Accession of princely states was one of the most daunting tasks. Princely states occupied almost 40% of the colonial territory and were more than 500 in numbers. During British rule they enjoyed paramountcy and were insulated from both external aggression and their own people under British patronage. Many of them started to think of independent existence after independence was declared as amidst ambiguous statement of British PM Clement Atlee that paramountcy is not transferrable to either India or Pakistan. British government however later clarified the matter an urged the states to join either of the dominion, but a few states have made their mind.
Presence of such independent states interspersed within India could have posed significant security, political and administrative challenges threatening the hard earn liberty and integrity of the nation itself. Further, people of these states were equal stakeholders in national movement and had their own aspirations of liberty and pan-Indian nationalism. National movement and its leaders have also long believed that power lies in the hands of people and not the princely rulers. State People’s Conference has also been demanding democratic transfer of power and integration with larger national identity since long.
Integration of such states was done through both pressure and persuasion in two stages under able guidance of Sardar Patel who was also helped by V P Menon. Some of them joined at the time of formation of constituent assembly out of sheer patriotism or wisdom, others lingered on. Patel urged states to join before 15th August 1947 with lenient terms or face ire of their own people and perhaps government of India as well. As result all but three states – Junagarh, Kashmir and Hyderabad – have joined India before D-day.