Ch-02 Extracts: Sardar Patel & Princely States

Sardar Patel and the Integration of the Princely States

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40% of the geographical area of pre-independence India, with 25% of the population—about 100 million—was ruled by the princes: Maharajas, Rajas, Nawabs, Nizam, and so on. There were 562 such Princely States, under the paramountcy of the British.

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222 or about 40% of the 562 states, covering an area of about 22,000 square miles, were in just one region in Saurashtra in Gujarat state—Kathiawar. Sardar Patel’s role in consolidating these 222 states was described by Nehru as “a great step forward...one of the most notable in contemporary Indian history...a far-sighted act of statesmanship...”

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Whatever may be said about Mountbatten’s tactics or the machinations of Patel, their achievement remains remarkable. Between them, and in less than a year, it may be argued that these two men achieved a larger India, more closely integrated, than had 90 years of British raj, 180 years of the Mughal Empire, or 130 years of Asoka and the Maurya rulers...He [Sardar Patel] was impervious to Mountbatten’s famous charm, describing the new Viceroy as ‘a toy for Jawaharlalji to play with’—while we arrange the revolution.

– Alex Von Tunzelmann, Indian Summer

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In an effort to head him [Sardar Patel] off from this course of action [military action in Junagadh], Mountbatten suggested lodging a complaint to the United Nations against Junagadh’s act of aggression...Patel observed that possession was nine-tenths of the law and he would in no circumstances lower India’s position by going to any court as a plaintiff. The Governor-General asked him whether he was prepared to take the risk of an armed clash in Kathiawar leading to war with Pakistan. The Deputy Prime Minister [Sardar Patel] was unmoved. He said he was ready to take the risk...

– C Dasgupta
War and Diplomacy in Kashmir 1947-48

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...the decision about the Police Action in Hyderabad in which case Sardar [Patel] described the dissent of Rajaji and Pandit Nehru as “the wailing of two widows as to how their departed husband [meaning Gandhiji] would have reacted to the decision involving such a departure from non-violence.”

– V Shankar
My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel

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Had Sardar Patel not showed determination and guts, and had he not ignored the tame alternative suggested by Nehru and Rajaji, Hyderabad would have been another Kashmir or Pakistan!

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...Reports circulating at the time said that even then Nehru was not in favour of marching troops into Hyderabad lest the matter be taken up by the UN...It is true that Patel chafed at the ‘do-nothing attitude of the Indian government’...

– Kuldip Nayar, Beyond the Lines