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Day 5 – Q 4.In the overall discourse of India’s freedom struggle, what status do princely states have? Was an active attempt made by the nationalist leaders to integrate the subjects in princely states with the masses elsewhere? Examine.

4. In the overall discourse of India’s freedom struggle, what status do princely states have? Was an active attempt made by the nationalist leaders to integrate the subjects in princely states with the masses elsewhere? Examine.

भारत के स्वतंत्रता संग्राम के समग्र प्रवचन में, रियासतों की क्या स्थिति है? क्या राष्ट्रवादी नेताओं द्वारा रियासतों की जनता को अन्यत्र जनता के साथ जोड़ने का सक्रिय प्रयास किया गया था? जांच करें।


The struggle for freedom in the Indian Princely States was an inseparable part of the Indian struggle for freedom from the British colonial dominance. The movement for freedom in the Princely States, therefore, aimed at a number of objectives, which included the emancipation of the State’s people from foreign rule, the realization of Indian unity, and the achievement of self-rule for the people in the Indian States.


Status of Princely states in the overall discourse of India’s freedom struggle.

  • Time and again, at critical junctures, the princes showed themselves as loyal and useful friends of the British Raj such as in the Revolt of 1857, during the anti-partition agitation of 1905, in the war crisis of 1914 and 1939, and during the Quit India movement of 1942. 
  • Some of the princely States, like, Hyderabad, Gwalior, Rampur, Patiala, gave valuable military aid to the Company’s Government in 1857-58 which helped the British Government to limit and suppress the revolt.
  • In 1858 Viceroy Canning issued to mark the transfer of the East India Company’s possessions to the crown. Thereby he ensured that almost 600 royal houses in India became bound up with the reputation of the crown in England. 
  • 1877 the States were gradually deprived of civil and criminal jurisdiction over broad-gauge railways passing through their territory.
  • In 1909 the princes were called in to service by the British to deal with the nationalist challenge. The princes responded very quickly and positively, and in a true loyalist tune. Most of them banned any public meetings, clamped down on the nationalist newspapers and any sort of anti-imperialist activity was banned in their territories.
  • World War One forced the Government of India to make the structural changes which the princes were demanding. The princes stood out in their support for the British war effort. The princes received the rewards for their help in the war effort in the form of titles and enhancement in their gun-salutes.
  • The princes were feeling marginalized in decision-making after the 1919 Constitutional reforms were introduced as now the Legislature had elected Indians—the princes were unrepresented—which made policy-making more tilted towards provinces.
  • After 1931 Round table Conference, the representative princes found it difficult to rally the fellow princes around the idea of the federation. Gulab Singh of Rewa, Udaibhan Singh of Dholpur and many like-minded rulers did not want to be associated, even marginally, with democracy, and believed that federation result in the subordination of the States.
  • The absence of the “protection of the treaty rights of the States” in the Government of India Act 1935,the differences among the princes, the changed attitude of the Congress towards the States, the political unrest in the States, and the shift in the governments’ policy finally made the States not to join the federation.
  • The outbreak of the Second World War provided the princes with the much needed opportunity to repair the damage done to the relationship between the States and the government by the federation debacle. The States generously helped in the British war efforts and altogether.
  • The princes welcomed the Cabinet Mission Plan as it appeared that the Plan assured them the independence after the lapse of British paramountcy in India. In regard to the selection of the delegates to the Constituent assembly, the Chamber of Princes rejected the mechanism of popular election.

Attempts made by the nationalist leaders to integrate the subjects in princely states with the masses elsewhere

  • Till the 1920’s the Congress remained somewhat aloof from the political activity in the princely states on the ground that a confrontation with the Indian princely states was likely to weaken the Congress in conducting its main struggle against foreign rulers.
  • In the early part of the 20th century the educated middle class subjects of the princely states had formed Prajamandals (Peoples’ Organization) Lokparishadas (Peoples’ Conferences). The first such association was formed in Mysore in 1917. By the turn of the decade however, similar associations were formed in the states of Gujarat and central India, including Baroda and Indore.
  • In 1938 Patel in the altered circumstances agreed to lead the Baroda Prajamandal and resolved to undertake Civil Disobedience in the state unless taxes were reduced. The Satyagraha did not take place since the Baroda court decided to reduce the taxes and promised to enlarge the Legislative Assembly.
  • Gandhi decided to intervene in Rajkot in favour of the Rajkot Prajamandal constitutional demands through mass civil disobedience.
  • Provoked by the repressive measures of the Mysore rulers, the non-Brahmin rural leadership decided to merge with the Congress movement.  In 1941 the Mysore state permitted labour unions. The Congress in its turn started extending its influence among the workers as well.


Princely states acted as path breakers in the extension of the national movement into the princely domains. While the State People’s Conference was an example of successful forging of ties between the Congress and the Prajamandal. Finally efforts of Vallabhbhai Patel settled the problem of the States. Sooner States signed the Instruments of Accession and integrated to Union of India.

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