Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Sardar Patel and Churchill’s Princestan

More than a year after independence, India continued to have a British officer as the commander-in-chief of the Indian Army. In September 1948, when Sardar Patel ordered the Indian army to overthrow the regime of Hyderabad’s Nizam, who was conspiring to make Hyderabad an independent country with direct relationship with Britain and Pakistan, General Roy Bucher was the commander-in-chief.

At that time, several British politicians, including Winston Churchill (who was a friend of the Nizam), were supporting the Nizam’s effort to make Hyderabad an independent country—they were taking such a position despite the fact that the majority of the people in Hyderabad were Hindus who wanted to join India. Churchill did not care about the fate of the Indian subcontinent. He was a British supremacist—to save the British Empire, he would without a second thought sacrifice millions of lives in the Indian subcontinent. These details are given in Warren Dockter’s book Churchill and the Islamic World.

Hyderabad covered almost the entire Deccan plateau in the centre of India—it ran across an area of more than 80,000 square miles. If Hyderabad was granted the status of an independent nation, India would have become ungovernable—this is because an independent Hyderabad would have divided North India from South India. 

Convinced that a geographically-unified India would not accept British hegemony, Churchill’s strategy was to divide the Indian subcontinent into three parts: Pakistan, Hindustan and Princestan. By Princestan, he meant the princely states such as Hyderabad. Two of these three parts, Pakistan and Princestan, would be under Islamic rulers who would accept British hegemony. Churchill believed that an independent Hyderabad would be a British puppet.

India was fortunate that Clement Attlee won the election in 1945 and became the prime minister of Britain. If Churchill had been the prime minister in the crucial period of the late 1940s, he would have used the might of the British state to sabotage India’s interests, and divide the Indian subcontinent into several small states. The implementation of Churchill's insane strategy for partition would have led to violence of much greater magnitude than what happened under Attlee, and the Indian subcontinent would have become a war zone for decades.

General Roy Bucher initially objected to Patel’s order of military action against Hyderabad’s Nizam. He warned that if India moved against the Nizam, Pakistan would retaliate by attacking Amritsar. Patel told Bucher that as a commander of the Indian military, his job was to obey the government’s orders, and if he opposed the Hyderabad action, then he should resign. Bucher backed down and on September 13, 1948, the Indian army moved into Hyderabad. On September 17, the Nizam capitulated and Hyderabad became a part of India.

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