationship, but was refused; and unofficial overtures from Bahawalpur [for acceding to India] were similarly discouraged". 9 The Muslim League was not looking into the merits of each of these cases and their political hold over the prospective areas of Pakistan appeared to be loose.
The Muslim, League had admittedly no political ambition as far as Hyderabad was concerned except for maintaining centuries' old culture and religious bonds existing between the States' Muslims and Pakistan.
On the contrary the Congress had taken a lead in extending its political influence in the princely states. It actively helped to establish the All-India States Peoples' Conference in 1927. During 1928-46, the Congress leadership worked for establishment of representative institutions in the states and lent active support for their legitimate and peaceful struggle for responsible government.
By 1946, the Congress was successful in establishing a strong political hold and propagated for majority rule for the states' people. Its resolution of 15 June 1947 stood for a comprehensive political framework in respect of the states which did not concede the right of any state in India to independence and to live in isolation from the rest of India. All states had to accede to one or the other Dominion in respect of only three subjects like Defence, External Affairs and Communications. Nehru had apprehension about the "balkanisation of India" if the States were allowed to opt for independence following the lapse of paramountcy. He urged that administrative and other arrangements concerning matters of common interest, especially in the economic and fiscal spheres, be made in time. 10
In the course of negotiations between the British Government and the Rulers of the States, the Congress leaders, Nehru and Patel, adopted a stance based on intimidation and coercion of the Rulers as well as resorting to clandestine and crafty dealings. On 9 April 1947, speaking at Gwalior as President of the States' People's Conference, Nehru threatened the Rulers to join the Indian Constituent Assembly or be treated as hostile. 11 On 5 July Patel invited the Rulers and the people to the Constituent Assembly in a spirit of friendly cooperation. The states, he warned, should "bear in mind that the alternative of cooperation in the general interest is anarchy and chaos which will overwhelm great and small in common ruin if we are unable to act together in the minimum common tasks." 12 Patel told Mountbatten, in discussing on the future of the States that "he need not bother about the States because after the transfer of power the States' peoples would rise, depose their Rulers and throw in their lot with the Congress." 13 Such was the attitude of the Congress; they wanted to grab as many states as they can no matter with fraud, violence or intimidation. The Indian Government had criticized the accession of Junagadh to Pakistan but were not ready to handover Kashmir to its people even Nehru once wrote, before partition, in a letter to the Maharaja that "the idea of accession of Kashmir to Pakistan is hateful to me. I want to do anything that is reasonably possible to prevent its accession to Pakistan." 14
Conrad Corfield, Political Adviser to Mountbatten, a man with a strong sense of duty and moral obligation, believed that the States would act in concert in asserting their "theoretical" right to independence. He held the view that the states should not sign anything before the transfer of power and lapse of paramountcy. At that point, he thought, they would be free as independent entities to act in unison and even dictate the terms of any merger with India. Mountbatten, however, was opposed to this approach because of the Congress pressure. Corfield had flown to London with Ismay in May 1947 to seek direct support from the India Office. His trip, without Mountbatten's consent, provoked the Viceroy to dub his Political Adviser as a "son of a bitch". 15
H. V. Hodson, a Constitutional Advisor to Viceroy Linlithgow, in his book the Great Divide mentions of a deal between Mountbatten and Sardar Patel on States' accession to India at all costs. Patel is quoted to have told Mountbatten; "I will buy a basket of 565 apples", the computed number of states-but if there are even two or three apples missing, the deal is off". Mountbatten responded: "if I give you a basket with, say, 560 apples, will you buy it?" Patel replied "I might". 16 The bargain was struck and the ostensible reward was the assurance of Governor Generalship of independent India.
In open opposition to Jinnah, Mountbatten actively prevented the accession of 5 Kathiawar States namely Dasuda, Vanod, Jainabad, Bajuna and Radha to Pakistan. Each of these states had a Muslim ruler who requested for union with Pakistan. In the case of Junagadh, Manavadar and Mangrol, which had acceded to Pakistan, India ordered military action in September 1947, which culminated in their forceful annexation on 9 November 1947. Four months later, Mountbatten justified the illegal military action against Junagadh, in an aide-memoire to the King of England. He maligned Jinnah in accepting accession of the State, aimed at "deliberately teasing the Government of India into taking precipitous and aggressive action." 17 He accused Jinnah of launching a wider campaign in which Pakistan appeared as the innocent small nation, the victim of aggressive designs of its large, bullying neighbor. Mountbatten boasted that the accession exercise was a convenient bargaining counter for Pakistan vis-à-vis Kashmir. "When I saw Mr. Jinnah at Lahore on 1 November," Mountbatten informed his King, "he gave me his view that there was no sense in having Junagadh in the Dominion of Pakistan, and that he had been most averse to accepting this accession. He had in fact demurred for long but had finally given way to the insistent appeals of the Nawab and his Dewan". 18Both the views are an apparent contradiction in the first instance and an insult to the sagacity and wisdom of the great Muslim statesman that Jinnah was, on the other. Jinnah has long been criticized for his acceptance of accession of Junagadh State to Pakistan. Actually it was in conformity with League policy of giving right to states to decide their political future. Not only the Muslim League but the British Government had assured them of this option but with certain ambiguities and contradiction and later the same advocate of free will i.e. Mountbatten, broke his previous promises.
The case of the Rajasthan Hindu States of Jodhapur, Jaisalmer and Bikancer, contiguous to Pakistan, who favoured independence and accession to Pakistan in accordance with the ground rules provided by the British Government, is proof how Mountbatten cajoled and threatened them into submission by joining India. According to Hodson, Jinnah had offered Jodhpur the use of Karachi as a free port, free import of arms, jurisdiction over Jodhpur-Hyderabad Sindh railway and a large supply of food grains for famine-struck state population.
Bhopal, Indore and Travancore, influenced by Jinnah's political stance on States' future stood for independence, as against acceding to India or Pakistan. Mountbatten talked them with deceit intimidation and got them into the Indian fold. According to the Viceroy's personal Report No. 15 of 1st August, the "adherence of Travancore after all C.P [Ramaswamy Aiyar] declarations of independence has had a profound effect on all the other states and is sure to shake the Nizam". 19
Accession of Kashmir is the best example of Congress deviation and contradiction of their stance of representative and responsible government. Following partition, Jinnah had to confront the Indo-British conspiracy with the Maharaja of Kashmir as a pawn, and the anti-Pakistan National Conference of Sheikh Abdullah as perpetrators. According to reports filed by Charles W., Charge d'Affaires at U.S Embassy in Delhi with his State Department in October-November 1947, "that Maharaja had been intending to bring his state into the Indian Union…but at all costs to prevent it from adhering to Pakistan." 20 The ruler demonstrated open partially towards National Conference and other pro-India elements with a view to "faking popular support for an anti-democratic decision amounting to the political murder of the state's majority community." 21 Nehru's anxiety over Kashmir is evident from a letter he wrote to the Maharaja on 12 December 1947: "I have an intimate and personal interest in it and the mere thought that Kashmir joins Pakistan and become a part of foreign territory for us is hateful to me. I want to do everything that is reasonably possible to prevent it". 22 He had been directing Sardar Patel for arranging accession of Kashmir "as rapidly as possible."
The final act of the conspiracy was therefore initiated by the Maharaja by letting loose a reign of terror against the pro-Pakistan Muslim Conference and their Muslim supporters and by hurling baseless charges of infiltration of Pakistani nationals in his state. Pakistan made repeated attempts to defuse the alarming political situation by mutual discussions. In return Maharaja sent an ultimatum to Pakistan to invite external help to solve the problem. Jinnah wrote back: "the real aim of your Government policy is to seek an opportunity to join the Indian Union as a coup d'etat." 23 He advised the Maharaja to depute his Prime Minister to discuss all contentious issues. Earlier, a Pakistan representative sent to Srinagar with peace proposals had been turned away by Kashmir Prime Minister.
Eventually, on 27 October 1947, Indian troops marched into Kashmir after getting the Maharaja to sign the instrument of accession in a dubious manner. Pakistan declared that the accession was predicated on fraud and violence. On 1 November 1947, Jinnah told Mountbatten at a Lahore meeting that he felt from beginning to end this was a deliberate, long worked out, deep laid plot to secure Kashmir's permanent accession. 24
Mountbatten sharply reacted to these statements as did the Indian leadership at Delhi. He somewhat scolded Jinnah by terming these as "unstateman-like, inept and bad mannered". It was like a conspirator reprimanding the victim of the conspiracy. In contrast, one finds him arguing before his Kings, in February 1948, with no scruple of conspiracy that "from the strategic and economic point of view… while Pakistan had no interest in Junagadh, India has considerable interest in Kashmir." 25 It was scarcely surprising that Mountbatten persuaded the King to believe that India had put no pressure to bear on the Maharaja to cause him to accede, even though there is overwhelming evidence that India had done all the dirty work to force the Maharaja into accession.
Another problem which the nascent country faced was the accession of Kalat to Pakistan. The British Government had given more autonomy and independence to Kalat through their treaties of 1841, 1854 and 1876. The khanate were power drunken. They were literally Kings of Kalat through Sandeman System of administration and the privileges granted to them by the British Government due to the geo-strategic location of the state. Now Quaid-i-Azam had to cope with that mindset of Kalat and it was not easy for him to topple down the state and merge it with Pakistan with just a stroke of pen. So tact was required and that was what Quaid-i-Azam did.
Jinnah had problems in dealing with his friend, the Khan of Kalat, who claimed independent sovereign status for his State. In the negotiations held on 19 July 1947, with Crown Representative Mountbatten in chair, who stated that on the lapse of paramountcy "states would de jure become independent; but de facto, very few were likely to benefit… that although Kalat would have gained freedom, no practical course other than some from of association with Pakistan was open to it." 26 On 11 August 1947, Jinnah recognized Kalat as independent sovereign state in treaty relationship with British Government, with a status different from that of Indian states, although the British Government had earlier disallowed the Kalat's position other than an Indian state.
It is surprising that even though the Indian Independence Act 1947 did not give the option of independence to any Indian state, Pakistan conceded such a status to Kalat. This position was incompatible with the policy adopted towards all the states and resulted subsequently in strained relationship and conflict between Pakistan and Kalat. Britain also objected to this policy and advised against recognition to the State as a separate international entity. Jinnah was anxious to complete the formalities of accession which the Khan of Kalat promised to complete shortly. Not favorably disposed towards accession to Pakistan; the Khan stood for establishment of relations on a treaty basis and took several unwelcome steps to press his demand through his state assembly. Jinnah took a dim view of his "most disappointing and unsatisfactory" attitude. The six-month delay in the completion of legal formalities taxed his patience, and on 27 March 1948, he instructed Foreign Secretary Ikramullah that "there should be no negotiations of any kind or any further discussion to create slightest impression that anything but accession is possible". 27A.S.B. Shah, a Joint Secretary in the Foreign Office, and Ambrose Dundas, Agent to the Governor-General of Balochistan, were also asked to make it clear to Kalat to give us his answer whether he is prepared to accede as promised by him more than once or not". While these developments were going on, the All India Radio broadcasted accession of Kalat to India. Khan of Kalat retaliated and somewhat dramatically decided to accede to Pakistan since Las Bela, Kharan and Mekran had already acceded to Pakistan on 17 March 1948.
We can conclude that Jinnah was not solely and only responsible for what had happened in respect of its accession. Policy of Jinnah and AIML from the very beginning was of non-intervention and favoring maximum autonomy and sovereignty for the states. Though the policy of Muslim League and Jinnah, regarding princely states, had certain discrepancies and weakness but whatever it was; they stood firm on it. On the contrary British Government and Indian National Congress changed their stances from time to time. Let the readers decide for themselves who was right and who was wrong. Let this issue be discussed and debated so that the truth may come to surface.
Arbab Adnan is a Research Officer at the Quaid-i-Azam Papers Wing, Ministry of Culture, Islamabad
1 Z. H. Zaidi, ed., Jinnah Papers: The States Historical and Policy Perspectives and Accession to Pakistan, Islamabad: Quaid-i-Azam Papers Project, 2003, p.7.
(archived from http://www.jinnaharchive.com/articles/accprincestates3.htm)