The History of India: Post Independence Integration - The Joining of Travencore The History of India: Post Independence Integration - The Joining of Travencore

Friday, March 16, 2012

Post Independence Integration - The Joining of Travencore

In 1946-47 around 565 princely states existed in India. Some like Kashmir, Mysore and Hyderabad were larger than many European nations while others were tiny jagirs of a few villages. Within two years of independence more than 500 of these princely states were dissolved into fourteen new administrative units of India. During this period only six states resisted integration one of the first being Travancore.

Travancore was strategically located at the extreme south tip of the subcontinent (now mostly parts of Kerela). It had the most highly educated populace in India, a well established and thriving maritime trade and large deposits of monazite from which is extracted thorium used for production of atomic energy and atom bombs. Travancore also had a strong maritime warfare history. Its sinking of the Dutch fleet in 1741 is apparently the only naval defeat ever inflicted by an Asian country on an European power. With its capital in Trivandrum, it was ruled by the Travancore Royal Family. Travancore Royal family descended from the Chera Dynasty and had ruled since the 1700s.

Kingdom of Travancore
In 1947 Travancore was ruled by Sree Chithira Thirunal, the Maharaja of Travancore. His dewan was Sir C P Ramaswamy Aiyar, a brilliant lawyer who had held that post for the past sixteen years. Even as early as February, 1946 Sir C P had made clear his views that once the British left, Travancore would become a perfectly independent country. In his quest for independence Sir C P found support with the politicians in London who foresaw an independent Travancore as a crucial source of monazite for the imminent Cold War. The Travancore government had already signed an agreement with the British government for supply of monazite. Travancore's bid for independence was also supported by Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League. In June 1947, Jinnah wrote to Sir C P a wire welcoming Travancore's decision for independence and emphasizing keenness in establishing a long lasting relationship between Travancore and Pakistan. Empowered by these developments, in July the dewan wrote to the government of Madras that Travancore was taking steps to maintain its independent entity and that it was ready to sign a treaty between the Sovereign State of Travancore and the Dominion Governments of both India and Pakistan.

Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar
While the Maharaja and his dewan were keen on establishing an independent state, a large majority of the people had strong pro-India nationalist feelings. Both, Congress and the Communist Party of India had strong presence in the State. In July, the dewan went to Delhi and met with Lord Mountbatten clearly expressing Travancore's decision on maintaining independence. Port the meeting V P Menon tried to persuade Sir C P to sign the Treaty of Accession. However, Sir C P remained adamant and said that he would prefer to negotiate with the Indian nation. Clearly laying Travancore's position, Sir C P returned to Travancore, his mind firmly set on independence.

On 25th July, 1947 while on his way to a music concert in Trivandrum, Sir C P was attacked by a knife wielding member of the Kerela Socialist Party, knifed in the face and body and had to be rushed off for emergency surgery. The impact of this was immediate. The Congress party turned the heat on Travancore ffor accession and the Maharaja immediately gave in. On July 30th the Maharaja wired the viceroy his decision to accede to the Indian Union.

Had it not been for the freak incident, the geo-political landscape of our country today may have been different.

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