The Indian Independence Act of 1947 gave princely states the choice to accede to either India or Pakistan or remain independent. However, the newly formed Government of India wanted to unify the country and avoid fragmentation and instability.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Home Minister of India, was entrusted with the task of integrating the princely states with the help of V.P. Menon, the Secretary of the Ministry of States.
Main administrative issues
1. The lack of uniformity and consistency in the treaties and agreements between the British and the princely states. Some states had more autonomy and privileges than others, and some had special arrangements such as subsidies, guarantees, or paramountcy.
2. The reluctance and resistance of some rulers to join India or Pakistan, especially those who had ambitions of becoming independent sovereign states or had religious or cultural affinities with Pakistan. Some examples are Hyderabad, Junagadh, Kashmir, Travancore, Bhopal, and Jodhpur.
3. The threat of communal violence and civil unrest in some regions where the population was divided along religious lines or had grievances against the rulers. Some examples are Hyderabad, Junagadh, Kashmir, and Mysore.
4. The difficulty of integrating the diverse administrative systems, laws, policies, and institutions of the princely states with those of the provinces and the centre. Some states had modern and progressive systems while others had feudal and oppressive systems.
5. The challenge of ensuring the security and defence of the border areas and strategic locations that were surrounded by or adjacent to Pakistan or other hostile forces. Some examples are Kashmir, Junagadh, Hyderabad, Manipur, and Tripura.
Main socio-cultural problems
1.The clash of values and ideologies between the democratic and secular vision of India and the traditional and conservative outlook of some princely states. Some rulers and elites were opposed to the reforms and changes that India wanted to introduce in areas such as social justice, human rights, education, health, and women’s empowerment.
2. The resentment and alienation of some sections of society who felt that their interests and identities were ignored or undermined by the integration process. Some examples are the Muslims in Hyderabad and Junagadh, the tribals in Bastar and Orissa States, and the Rajputs in Rajasthan.
3. The adjustment and adaptation of the royal families and their followers who had to give up their power, prestige, and privileges after joining India. They were granted privy purses and certain guarantees for their personal rights and properties, but they also had to face legal challenges, public scrutiny, and political marginalization.
The preservation and promotion of the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the princely states that had contributed to the history, art, literature, music, architecture, and cuisine of India. The main challenge was to balance their loyalty to their regional identities with their commitment to national integration.