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V P Menon - The Forgotten Architect of Modern India

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    V P Menon

    V P Menon was the Constitutional Adviser to the last three Viceroys during British rule in India. He was the only Indian in Mountbatten's inner team. Menon's plan for the partition of India into two Dominions was the one which was eventually adopted. It was Menon who realised the need to get the Princely States to accede to India before the date of independence and that Mountbatten was the ideal person to facilitate this. When the communal violence began following independence, Menon asked Mountbatten to take charge. Menon and Sardar Patel later achieved the full integration of the Indian States. Menon has never received the recognition he deserved for his contributions and this paper is intended to highlight Menon's role during this crucial period in Indian history and to draw attention to his views on events and personalities.
    V P Menon's Contribution
    The events leading to the independence of India in 1947 are dominated by four of the major figures of the twentieth century, namely, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. There were other politicians, such as, Sardar Patel, Liquat Ali Khan, Maulana Azad and Baldev Singh who also played important roles. However, there was another participant who had a vital role, who, though mentioned in the accounts of the period, has never received the recognition he deserved. The forgotten individual is Vapal Pangunni Menon. V P Menon was the Constitutional Adviser to the last three Viceroys. He was the only Indian in Mountbatten's inner team. Menon's plan for the partition of India into two Dominions was the one which was eventually adopted. It was Menon who realised the need to get the Princely States to accede to India before the date of independence and that Mountbatten was the ideal person to facilitate this. When the communal violence began following independence, Menon asked Mountbatten to take charge. Menon and Sardar Patel later achieved the full integration of the Indian States.
    The last three Viceroys, Lords Linlithgow, Wavell and Mountbatten all valued his advice. Menon was present at many of the meetings successive Viceroys had with their own staff. He would have been aware of everything in connection with high policy that went on between the Viceroy and the India Office in London. He was uniquely qualified to judge their actions and motives in the context of the time. Menon was the only Indian who had such intimate knowledge of the facts and then wrote a detailed account of what took place. His two books on the 'Transfer of Power in India' and 'The Integration of Indian States' are quoted widely. However, another of his works entitled 'An Outline of Indian Constitutional History' has been seldom referenced. In the first two books, Menon is very factual and measured in what he says. In the third, he is much freer with his opinions and gives his most forthright judgements on some of the leading players. His assessment of Mountbatten, in particular, is illuminating. Furthermore, though there have been innumerable books and papers covering the partition of India, some of Menon's most interesting observations have been overlooked. Menon was also exceptional in that he came from a very humble background and yet reached the heights of the Indian Government Service. This paper is intended to highlight Menon's role during this crucial period in Indian history and to draw attention to his views.
    V P Menon was born in Malabar, Kerala in 1894. As a schoolboy, he ran away from home to spare his family the cost of his education. He worked in a gold mine in Mysore and then as an English teacher. In 1914 he joined the Government Service as an assistant in the Home Department. He was drafted into the Reforms Department and there by sheer brilliance and hard work became Deputy to Sir Hawthorne Lewis, Reforms Commissioner, in 1936. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything to do with the Indian Constitution. He attended the Indian Round Table Conferences in London. He was loyal to the Government of India and to successive Viceroys, by whom he was entrusted with the closest political secrets but he was also a staunch Indian patriot and had the confidence of political leaders, especially Sardar Patel. When the post of Reforms Commissioner became vacant in 1942 following the departure of H V Hodson, there was some reluctance to appoint an Indian to a position of such intimate trust on political and constitutional matters. However, the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, had been so impressed by Menon's loyalty, judgement and technical knowledge that he was appointed to the post. Menon thus became the highest serving Indian officer in the Indian Government Service. Linlithgow's sentiments were clearly not mutual as on Linlithgow's departure, Menon says that Linlithgow's 7 years' regime - longer than that of any other Viceroy - was conspicuous by its lack of positive achievement. When he left India, famine stalked portions of the countryside. There was economic distress due to rising cost of living and shortage of commodities. On the political side, Menon quotes Sir Taj Bahadur Sapru's statement that the country was more divided than when he came.
    Linlithgow was replaced by Lord Wavell who also relied much on Menon's advice and Menon accompanied him to London several times for discussions with the British Government. Wavell appointed him as Secretary to the Governor-General (Public) and later as Secretary to the Cabinet. As Secretary to the Governor-General (Public), he was the only Adviser to the Governor-General as to the manner of exercising his control over the Governors of Provinces under the Government of India Act (1935). Menon was the Joint Secretary to the Simla Conference in June 1945. The conference failed because Jinnah insisted that all the Muslim representatives in the Executive Council should be members of the Muslim League. Menon felt that Wavell could have called the League's bluff. His failure to do so weakened the position of the Unionist Party Ministry in the Punjab and Jinnah emerged the unquestionable leader of the Muslims in the whole country. Menon did, however, understand why Wavell took a different approach.
    When Lord Mountbatten arrived as Viceroy in 1947, Menon was not initially included in his inner team, as Mounbatten brought several senior advisers from London to reinforce the Viceroy's Private Secretariat. Lord Ismay came to serve as Chief of Staff and Sir Eric Mieville as Principal Secretary. Alan Campbell-Johnson was appointed Press Attache. There was also a feeling that it would be difficult for an Indian Hindu to avoid being partisan during the tense negotiations for independence. Indeed, Mountbatten's Private Secretary, George Abell, wrote to Mountbatten saying that, though Menon was an old friend of his and had many fine qualities, he is now perceived as being close to Congress and should not be taken into confidence as fully as before. However, Menon's role completely changed following the events in Simla, described below, after which he became one of Mountbatten's most trusted advisers.
    Press Conference, June 1947

    Mountbatten's instructions were to try to obtain a unitary government for British India and the States through a Constituent Assembly set up in accordance with the Cabinet Mission Plan. However, if by 1st October 1947 he found there was no prospect of such a settlement, he was to report what he considered should be done to hand over power by June 1948. Menon describes how Mountbatten had a remarkably careful yet quick and business-like method of working. He set about most expeditiously and zealously on the path of finding an agreed solution for a united India but in course of his talks, particularly with Jinnah, he became convinced that there was no prospect of such an agreed solution. During their discussions on the 4th of April, Gandhi suggested that Jinnah should be called to form an interim government which should eventually take over. Jinnah could appoint whomever he liked into the Cabinet and Mountbatten should act as referee to ensure fair treatment for all parties. He further suggested that Mountbatten should stay on as the Head of the Indian State. Mountbatten expressed his profound sense of honour at the suggestion but said that he could only proceed if Gandhi could obtain full backing of Congress for it. Menon's advice regarding Gandhi's proposals was that Mountbatten could put the proposals to Jinnah but in the view of past history, Jinnah would be expected to reject them. He suggested that they should keep Gandhi in good humour and play for time. In the same note, Menon still considered that the ideal solution would be if the two parties could agree to the Cabinet Mission Plan. If that failed, it would be necessary to consider some form of Pakistan based on Muslim majority areas. They should then try to link Pakistan and India in respect of the three common subjects, namely, defence, external affairs and communications. This could be achieved either by Pakistan joining the Constituent Assembly like the Indian States at the stage at which the Union Constitution was drafted or by a treaty between the two states. Gandhi wrote on the 11th of April saying that he had been unable to get the agreement of Congress and was therefore was withdrawing his proposal.
    Having given up on the parties' agreement to the Cabinet Mission Plan, Mountbatten set up a committee consisting of himself, Mieville, Ismay and Abell to formulate an alternative plan. This group met the chief political leaders and, without laying a formal document, discussed in outline what was proposed. This was to transfer power to the provinces or groups of provinces for an interim period. These would then decide whether to join India, Pakistan or be independent. There would be some kind of central authority to deal with overall defence. Under this plan, the members of the Legislative Assemblies of Bengal and Punjab would meet separately in two parts to decide whether to partition the province. The plan also envisaged holding an election in the North West Frontier Province. The draft of the text was shown to Nehru and Jinnah. Ismay and Abell took the plan to London on the 2nd May. It was Mountbatten's intention to call a meeting of Party Leaders on May 17 to ascertain their reactions to the plan.
    Though Menon was not involved in the formulation of this plan, he was consulted on its content. Menon always opposed it and made that clear to Mountbatten's advisers. He particularly opposed the notion that the provinces should initially become independent. If the plan were finally accepted, he said that he would resign. At this stage, Lady Mountbatten had heard that disagreements had arisen and asked Menon to meet her. Menon explained the situation to her. She advised Menon against any hasty action and told him that the Viceroy and Nehru were going to Simla shortly and he should take this opportunity to put his arguments before them in a calmer atmosphere. It is interesting to consider why Menon was asked to accompany Mountbatten to Simla. The Simla trip was intended to be a short period of rest and relaxation. Nehru was invited for the same purpose. At that stage Menon was not part of Mountbatten's inner team. There was no obvious reason why he should have been taken. If Menon's presence in Simla was due to Lady Mountbatten's intervention, her actions would have profound consequences for both India and Britain.
    At Simla, Menon relates that he had for the first time an opportunity to explain his position to the Viceroy in person. Menon informed Mountbatten that during Lord Wavell's time, when it seemed that agreement between Congress and the Muslim League, based on the Cabinet Mission Plan, seemed impossible, he had attempted to devise a fresh approach to the problem. In December 1946 or January 1947, Menon said he had discussed the matter with Sardar Patel. Menon considered that a unitary India under the Cabinet Mission Plan was an illusion. The three-tier constitution would have been unwieldy and difficult to work. His personal view was that it was better for the country to be divided than gravitate towards civil war. He felt that the best solution would be that India should be divided into two central governments based on Dominion Status. By accepting Dominion Status, Congress would gain three advantages. There would be a peaceful transfer of power. Such acceptance would be warmly welcomed in Britain. Then it would be possible to continue to have the services of British civil servants and British officers in the Indian Army during the transitional period. Moreover, the Princes with their past associations with the British Crown, would be reassured and more likely to negotiate. Congress would be able to have a strong central government which would be able to withstand then centrifugal forces all too apparent at the moment and to frame a truly democratic constitution unhampered by any communal considerations. Sardar Patel had assured him that if power could be transferred at once on Dominion Status, he would use his influence to see that Congress accept it. This plan, with Lord Wavell's concurrence, was conveyed to the Secretary of State in London but it was not acted upon, though Mountbatten remembered having seen it before coming out to India.
    Nehru arrived in Simla on the 8th of May and stayed as a guest of the Viceroy at Viceregal Lodge. Mountbatten suggested that Menon should discuss his plan with Nehru. This he did and gathered the impression that Nehru was not averse to it. On the 10th, a conference was called by Mountbatten which was attended by Nehru, Mieville and Menon. Mountbatten asked Menon to outline his plan to Nehru. Menon started by saying that he had mentioned the plan to Nehru the day before and to Patel about four months earlier. Both were extremely anxious for the early transfer of power. Mountbatten indicated that, though originally June 1948 was the target date for the transfer of power, under the new scheme it was hoped to bring the transfer forward by almost a year. The broad outline was that the Muslim majority areas should be separated from India and power should be transferred to two central governments, each having its own Governor-General. The interim constitution of each of the Dominions would be based on the Government of India Act 1935, suitably adapted for the purpose. The existing legislature would be dissolved and replaced by the respective Constituent Assemblies. Nehru gave his own reaction to the scheme that it was very desirable that there should be transfer of power as soon as possible on a Dominion Status basis. The basic reason for wanting early transfer of power, apart from the fact that Indians wanted to control their own affairs, was that developments in India would not otherwise take place as they should. However, the possibility of a divided India constituted a real difficulty.
    On the same day the Viceroy received from London the plan taken by Lord Ismay as finalized and approved by the British Cabinet. This embodied certain important modifications and Mountbatten was worried that these worsened the prospect of the acceptance of the plan by the party leaders. On a hunch he decided to show it to Nehru. Nehru turned it down most vehemently, first verbally, then in writing. Mountbatten was stunned by Nehru's reaction but in this moment of calamity, he switched to Menon's plan. They had another meeting with Nehru. After listening to a restatement of Nehru's objections to the plan received from London, they proceeded to explain how Menon's plan would meet these objections. At the end of the meeting, Mountbatten asked Nehru whether Congress would accept the new plan. Nehru replied that he would have to see it in draft before he could commit himself. In view of the new developments, the conference of party leaders called on the 17th May to discuss the London plan was postponed till the 2nd June. After the meeting with Nehru, Menon returned to his hotel. He had only two or three hours to produce the draft plan as Nehru was leaving Simla that evening and Mountbatten was keen that Nehru should see it before he left. Meanwhile Menon kept Sardar Patel informed of the developments in Simla and Patel was delighted by the turn of events. The Viceroy informed London, and officials there were bewildered as to why the plan they had just sent to India was being replaced by another one. Mountbatten was asked to come to London to explain. This he did on the 18th May, taking Menon with him.
    Before leaving for London, Mountbatten felt he should have the consent of the party leaders for Menon's plan. Menon drew up a draft 'Heads of Agreement' on the 16th May. After the Viceroy had approved the draft, Menon showed it to Nehru, Patel and Baldev Singh and Mieville did likewise with Jinnah and Liquat Ali Khan. Mountbatten had further consultations with all the main leaders and they all accepted the general principles of the plan. Commentators sometimes refer to Menon's plan as a redrafting of the earlier plan taken to London. This is not so. Menon's plan had a separate genesis. Documents at the time refer to it as 'Menon's plan'. In London, Mountbatten obtained the agreement of the British Government and the Opposition to the new plan and he and Menon returned to India on 31st May. After further meetings with the party leaders, Mountbatten held the historic meeting on 3rd June at which the plan was formally accepted by them.
    Campbell-Johnson recounts a social event shortly afterwards at which Mountbatten paid a very high tribute to V.P. (Menon), saying that he had really come to love him and he had one of the most statesman-like minds he had ever encountered. He then recalled the element of chance which brought V.P. and his ideas to the fore. The turning point was the visit to Simla in May and Mountbatten's hunch to show the earlier plan to Nehru. This had given V.P. his chance to submit the alternative draft with its Dominion Status formula. V.P. had confessed to him that when he first put up the idea at staff level only to have it turned down, he almost burst into tears. George Abell had been the first to admit that Mountbatten's vision and good sense in bringing V.P. right into the policy-making fold had been perhaps the biggest single personal factor in the success to date.
    Menon's first task following the historic agreement was the preparing and finalizing the draft Indian Independence Bill, in consultation with the Viceroy and his advisers. In India, Menon, as Reforms Commissioner, was in charge of the Bill. Though the Bill consisted of only twenty clauses and three schedules, Menon suggests that its size bore no indication to the amount of labour that went into making it. In connection with the production of the Bill, Menon acknowledges the very able assistance rendered by Sir George Spence, K.V.K. Sundaranan and S.V.R Cook. Without their help, it would not have been possible to deal so satisfactorily with the Bill and the adaptation to the 1935 Act for India and Pakistan in the short period of time at their disposal. Menon pays a special tribute to Sir George Spence: 'In my opinion, in all my thirty-seven years' service in the Government of India, there was none among the many distinguished Law Secretaries who occupied so outstanding a position as did Sir George, respected and trusted by the British and Indians alike'. The Indian Independence Bill was passed by the House of Commons on 15 July 1947 and receive Royal Assent on 18 July. Menon describes the final stages of the Bill keeping the India Office as well as the Viceroy and his advisers practically sleepless for two nights.
    Menon's second crucial intervention was regarding the Princely States. During British rule, the Princely States had entered treaty arrangements with the British under which they accepted the presence of a British Resident in their capital and a degree of subordination to the Raj, but were not fully absorbed into British India. This system of paramountcy was administered by the Political Office and in 1947 the Political Adviser to the Viceroy was Sir Conrad Corfield. There were 565 Princely States and the vast majority were in India and only a handful in Pakistan. Though under the central provisions of the 1935 Government of India Act, the States were meant to accede to the Indian Federation, in reality, by 1947 no progress had been made. The British position, as stated in the Cabinet Mission Plan, was that paramountcy could neither be retained by the British Crown nor transferred to the new Government at independence. Mountbatten's instructions from Attlee regarding the States were that it was important that the Indian States should adjust their relations with the authorities to whom it was intended to hand over power in British India and he should aid and assist the States in coming to fair and just arrangements with the leaders of British India as to their future relationship.
    The view of the Political Office and Sir Conrad Corfield was that there was no doubt that the eventual future of most, if not all, States lay within a united India. But the Viceroy would be doing a great disservice to the Princes by urging them to accede before the transfer of power. If paramountcy were to lapse, the States would be in a far stronger position to negotiate with India. The Muslim League position was that the States were sovereign entities before they entered into treaties with the British and at independence they were free to decide their future. The Congress position was that paramountcy should be transferred at independence to India. Menon pointed out to Mountbatten that the lapse of paramountcy threatened not just the political unity of the subcontinent but also its economic life as agreements affecting railways, customs posts and irrigation would disappear. Mountbatten's own ideas on what his role should be were rather vague. On the evening of the 3rd June, when he met the States' negotiating committee, he said that he did not wish to give any official advice on what steps should be taken by those States which were doubtful whether or not to join either Constitutional Assembly. He would be willing to give personal advice to anyone asking for it. He did suggest that, in coming to their decision, they should cast their minds forward ten years and consider the country and the world at that time. He also confirmed during the press conference on 4th June that Dominion Status would not be conferred on any State wishing to be independent.
    Matters came to a head on 13th June when Mountbatten had a meeting with the party leaders to discuss the future of the States. At this meeting, Nehru claimed that Corfield and the Political Office were acting in a highly damaging way to India's interests. After a long and acrimonious discussion, the political leaders and the Viceroy decided to set up a new States Department to deal with all matters concerning the States especially the formulation of a Standstill Agreement covering immediate relations after the transfer of power. There was no suggestion at that stage that Mountbattten should do anything personally. Sardar Patel told him that after independence the people would rise and overthrow their rulers and rally to independent India. Nehru was equally intemperate declaring that he would encourage rebellions in all the States that go against us. Mountbatten was delighted to hear a few days later that Sardar Patel was to head the new department with Menon and his Secretary. Menon was initially uncertain whether he should take on the new post. He considered that Indian independence was the achievement of his life's ambition and he wondered whether to retire at that stage. But Patel persuaded him that he should work to consolidate the freedom of the new nation. Since he was still Constitutional Adviser to the Mountbatten, he discussed his new appointment with him and it was decided that he should carry on with both posts.
    Menon had deep misgivings about the position regarding the States. He, too, was unhappy at the lapse of paramountcy. Up to then the British had protected that States from internal unrest. There were only a few States that were organised to deal with such a threat themselves. He was concerned in case the communal disorder in British India spread to the States. He was also concerned that some Princes might cast their lot with Pakistan or assert their independence. He realised the need to forge a bond between the States and India prior to independence. He discussed with Sardar Patel that the lapse of paramountcy could have an advantage. They could negotiate with the States unhampered by existing treaties. He mentioned to Patel that in 1942 during Lord Linlithgow's time, he had suggested asking the States to accede only on defence and external affairs without any other commitments. They could try a similar proposal now but could add communications as well. If they could persuade the States to accede on these three subjects before partition, the basic unity of India would be achieved and when the new Constitution of India was framed at a later stage, they could thrash out the necessary details concerning the long term relationship between the States and the centre. Provided they did not demand any financial or other commitments, the rulers would not be unwilling to consider such a proposal. Menon requested Sardar Patel to put this plan to Nehru and get his approval. Sardar obtained it but Menon got the impression that neither Sadar nor Nehru thought anything would come of it. Menon further suggested seeking the active co-operation of Mountbatten. Apart from his position, his grace and his gifts, his relationship with the Royal Family was bound to influence the Princes. Sardar Patel wholeheartedly approved and urged Menon to approach Mountbatten without delay.
    A day or two later, Menon met Mountbatten and mentioned his discussions with Patel and their tentative plan. He asked for Mountbatten's help in getting the States to accede on the three subjects. He pointed out that they would not be losing anything as a result and it would be great act of statesmanship on Mountbatten's part if he could bring it about. Menon felt that Mountbatten was deeply touched by his remark that the wounds of partition might to some extent be healed by the States entering into a relationship with the Government of India and he would earn the gratitude of generations of Indians if he could assist in achieving the basic unity of the country. Mountbatten told Menon that he would think the matter over. Menon was momentarily seized with fear that Mountbatten might be adversely influenced by his advisers but to Menon's relief and joy, Mountbatten accepted the plan. Mountbatten realised that this approach held the key to an amicable settlement with Congress. Mountbatten then discussed the plan with Sardar Patel who told him that he wanted a 'full basket of apples'. Menon reports that when he told Corfield that the Government of India had decided on the policy of accession, he literally threw up his hands in surprise. A few weeks later, Corfield resigned and left India.
    Menon assumed the Secretaryship of the States Department on 5th July and one of his first tasks was to prepare a statement which Sardar Patel wished to release. The statement was very statesmanlike and emollient. Menon says that the inspiration for some of the passages came from Abraham Lincoln's first Inaugural Address. The statement appealed to the Princes to accede on the three subjects. It went on: 'This country with its institutions is the proud heritage of the people who inhabit it. It is an accident that some live in the States and some in British India, but all alike partake in its culture and character. We are all knit together in bonds of blood and feeling no less than of self-interest. None can segregate us into segments; no impassable barriers can be set up between us. I suggest that it is better for us to make laws sitting together as friends than to make treaties like aliens'. Sardar Patel met the Princes many times and gave fulsome support to the process but much of the detailed negotiations with the Princes was left to Mountbatten and Menon.
    The Chamber of Princes assembled on 25th July and Mountbatten gave one of his most impressive performances. He spoke without notes and Menon describes his performance as the apogee of persuasion. He hammered home the message that this was an opportunity that would never be repeated, that their internal autonomy would be protected and that the bargain was so advantageous to the States that even now he was not sure that he could persuade the Indian Government to accept it. He stressed the urgency of the situation and said; 'If you are prepared to come, you must come before August 15'. He concluded with the cogent appeal: 'You cannot run away from the Dominion Government which is your neighbour any more than you can run away from the subjects for whose welfare you are responsible'. By then the States Department had produced a draft Instrument of Accession and revised the original draft of the Standstill Agreement prepared by the Political Department. These drafts were circulated to the Princes. There were three versions of the Instrument of Accession depending on the existing status and powers of the States. Intensive lobbying of the Princes followed. By August, only a few has failed to sign. Many of the Princes were at first unwilling to sign; but eventually succumbed to a combination of Menon's threats, bluff, skillful diplomacy and sheer exhaustion. The Nawab of Bhopal threatened to abdicate in favour of his daughter and tried to sign the Standstill Agreement without actually acceding. The Maharajah of Indore blustered and threatened but in the end sent the Instrument of Accession through the post. The Maharajah of Jodhpur threatened to join Pakistan. Mountbatten and Menon eventually persuaded him to join India but not before he pulled a pistol concealed inside a fountain pen and threatened to shoot Menon. By the day of transfer of power, or shortly thereafter, apart from a few States clearly destined to join Pakistan, of the 565 Princely States all but three had signed the Instrument of Accession. These three were Junagadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir.
    By the policy of accession, Menon and Mountbatten had ensured the unity of the country. India had become one federation with the Provinces and States as integral parts. The Standstill Agreement had provided the basis for retaining intact the many agreements which had been built up over nearly a century for ensuring that all-India interests were safeguarded and which, with the termination of paramountcy, had threatened to disappear and in the process throw the whole country into a state of confusion. All this was done in an atmosphere of cordiality. Menon describes his own feelings in the following terms: 'My feeling was one of profound thankfulness to God. The threatened fragmentation had been averted and the whole country had come under one political umbrella. The prophets of gloom who predicted disruption had been belied. We had obtained a breathing space during which we could evolve a permanent relationship between the Government of India and the States'.
    Menon is very appreciative of the efforts of both Sardar Patel and Mountbatten: 'The masterly handling of the rulers by Sardar was the foremost factor in the success of the accession policy. The rulers soon came to recognize him as a stable force in Indian politics and as one who would give them a fair deal. Added to this, his unfailing politeness to the rulers, viewed against his reputation as the 'Iron Man' endeared him to them and created such conditions that they accepted his advice without demur.
    Another factor that went a long way in winning over the rulers was, of course, the infectious charm and the inborn tact of Lord Mountbatten. It was because of his abundant love for India, and not merely because he was obliged to do so, that he had taken upon himself the task of negotiating with the rulers on the question of accession. And once he undertook any task, he invariably put the whole weight of his personality into what he was doing and spared himself no effort. Half-hearted methods and half-hearted measures are alien to him. India can never forget the magnificent service he rendered at a critical juncture in her history'.
    An incident arose during this time which demonstrated the closeness between Mountbatten and Menon. Mountbatten, during a meeting, made an injudicious, casual remark to Bordoloi, the Chief Minister of Assam, on whether Darjeeling would end up in India or Pakistan. Bordoloi misunderstood the remark and rushed over to Gandhi and there was consternation among the Congress leadership. The result was Menon had to dash into Mountbatten's bedroom, the next day, full of alarm. Mountbatten was able to explain the whole thing and soon was able to laugh it off with the Congress leaders. Campbell-Johnson mentions that Mountbatten regarded this incident as revealing, as if he had not established such a close relationship with Menon, such that Menon could dash straight into his bedroom, this petty misunderstanding could have developed into a major crisis.
    Menon was also involved in the controversy concerning the announcement of the Radcliffe Awards. Sir Cyril Radcliffe had been appointed as the Chairman of the Punjab and Bengal Boundary Commissions which decided upon the borders between India and Pakistan. On the 9th of August, it was apparent to Mountbatten's staff that Award of the Punjab Commission was ready to be handed over. Mountbatten decided not to announce this award prematurely as he wanted to announce both Awards after the Independence Day ceremonies. Menon was not present at the meeting on the 9th when this decision was taken. It has been suggested that Menon might have been deliberately excluded from this meeting. There is no logical basis for this assertion. The fact that he was not present does not necessary imply that he was deliberately excluded. It is perfectly possible that he was away on States Department business or that he had some domestic matter to deal with. There is no reason to suppose that he was not told about it the next time he was back at work. Menon never complained that he was being kept in the dark. Indeed he says that Mountbatten always ascertained his reaction on any matter of importance. Menon was definitely present at the more important meeting on the 12th August by which time the full Award was known. Menon informed Mountbatten that the Congress leaders would be furious that the Chittagong Tracts had been awarded to Pakistan and that they might not attend the formal Independence Day ceremonies and celebrations. On the basis of this, Mountbatten delayed the announcement of the whole Award till the 17th August. It is interesting to note that the Radcliffe line was largely based on a line proposed by Menon and Sir B N Rau in the previous year.
    Immediately after the Boundary awards were known, large numbers of refugees started moving and there was a frenzy of communal violence. This was initially mainly in the Punjab. A Punjab Boundary Force had been formed prior to independence but it was overwhelmed by the violence. On the 27th of August, Menon informed Mountbatten that there was a great feeling on both sides that the new Governments should have more direct military control of their respective areas. A few days later the Boundary Force was disbanded. At this stage Mountbatten was a constitutional Governor-General who should not have been involved with the day-to-day running of the country. He left for a few days to Simla. By now the violence reached Delhi and conditions deteriorated to a serious extent. Menon felt that it was essential that Delhi should be saved from the impending chaos at whatever cost. Danger to the capital meant a threat to the very existence of the Dominion. It was clear to him that some extraordinary and forceful action was needed to retrieve the position. He felt that only Mountbatten's presence in the capital could save the situation. Menon mentioned to Sardar Patel his idea of ringing up Mountbatten to tell him how serious the situation was and requesting him to return. Sardar Patel readily agreed with Menon's suggestion and assured him that Nehru would also agree. Following his telephonic request, Mountbatten returned to Delhi and Menon explained the situation. It seemed that Menon misled Mountbatten slightly during the phone call. Mountbatten was given the impression that both Sardar Patel and Nehru requested his return whereas only Sardar Patel was aware of Menon's intentions. Hence Nehru was surprised to see Mountbatten but nevertheless agreed that he should take charge. An Emergency Committee was set up and both Nehru and Patel insisted that Mountbatten should be Chairman. Order was eventually restored after 3 to 4 months but not before there was a horrific death toll. Menon is very appreciative of Mountbatten's actions during this period: 'It is to the eternal credit of Lord Mountbatten that he agreed to take over the helm of responsibility at that crucial stage, and it redounds to the statesmanship of Nehru and Patel that they unhesitatingly and confidently offered it to him'. Menon also has much praise for Lady Mountbatten: 'After all these years, if anything stands out prominently in my mind, it is the service rendered by Lady Mountbatten, and also Mrs Sucheta Kripalani, whose zealous work for relief of refugees was beyond praise. Lady Mountbatten formed and became Chairman of the United Council for Relief and Welfare and her organizational abilities were recognized by all who had the privilege of being associated with her'.
    After the immediate crisis resulting from the communal violence had abated, Menon's efforts were directed towards the problems created by the three recalcitrant States, Junagadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir. Junadagh was a coastal State, close to Pakistan but surrounded by Indian States. It had a Muslim Nawab who ruled over a predominantly Hindu population. The Nawab surprised everyone by acceding to Pakistan. India adopted the policy of exerting maximum direct and indirect pressure on the Nawab by stationing troops around Junagadh without actually entering it. Menon was deeply involved with the negotiations to resolve the situation and went to Junagadh with a personal message for the Nawab from the Indian Cabinet. Matters were eventually resolved when the Nawab fled and the Dewan appealed to India to take over the administration of the country before it collapsed into chaos. A referendum was held in February 1948 which showed that the overwhelming majority of the population wished to accede to India.
    The non-accession of Hyderabad was a much more serious problem than Junagadh. Hyderabad was India's largest state with a population of nearly 16 million. It was far more capable of being an independent country. A Muslim Nizam ruled a largely Hindu State. The Nizam had the backing of Jinnah but his most potent ally was his Constitutional Adviser, Sir Walter Monkton. Menon was intimately involved with the negotiations which proved to be protracted and tortuous. Monkton frequently represented the Nizam at the negotiations and given his loyalty, it became inevitable that the discussions between Monkton, Mountbatten and Menon were sometimes stormy. Before the transfer of power, the Hyderabad delegation pressed for permission to negotiate a Standstill Agreement without executing the Instrument of Accession but Menon told them that the Government of India would not agree. The negotiations divided into three phases. The first ended with the signing of the Standstill Agreement on the 29th Nov 1947. The second ended with the violent attack on Hindu travelers on a mail train in Hyderabad. The third centred around the Heads of Agreement drawn up by the indefatigable Menon. He sometimes acted as direct negotiator, sometimes as Mountbatten's right-hand man, always as the one intermediary who would reliably represent and tirelessly persuade Sardar Patel, who was much less conciliatory than Nehru. However, the Nizam would not even sign the Heads of Agreement document. There was increasing violence in the State and on September 13 1948, Indian troops were sent inside Hyderabad. The Hyderabad army surrendered on the 17th September.
    Kashmir was the opposite of Hyderabad: a largely Muslim State with a Hindu Maharaja. Mountbatten had advised the Maharaja to establish the will of the people and accede to India or Pakistan by August 15 but he did not do so. Shortly before the transfer of power, the Government of Kashmir announced their intention of negotiating Standstill Agreements with both India and Pakistan. Pakistan signed one. But Menon says that India wanted to examine the implications and left the State alone. Menon adds: 'We did not ask the Maharaja to accede to India. Owing to the composition of the population, the State had its own peculiar problems. Moreover, our hands were already full and, if truth be told, I for one had simply no time to think of Kashmir'. Based on Menon's statement, in the period leading up to the transfer of power, it is apparent that the States Department was not particularly concerned whether Kashmir acceded to India or not. Matters came to a head on 24th October 1947 when Pathan tribesmen invaded Kashmir from Pakistan. Menon was immediately sent to Srinagar to have discussions with the Maharaja but he found the Maharaja in a state of panic, preparing to flee. Menon advised him to go to Jammu and take his family and valuable possessions. It was also apparent to Menon that the State forces were in danger of disintegration. He flew back to Delhi. The decision was taken to send in Indian troops but Mountbatten insisted that the State should accede to India before doing so. Menon flew to Jammu and obtained the Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharaja. There is continuing controversy whether Menon obtained the Instrument of Accession before or after Indian troops went in. On his return to Delhi, after long discussions, it was decided to accept the accession of Kashmir, subject to the proviso that a plebiscite would be held when the law and order situation allowed. Menon was involved in the subsequent diplomatic efforts to find an agreed solution between India and Pakistan but the problem has still not been resolved.
    In addition to dealing with the three States that did not accede, during the next two years, Sardar Patel and Menon flew around the country persuading the Princes who did accede, to move from the Standstill Agreement to full integration. They cajoled, browbeat and manipulated all the Princes, old and young, sane and mad, Hindu and Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist, to give up control of their ancient hereditary kingdoms. Attempts by leading Nawabs and Maharajas to unite or dictate their own terms failed because of their internal arguments and indecision. In most cases, gentle flattery was enough. The Maharaja of Cochin only signed after Menon promised him that he would still receive free copies of the Panjangam - the annual state almanac. By the time the new Constitution of India came into force on 26 Jan 1950, Menon and Sadar Patel had integrated all the States and brought them into the same constitutional relations with the centre as the Provinces. By partition, India had lost 364,737 sq.miles and a population of 81.5 million. By the integration of States, an area of nearly 500,000 sq.miles was added with a population of 86.5 million. It has been suggested that though Mountbatten gave the impression that signing the Instrument of Accession did not preclude the Princes from retaining a degree of autonomy after independence, this was, in fact, unlikely and full integration was inevitable.
    Several of the decisions that were taken before independence are still very controversial and Menon has addressed some of them. Menon's views are particularly valuable as he witnessed the events first hand, had access to much of the documentation, attended many of the meetings Mountbatten had with his personal staff and was consulted frequently by Mountbatten. He was thus uniquely placed to describe the events that took place and judge the actions of the participants. Regarding whether sufficient precautions were taken to prevent the communal violence, Menon gives the following explanation: 'We had anticipated that there might be communal trouble in the border districts directly affected by partition, but we felt that the Boundary Force of mixed composition under Major-General Rees, an enormous and carefully picked body, would be able to cope with the situation. As for the rest, we had no reason to believe that the Governments concerned would not themselves be able to control any sporadic outbursts that might occur in their respective Dominions. We had the guarantee of the political leaders as set out in their joint statement of 22 July, as also the specific assurances in regard to the protection of minorities given by Jinnah in his address to the Constituent Assembly and in his broadcast to the people of Pakistan. It is true that the situation was full of foreboding; but we had not expected to be so quickly and so thoroughly disillusioned'.
    There has been considerable criticism of Mountbatten's decision to bring the transfer of power forward from June 1948 to 1947. Menon's view on this is unequivocal: 'There are critics who argue that if the transfer of power had taken place in June 1948, as originally planned, instead of August 1947, the bloodshed that followed immediately after partition could have been avoided. It is easy to be wise after the event. When in July 1947 the communal situation looked like getting out of hand, Lord Mountbatten took the precaution of getting assurances from Congress, as well as from the Muslim League, that the minorities would be protected in their respective Dominions. These assurances were repeated by Nehru as well as by Jinnah on the day the respective Dominions were established. Had both the Dominions stood firmly by their pledges, would it have made any difference whether the transfer of power took place in August 1947 or in June 1948; and if it were not the purpose and policy of one or other of the Dominions to adhere to its pledge, could not the catastrophe that occurred immediately after August have happened equally in June 1948?'.
    He makes a similar point elsewhere: 'There are critics who argue that the acceleration of the transfer of power was responsible for the partition disturbances and that Mountbatten should have waited for the original date June 1948. They are entirely ignorant of the situation especially in the North India as it was then. If he had waited for ten months more, what guarantee was there that a bloody revolution would not have taken place and there would have been no power left to be transferred In the course of the last twelve years, since retirement, I have consulted both official and non-official friends of mine, some of whom were in the Punjab at the time. They all agree that, in the situation as it was, delay would have been more dangerous than the early transfer of power'. Menon adds that if he had thought of it at the time, he would have suggested the 20th of August as the day for the transfer of power as that was the 30th anniversary of Edwin Montagu's momentous announcement that responsible government was the goal of British policy.
    It has also been suggested that there should have been an exchange of population before the date of independence. Menon has addressed this suggestion: 'Then again, it has been said that if a planned exchange of population had been arranged before the transfer of power, the communal holocaust would have been avoided. But could there be any question of an exchange of population between two sides which had agreed and publicly announced that they would retain their respective minorities? Indeed, Congress was definitely against any exchange of population. The Sikhs and Hindus would never have entertained the idea of leaving their homes in the West Punjab. Nor, for obvious reasons, could the British Government have enforced it. The question of exchange of population could only have been raised, if at all, after the Dominions had come into being. But no sooner had the Dominions been established than communal frenzy broke out, resulting in the disastrous consequences already described'.
    Menon makes measured criticisms of all three parties whose actions led to the partition of the country: 'Though through the centuries many attempts had been made to bring India under one central Government, it is the proud claim of the British that it was they who first time created an Indian Empire, extending from Kashmir in the north to Cape Cormorin in the south, and from Baluchistan in the west to Assam in the east. It is a sad reflection that the British who achieved that unity could not bequeath it to their successors. But sadder still is the thought that Jinnah, the hero of my generation, a great nationalist in his time and one who fought many a battle for the freedom of his country, should later have fought so successfully against its freedom, and eventually, almost single-handed, have brought about its division'.
    He is critical of the British for their statement made during the Cripps Mission: 'It was at this stage that the British Government, in their declaration of 1942, gave the right to the provinces to accede or not to the Union and even to form a separate Union or Unions. This was a radical departure from the policy hitherto adopted. In the discussions leading up to the passing of the Government of India Act of 1935, it had never been contemplated that the accession of the British-Indian provinces to the Federation would be optional. This was really the death-blow to Indian unity, and subsequent assertions of their preference for a united India by British authorities carried no weight. It was definitely a victory for Jinnah'.
    Menon's main criticism of Congress is regarding their decision to resign from the Provincial Ministries in 1939: 'While it is easy to appreciate the indignation of the Congress, and to agree that any protest would have been justified, it must be said that the resignation of the Provincial Ministries as a means of protest was a wrong. It is a supreme example of that unrealistic negative politics in which we are all too prone to indulge, and the outcome of which is, sometimes, very disconcerting, and even disastrous. The control of eight Provincial Governments, covering half the country, had put Congress in a position of great strength and bargaining power. The Congress should have thought many times before voluntarily abandoning such an advantage. Actually, the outcome of the resignation of Provincial Ministries in 1939 was far more unfortunate than could have been foreseen, for, among the more serious consequences of this monumental error, must be reckoned the later partition of the country'. Menon goes on to say that the Muslims took advantage of the Congress being in the wilderness, supported the war effort and made the British feel that they were reliable friends. In a sense both the Congress and the League were gambling on the outcome of the war and the League backed the winner. In return for Muslim support for the war, the British were willing to do anything the League desired. In the beginning, British support to the League was not given publicly. The attitude of the Viceroy and the Secretary of State was correct, and Amery, in particular, made it clear that he did not favour partition. But many lesser, but quite influential, British officials did much to help the League, in some instances without the knowledge of their superiors. Though the majority of British officials favoured the Muslims, by no means all of them favoured partition.
    Menon has given his personal opinions of several of the main protagonists. These are particularly valuable as he had the opportunity to view them more closely than practically anyone else. Menon has a deep respect for Sardar Patel: 'The Sardar was endowed with the art of getting things done, and we established an ideal team spirit between the political head and the officials working under him. When once a policy was agreed upon, the Sardar never interfered or bothered about details. It was as if I was the driver and he trusted me to get him to the agreed destination: he never indulged in 'back seat' driving. I kept him informed, morning and evening, and often late at night, of the progress made, and, if specially important or difficult decision had to be made, I consulted him. Otherwise he was content to leave everything to me. When he had his unfortunate heart attack in 1948 I realised the necessity of hurrying through the process of integration, for without him at the head of the Ministry, I doubt whether the job would ever have been completed. I therefore redoubled the speed with which I worked, and fortunately it was brought to a conclusion while he was still in charge.'
    Menon is equally complimentary about Mountbatten: 'Mountbatten differed utterly from the Sardar on the surface, but he had the same method of work. Once he had accepted my plan for transfer of power, both in regard to its content and implementation, and subsequently while he remained as Viceroy and later free India's first Governor-General, he always ascertained my reactions to any matter of importance. It is hardly necessary to emphasise what we owe to him for steering us through the maze of conflicting interests and policies and personalities in Delhi in 1947. In fact, I think it is no exaggeration to say that without him the transfer of power would never have taken place. I must also pay tribute to his help and guidance in dealing with the communal situation after the partition, and the mass migration between Pakistan and India. He organised the Government's forces to deal with it, and the situation was brought under control in three or four months' time. No praise would be too high for these contributions'.
    Menon also clearly values Clement Attlee's contribution: 'Not the least among the British statesmen to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude for this happy consummation is Earl Attlee, whose modesty of expression conceals his firmness of purpose. As Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time, it was he with infinite patience and understanding, nay, conviction, solidly supported Lord Mountbatten in the onerous task of transferring power to India'.
    Lord Mountbatten was deeply appreciative of Menon's help: 'When I arrived in India in March 1947, I was indeed fortunate to find V P Menon as the Reforms Commissioner on the Governor-General's staff. I had never previously met him but I found immediately that his encyclopaedic knowledge of the Indian problem and his close contacts with the major Indian leaders especially Sardar Patel were invaluable to me - indeed it is fair to say that without the constant help and advice of V P Menon, the transfer of power as early as August 1947 would not have been possible.
    I wish therefore, to say that I do not believe it is possible to over-estimate how much we all owe to him for his service at that time: and I feel even now there are many people in India who do not realise how much is owed to their great countryman 'V P' as he is affectionately known to his many friends'. Mountbatten wanted to award Menon a knighthood but Menon felt that as the servant of the new Government, it would be inappropriate. Hence he was given a certificate.
    Following Sardar Patel's death in 1950 Menon's influence waned. He was not particularly close to Nehru. He was briefly Governor of Orissa in 1951 and a member of the Finance Commission from 1951-52. In his obituary, The Times said: 'After 1952 he was relegated to obscurity, in which he found some consolation through the composition of the remarkable books already mentioned'. He lived in retirement in Bangalore and died in 1966.
    Both Britain and India owe a substantial debt of gratitude to Sri Menon. Successive Viceroys over many years had tried but failed to formulate a plan for the governance of India after independence which had the backing of both the League and Congress. Menon's plan was the first and only one which succeeded in doing so. Though he is sometimes considered as being too close to Congress, it is important to recognise that Menon was instrumental in persuading Sardar Patel and then played a part in persuading Nehru on the need for the creation of Pakistan. If Menon had not produced his plan in Simla, the British might have had to hand over power to the Provinces without any agreed central authority. This could have led to civil war throughout India lasting many years, resulting in the deaths of countless millions. If Menon had not suggested getting the States to accede before partition with Mountbatten's assistance, the problems of Junagadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir could have been replicated on a much larger scale. Menon and Mountbatten accomplished more in a few weeks than others had managed in the previous twelve years. But for Menon's recall of Mountbatten to Delhi, the communal violence following partition would have gone on for longer. Without Menon's crucial interventions, India, today, would be a very different entity. At a time when so many allowed their judgements to be clouded by self-interest and emotion, here was one man who put the interests of the country first. Both his achievements during the period of transition of power and his subsequent writings attest to Menon's innate sense of fairness and his ability to empathise with the viewpoint of others. It was also astonishing, in the hierarchical society of the Raj, for a man of Menon's background to attain the highest reaches of government. It is surprising that a biography of Menon has never been written.
    It is, perhaps, most appropriate to conclude this paper with Menon's own judgement on British rule in India: 'From 1765, when the East India Company took over the collection of the revenues of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, the British had gradually built up in India an administrative and political system hitherto unknown. They brought about the consolidation and unity of the country; they created an efficient administrative organization on an all-India basis; it was they who for the first time introduced the rule of law; and they left to India that most precious heritage of all, a democratic form of government. As long as there is an India, Britain's outstanding contributions to this country will continue to abide'.

    British Empire: India: Significant Individuals
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    What Mountbatten really did for India

    In books written under his, or his family's supervision, a considerably glorified picture was presented of what Lord Mountbatten was said to have done in and for India. Are these claims right?
    ON February 13, 1947, Lord Wavell, then Viceroy of India, received a telegram from the Prime Minister of England telling him that he had lost his job. The Labour Government in London had chosen Lord Mountbatten as his successor. That evening, Wavell wrote in his diary that Mountbatten was "an unexpected but a clever one from their (the Government's) point of view; and Dickie's personality may perhaps accomplish what I failed to do".
    This was a comment that was as perceptive as it was generous. The Field Marshal and the Rear-Admiral were indeed very different kinds of men; one withdrawn, a connoisseur of poetry, choosing to keep his own counsel and his own company; the other flamboyant and dashing, a bon vivant and socialite who would much rather be seen with a glass of wine than a book in hand.
    The journalist Pothan Joseph once remarked that Mountbatten tended to act as his "own Public Relations Officer". He was a pioneer in what we now call "spin" and "image management". Few men have taken so much interest in how history would judge them. In books written under his or his family's supervision, a considerably glorified picture was presented of what he was said to have done in and for India. It was claimed that without Mountbatten, freedom would not have come so soon; and that it would have come at a much higher cost. It was claimed that only Mountbatten could have got the Congress and the Muslim League to come to terms; and that only he could have got Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel to work together.
    Some of these claims are highly exaggerated; others downright false. By the latter stages of the War the British knew that the time had come to leave India. As for the costs of freedom, a strong case can be made that by hastening the transfer of power, Mountbatten in fact made it less manageable; there weren't enough troops in place when the rioting escalated. As for the final concession to the Muslim League, after their success in the 1946 election (which Wavell called and supervised), it was clear to the Congress that they would have to accept some form of Partition. And as for the reconciliation between Nehru and Patel, it had all to do with the death of Mahatma Gandhi, and nothing to do with the intervention of the Viceroy.
    Lord Mountbatten and his biographers have been so keen to give him credit where it is not due that they have tended to overlook what was his real contribution to India — the part he played in the integration of the princely states. The "Partition Plan" of June 3, 1947, which set out the principles of freedom and division, left unclear the position of the 500 odd princely states. These states had all recognised the British as the "paramount power". But now the British were leaving. Thus the more ambitious among the princes began, in the words of one respected scholar, "to luxuriate in wild dreams of independent power in an India of many partitions".
    On July 9, 1947, Patel and Nehru both met the Viceroy, and asked him "what he was going to do to help India in connection with her most pressing problem — relations with the (Princely) States". Mountbatten agreed to make this matter "his primary consideration". Later the same day Gandhi came to meet Mountbatten. As the Viceroy recorded, the Mahatma "asked me to do everything in my power to ensure that the British did not leave a legacy of Balkanisation and disruption on August 15 by encouraging the States to declare their independence... ".
    Mountbatten was being urged by the Congress Trinity to go out and bat for them against the princes. This he did most effectively, notably in a speech to the Chamber of Princes delivered on July 25, for which the Viceroy had decked out in all his finery, rows of military medals pinned upon his chest. He was, recalled an adoring assistant, "in full uniform, with an array of orders and decorations calculated to astonish even these parishioners in Princely pomp".
    Mountbatten began by telling the princes that the Indian Independence Act had released "the States from all their obligations to the Crown". They were now technically independent, or, put another way, rudderless, on their own. The old links were broken, but "if nothing can be put in its place, only chaos can result — a chaos that "will hit the States first". He advised them therefore to forge relations with the new nation closest to them. As he brutally put it, "you cannot run away from the Dominion Government which is your neighbour any more than you can run away from the subjects for whose welfare you are responsible".
    He told the princess that in the circumstances it was best they make peace with the Congress, and signed the Instrument of Accession. This would cede away Defence — but in any case the States would, by themselves, "be cut off from any source of supplies of up-to-date arms or weapons". It would cede away External Affairs, but the princes could "hardly want to go to the expense of having ambassadors or ministers or consuls in all these foreign countries". And it would also cede away Communications, but this was "really a means of maintaining the life-blood of the whole-sub-continent". The Congress offer, said the Viceroy, left the rulers "with great internal authority" while divesting them of subjects they could not deal with on their own.
    Mountbatten's talk to the Chamber of Princes was a tour de force. It finally persuaded the princes that the British would no longer protect or patronise them, and that independence was a mirage. And this word was carried not by a rabble-rousing Congressman but by the Representative of the King-Emperor, who was a highly decorated military man, and of royal blood besides.
    His speech prepared the way for the actual mechanics of the merging of the princely states with India. This process was supervised by Sardar Patel, and superbly executed by his Secretary at the Ministry of States, V.P. Menon. Some States proved to be more recalcitrant than others. Thus the ambitious Dewan of Travancore declared Independence; the impulsive young Maharaja of Jodhpur set about negotiating with Jinnah; and the wilful Nizam of Hyderabad demanded direct relations with the British Crown. Getting these States to join India involved a judicious mixture of the carrot and the stick: the first provided naturally by Mountbatten, the second, just as naturally, by Patel.
    In 1950, the Government of India issued a booklet celebrating how 500 "centres of feudal autocracy" had, with little loss of life, been "converted into free and democratic unit of the Indian Union". Now, "for the first time, millions of people, accustomed to living in narrow, secluded groups in the States, became part of the larger life of India. They could now breathe the air of freedom and democracy pervading the whole nation".
    As this booklet pointed out, the position of the princes in the Indian polity "afforded no parallel to or analogy with any institution known in history". Given the odds, and the opposition, the integration of these numerous and disparate States was indeed a staggering achievement.
    Much of the work was done by Indians: by Patel, Menon, and others. But these Indians had as their indispensable ally that British PR man par excellence, Lord Mountbatten of Burma.
    Ramachandra Guha is a historian and writer based in Bangalore.

    The Hindu : What Mountbatten really did for India

    Patel the non-Bismarck

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    Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (centre) with C. Rajagopalachari and Jawaharlal Nehru. Photo:THE HINDU ARCHIVES[​IMG]

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    Apr 22, 2015 at 22:51 IST
    It was Lord Mountbatten who went out of his way to secure the accession of the princely states to India, not Sardar Patel, though the latter played a supportive role. By A.G. NOORANI
    To praise princes for virtues they do not possess is to insult them without fear of consequences.

    – La Rochefoucauld.

    THE offence is graver still if false praise continues even after the prince is no more. It falsifies history, creates a climate of servility, and lends itself to political abuse. True, nations live on myths. But it is the duty of historians and publicists to pursue the truth unaffected by myths.

    Indians thrive on myths, not only for self-glorification but also for partisan motives. The Nehru-Patel divide is sharply reflected in politics, the academia and the media. Jawaharlal Nehru is posthumously pilloried for (1) promising a plebiscite in Kashmir; (2) referring the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan to the United Nations Security Council; (3) accepting the ceasefire in the state; (4) accepting also the U.N.’s mediation; and (5) for being an “idealist” in his policies towards China. All these criticisms rest on sheer falsehood and deserve to be exposed.

    In contrast, Vallabhbhai Patel is hailed as “India’s Bismarck” who “unified” the country and saved it from disintegration. This is a myth hugged by Nehru’s critics, and most of all by those whose hatred he earned by his staunch advocacy of the credo of secularism. The Sangh Parivar is foremost in fostering the myths against Nehru and in spreading the myths about Patel. He was no Bismarck at all. Credit for the crucial phase of the integration of the princely states belongs mainly to the Viceroy and Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, and his Constitutional Adviser, V.P. Menon. Patel played a supportive and ancillary role. The task was outsourced by him with the Cabinet’s full authorisation to Mountbatten.

    The two White Papers on Indian states, published by the Ministry of States over which he presided, record the two distinct phases of the process of integration. One was their accession to India before Independence on August 15, 1947, abandoning for good all pretensions to independent statehood on the lapse of the “paramountcy” of the British Crown. It was a bogus doctrine which British colonialists conveniently evolved with the support of their pliable lawyers. No one refuted it more devastatingly than did Dr B.R. Ambedkar on the eve of Independence.

    This first phase, the accession, before August 15, 1947, was of crucial importance. Jinnah egged on the states to declare themselves independent and thus Balkanise India. Mountbatten foiled his plans. The next phase, that of integration with federal India, was plain sailing. The princes were, as it were, lodged in the harem. Those who were small needed slight cajoling to sign agreements for merger with the Provinces of the erstwhile British India; the medium ones formed Unions; the large ones stood alone like the other states. The first White Paper was published in July 1948. Priced at Re.1 annas 12 (that is, Rs.1.75), it recorded the developments since July 5, 1947, when the Ministry of States was set up. Part III covered the “Accession of States to the Dominion of India”. Part IV covered “Integration and Democratisation of States”. Texts of agreement for mergers and Covenants for the Unions were set out. Preceding them were the crucial Instruments of Accession and the Standstill Agreements signed before Independence which paved the way for later integration and democratisation.

    A second and fuller White Paper on Indian States was published in February 1950 after the Constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950. By then, 216 states had been merged in the Provinces; 61 had been taken over as Centrally-administered areas; and 275 had been “integrated in the Union of States”. Hyderabad, Mysore and Kashmir stood by themselves. On Kashmir the White Paper said: “The Government of India, no doubt, stand committed to the position that the accession of this state is subject to confirmation by the people of the state” (page111). This, after India’s Constitution had come into force. Incidentally, to both White Papers were annexed official maps, all of which belie the very basis of India’s case on the boundary dispute with China propounded from 1959 to this day. All of them showed the entire northern boundary from the tri-junction with Afghanistan and China in the West right down to the tri-junction with Nepal and China in the east as “undefined”. This is precisely what Zhou Enlai said from 1959 onwards. Nehru had the maps unilaterally revised in 1954; the old ones were destroyed, and he asserted that the new line was not negotiable. So much for his “idealism” and “romanticism”.

    As for the states, they joined the Union of India in 1950 as Part B States under the new Constitution, only to lose this “Status” and their Rajpramukhs under an Amendment to the Constitution and eventually even their privileges and privy purses—deservedly.

    After the accession, this was but inevitable. The truth about the accession crisis can be gathered from authoritative works. H.V. Hodson, a friend of V.P. Menon, was Constitutional Adviser to the Viceroy (1941-2) and also an academic. His book The Great Divide (1969) is based on Mountbatten’s Papers besides other material and interviews with leading figures, including V.P. Menon.

    A draft Instrument of Accession already existed when the Government of India Act, 1935, was enacted. The Princes refused to join the federation. The document was pressed into service by V.P. Menon. He put forward a plan, which the wooden Linlithgow had rejected, of accession limited to three subjects–defence, foreign affairs and communication. In 1946 the Cabinet Mission had proposed such a federation. Sir Conrad Corfield, the Political Adviser to the Viceroy, did his best to defeat India’s aims.

    In 1947, Hodson records, “Sardar Patel was inclined to agree, and at Menon’s request conveyed the proposal to Pandit Nehru, who also agreed if we could see it through”. Menon narrates that he then approached the Viceroy, with Sardar Patel’s cordial assent, and asked for his help. Lord Mountbatten said he would think the matter over, and after an interval accepted the plan, and discussed it frankly with Sardar Patel himself.

    “According to Lord Mountbatten, the first time that he debated the states problem with Patel—and this must have been before the setting up of the States Ministry, since he records that he did so because Mr. Menon had told him Patel was much more interested in the states than was the Prime Minister—the Sardar told him 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. The Viceroy reminded him that the states had forces, trained and equipped by the British, ranging from a division in Hyderabad to personal bodyguards in small states, which would shoot down the rebels, and that the Princes were preparing themselves, on the advice of the Political Department, against any uprisings. A civil war would result, and India would lose far more than she would gain from a peaceful settlement. Sardar Patel asked what he meant. The Viceroy replied that the peaceful settlement he had in mind was to allow the rulers to retain their titles, extra-territorial rights and personal property or Civil List, and in return they would join a Dominion—most of them India, a few, like Bahawalpur, Pakistan—only the three subjects of defence, external affairs and communications being reserved to the Central government. Patel said he would think it over.

    Basket of apples

    “When he next came to see the Viceroy, having meanwhile talked with V.P. Menon—and here the two accounts converge—Sardar Patel said I am prepared to accept your offer provided that you give me a full basket of apples. ‘What do you mean?’ Asked Lord Mountbatten. ‘I’ll buy a basket with 565 apples’—the computed number of states—but if there are even two or three apples missing the deal is off.’ This, said the Viceroy, I cannot completely accept, but I will do my best. If I give you a basket with say 560 apples, will you buy it? Well, I might, replied Patel.

    “When Mr. V.P. Menon told Sir Conrad Corfield of the decision he literally threw up his hands in surprise. He did not then know the part which the Crown Representative himself was to play. Sir Conrad, when he did learn of Lord Mountbatten’s intentions, warned him that he was agreeing to use his influence as representative of the paramount power to recommend to the Rulers a bargain which could not be guaranteed after Independence.”

    Mountbatten’s Press Attaché Alan Campbell-Johnson’s memoirs were published earlier, in 1951. Interestingly the metaphor of the “basket” occurs in it too. In his address to the Chamber of Princes, “He [Mountbatten] used every weapon in his armoury of persuasion, making it clear at the outset that in the proposed Instrument of Accession, which V.P. Menon had devised, they were being provided with a political offer from the Congress which was not likely to be repeated. Indeed, it was not even a firm offer as yet, and the main chance of it being one rested on his capacity to provide Patel with “a full basket” of acceptance. He reminded them that after the 15th August he would no longer be in a position to mediate on their behalf as Crown Representative, and warned those Princes who were hoping to build up their own store of arms that the weapons they would be likely to get would in any case be obsolete. One point in particular, made with perfect timing and emphasis, did not fail to find its mark with Their Highness. If, he said, the Instrument of Accession was accepted, he had good reason to think that Patel and the Congress would not interfere with their receiving honours and titles from the King under Dominion Status, which he knew meant much to them as exponents of the monarchical order. In this connection it has undoubtedly been a source of strength in his relations with the princes that Mountbatten has been able to speak not simply as Crown Representative, but as a cousin of the King. For these hereditary rulers the blood Royal carries its own authority” (page 141). Besotted with royalty, the princes put great value on the Governor-General’s royalty and his relations with the British monarch.

    Even pantomime was enacted. “A certain maharaja, absent from his state and from India at this critical moment, did not seem to appreciate the importance either of coming himself to the meeting or even of briefing his Dewan. For the Dewan had been sent no instructions whatever. Surely, Mountbatten asked, ‘you must know your Ruler’s mind, and can take a decision on his behalf?’ ‘I do not know my Ruler’s mind,’ the hapless Dewan replied, and I cannot get a reply by cable. Mountbatten thereupon picked up a large round glass paper-weight which happened to be on the rostrum in front of him. I will look into my crystal, he said, and give you an answer. There followed ten seconds of dramatic pause when you could have heard a princely pin drop. ‘His Highness,’ Mountbatten solemnly announced, ‘asks you to sign the instrument of Accession.’

    “So accurately had he gauged the sentiment of this particular audience that everyone broke out into delighted laughter at this sally, which was clearly regarded as neatly combining the rebuke courteous with the advice timely. For on the whole it was probably wise to strike the humorous note as being the best method of penetrating what seemed to be quite a high proportion of thick skulls.”

    These, of course, are British sources. V. Shankar, ICS, served Patel for four years as his Private Secretary and was close to him. His first-hand testimony is more relevant than the guesswork of a hagiography four decades later. “At the meeting of the princes which Sardar had convened, after a satisfactory discussion on the functioning of the new Department and clearance of many misunderstandings, it was agreed that a conference of the Rulers would be held on 25 July at which matters of accession, standstill agreement and other issues concerning the functioning of the States Department would be discussed. But the question as to how this should be done in the face of doubts and uncertainties harboured by the princes and the manoeuvres and machinations of those who were out to sabotage this development caused deep mental anguish to Sardar. Finally he decided that if he himself took a leading part in the meeting, it might lead to open, contrary or hostile acts by the League leaders. He also felt, reassured as he was by Shri Menon’s report of his discussion with Lord Mountbatten, that Lord Mountbatten would be able to lend his help effectively in bringing about the desired results. Sardar, therefore, secured Cabinet approval for Lord Mountbatten to deal with this question in his capacity as the Crown Representative” (My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel; 1974; Volume 1, page 85).

    V.P. Menon’s account

    We must now turn to the locus classicus on the subject The Story of the Integration of the Indian States by V.P. Menon (1956). He was Constitutional Adviser to the Governor-General, Mountbatten, as well as Secretary in the Ministry of States headed by Patel. Both tasks were performed with superb tact; not least when he used Mountbatten to prevent an attack on Pakistan over Junagadh a mere month after independence, a venture on which Nehru and Patel had set their hearts.

    What V.P. Menon wrote is important. In December 1942 he had approached Linlithgow unsuccessfully for the states’ accession confined to defence and foreign affairs. He now added communications and approached Patel. Nehru concurred. “A day or two later, I met Lord Mountbatten and mentioned to him my talk with Sardar and our tentative plan. I asked for his help in getting the states to accede on three subjects and suggested that it would be a great act of statesmanship on his part if he could bring it about. I felt that he was deeply touched by my remark that the wounds of partition might to some extent be healed by the states entering into relationship with the Government of India and that he would be earning the gratitude of generations of Indians if he could assist in achieving the basic unity of the country. He told me that he would think the matter over. I confess that I was seized momentarily by the fear that Lord Mountbatten might be adversely influenced by some of his advisers. But to my relief and joy, he accepted the plan. Lord Mountbatten discussed the matter with Sardar. This frank talk enabled them to explain and understand each other’s point of view. I should add that the Prime Minister, with the approval of the Cabinet, readily entrusted Lord Mountbatten with the task of negotiating with the rulers on the question of accession and also with the task of dealing with Hyderabad.” Thus, it was the Cabinet which, with Patel’s full concurrence, entrusted the task of securing the states’ accession. Patel as Minister of States did his part and met some of the rulers.

    It is little realised that in his drive to secure the accessions Mountbatten had to face stiff opposition from his own staff as well as his bosses in London. Twenty years later, at a seminar in London, Corfield read a paper in which he bitterly complained. “Mountbatten ceased to listen to the Political Department from the day he made his bargain with Vallabhbhai Patel about promoting a limited adherence, which I could not support. Mountbatten told me that he had succeeded in persuading Patel to limit adherence to defence, external affairs and communications. I pointed out that he had agreed to use his influence as the representative of the paramount power to recommend a bargain which could not be guaranteed after independence, and which would be inevitably extended. V.P. Menon was virtually his political adviser from that date, and had had considerable influence before that date. I remember the day but not the date when I gave Mountbatten the facts of a certain case and he said I must be wrong because Nehru had told him otherwise. I don’t know if Menon had briefed Nehru.

    “My main difference with Mountbatten was when he agreed to use his influence as Crown Representative and as a royal personage with the rulers to ensure adherence before the lapse of paramountcy. Incidentally, when I asked him what should be said to rulers who wished me to assure rulers that this connection was safe because they would be adhering to a Dominion which accepted the monarch as king. On a further question whether, if the dominion declared a republic, the rulers could then technically withdraw their adherence, he replied that he felt sure that the Cabinet would accept this and I could assure the rulers accordingly. But I felt unable to do so!” (The Partition of India; edited by C.H. Philips and Mary Doreen Wainwright; 1970; page 531).

    Corfield influenced the new Secretary of State for India, Lord Listowel, who warned Mountbatten on August 1, 1947, against applying any pressure on the princes (The Transfer of Power; Volume 12, page 459). The Nizam’s Counsel Sir Walter Monckton, K.C. was Mountbatten’s friend and a Tory with excellent connections in London. He met Jinnah frequently in New Delhi who doubtless played his own sinister game. It failed to harm India. His ploys harmed Pakistan.

    Mountbatten successfully warded off the pressures. “I pointed out that another aspect was that the accession of the princes was bound to exercise a steadying influence on the Indian political arena; this in itself would be by no means a small gain. Furthermore, the princes, had without any exception, been consistently pressing for the retention of their connection with the Crown; and their association with the Dominion of India could only help in the direction of retaining it within the Commonwealth.

    “Finally I pointed out to the Secretary of State that the importance of completing negotiations by 15th August was that I would cease to be Crown Representative on that day, and the states would thereafter have to make their own terms with the Dominion of India. It was clear that the compulsion of events would sooner or later force them into the arms of Dominion. It was equally clear that, once the present chance was missed, I could no longer ensure that the terms which the princes would receive would be anywhere near as generous as the terms [that were offered]. It seemed clear that it was the states which would stand to lose if they did not join one or other of the Dominions by 15th August, regard being had to the explosive situation caused by the suppression of their subjects with British help for many years, and to the disparity in the standard of prosperity between the people of most of the states and the people in the contiguous areas of British India.

    Push for accession

    “In the period between 25th July and 15th August Instruments of Accession signed by Ruler after Ruler poured in. Among the first to sign the Instrument were the Maharajas of Bikaner and Patiala who, with many other important Rulers, came to lunch with me on 1st August and signed immediately afterwards. But there were some sluggards. Apart from Hyderabad and Kashmir (which will be dealt with separately), the states which gave me the most trouble were Travancore, Dholpur, Indore, Bhopal, Rampur, Jodhpur, and Baroda.…

    “The Maharaja Rana of Dholpur had been on the Prince of Wales’ staff with me in 1921 and was an old friend of mine. He believed so deeply in the divine right of Kings that I feared that it might not be possible to make him see the need for accession to what he regarded as a future Republic. The last of my interviews with the Maharaja Rana Dholpur took place on the evening of 14th August, when he came to see me to tell me that he had finally decided to sign the Instrument of Accession, as he thought that this was after all the best solution in an intolerable situation. With tears in his eyes he bade me farewell and said: ‘This breaks an alliance between my ancestors and your ancestors which has existed since 1765.’ I pointed out to him that His Majesty would continue to be the King of the Dominion of India and that the link would thus not be broken, but merely changed. However, he would not be consoled and said that he proposed to get out of Delhi that night whilst I was still Viceroy and Crown Representative.” Such was the fealty which the stooges, whom Britain had created, felt towards their masters (Lionel Carter (ed); Mountbatten’s Report on the Last Royalty; Manohar; pages 24-141).

    Jodhpur’s plan

    Mountbatten foiled Jodhpur’s plan to accede to Pakistan. Hodson records: “The case of Jodhpur should be mentioned because it illustrates both the lengths to which Mr. Jinnah was prepared to go in order to wean states from India, and the contrary efforts of Lord Mountbatten. Jodhpur, a Rajput state abutting on Pakistan, had a predominantly Hindu population and a Hindu ruler. Its Ruler had a series of meetings with Mr. Jinnah and other Muslim leaders, including the Nawab of Bhopal, and had been on the point of agreeing to join Pakistan. Mr. Jinnah had offered him the use of Karachi as a free port, free import of arms, jurisdiction over the Jodhpur-Hyderabad (Sind) railway, and a large supply of grain for famine relief, all on condition that Jodhpur would declare its independence on 15th August, and subsequently accede to Pakistan. The Maharajah, however, had been shaken by a reminder of realities from the Maharaj Kumar of Jaisalmer—a neighbouring state of the same character —who had accompanied him at his last meeting with Mr. Jinnah. The Maharaj Kumar had said that for his part he would join Pakistan on one condition, that if there were trouble between Hindus and Muslims he would not side with the Muslims. The Maharajah of Jodhpur was then summoned to Viceroy’s House in Delhi. Lord Mountbatten told him that, while he was legally entitled to accede to Pakistan, he should consider seriously the consequences of doing so. It would be in conflict with the principle underlying the partition of India and could only result in communal trouble within the state. Then Maharajah began by asking for a string of concessions, saying that Mr. Jinnah had handed him a blank sheet of paper on which to write all the concessions he wanted. Mr. Menon, in the Viceroy’s presence, urged him not to be swayed by false promises but after some argument gave him a letter conceding some of his demands, including free import of arms, food for the famine districts, and the building of a railway from Jodhpur to a port in Cutch. The States Department were in fact scared by the possibility of Jodhpur’s joining Pakistan, for this might have set the trend for other Rajput states like Udaipur which would become contiguous to Pakistan through their frontiers with Jodhpur. Both Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, together with Bikaner, the third large Rajputana state actually adjoining Pakistan, whose Ruler had given a strong lead in the policy of acceding to India, signed Instruments of Accession to the Indian Dominion.…

    “When the Maharajah of Jodhpur eventually came to Viceroy’s House to sign the Instrument of Accession, he used an exceptionally large pen. Lord Mountbatten having left the room, he whipped out the nib, revealing a pistol barrel, which he levelled at Mr. V.P. Menon, exclaiming ‘I refuse to accept your dictation!’ Mr. Menon told him not to indulge in juvenile theatricals. The Maharajah calmed down, and later he and Mr. Menon came much to respect each other; but when Lord Mountbatten was told of the prince’s conduct he gave him hell. The pistol-pen, which the Maharajah, a member of the Magic Circle, had had made for him in its magic and gun shop, was handed over, and was presented by Lord Mountbatten to the Magic Circle after he himself was elected to it. A story of great issues and high statesmanship had its crazy moments” (Hodson; page 380).

    V.P. Menon’s version deserves to be quoted because it reveals how far the game had gone. “Jinnah, I was told, signed a blank sheet of paper and gave it to Maharajah Hanwant Singh along with his own fountain pen, saying ‘You can fill in all your conditions.’ A discussion followed. The Maharajah was prepared to line up with Pakistan. He then turned to the Maharajkumar of Jaisalmer and asked him whether he would follow suit. The Maharajkumar said he would do so on one condition: If there was any trouble between the Hindus and Muslims, he would not side with the Muslims against the Hindus. This was a bombshell and took Maharajah Hanwant Singh completely by surprise. Sir Mohammad Zafrullah however made light of the whole affair and pressed Maharajah Hanwant Singh to sign the Instrument. But the Maharajah now felt unable to take a decision. He suggested to Jinnah that he would go to Jodhpur and return the next day. The Maharajah remained at Jodhpur for three days. The atmosphere in the state was hostile to the idea that Jodhpur should cast its lot with Pakistan. When he returned to Delhi after three days I was informed that, unless I handled the Maharajah quickly, the chances were that he might accede to Pakistan. I went to the Hotel Imperial and told the Maharajah that Lord Mountbatten wanted to see him. We then drove to Government House and I kept the Maharajah in the visitors’ room while I went in and explained the situation to Lord Mountbatten. The Maharajah was then called in. Lord Mountbatten made it clear that from a purely legal standpoint there was no objection to the ruler of Jodhpur acceding to Pakistan; but the Maharajah should, he stressed, consider seriously the consequences of his doing so, having regard to the fact that he himself was a Hindu; that this state was populated predominantly by Hindus and that the same applied to the states surrounding Jodhpur. In the light of these considerations, if the Maharajah were to accede to Pakistan, his action would surely be in conflict with the principle underlying the partition of India on the basis of Muslim and non-Muslim majority areas” (Menon; page 112-3).

    Professor Ian Copland, who has written scholarly works on the states, writes: “Mountbatten reserved the heaviest weapons in his armoury for the large states who showed signs of intransigence. The Dewan of Indore, Horton, who had the nerve to categorise the Viceroy’s letter to Yeshwant Rao Holkar about the merits of accession as a threat was severely rebuked for his trouble. Afterwards Horton expostulated to Corfield that he now knew what Dolfuss felt like when he was sent for to see Hitler; he had not expected to be spoken to like that by a British officer. Holkar, too, was carpeted; while Hamidullah and [C.P.] Ramaswamy Aiyer were bombarded with dire warnings about what might happen if they did not place themselves under the defensive umbrella of the Government of India. On Menon’s advice, Mountbatten in discussion with the deeply conservative Sir C.P. also played heavily on the communist menace, while Bhopal was reminded of the dangers his exposed state faced from Hindu communalism. Last but not least the Nizam was wooed with hints that if he behaved really well, his long-denied request for a title for his second son might be reconsidered” (The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire; 1917-1947; Cambridge University Press; page 258).

    The case of Bikaner

    There is, however, another episode which has been overlooked. It verges on the sordid but the deed was done to favour India. Mountbatten went so far as to tamper with the Radcliffe Report on the Punjab boundary to secure Bikaner’s accession to India. Pakistan suspected foul play when Stuart Abbott, Private Secretary to the Governor of Punjab Sir Evan Jenkins, received a letter from Sir George Abell, Private Secretary to Mountbatten, dated August 8, 1947, enclosing a map which showed the Muslim majority tehsils of Ferozepur and Zira within Pakistan. That line, drawn in pencil on Lord Ismay’s map, was seen by Chaudhri Muhammad Ali when he met Ismay on August 11.

    All hell broke loose in New Delhi over the Radcliffe Commission’s Secretary Christopher Beaumont’s disclosure to The Daily Telegraph (February 24, 1992) that Radcliffe was persuaded to change the award and give the two tehsils to India. This was done at a lunch hosted by Mountbatten for Radcliffe from which Beaumont was, he wrote, “deftly excluded”. On August 11, Jenkins received a telegram from Abell which said “Eliminate Salient”—the Sutlej salient where Ferozepur and Zia are located. It was to go to India.

    Beaumont came under vicious attack so typical of India’s establishment and most of its media. However, 14 years earlier in 1978 Young Asia Publications had published Reminiscences of an Engineer by Kanwar Sain who was in the service of Bikaner in 1947. Chapter 11 was entitled “Mountbatten Alters Punjab Boundary (At Eleventh hour)”. Intellectual dishonesty was combined with sheer incompetence in the attacks; neither for the first nor the last time. Sain published whole texts of documents including an aide-memoire handed over to Mountbatten on the Ferozepur Head works at 9 a.m. on August 11. He reveals: “The award was to be declared on 15 August 1947. Sarup Singh, Chief Engineer, Irrigation, Punjab, left Lahore on 8 August 1947. On reaching Ferozepur, in the evening he learnt from the Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepur, that the latter had received instructions from the Governor of Punjab to select his headquarters outside the three tehsils of Ferozepur district, namely Ferozepur, Zira and Fazilka, as these were likely to be allocated to Pakistan. This meant the transfer of Ferozepur Headworks and the head reach of the Gang Canal to Pakistan. He realised the seriousness of this proposal both to East Punjab and to Bikaner. He immediately sent a special messenger to me with a secret, sealed letter written in his own hand, informing me of the situation.

    “The message reached me early morning on 10 August. Quickly, I caught hold of an index map showing the location of Ferozepur Headworks and the Gang Canal and the boundaries of the three tehsils of Ferozepur District which according to the Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepur, would probably be included in Pakistan. Immediately I went to (the Dewan) Sardar Panikkar’s residence. Sardar Panikkar was an early riser. I showed Sarup Singh’s letter to him and with the help of the map explained that if the three tehsils mentioned therein went to Pakistan, Ferozepur Headworks and the Gang Canal would be lost to India, and the Gang Canal Colony in the Bikaner state would be threatened with short supply of its share from the Sutlej River. At first, Sardar Panikkar argued that if the Ferozepur Head works went to Pakistan, Bikaner state would receive its share according to the 1921 Tri-partite Agreement for sharing the waters of the Sutlej River.

    “At this stage, a thought came to my mind. His Excellency, the Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten, had paid a visit to the Bikaner state only a few weeks earlier and during the exchange of formal speeches at the banquet given in his honour; His Excellency had mentioned that Maharaja Sadul Singh and he had been together in the trenches during the First World War. This had engendered a feeling of brotherhood between them. I suggested to His Highness that this was the occasion to take advantage of the cordial feelings expressed by His Excellency.

    “I drafted a telegram which was slightly amended by Sardar Panikkar and approved by His Highness. The following telegram was immediately despatched to His Excellency the Viceroy of India: ‘It is strongly rumoured that Boundary Commission is likely to award Ferozepur Tehsil to Western Punjab. This Tehsil contains Headworks of Bikaner Gang Canal and under existing agreement state is entitled to receive for its perennial canal specified amount of water. Fear greatly that administration and regulation of this water exclusively by western Punjab may gravely prejudice interest of Bikaner state as its economic life is to very large extent dependent on water supply from Gang Canal. Have every confidence that Your Excellency in finally arriving at decision on award of Boundary Commission will be good enough to safeguard interests of Bikaner state especially as we as one of the parties to the Agreement were not consulted in arrangements that are being made. Request Your Excellency to very kindly give an opportunity to my Prime Minister and Chief Engineer Irrigation, to place facts before Your Excellency prior to final decision being arrived at. They are reaching Delhi on morning Monday eleventh.’

    “As an ultimate precaution it had occurred to me, before leaving Bikaner to get His Highness to consent to tell His Excellency as a last resort that if Ferozepur Headworks and Gang Canal went to Pakistan, His Highness, in the interests of his subjects of the Gang Canal Colony would have no option left but to opt for Pakistan.…

    “Thus, as His Excellency the Viceroy stopped us from going further (at their meeting), I picked up the courage to say to His Excellency, ‘Our Master has asked us to convey that if the Ferozepur Headworks and the Gang Canal go to Pakistan, His Highness, in the interest of his subjects, would have no option left but to opt for Pakistan.’ As I said this, I could see a change in the colour of the face of Lord Mountbatten. He said nothing and we left His Excellency’s room.

    “In the evening, we heard that the announcement of the Radcliffe Award would be delayed by a few days. Sardar Panikkar and myself wondered whether this had something to do with our interview with His Excellency that morning. When the Award was announced on the night of 17 August, we were happy to find that the Ferozepur Headworks and the entire area on the left bank of the river in which Gang Canal was located, were left with India.”

    The record proves incontestably that against all odds Mountbatten organised the states’ accession to India, with full authority from the Cabinet and Patel, whose was a supportive role. It is, therefore, preposterous to call Patel the Bismarck of India or even to compare the two. Kissinger wrote of him: “Everything about Bismarck was out of scale; his bulk and his appetite; his loves and even more his hates The paradox of his accomplishments seemed embodied in his personality. The man of ‘blood and iron’ wrote prose of extraordinary simplicity, plasticity, and power. The apostle of the claims of power was subject to fits of weeping. The Iron Chancellor loved Shakespeare and copied pages of Byron in his notebook. The statesman who never ceased extolling reason of state possessed an agility of conception and a sense of proportion which, while he lived, turned power into an instrument of self-restraint” (Daedalus; Summer 1968; page 890).

    Bismarck was the sole architect of Germany’s unification. He accomplished it by recourse to diplomacy as well as armed force as he alone could have.

    Patel the non-Bismarck | Frontline
  3. dadeechi

    dadeechi BANNED

    Sep 12, 2015
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    United States
  4. axisofevil

    axisofevil SENIOR MEMBER

    May 10, 2009
    +0 / 1,865 / -14
    Do you realize this guy was the first to advocate primary education to all for free? If CONGRESS just listened for once, it could have really help position India in different trajectory. It 60 yrs later under Modi to do so....
  5. dadeechi

    dadeechi BANNED

    Sep 12, 2015
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    The below says it all. Nehru did not trust Sardar Patel & V.P.Menon.

    Why Gandhi opted for Nehru and not Sardar Patel for PM ?
    Raj Singh [ Updated 31 Oct 2015, 11:50:41 ]


    New Delhi: As Machiavelli wrote -" History is written by the victors". The official history of independent India was written and overseen by that faction of the Congress party which emerged victorious in the leadership tussle on the eve of independence with the tacit but partisan support of none other than the all powerful and universally venerable Mahatma Gandhi.

    According to this official history, Jawahar Lal Nehru was elected as the first Prime minister of India and Sardar Patel became his deputy and it was all done purely on merit.

    The official history has always downplayed the grave injustice that was done to the ‘Iron Man of India’ – Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. It’s not that the official history does not mention the emergence of Sardar Patel and not Jawahar Lal Nehru as the overwhelming choice of the Congress party to lead India after independence but it has been reduced to mere footnotes and nothing more.

    Today, on the 140th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabh BhaiPpatel, let’s revisit the entire intra-party power struggle within Congress on the eve of independence and let’s figure out what really went in favour of Jawahar Lal Nehru and what was it that deprived Sardar Patel his moment of glory despite the overwhelming support he enjoyed amongst the Congressmen.

    The entire rank and file of the Congress looked at Sardar Patel as the most deserving candidate to be sworn in as independent India’s first Prime Minister, given his proven track record of being an able administrator and a no-nonsense politician. Then what really went wrong? To find out the answer, we need to rewind back to 1946.

    By 1946, it had become quite clear that India’s independence was only a matter of time now. The Second World War had come to an end and the British rulers had started thinking in terms of transferring power to Indians.

    An interim government was to be formed which was to be headed by the Congress president as Congress had won the maximum number of seats in the 1946 elections. All of a sudden, the post of Congress president became very crucial as it was this very person who was going to become the first Prime Minister of Independent India.

    At that time, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was the president of Congress party. In fact, he was the president for the last six years as elections could not be held for the Congress presient’s post since 1940 due to Quit India movement, the Second World War and the fact that most of the leaders were behind bars.

    Azad was also interested in fighting and winning election for the Congress president’s post as he, too, had ambitions to become the PM, but he was told in no uncertain terms by Mahatma Gandhi that he does not approve of a second term for a sitting Congress president and Azad had to fall in line ,albeit reluctantly. Not only this, Gandhi made it very clear to everybody that Nehru was his preferred choice for the Congress president’s position.

    The last date for the nominations for the post of the President of Congress, and thereby the first Prime Minister of India, was April 29, 1946.

    And the nominations were to be made by 15 state/regional Congress committees. Despite Gandhi’s well-known preference for Nehru as Congress president, not a single Congress committee nominated Nehru's name.

    On the contrary, 12 out of 15 Congress committees nominated Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. The remaining three Congress committees did not nominate any body’s name. Obviously, the overwhelming majority was in favour of Sardar Patel.

    It was a challenge to Mahatma Gandhi as well. He instructed Acharya J B kriplani to get some proposers for Nehru from the Congress Working Committee (CWC) members despite knowing fully well that only Pradesh Congress Committees were authorized to nominate the president.

    In deference to Gandhi’s wish, Kripalani convinced a few CWC members to propose Nehru’s name for party president.

    It’s not that Gandhi was not aware of the immorality of this exercise. He had fully realized that what he was trying to bring about was wrong and totally unfair.

    In fact, he tried to make Nehru understand the reality. He conveyed to Nehru that no PCC has nominated his name and that only a few CWC members have nominated him. A shell-shocked Nehru was defiant and made it clear that he will not play second fiddle to any body.

    A disappointed Gandhi gave into Nehru's obduracy and asked Sardar Patel to withdraw his name. Sardar Patel had immense respect for Gandhi and he withdrew his candidature without wasting any time. And it paved the way for the coronation of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru as India’s first Prime Minister.

    But why did Gandhi overlook the overwhelming support for Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel? Why was he so enamoured with Nehru?

    When Dr Rajendra Prasad heard of Sardar Patel’s withdrawal of nomination, he was disappointed and remarked that Gandhi had once again sacrificed his trusted lieutenant in favour of the ‘glamorous Nehru’.

    Was it the ‘glamour’ and ‘sophistication’ of Nehru that floored Gandhi so much that he did not hesitate in doing grave injustice to Patel?


    The answer to this question is not that simple. But a closer analysis of Gandhi’s approach towards Patel and Nehru throws light over a few facts that can decipher the mystery.

    There is no denying the fact that Gandhi had a ‘soft corner’ for Nehru since beginning and he had preferred Nehru over Sardar Patel at least twice before 1946 for the post of Congress president. It happened in 1929 as well as in 1937.

    Gandhi was always impressed with the modern outlook of Nehru. In comparison to Nehru, Sardar Patel was a little orthodox and Gandhi thought India needed a person who was modern in his approach.

    But more than anything, Gandhi always knew that Sardar Patel would never defy him. He was not so convinced about Nehru. Gandhi’s apprehensions came true when Nehru made it clear to him that he was not willing to play second fiddle to anybody.

    Perhaps, Gandhi wanted both Nehru and Patel to provide leadership to the country. He used his veto power in favour of Nehru because he feared Nehru could cause problems in the way of India’s independence if he was not given the chance to become Prime Minister.

    Some analysts have also claimed that Nehru threatened to split the Congress in case he was not made prime Minister.

    According to these analysts, Nehru coerced Gandhi into supporting him by saying that if he split the Congress, the entire independence plan would go awry as the British would get an excuse in delaying independence by raising the question as to who should be handed over the reins of power, Congress with Nehru or Congress minus Nehru.

    Gandhi must have thought that it would be safe to ask Sardar Patel for making the sacrifice than to reason with a power-smitten Nehru. In fact, he had commented that Nehru had gone power-mad.

    So, we can conclude that Gandhi chose Nehru over Patel because of two main reasons:

    1.Gandhi believed a foreign educated Nehru with modern thoughts had an edge over Patel who, according to him, was orthodox in his thoughts.

    2.Gandhi feared Nehru would revolt in case he was denied PM’s post and that would give the British an excuse to delay transfer of power. On the other hand, he was fully convinced of Sardar Patel’s loyalty. He knew Sardar Patel was a true patriot and would never play a spoilsport.


    But Gandhi’s decision proved too costly for the nation.

    First of all, Gandhi introduced the concept of forced decisions by the so-called ‘high-commands’ that usually means overruling state units. This practice, now being followed across the political spectrum, has negated the very concept of innner party democracy. Nehru’s follies on Kashmir and China proved beyond doubt the fact that Gandhi committed a mistake in backing Nehru by showing utter disregard to overwhelming support from the majority of PCCs for Sardar Patel.

    Even two known critics of Sardar Patel conceded the point that Gandhi’s decision to chose Nehru over Patel was erroneous.

    Maulana Abul Kalam Azad confessed in his autobiography that was published posthumously in 1959, “It was a mistake on my part that I did not support Sardar Patel. We differed on many issues but I am convinced that if he had succeeded me as Congress President he would have seen that the Cabinet Mission Plan was successfully implemented. He would have never committed the mistake of Jawaharlal which gave Mr. Jinnah an opportunity of sabotaging the Plan. I can never forgive myself when I think that if I had not committed these mistakes, perhaps the history of the last ten years would have been different.”

    Similarly, C Rajgopalachary who blamed Sardar Patel for depriving him of the first presidentship of independent India, wrote, “Undoubtedly it would have been better if Nehru had been asked to be the Foreign Minister and Patel made the Prime Minister. I too fell into the error of believing that Jawaharlal was the more enlightened person of the two… A myth had grown about Patel that he would be harsh towards Muslims. This was a wrong notion but it was the prevailing prejudice.”

    But questions can be raised over Sardar Patel’s surrender as well.

    Who was he more loyal to? To an individual, to an organization or to his motherland? When he was convinced that Nehru was not fit enough to give the much-needed guidance that a nascent country so desperately wanted, why did he not object even once to the foisting of Nehru as India’s first Prime Minister?

    History has proved it beyond doubt that had Patel been the PM in place of Nehru, the country would not have faced the humiliation of 1962 war.

    Days before his death, Patel had written a letter to Nehru warning him about China’s nefarious designs but Nehru didn’t pay any attention to that letter. Even Kashmir would not have become a thorn in the flesh for India, had Patel and not Nehru been the first prime minister of India.

    Why Gandhi opted for Nehru and not Sardar Patel for PM?
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  6. axisofevil

    axisofevil SENIOR MEMBER

    May 10, 2009
    +0 / 1,865 / -14

    Yet this is not news to anyone other us. Nehru and Gandhi were working for the British...
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