Photographic book

India in 1948 and 1949


Hari Singh
Hari Singh

Under the provisions of the Indian Independence Act, India and Pakistan were established as independent dominions of the British Commonwealth of Nations, with the right to withdraw from or remain within the Commonwealth. At independence India received most of the 562 princely states, as well as the majority of the British provinces, and parts of three of the remaining provinces. Pakistan received the remainder. Pakistan consisted of a western wing, with the approximate boundaries of modern Pakistan, and an eastern wing, with the boundaries of present-day Bangladesh.

Within days after India gained independence, violence broke out among Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. In the following months some 12 million people fled their ancestral homes, Hindus and Sikhs seeking safety in India, Muslims in Pakistan. During the riots and upheaval that took place, Gandhi pleaded with Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs to live peacefully. The country experienced a further blow on January 30, 1948, when Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic.

Before independence, Mountbatten had made clear to the Indian princes that they would have to choose to join either India or Pakistan at partition. In all but three cases, the princes, most of them ruling over very small territories, were able to work out an agreement with one country or another, generally a deal that preserved some measure of their status and a great deal of their revenue.

The status of three princely states—namely, Jammu and Kashm?r, Hyder?b?d, and the small and fragmented state of J?n?gadh (in present-day Gujar?t)—remained unsettled at independence, however. The Muslim ruler of Hindu-majority J?n?gadh agreed to join to Pakistan, but a movement by his people, followed by Indian military action and a plebiscite (people’s vote of self-determination), brought the state into India. The nizam of Hyder?b?d, also a Muslim ruler of a Hindu-majority populace, tried to maneuver to gain independence for his very large and populous state, which was, however, surrounded by India.

After more than a year of fruitless negotiations, India sent its army in a police action in September 1948, and Hyder?b?d became part of India.

Hari Singh, the Hindu maharaja of Jammu and Kashm?r, a large state with a majority Muslim population and adjacent to both India and Pakistan, kept postponing the decision of whether to join India or Pakistan, hoping to explore the possibilities of independence. After tribal warriors supported by Pakistan invaded and threatened his capital in October 1947, Hari Singh finally agreed to join India in exchange for military support from the Indian army. The situation, however, was complicated by a nearly 20-year-old movement against the maharaja—a movement that was likely supported by a large majority of Muslims of the Kashm?r valley. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the leader of the movement against the maharaja, also explored the possibility of independence, but his friendship with Nehru prevented him from pursuing this idea.

Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru made an arrangement whereby Abdullah became Jammu and Kashm?r’s first prime minister in 1948, and the new state was granted far more autonomy than any other princely state that had joined India. The problems with Jammu and Kashm?r, however, were only beginning. As fighting continued between Indian and Pakistani forces, India asked the United Nations (UN) for help. A cease-fire was arranged in 1949, with the cease-fire line creating a de facto partition of the region. The central and eastern areas of the region came under Indian administration as Jammu and Kashm?r state, while the northwestern third came under Pakistani control as Azad (Free) Kashm?r and the Northern Areas. Although a UN peacekeeping force was sent in to enforce the cease-fire, the territorial dispute remained unresolved. France and Portugal still held territories on the Indian coast after India gained independence. The French territories, the largest of which was Puducherry, had an area of about 500 sq km (about 200 sq mi); they were ceded to India in 1956. Portugal’s main Indian possession was Goa, a territory on the western coast of India. Goa had an area of about 3,400 sq km (about 1,300 sq mi) and a population of about 600,000 in 1959. Portugal refused to cede its territories to India, and in December 1961 the Indian army occupied them. Portugal eventually accepted India’s rule in the early 1970s. Goa became a state of India in 1987; Puducherry became a union territory in 1962. "India" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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