British India 1919-1947 History of India 1966-1984

India 1947-1966

Consolidation; Foreign Policy : In 1947 the moment for India's independence had finally come. However, the colony of British India was split in two countries, the Republics of India (with a dominating Hindu majority) and Pakistan (with a dominating Muslim majority). Both governments - in India a government of the Congress Party under Prime Minister Jawahrlal Nehru - were not willing to accept the continued independence of India's over 500 princely states; the princes or the people of these states had to make choices. While many accepted their fate and saw their statelets annexed into India or Pakistan, the Nizam of Hyderabad did not; in a brief 1948 war, his principality was conquered by Indian forces and annexed, placed under military administration and in 1956 split over three Indian states. Another problem arose in the case of Jammu and Kashmir : the Maharaja opted for India, while an estimated 90 % of the population was Muslim and desired integration into Pakistan (the K in Pakistan stands for Kashmir). In the end, Kashmir was partitioned into a part held by Pakistan and a (larger) part held by India. Both sides continue to claim all of Jammu and Kashmir.
The separation of British India and the princely states into India and Pakistan was violent; c. 8.6 million of Hindus and Sikhs fled from Pakistani territory, c. 7.9 million of Muslims from Indian territory. Mohandas K. Gandhi was assassinated by a radical Hindu. India and Pakistan fought a brief war in 1948.
In foreign policy, the Nehru administration criticized colonialism and pursued an independent course between the two blocks. Nehru was a leading figure in the early Non-Aligned Movement. At the end of the Korean War, India assumed the presidency in the NNSC (Neutral Nations Supervisory Council) that was to supervise the armistice on the peninsula.
In 1954, India absorbed French India; in 1961, Indian forces occupied Portuguese India; both were annexed into India. In 1962, India and China fought the Sino-Indian War; the Chinese occupied a part of Kashmir and Himalayan border regions in Arunachal Pradesh; China still holds on to part of Kashmir.
India's own conquests, her wars with Pakistan and her dispute with China discredited India as a leading force in the Non-Aligned Movement; it rather came to be regarded as a regional power. After Nehru's death in 1964, a Second Indo-Pakistani War (1965) was fought.

Administration : India adopted a Federal Constitution, with some of her member states having a population larger than that of former mother country, the UK. In 1950 India proclaimed the Republic. The country earned the title "largest democracy on earth", despite the fact that many different languages are spoken within its borders, the country is a religious caleidoscope and despite high analphabetism.
Upon independence, India inherited a territorial structure based on British conquests, annexations, administrative divisions and princely states, which did reflect historical feudatory structures rather than India's social, economic and cultural reality. From 1948 to 1960 India's political landscape was repeatedly altered, in order to abolish remnants of feudalism and to create viable states based on the common language of her inhabitants.
The new Republic of India adopted a policy of respecting cultural differences within the federation, but taking action against any secessionist movement, such as the suggested Dravidastan (southern India). The establishment of Andhra Pradesh as the state of the Telugu-speaking people marks the beginning of reshaping India into a federation of nation states; in 1956 Kerala (Malayalam), Mysore (now Karnataka, Kannada), Rest-Madras (today Tamil Nadu, Tamil) followed, in 1960 Maharashtra (Marathi), Gujarat (Gujarati). The feudal states were abolished in 1956. In 1966, Hindi-speaking Haryana was separated from the (East) Punjab. Hindi was to replace English as the national (i.e. federal) language by 1965; when this policy was to be implemented, it caused riots in non-Hindi speaking areas.

Domestic Policy : After the assassination of Mohandas K. Gandhi in 1948 and the death of Sardar Patel in 1950, the leading figure in Indian politics was Jawaharlal Nehru; he died in 1964 and was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri, who died in 1966. The Indian National Congress, whose actions had brought about the British withdrawal from India, in 1947 began a transformation into a political party. It was to occupy a dominant position in Indian politics for the coming decades, both in the federation and on state level. India was a functioning multiparty democracy, in which the Congress Party occupied the central position. Other parties held only a fraction of seats and often were not capable to cover the entire country, but could form a formidable alternative to Congress on state level.
The Congress Party administration pursued a social policy of cautious modernization, emphasizing the emancipation of the untouchables (dalits). Positions in public administration were to be granted without consideration to India's traditional caste system; the army and universities also were to be open for people from all social groups. Nehru advocated secularism and a non-dogmatic form of socialism.
In 1961, village self-government was introduced in many states (BBoY 1962)

The Economy : In the early years of independence, India suffered food shortage. The state launched a program constructing dams in order to provide water reservoirs for irrigation projects. In 1953, rationing and price controls were abolished in large parts of the country.
Rice production in the Republic of India amounted to 32 million metric tons in 1947; the figure rose to 45.6 million metric tons in 1966 (IHS pp.191, 196)
B.R. Mitchell has established a table showing the total values of exports and imports in aggregate current values. Imports exceeded imports throughout the period from 1947 to 1966; in 1966, in aggregate current (2003) values, total exports amounted to 11.5 billion Rupees, imports to 20.1 billion Rupees (IHS p.545).
India's political leaders in the years immediately after independence blamed the British administration for having prevented Indian development by failing to improve the education of the masses and by preventing the country to industrialize. Many institutions of higher learning were established (where English maintained importance, at least as one of several languages of instruction); the state pursued a protectionist economic policy and, in Five Year Plans, attempted to promote industrialization of the country. The first Five Year Plan was implemented 1951-1956. In 1958, India adopted the metric system (BBoY 1959).

Social History : In 1947, the population of the Republic of India was estimated at 345 million; in 1966 at 493 million.
The policy of planned industrialization went along with a policy intending to weaken caste structures and abolishing social discrimination against the dalits. The policy was of moderate success; while new economic structures were established, they struggled because of bureaucratic reglementation, partially also because large segments of India's population were unaccustomed to the requirements of an industrial society. Resistance against the well-intended policies by the state was strongest in the countryside. However, increases in GNP failed to significantly raise the standard of living of the population, because of continued high population growth.
In 1955 a monogamy was introduced by law, as was divorce for Hindus. Untouchability was abolished, the Dalits now described as scheduled classes; the treatment of a person as an untouchable was made a criminal offense (BBoY 1956).

Operation Polo, from Bharat Rakshak, an account of the 'Police Action' against Hyderabad, 1948
The Liberation of Goa : 1961, from Bharat Rakshak
The Himalayan War 1962, a historical perspective, from Field Marshal Military Project, 9 chapters
Sino-Indian War, from Wikipedia
CASCON Case ICB : India - China border 1954-1962, by L.P. Bloomfield, L. Moulton
CASCON Case INP : India - Pakistan 1965-, by L.P. Bloomfield, L. Moulton
CASCON Case KAS : Kashmir 1947-, by L.P. Bloomfield, L. Moulton
Biography of Jawaharlal Nehru, from Asia Source, from Wikipedia
Biography of Lal Bahadur Shastri, from Manas, from Wikipedia
Five Year Plans, from Planning Commission, Government of India
Article Five Year Plans of India, Republic of India, History of India : Independent India, Metrication of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian National Congress, First Indo-Pakistani War 1947-1948, Second Indo-Pakistani War 1965, Sino-Indian War 1962, from Wikipedia
Political Sources on the Net : India
Global History of Currencies : India, by Bryan Taylor
India : The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-1962, in : Kenneth Janda, Political Parties : A Cross-National Survey
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : India, by Ben Cahoon
Historical Population Statistics : India, from Population Statistics, Univ. Utrecht
Unpublished Indian Official History of the 1962 War, from orbat
Maps on the Indian-Chinese Border Conflict 1962, posted by orbat
REFERENCE IHS : International Historical Statistics : Africa, Asia & Oceania 1750-2000, edited by B.R. Mitchell, Basingstoke : Palgrave MacMillan 4th ed. 2003
Article : India, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1948 pp.383-386 [G]
Article : India, Dominion of, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1949 pp.337-340, 1950 pp.357-359 [G]
Article : India, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1951 pp.359-361, 1952 pp.353-355, 1953 pp.352-355, 1954 pp.352-354, 1955 pp.401-403, 1956 pp.342-344, 1957 pp.405-407, 1958 pp.338-340, 1959 pp.335-337, 1960 pp.334-336, 1961 pp.340-342, 1962 pp.332-333, 1963 pp.449-451, 1964 pp.426-427, 1965 pp.421-423, 1966 pp.372-375 [G]
Paul R. Brass, The Politics of India since Independence, Cambridge : UP 1990 [G]
Valli Kanapathipillai, The Repatriation of Indian Tamil Plantation Workers from Sri Lanka to India, pp.326-330 in : Robin Cohen, The Cambridge Survey of World Migration, Cambridge : UP 1995, KMLA Lib.Sign. 304.809 C678c
Article : India, Republic of, in : Americana Annual 1957 pp.371-375 [G]
Article : India, in : Americana Annual 1961 pp.349-353, 1962 pp.354-358, 1963 pp.320-324, 1964 pp.319-322, 1965 pp.326-329 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 23rd 2002, last revised on September 28th 2007

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