At the time of Independence, two-fifths of the Indian subcontinent was under
the direct rule of rajas and nawabs. These rulers had acknowledged British
paramountcy and had been given almost a free hand in ruling their states.
Out of the 562 princely states, only 14 were in or adjacent to Pakistan and
the rest were all in India.
The people of the princely states had not remained unaffected by the freedom
struggle in British India. They acknowledged the leadership of Gandhiji,
Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and others. They had
organised anti-British demonstrations during the 'Quit India' movement. When
the British left India it was clear that the people of the princely states
wanted to become one with the people of the former British India, now a
most of the princes were reconciled to losing their hereditary power, there
were some who cherished ambitions of becoming monarchs of sovereign states.
But Sardar Patel who was the Minister of Home had no intention of allowing any
other sovereign state to emerge on the Indian sub-continent. Ably assisted by
V.P. Menon he could persuade all the princes except three to sign the
Instrument of Accession, allowing the Government of India to handle Defence,
Foreign Affairs and Communications. This he achieved by August 14, 1947. Long
drawn-out negotiations followed to bring about total integration of these
states with India.
The Nawab of Junagadh wanted to join Pakistan but he did not have the support
of his people. They rose in rebellion and the nawab fled. In a referendum held
soon after, the people voted for accession of their state with India.
The Nizam of Hyderabad had no wish to sign the Instrument of Accession though
his subjects were clearly in favour of joining India. He signed a stand-still
agreement with the Government of India in November, 1947 which gave him a
year's time to make up his mind. But when he showed no inclination to sign the
Instrument of Accession and tried to gather international support for his
stand on Hyderabad and let loose the Razakar goons on his people, Sardar Patel
thought enough was enough and sent the army in.