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Harrison Akins

This chapter outlines the constitutional debates about India’s political future during the 1940s and the debates between New Delhi and the India Office in London over how to handle the princely states amid broader political reforms in India, leading up to the Cabinet Mission in 1946 that outlined the basis of the British government’s policy for India. The Cabinet Mission essentially sidestepped the issue of the princely states, as the members of the Cabinet Mission hoped to avoid in any way committing the princes in advance to specific conditions under which they would join India’s constitution-making body, the Constituent Assembly. The chapter goes on to discuss developments with the princes as the British prepared their plans for withdrawing from the Subcontinent in 1947. Partition placed the princely states in an even more difficult position, especially those states with Muslim rulers and majority Hindu populations and vice versa, such as Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir, and Bhopal. Their path remained uncertain, with opinions divided among both the British and the Indians. Some British officials even argued for a third path—the right to claim full independence following the lapse of paramountcy. Thus, this chapter provides an overview of British engagement on the issue of the princely states in the years leading up to the transfer of power.

in Conquering the maharajas
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The Nizam’s gambit
Harrison Akins

This chapter provides a case study of the princely state of Hyderabad, over the central Deccan Plateau, from the 1930s to 1950. For just over a year, Hyderabad’s ruler, known as the Nizam, refused to sign the Instrument of Accession, remaining essentially an independent state in the heart of India until New Delhi resorted to military force to resolve the matter. Like the Kashmir chapter, the Hyderabad case study first outlines the tensions between Hyderabad’s Muslim Nizam and the state’s largely Hindu population and then discusses Hyderabad’s opposition to accession and its intention to remain an independent state. Given the Hindu majority among his subjects and their increased political activism against his rule, the Nizam feared the introduction of a democratic government under the Indian government would ultimately threaten his sovereignty and the privileged position of Muslims within the government. Following this, the chapter provides an overview of negotiations between authorities in New Delhi, who pushed for full accession and the assertion of the sovereignty of the Indian state, and Hyderabad, and the ultimate breakdown in the negotiations as both sides refused to compromise, with the Nizam under pressure from the state’s pro-independence Majlis-e-Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen. The chapter concludes with an overview of Operation Polo, the Indian military’s ‘police action’ against the Nizam’s government, and the resulting military administration put into place in Hyderabad following the military operation, which led to the state’s full integration into the Indian Union and the end of princely rule.

in Conquering the maharajas
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Conquering the maharajas
Harrison Akins

The introduction presents the main ideas, arguments and justification for the study. After stressing the importance of the topic under study, this chapter first presents two key ideas for underpinning the book’s argument: the clashing visions of state sovereignty within South Asia and the princely states as emblematic of the British use of indirect rule. Within India’s princely states, the British government instituted a suzerain system of governance in which princes held nominal independence and the political autonomy to handle their internal political affairs, yet maintained an allegiance to an overarching imperial power. This created a political system that shaped the interests of the princes and other political elites who benefited from it. The elites’ privileges and status, therefore, were bound up with the perpetuation of the political system granting them asymmetric access to power, especially in the face of non-elites challenging a political status quo from which they derived few benefits. The princes thus remained resistant to broader political reforms that could undermine their authority, a position that was frequently supported and encouraged by the British government’s policies and rhetoric. As a result, several princes contested the sovereignty of both the Indian and Pakistani governments within their states and attempted to assert their independence to preserve their state’s political autonomy and their personal status. The introduction concludes with a description of the contributions of the study and how the book is structured, including an explanation of the four case studies used within the book.

in Conquering the maharajas
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‘The Switzerland of the East’
Harrison Akins

This chapter provides a case study of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in northern India from the 1930s to the early 1950s. Among India’s princely states, the accession of Jammu and Kashmir presented one of the most strident and difficult situations, as well as one of the most well known, and served as a focal point in the enduring interstate rivalry between India and Pakistan. The chapter begins with a discussion of the tensions between the state’s Hindu Maharaja and his primarily Muslim subjects, and between the Kashmir government and Indian political leaders, underlying the state’s opposition to joining India. Following a discussion of the Maharaja’s attempts to assert Kashmir’s independence, the chapter discusses the tribal invasion of Kashmir from the neighboring North-West Frontier Province and its aftermath for the status of the princely states. The chapter concludes with a discussion of relations between Kashmir and New Delhi after the implementation of a ceasefire in early 1949 and the eruption of protests seeking to overturn Kashmir’s autonomy as enshrined in the Indian constitution.

in Conquering the maharajas
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Between the sea and a hard place
Harrison Akins

This chapter provides a case study of the princely state of Junagadh within the Kathiawar region of Gujarat on the Arabian coast. Before there was Kashmir, there was Junagadh. One month before Pashtun tribesmen crossed into Kashmir, the dispute over the minor princely state of Junagadh was already bringing India and Pakistan dangerously close to war and provoking serious disagreements within the Indian Cabinet that threatened to break it apart only weeks after the transfer of power. Even though Junagadh did not share a border with Pakistan, had a majority Hindu population and was surrounded by Indian territory, the state’s Nawab signed the Instrument of Accession for Pakistan to preserve his sovereignty and the privileged position of Muslims within the state. This chapter provides an overview of the negotiations through the autumn of 1947 between the Junagadh government and New Delhi, and the Indian government’s efforts to force the state government to accede to India, including the movement of the military into the region to force the hand of the Junagadh leadership, the activities of the Provisional Government of Junagadh representing the states’ subjects, and the eventual annexation of the state in November 1947.

in Conquering the maharajas
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Pakistan’s frontier challenge
Harrison Akins

Just as India struggled with integrating the many princely states within its borders following the transfer of power, Pakistan similarly faced the challenge of integrating the Muslim-majority princely states that fell within its sphere of influence. This chapter opens with a brief overview of the princely states that fell within Pakistan and how the Pakistani government’s approach contrasted with India’s. The Pakistani government generally took a more relaxed position than the Indian government regarding the ten princely states that landed within Pakistan, so long as the princes made clear, through their statements and actions, that they would in no way challenge the sovereignty of the Pakistani state. However, before and after the transfer of power, the Khan of the princely state of Kalat made clear to Pakistani authorities that Kalat would reclaim its independent status with the lapse of paramountcy. The chapter discusses relations between Kalat and the British government under the British Raj, including how the state differed in its administrative and political structures from other princely states, and then how the Khan of Kalat sought to assert his sovereignty after the British withdrawal. Following this discussion, it lays out the negotiations between Pakistan and Kalat and the pressure exerted by the Pakistani government, ultimately leading to Kalat’s accession to Pakistan in late March 1948 and the Khan’s brother subsequently launching an anti-Pakistan rebellion put down by the Pakistan military the following summer.

in Conquering the maharajas
Harrison Akins

This chapter analyzes the position of the two leading nationalist parties—the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League—toward the princely states and how the parties engaged with them through the 1930s and early 1940s, including Congress’ engagement with the increasing political activism of the states’ subjects and the Muslim League’s more hands-off approach. The chapter analyzes how the nationalist movement’s attitude to the princely states transitioned over time—from seeing the princely states as an example of indigenous capacity to rule, to pragmatic disengagement, to outright hostility and increased activism to challenge the princes’ rule, including increased engagement with political groups representing the states’ subjects as they became more and more active in challenging the princes’ autocracy. The princes’ antagonistic position toward the nationalist movement, dominated by the Indian National Congress, and its vision of Indian nationalism also demonstrated their resistance to any internal political reforms that would increase their subjects’ civil and political rights. The princes feared that this path could lead to the implementation of democratic government within their states, which would undermine their sovereignty and further degrade their status and privileges. Many of the reforms the princes did implement in the face of growing political agitation from among their subjects were criticized as mere eyewash, with Congress growing increasingly active in their political activities against princely rule in the late 1930s and 1940s.

in Conquering the maharajas
Harrison Akins

The chapter details the efforts of Indian leaders to convince the princes to accede to the Indian Union, including the creation of the States Department under the leadership of Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon as the vehicle for engaging with the princely states. It outlines the various points of contention among the princely order in relation to issues of the princely states’ sovereignty and the clashes between both Congress leadership and the political groups representing the states’ subjects. The chapter demonstrates how the princes worked to preserve the layered sovereignty of British rule through the broader political changes during 1946 and 1947. It concludes with a discussion of princely opposition to accession through the spring and summer of 1947 as the princes sought to protect their sovereignty following the transfer of power, including the unsuccessful efforts of the Nawab of Bhopal and the Maharaja of Travancore to declare their independence.

in Conquering the maharajas
Matthew M. Heaton

Chapter 1 examines the development of colonial administrative ideology in Nigeria and its ultimate application to the pilgrimage by the early 1920s. Initially, British colonial officials showed little interest in controlling the movement of subjects at all, let alone for something as complex as the pilgrimage. The nascent inklings of ‘indirect rule’ under Lord Lugard in northern Nigeria suggested that the less intrusion into the ‘traditional’ practices of colonial subjects the better, and nowhere was this considered more sacrosanct than in religious matters. However, by the late 1910s, attitudes were beginning to change, as colonial officials in both Nigeria and Sudan began to view the pilgrimage as in some ways a threat to the premises of indirect rule by weakening the control that indigenous political authorities had over their subjects, injecting anti-colonial and fanatical discourses, and threatening the security of colonial subjects through deprivation, disease, and even enslavement on their long voyages. By the early 1920s, it had become clear to many colonial officials that some form of regulation of the pilgrimage would be necessary if for no other reason than to mitigate the problems that the traditional practices posed for the new colonial political order.

in Decolonising the Hajj
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Legacies of colonisation and decolonisation on the Nigerian Hajj
Matthew M. Heaton

The book concludes with a brief discussion of the politics of pilgrimage in post-independence Nigeria, where it has become ever more ensconced with government bureaucracy and intersected with ongoing crises regarding the relationship of religion and the state in a secular, multi-cultural society. Though the pilgrimage has grown significantly since the colonial era, allowing more Nigerians than ever before to travel to Mecca more safely and efficiently than ever, accusations of corruption, inefficiency, and mismanagement are common, and the international politics of the pilgrimage continue to have significant resonance. While the nationalisation of the pilgrimage has become deeply embedded in contemporary Nigerian discourse, the legacies of its colonisation and decolonisation over the last century continue to shape the contours of Nigerians’ engagement with the Hajj.

in Decolonising the Hajj