FREEDOM FILES: Casualty of War
From Kashmir in the north to Mysore in the south with Rajkot, epicentre of the rebellion against the Congress in the middle, impending freedom saw frenetic political activity across India as attempts to resist the formation of fully responsible governments in Princely States was top of mind, we trace this with the help of hitherto unpublished documents.

The game was afoot across the length and breadth of India, from the Princely States perilously close to losing it all to the British ruled Provinces which are seeing heightened political activity in the run up to the decolonisation of the sub continent. India attempts to make its tryst with freedom presided over by Lord Mountbatten. From Kashmir in the North to Mysore in the South with Rajkot in the west, the rapid march towards breaking the bond with British serfdom and the quest of suffrage was determining the future course of action for Indians of all hues. Some like Mohd Ali Jinnah's stalking horse, the influential Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes was indulging in jiggery pokery to stay outside the ambit of free India, while Congress activists were running amok in the powerful and rich southern Princely state of Mysore. If the J & K Muslim League was pushing the envelope at the prodding of Jinnah and in collusion with saboteur Nawab of Bhopal, the art of warfare was seeing new dynamism. The homogeneous mass called India was on the move. The transition from British rule to democracy was taking its toll as reluctant Maharajas were not quick to relinquish power. The faultlines during this transitionary phase were acute and painful. For obvious reasons, the Princes and their Dewans continued to use subterfuge to stall the formation of fully responsible governments and tried every machination to hold on to power through a measure of shenanigans. 

 

SRINAGAR (KASHMIR) APRIL 22, 1947

MIRWAIZ MOHAMMED YUSUF, PRESIDENT OF THE ALL JAMMUAND KASHMIR MUSLIM CONFERENCE IN A TELEGRAM TO THE NAWAB OF BHOPAL SAYS: “THE INVITATION WHICH YOUR HIGHNESS HAS EXTENDED TO PANDIT JAWAHARLAL NEHRU TO DISCuSS POLITICAL PROBLEMS OF INDIAN STATES WITH YOU AS CHANCELLOR OF THE PRINCES CHAMBER HAS NECESSITATED US UNEQUIVOCALLY TO MAKE KNOWN TO YOUR HIGHNESS THAT THE STATES PEOPLES' CONFERENCE WHICH PANDIT NEHRU REPRESENTS IS PURELY A HINDU BODY SPONSORED BY THE CONGRESS AND HE HAS NO RIGHT TO SPEAK ON BEHALF OF ALL THE STATES PEOPLE PARTICULARLY MUSLIMS. WHILE MUSLIMS OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR STATE APPRECIATE YOUR HIGHNESS's CONCERN FOR the people of the STATE.THEY WISH, HOwever, tO MAKE IT CLEAR THAT ANY AGREEMENT ARRIVED AT BETWEEN THE PRINCES CHAMBER AND THE STATES PEOPLES' CONFERENCE OVER THE HEAD OF THE ALL INDIA STATES MUSLIM LEAGUE WHICH IS THE SOLE REPRESENTATIVE ORGANISATION OF THE MUSLIMS IN INDIAN STATES WILL NOT ONLY BE REPUDIATED BY THE MuSLIMS OF THE STATE BUT ALSO RESISTED AT ALL COSTS. TO FIND OUT A SATISFACTORY SOLUTION to THE STATE'S PROBLEM, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOUR HIGHNESS INVITE REPRESENTATIVEs OF THE ALL INDIA STATES MUSLIM LEAGUE ALSO”.

 

September.

The Dewan keeps quiet till the very end of August and just a day or two before the date fixed for Satyagraha issues a statement requesting for time. That statement to the press was evidently meant to misguide the public both inside and outside the state. It is again an attempt to somehow place the Congress in the wrong.

It is to be noted that during the period of ten months since last November, he has been along with some of his colleagues as evidenced in the elections to the presidentship of the District Boards, trying to set up reactionary elements against the Congress. This statement of the Dewan has not impressed in the State and it has utterly failed to convince the Mysore public regarding its bonafides. The people in Mysore are tired of this Government and its methods. The Maharaja in spite of repeated requests has seen his way to remain silent.

While within a period of six months the British relinquished their power in India and two Dominion governments are already functioning, a whole period of ten long months is wasted in fruitless dissertations and discussions. Attempted consultations as to “Type of Responsible Government” as if there is any doubt as to what responsible Government means will not solve the problem. The people in Mysore are impatient and they have every right to be. Can it be said that Mysore Government is doing the right thing by the people or the Maharaja? Can it also be said that the Mysore Congress is hasty?.

 

S Nijalingappa

President Karnataka Provincial Congress Committee &

Ex-president Mysore Congress

 

New-Delhi.

3rd. Sept. 1947.

 

Nijalingappa  subsequently came to be known as the maker of modern Karnataka, twice CM of the state. The state owes much to him for development of agricultural, irrigation, industrial and transport projects. He became the Congress President when people in many parts of the country had expressed their distrust in it in the 1967 elections. He chaired two Congress sessions in 1968 and 1969 held in Hyderabad and Faridabad. Due to his untiring efforts, the Congress Party was re-invigorated. However, the factional feud between various factions of the party increased and finally resulted in the historic split of the party in 1969 and he is remembered as the last President of the undivided Congress. He cut his teeth in the Mysore struggle as these missives substantiate. In his top secret  note to Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress activist lays his heart bare on how the rulers continue to impede democratic processes despite India having attained freedom.

 

WHY SATHYAGRHA IN MYSORE?

The Mysore Congress has launched Sathyagraha Mysore from the 1st. of this month for the establishment of Responsible Government under the aegis of the Maharaja. To a section of the public this decision seems to be rather uncalled for.  The platitudinous attitude of the Mysore Government as disclosed in the recent statement of the Dewan Sri Aroot Ramaswamy Mudaliar may make many wonder whether the Mysore Congress was not a bit hasty and some may question their wisdom. But those who have closely followed the political development in that state are easily convinced that the Mysore Congress had no other alternative and that this struggle has become inevitable.

The average citizen in Mysore is a close student of politics and keenly appreciated the political developments in India and in other states. The fact that political institutions in some form or other however unsatisfactorily have been in existence in Mysore since 1881 the year of rendition, have contributed not a little to this political consciousness. The agitation for Responsible Government in Mysore began more than 26 years ago, perhaps much earlier than in any other state. But under the leadership of the Mysore Congress the demand has become universal, insistent and compelling.

The Mysore Government during the last 11 years since the birth of the Mysore Congress has done everything to take ownership. Sir Mirza Ismail used all his influence, power and prestige to crush the Congress in Mysore. But by its sheer discipline, sacrifice and suffering has continued to grow in strength, stature and influence, so much so that today in Mysore there is no other political party worth the name. During the period of War, the Mysore Congress with a view mainly, not to embarrass the Prince, kept in abeyance the demand for Responsible Government and resumed the struggle. The abnormal times and situations during the period of war disclosed beyond a shadow of doubt that the irresponsible Government in Mysore was not only inefficient and unimaginative but was utterly incapable of shouldering the responsibilities during times of emergency. It is equally corrupt. It has also been proved both in the lower and upper houses of legislature that the present Government does not command the confidence of the people. Last year the lower house, which really represents the popular opinion, threw out one after another a number of Government bills and after that the Government dared not introduce other bills during that sitting.

The recent political happenings in India during the last six months culminating in that glorious celebration of the Day of Independence on the 15th of August, have had repercussions in Mysore as in most other states. It is significant that while most of the other states, big and small, show awareness and signs of political life, by reacting to the changes beyond their borders, the Mysore Government stands almost alone in being aloof and irresponsive. It was mainly due to the extreme pressure brought to bear upon it by public opinion with the Mysore Congress as its spear head, that the Government awoke to the necessity of joining the Indian Dominion and of sending representatives to the Constituent Assembly of India by a farcical election of four  out of seven, the other three being nominated.

All this has naturally resulted in considerable frustration in the public life of the state. It should be noted that the people of Mysore are intelligent, enlightened and sensitive. Since the advent of the new Dewan about a year back, the situation has been rendered worse. While the previous Dewan Sir Madhava Rao was a believer in the policy of “letting sleeping dogs lie” the present gentleman Sri Mudaliar seems to be devoting all his well recognized talent in dilatory tactics while at the same time he does his best to encourage those communal elements in the state who without any regard to the well-being of the community as a whole are always ready, as elsewhere, to utilise this communal bogey as a lever for advancing the selfish interests of their little selves.

On the other hand some superannuated persons with Mid-Victorian minds, in the state service have woven round the young prince an impregnable wall of political insulation so that the leaders of political opinion are safely kept out. They have thereby effectively prevented the ruler and the ruled from coming together and understand one another.

The Mysore Congress in spite of the immense strength of public opinion behind it and also because of it, has always been restrained in its actions. After the war having exhausted all the available methods to convince both the Maharaja and his Government of the desirability of establishing Responsible Government/finally decided in the open session of November last held at Bangalore in Subhas Nagar to launch Sathyagraha. When it became certain that Satyagraha would commence on the 26th January, there was a proclamation issued by the Maharaja that he had entrusted his Dewan to consult public opinion and recommend to him further reforms. Though this was highly unsatisfactory in that instead of trusting leaders of public opinion among his own subjects he should have entrusted this great responsibility to the head of an irresponsible executive and an outsider, the Congress stayed its hand and demanded clarification regarding the objective of the reforms, the machinery to be set up for the purpose and the interim arrangements. No satisfactory solution was forthcoming and the All Mysore Congress Committee met in April and passed a resolution authorizing the Working Committee to start Sathyagraha on the 1st of May 1947. On the 16th April the Dewan wrote a letter requesting Sri Changalaraya Reddy, the president of the Congress for an interview to discuss the political problems in furtherance of the Maharaja’s proclamation. The

Working Committee met on the 29th and 30th April and in spite of a large section opposing it in the Congress ranks decided to postpone the Sathyagraha which was to begin the next day, and for which  the Congress and the people were prepared.

Talks continued for three months. Except indulging in political platitudes the Dewan was unwilling to commit either himself or the Government to any thing definite. It became clear that he wanted to adopt dilatory methods. The Mysore Congress was not convinced about his bonafide. The Congress had to treat the correspondence and talks as closed and the A.M.C.C. at its meeting held on 9th August at Mysore passed for the third time a resolution for launching Sathyagraha. That was the only possible and honourable course left open. Even at

that stage the Mysore Government tried to queer the pitch. When

the Working Committee was meeting to formulate the resolution for the A.M.C.C. on the 6th and 7th Aug. A letter was sent to the Dewan on the 7th. That the correspondence be treated as closed and that the same would be released for publication. That was received by his office the same

day. But that evening viz. 7th. a letter was received from the Reforms Officer telling the Congress president that the Dewan would set up a consultative Committee of 15 of which 4 would be Congressmen and that after ascertaining their views the Dewan would submit his recommendations to the Maharaja. The curious thing about the letter was that it was dated 6th. just to show that the Dewan was already making arrangements and the Congress had acted in haste. On the face of it the setting up a committee for mere consultation with no sanction for its opinion was an affront and an insult to the people of Mysore at a time when a constitution for the whole of India was being drawn up at Delhi by peoples’ representatives. The offer could not be accepted and the Dewan was informed of it the very day the 7th August. The Working  Committee met on the 20th Aug. and decided that Satyagraha would begin on 1st September.

 

Fade to black and rewind.

We now go back in the Wellsian Time Machine to track what

was happening in Rajkot where the Thakore Saheb Pradyumansinhji Lakhajirajsinhji,and his Dewan Durbar Virawala ran

circles around Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel giving not an inch in their battle to retain primacy and suzerainty. With independence looming large on the radar, the British Political Agents, masters of intrigue continued to play their insidious games. Residents and Political Agents chose to decode the Rule of the Crown as they pleased, for keeping the nationalist Congress forces at bay was critical. It is the manner of defiance that stunned Gandhiji and Sardar patel who repeatedly tried to storm the bastion and failed. The seeds of this defiance had been sown much earlier. Imagine Gandhiji who was unable to penetrate Rajkot despite his best strategies and tactics finally vanquished wrote - From Calcutta, Gandhiji moved to Brindavan in Bihar for a Gandhi Seva Sangh meeting. But the failure of his satyagraha in Rajkot dogged him. Unable to come to terms with this, he went back to Rajkot on May 12 and began confabulations with Gibson, Virawala, Muslims and Bhayats. On May 17, he wrote another article - Confession and Repentance - Only trust can beget trust. I lacked it myself. But at last I have regained my lost courage. My faith in the sovereign efficacy of Ahimsa burns brighter for my confession and repentance...Having now freed the Thakore Saheb and his adviser from the oppression of the award, I have no hesitation in appealing to them to appease the people of Rajkot by fulfilling their expectations and dispelling their misgivings.

To no avail.

 

No.A/25-7.

 

To            Confidential.

The Dewans etc., of States in D.R.

Rajkot, December, 1946

Kathiawar Agency Police and jurisdiction over Kathiawar Railways.

 

Sir,

I have the honour to state for the information of the Darbar that in order that at the moment when paramountcy lapses, too many administrative problems will not be found remaining unsolved, the Hon’ble the Resident wishes to proceed forthwith to consider some of them on the assumption that Kathiawar whether as an independent unit or a part of a larger unit, will be self-administered. The problem then with which this communication is concerned relates to the future of the Kathiawar Agency Police including the Railway Police, with which it is considered appropriate to couple the question of jurisdiction over railways in Kathiawar even though this latter subject is being examined in its general aspect by the Political Department and the Chamber of Princes. What therefore the Hon’ble the Resident would be prepared to recommend as soon as the States concerned are agreeable is that :

(1) jurisdiction over Kathiawar railways should be retroceded to the States through which the railways run provided that jointly (a) provide an adequate railway Police Force and (b) an adequate magistracy complete with appellate courts to take over from the corresponding Residency Police Force and the Magistrates.

(2) simultaneously control over the Kathiawar Agency Police should be handed over to the Kathiawar  States provided (a) the States meet the cost of whatever strength it may be decided to retain to police the railways and as an armed reserve for Kathiawar and (b) the personnel are agreeable to accept the terms and conditions of Service offered by the States.

2. The present cost of the Kathiawar Agency Police including the Railway Police but excluding Rajkot and Wadhwan Civil States and the 100 extra police referred to in this Agency express letter No.A/23-7 dated the 16th December 1946, is Rs.5,70,500. The present strength of the Agency Police, including the Railway Police on Kathiawar Railways but excluding Rajkot and Wadhwan Civil States, is 593. These statistics are given to enable States to form an approximate idea of the commitment involved.

3. In this connection I would point out this proposal is not intended to prejudice the success of any confederation or other scheme which may be devised for the purpose of acceding to India’s future constitution. It will be appreciated if I am informed within three months whether the Darbar wish to avail themselves ofthis offer.

I have the honour to be,

Sir,

Your most obedient servant,

Sd/-

Political Agent

 

SECRET

Memorandum Explanatory.

Consideration of the latest positions

In regard to the exercise of Paramountcy

In the interim period.

………

 

The Standing Committee of the Chamber of Princes at their recent meetings held in Bombay welcomed the Declaration of the Cabinet Delegation in regard to Paramountcy but emphasised that certain adjustments for the interim period would be necessary. His Highness the Chancellor was accordingly authorized to pursue negotiations with the Crown Department in regard to the following essential proposals and other adjustments necessary in regard to the exercise of paramountcy in the interim period :-

(a) that disputes on justiciable issues and on fiscal, economic or financial matters should be referable to Courts of Arbitration as a matter of right;

(b) that in personal and dynastic matters the agreed procedure should be implemented in letter and spirit, and the Crown Representative should ordinarily consult the Chancellor and a few other Princes if not objected to by the States concerned.

(c) that in agreement which the States, machinery may be provided for the early settlement of the pending cases and for the revision, at the instance of the States concerned, of the existing arrangements in regard to such subjects as Railways, Ports and Customs.

2. Memoranda on each of the items referred to in the last paragraph are appended (A,B, and C). They are intended to serve as a basis of discussion at a preliminary discussion in the first instance, between Sir Conrad and the Adviser to the Chancellor in the first of July. Later any outstanding points will be taken up with the quarters concerned by the Chancellor. Sir Sultan will report to the Committee the result of his preliminary discussion with Sir Conrad and in furtherance thereof, these subjects will be discussed by the Committee.

 

SECRET

Memorandum Explanatory.

Consideration of main points which emerged

From the Statement made by the Political

Adviser at the meetings of the Rulers and

Representatives of States in Bombay last June.

 

--------

Appendix A gives summary of the main points which emerged from the Statement made and the replies given by the Political Adviser at the recent meetings in Bombay in regard to the proposals of the Cabinet Delegation as they affect the States. The points relating to (a) the Negotiating Committee (b) the exercise of Pramountcy in the Interim period, (c) Internal Reforms, and (d) the proposed all-India Consultative Committee on matters of common concern to British India and the States, will be discussed under separate items of the Agenda which deal with these subjects.

2. the specific items not covered by other subjects on the agenda which require consideration of the Committee are –

(a) the role of the Political Department during the interim period before paramountcy lapses; and

(b) the question of grouping of states in the light of the criteria of a Unit which would be admitted to the all-India constitutional structure at the Union Level.

The main points in regard to these items which emerged from the elucidation given by the Political Adviser at the meetings in Bombay are summarized in the next two paragraphs.

3. As regards the role of the Political Department during the interim period, the Political Adviser indicated that it would be mainly confined to the following :-

(a) to assist States in arranging and pursuing negotiations and practical plans for grouping and affiliation;

(b) to continue to protect the States in the hope that they would have the support of the majority of their States subjects.

(c) To pursue revision of existing agreements of individual States, mainly in the economic sphere, hoping that revision could be completed before the end of the interim period, since afterwards (i.e. during the standstill period) the revision would have to be carried out by direct negotiations without the assistance of the Crown Representative; and

(d) To discuss arrangements for minority administrations after the lapse of Paramountcy, and to assist, if desired, in framing suitable arrangements for deciding dynastic, succession and other questions now in the sphere of Paramountcy, which might not be provided for in the constitution framed by the Constituent Assembly.

The suggestions of the Committee are invited in particular in regard to sub-para (d) over-leaf.

4. As regards the question of grouping of States and the criteria for a unit which would be eligible for admission to the all-India constitutional structure at the Union Level, the main points which emerged from the Statement of the Political Adviser are summarised below :-

(a) The qualifications required for a State Unit to be eligible to join the proposed All-India constitutional structure at the Union Level would have to be settled by the Negotiating Committee with the corresponding Committee of British India Members of the Constituent Assembly.

(b) It is most likely that the States unit considered eligible to adhere at the Union Level will have to be comparable to a Provincial Unit. The detailed bases of this comparison will have to be settled through negotiations with the parties concerned but prima facie, area, population and resources will be included amongst factors to be considered. States which individually cannot satisfy the criteria prescribed will presumably have to join some other State or States to form a unit comparable to a Province on the basis of the criteria laid down.

(c) Such combinations may inter alia take the form of affiliation of a small State to a neighbouring large State, or of a group of States combining to form a unit for this purpose. The component parts of such units should as far as possible be contiguous or at least they should be sufficiently near each other to constitute an effective administrative unit. Certain isolated States not big enough to stand by themselves, which are surrounded by British Indian territory, would presumably find it necessary to affiliate with a neighbouring Province. Practical details must very considerably accordingly to divergent conditions in different areas. No uniform formula could be applied to all the States or groups of States.

(d) The terms and the purposes of various States forming  units must be settled amongst States inter se subject to the unit conforming to the prescribed criteria for adherence to the all-India structure at the Union Level.

(e) State units (i.e. individual States or congeries of States comparable with Provincial Units) can presumably, if they so desire, form groups inter se on such terms and for such purposes as may be agreed upon. Such groups could, for instance, be entrusted by the component units with such functions as are likely in British India to be entrusted to Provincial Groups It is obvious, however, that if such Groups of States seek recognition by the all-India Union, this would require negotiation with the British Indian parties concerned.

(f) State Units eligible to adhere to the all-India constitution structure would be expected to have such definite common purposes and services as would make the unit effective and not merely a paper proposition. The measure of cooperation of individual States composing such a unit would be a question for settlement by the State inter se.

5. The question of grouping has been referred by the Chancellor for examination to a Special Committee which is expected to meet towards the end of July. The Drafting Committee is invited to indicate the main principles which may be kept in view in the formulation of plans for the proposed regional groups and the confederation of States so desiring, subject of course, to their satisfying the criteria which may be settled in the forthcoming negotiations for the recognition of such groups by the Union.”

This letter war comes as a backdrop of the severe and ugly internecine sniping between the Thakore and his Dewan Durbar Virawalaon one side aided and abetted by the British masters and Gandhiji and Patel on the other. At every twist and turn in this lengthy stand off , Royalty won and the Congress satraps lost. Correspondence in the shortlived Rajkot revolution between the Thakore and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, between Mr. Patel and Sir P. Caddell, Gandhiji’s statement thereon and the Government of India’s communique dealing with Gandhiji’s demand that the Government should interfere and call upon the Thakore to carry out his undertaking to Sardar Patel reveals the face off which carried on for days and months with the Thakore Saheb and wily henchman the Dewan winning every hand dealt. Remember that Rajkot was the headquarters of the Kathiawar Political Agency.

From a blog on Sardar Patel, this is what I gleaned - It will be difficult for the impartial historian perusing these documents, say, fifty years hence, to conclude that the Sardar or Gandhiji comes out best in the controversy. it will be equally difficult for him to avoid concluding that Sir Patrick Cadell is the one party in the correspondence who has acted with perfect candour and loyalty to the Thakore Sahib who engaged him as Chief Minister. The Thakore Sahib avows that his object in taking on Sir Patrick was that he should put down the agitation of his subject. Sir Patrick Cadell when he came into office and looked into the grievances of the people, found that there were just causes for them and that the Thakore Sahib, his master, has been very neglectful in the discharge of his duties as ruler of the State. He told the Thakore Sahib this and exhorted him to devote more attention to the affairs of the State and be more accessible to his subjects. The Thakore did not like this plan speaking. He, in fact, resented it and dispensed with the Dewan’s services on the plea that so long as he was in Rajkot the people will look up to him and not to himself, their ruler, as the fountain of power. The Resident had to intervene at this stage and to remind the Thakore that the Government of India had approved of the appointment of Sir Patrick on the distinct understanding that it will last for a term of not less than six months. The Thakore, thereupon, withdrew his order. At the same time he opened negotiations with Sardar Patel and he reached an agreement with him apparently without the knowledge and certainly without consent of his responsible Minister. This agreement enabled him to oust Sir Patrick from his office and to bring back the old Dewan. The Thakore rejected some of the Sardar’s nominees to the Committee on constitutional reform and appointed others on the ground that minority rights were ignored by the Sardar. Gandhiji at this stage came out with his call on the Government of India to compel the Thakore to accept the Sardar’s nominees. That Government , to be fair has shown itself willing to help him whenever it can as in the Orissa Governorship. But it has to maintain appearances at least in its dealings with States. The call made upon it to overrule the Thakore, argued Gandhiji, was not a call for intervention. We do not know what else it is. The Government has in a closely reasoned statement shown that it cannot possibly comply with Gandhiji’s invitation, much as it would have been happy to do so could it have done so. We must record our emphatic protest against the venerable and venerated person of Mrs. Kasturba Gandhi being dragged into this sordid agitation.

Ferment and tumult was the order of the day in those upside down days where bedlam and turbulence prevailed as survival was top of mind for all stakeholders. The Princes perished, people’s power pushing them aside as the leaders who fronted the freedom struggle brooked no interference in ensuring that India would be whole despite the fissures caused by partition and creation of new boundaries. It is a tribute to that leadership that India remains united 70 years later adding mass through the acquisition of Goa and Sikkim.

@sandeep_bamzai

Columnist: 
Sandeep Bamzai