Monday, August 15, 2011

India turns 64: Some notes

  • India and Pakistan got the status of Dominion within Commonwealth of Nations when they became independent.  India became Indian Union and Republic in 1950.  Pakistan became Islamic Republic in 1956.
  • India adopted a new constitution, world’s lengthiest, on 26 January 1950, the 20th anniversary of Lahore session’s Declaration of Independence of India.  It took 3 years to draft the document
  • India celebrates its Independence Day on 15th August, while Pakistan celebrates its on 14th August.  Lord Mountbatten unfurled Pakistan’s Flag in Karachi and then came to New Delhi that evening. 
  • Hindu astrologers did not accept 15th August since it was considered inauspicious – a compromise was struck by choosing the midnight hour.  Though secular in its constitutional framework, India remained Hindu in action.   On 15th August 1947, Nehru was crowned by Hindu Brahmins as is customary for kings and monarchs. 
  • Father of the Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, referred to as the Mahatma, was on a fast on the Independence Day and was not present in New Delhi.  He was in Calcutta. He was sad that India got partitioned.
  • India made Lord Mountbatten its first Governor General.  ‘…few men in any country, cerntaily no foreign rulers, have been honored with such affection and respect’. Gandhi, Nehru and other prominent Congress leaders insisted on parting with Great Britain on good terms.  Jinnah appointed himself the Governor General of Pakistan. 
  • Jinnah died on 11th September 1948, about a year from the Independence Day.  He was suffering from tuberculosis which was a closely held secret known only to his sister and personal doctor.  They say history would have been different if his health condition was known to the public. 
  • Boundary between India and Pakistan were not yet known in full detail on 15th August 1947.  The actual boundary details were disclosed the next day. Sir Radcliffe decided the boundaries.  Gurdaspur, Chittagong, and Shylet were in dispute.
  • Two major princely kingdoms, Kashmir and Hyderabad, did not join either Pakistan or India.  Kashmir was annexed by India on 26th October 1947 when Pakistani tribes invaded the kingdom.  Hyderabad was annexed on 17th September 1948, a year later, when people of Hyderabad State rose in protest against brutalities from 250,000-strong force of Nizam.
  • Partition of India led to world’s greatest exodus, nearly 12 million were displaced.  It also led to killing of nearly half a million people in riots, most of them on the Punjab border.  India sent its 55,000 army to Punjab to stop the riots.  India sent Mahatma Gandhi to Calcutta.  No riots took place in Calcutta. 
  • Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic on 30th January 1948, within six months of India getting its freedom.  If the assassin was a Muslim, there would have been a blood bath in the country.
  • Jinnah gave a call for Direct Action on 16th August 1946 wherein 4000 people were killed in the streets of Calcutta. He wanted Pakistan.
  • Mahatma Gandhi was bitterly opposed to Partition of India.  It was Jinnah, Nehru and Patel who agreed to Partition and accepted it.  Ambedkar actively supported Partition.
  • India and Pakistan, the two new countries, believed they would have cordial relations with each other.  They believed they would have a ‘long-term defensive pact’.  The bonhomie disappeared when Pakistani tribals invaded Kashmir. 
  • Nehru took the name of ‘India’ for the new country to ensure it was the legal inheritor of the history and British India, while Pakistan is considered a secessionist state.  
  • Indian Army or Indian administrators never set foot in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.  That region was never under Indian control because it was already occupied by Pakistan by the time Instrument of Accession was signed by the king of Kashmir.
  • India became sovereign republic on 26th January 1950.  India included the word ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ in its Preamble of the Constitution in 1976 during Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi.  The Constitution was always secular and socialist though it didn’t call itself one.
  • India owes many things to Britain, other than Railways and English. 
  1. Constitutional Democracy – a primitive form existed in British India.  It had a constitution in the form of Government of India Act of 1935 which was adopted in great measure into Indian Constitution (250 out of 395 articles came from this Act).  
  2. Indian leaders were elected to office.  Elections were held in 1937 and 1946.  Political parties campaigned like today.  Nehru, Patel, et al, held office in various provinces of British India.
  3. Justice– unlike in Indian monarchies where people were treated differently based on social status and caste. British introduced law which was common for all.
  • Lord Mountbatten arrived into India on 22 March 1947.  His mandate was to prepare Indian subcontinent for freedom in mid 1948.  However, looking at the prevailing political conditions he set the date at 15 August 1947, the day Japan surrendered to Allied forces in 1945 ending World War II.
  • Before India became independent, Nehru was the External Affairs Minister in the Interim Government.
  • Indians living in British India were much better off compared to those living in the princely states.  While the Indians under British enjoyed rule of law, democracy (limited), justice, secular education, those living in princely states faced suppression and repression of highest form.
  • At the time of India’s Independence, British India composed of nearly two-thirds of the area and three-fourths of the population.  The rest was held by 565 princely states.  All princely states acceded to India by 15th August 1947, except Hyderabad, Kashmir and Junagadh.  The princely states were fully merged into India in 1949.  
  • Hyderabad State under Nizam was the largest princely state.  It was as large as France with nearly 1.6 crore people.  At that time India’s population was 36 crores.
  • Most of the princely states were lying in India with only 10 lying in Pakistan.
  • One of the greatest achievements of formation of India is the bloodless revolution that unified hundreds of princely states into Dominion of India, considered far more successful than that of Germany under Bismarck or Italy under Cavour.  It was largely orchestrated by Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Iron Man of India, with the help of V P Menon. 
  • Junagadh and Hyderabad were predominantly Hindu, with Muslim rulers.  Hence their accession to India was obvious.  Kashmir was predominantly Muslim, with a Hindu ruler – and hence the accession became controversial.
  • India promised to pay huge sums to the royal families who merged their princely states into India, called privy purses.  In 1971, Indira Gandhi removed them.
  • Hindi is not the national language of India.  Hindi along with English is the official language of the Central Administration.  Each state has two official languages – the regional language along with English.  In practice, Indian Government runs in English.
  • Jinnah insisted on Urdu as the only official language of Pakistan which was bitterly opposed by East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) planting the seeds for a future partition.   Jinnah described Bengali as the language of Hindus.  India and Pakistan went to war on 1971 which led to breakup of Pakistan creating Bangladesh.
  • One of the prominent architects of Indian Constitution, B R Ambedkar, was the first Law Minister of Indian Union.  He resigned in 1951 when Congress opposed his Hindu Code Bill.  Back then it was Hindu fanatics in Congress who opposed the bill which gave equal rights to Indian woman.  They said that his bill would break the family traditions of Hindus. 
  • Uniform Civil Code in its original form was proposed by Nehru but rejected by Hindu religious groups.  Nehru passed Hindu Code Bill for all religions except Muslims fearing a backlash that may result in a civil war like that of Partition.  Few decades later, it is proposed by Hindu religious groups and political parties to be imposed onto Muslims but rejected by Congress.
  • Though Patel was elder to Nehru by 14 years, he accepted Nehru as Prime Minister of India because Mahatma Gandhi chose Nehru as his political successor.  Though Patel and Nehru had many differences they never split up.  Patel died on 15th December 1950. 
  • Patel held onto strong Hindu traditions and saw India as mostly Hindu.  Nehru was secular in his political views. Patel asked Muslims in India to prove their patriotism if they wanted to be treated equal.  Nehru and other cabinet ministers opposed it and made him retract that.
  • One of the greatest achievements of Indian Constitution is introduction of reservations towards lower castes.  No other country has successfully overcome such a long standing social and economic discrimination towards such a big chunk of population in such a short period of time.  No time limit was proposed for reservations.
  • Article 3 of Indian Constitution empowers Indian Parliament to reorganize states. 
  • Architects of Indian Constitution believed in India that continues to grow, change and thrive.  The following states were created since Independence.  Andhra State (1953), Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala (1956), Maharashtra, Gujarat (1960), Nagaland (1963), Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh (1966), Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura (1972), Sikkim (1975), Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram (1987), Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand (2000).
  • Constitution of India does not mention political parties.  India is considered a parliamentary democracy, not a multi-party democracy.  A member of parliament is the legal representative of the people, not the political party.
  • Anti-defection law remains controversial, undemocratic and even unconstitutional (because it conflicts with basic tenets). 


  1. "Nehru took the name of ‘India’ for the new country to ensure it was the legal inheritor of the history and British India, while Pakistan is considered a secessionist state. "

    Looks like seeds for future mischief are being sowed here.
    Pakistanis did not want to inherit Indian legacy ,simple.

  2. The two Good things the Brits did to India are said to be Indian railways and the Indian Civil Services(there were 500 non-white ICS men when Brits left).

    ICS morphed into IAS and is the main reason for messy ,bureaucratic Administration(one British PM said to hav later said " A Independant govt is better than a Good Govt" .

    Indian railways the greatest gift was effeciently used during the Time of Bengal and SOuthIndian Famine to Increase Offshore Grain exports while Millions were dieing

  3. Good post. I am not sure how I missed it in my rss reader.

  4. You may want to include few more points like annexing Goa and few other like Yanam?

  5. Green Star:
    Yes, I could. But I felt it already became too long so I just winded up ;-)

    May be, another article to go into other details!


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