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Fragmenting the Nation: Divisible Sovereignty and Travancore's Quest for Federal Independence

  • Sarath Pillai


Speaking at the Travancore legislative assembly on February 2, 1938, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar said: “The federation contemplated in the Government of India Act (1935) was founded on the recognition of the fundamental idea that the Ruler alone represents his state and that the Ruler is the government of the state.” Travancore was one of the oldest princely states in India, which antedated the British occupation and claimed a dynastic rule uninterrupted by any foreign or domestic powers. Its history of constitutional reforms and economic advancement enabled it to occupy a pivotal position in colonial India. As the Dewan (prime minister) of Travancore, Sir C.P. played a crucial role in the constitutional debates on the political form of postcolonial India, especially federation, in the last two decades of the British Empire in India. He argued that Indian states were inherently sovereign, and that the only locus of sovereignty in the states was their rulers. In doing so, he imagined a future Indian federation predicated on the idea of divisible sovereignty, which was given constitutional effect by the Government of India (GOI) Act (1935). Sir C.P.'s expositions on the sovereignty of the states and Travancore's constitutionalism offer analytical lenses to recuperate a history of imperial constitutionalism and the grand political project it enabled: Indian federation.


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1. Speeches of Sachivottama Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, Dewan of Travancore 1938 (Trivandrum: Government Press, 1944), 31.

2. I retain the title “Sir” in this article to maintain consistency with primary and secondary (esp. vernacular) literature on him. It is simply a signifier, without subscribing to the merits of such colonial titles, to make him recognizable to the readers who know him as “Sir C.P.”.

3. In this article, I deploy the nation-state as equivalent of unitary state, wherein sovereignty and residual powers lie with a single authority such as the parliament. This is precisely the reason why the states did not find the British model appealing. It is true that nation-states could accommodate diversities in region, religion, language, and culture, but the nation-state form that the states rejected, I argue, was one that presumed a single sovereign; a state that did not allow provincial autonomy or sharing/dividing of sovereignty between the center and the units.

4. Partha Chatterjee, Empire and Nation: Selected Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 25–27. Chatterjee does not accept any alternative to the nation-state even as he rejects the European modular forms of nationalisms. Also see his Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (London: Zed Books, 1986).

5. Hardly has the equality of the states with the Company in early years received the attention of historians, although many colonial officials and legal scholars of the time wrote about it. Travers has recently made a case for the political expansion of the Company in India through treaty making. Robert Travers, “A British Empire by Treaty in Eighteenth Century India,” in Empire by Treaty: Negotiating European Expansion 1600–1900, ed. Saliha Belmessous (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

6. Sever credits the first formal articulation of the policy of paramountcy to Sir Charles Metcalfe who wrote in his Minutes in 1825: “We have by degrees become the paramount state in India. Although we exercised the powers of this supremacy in many instances before 1817, we have used and asserted them more generally since the extension of our influence by the events of that and the following year.” Adrian Sever, Documents and Speeches on the Indian Princely States Vol. 1 (New Delhi: B.R. Publishing Corp. 1985), 145; Kavita Datla's account, although refreshing, does not mention the subjugation of the Marathas and the consequent military supremacy of the British as fundamental to their claims for paramountcy. Datla, Kavita, “The Origins of Indirect Rule in India: Hyderabad and the British Imperial Order,” Law and History Review 33 (2015): 321–50, esp. 345–46.

7. The Indian States Committee aka Butler Committee that studied the relationship of the states with the crown could not define paramountcy except by saying that “Paramount power must remain paramount”. See [Cmd. 3302] Report of the Indian States Committee 1928–29, House of Commons Parliamentary Papers Online, 31(hereafter HCPPO) (May 20, 2016).

8. This pyramidal structure was best evident in ceremonial matters. The Indian states were ranked according to the gun salutes they enjoyed. The highest number of salutes achievable by an Indian state was 21. The Viceroy (31 salutes) and the Crown (101 salutes) sat on top of this hierarchy.

9. Sastry argues that Grotius, Pufendorf, and Vattel agreed that in an unequal alliance, the inferior power remains a sovereign state; Kadayam Ramachandra Ramabhadra Sastry, Indian States and Responsible Government (Allahabad: Law Journal Press, 1939), 16. Narvane suggests that the states did not lose sovereignty just because they had a superior; D. N. Naravane, The Indian States in the Federation of India (Bombay: Karnatak Publishing House, 1939), 124.

10. [Cmd. 3302] Report of the Indian States Committee 1928–29, 11. Each state differed from the others by virtue of the extent and limits of its sovereignty. Sir Geoffrey De Montmorency writes: “In India the sovereign is the state, and the inherited as well as the personal qualifications for rule of each sovereign therefore present many degrees of difference.” See Sir Geoffrey De Montmorency, Indian States and Indian Federation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1942), 10.

11. Ian Copland, The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire 1917–1947 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997); and Barbara Ramusack, The Indian Princes and Their States (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004). Even though Copland's masterly account places the princes at the center of federation politics, he largely sees them as those who refused to “buy” the federation “sold” to them by the British; on the contrary, as this article argues, the federal thinking goes a long way back in the states, and they were its actual pioneers.

12. What constituted misgovernment was ambiguous; interventions were usually on grounds of financial mismanagement and succession disputes.

13. Sovereignty in India is largely understood as a set of shared and concurrent rights. Travers, “A British Empire by Treaty,” 136. John McLeod tells us how the British changed some of these concurrent rights by splitting these rights, especially with reference to the brotherhood system (Bhayat) among the Kathis, by instituting them as separate sovereigns. John McLeod, Sovereignty, Power, Control: Politics in the State of Western India 1916–1947 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 15–16. Margaret Frenz argues that the British attempt to centralize power put them in conflict with local chieftains in Malabar, which were based on “proportional sovereignty.” That is, the king only headed a hierarchy of the powerful and did not have monopoly of power. Margret Frenz, “‘A Race of Monsters’ South India and the British ‘Civilizing Mission’ in the Later 18th Century,” in Colonialism as Civilizing Mission Cultural Ideology in British India, ed. Harald Fischer-Tine and Michael Mann (London: Anthem 2004), 61–64.

14. In Mahmood Mamdani's account, one really does not see a difference, constitutionally, between directly and indirectly ruled areas. He applies Henry Maine's standard to argue that the chiefs who merely commanded power did not have any sovereignty; in order to be sovereign a state had to have legislative bodies. Many states in India actually had legislative bodies that were theoretically outside the purview of British oversight. I find the differences between African and Indian indirect rule too jarring to have any analytical payoffs from juxtaposing them. Mahmood Mamdani, Define and Rule: Native as Political Identity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012) and Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

15. In a memorandum submitted by the Ruler of Sandur on November 27, 1936, a distinction is sought to be made between “powers of a state” and “powers of the state exercisable by the ruler.” As a ruler who could not administer capital punishment, he argued for a “sovereign” status despite the restrictions imposed on him Confidential 54/1936, Vols. 1–3, Madras States Agency (Cochin/Travancore), National Archives of India (hereafter NAI), New Delhi. The right to hand down a death sentence was universally held as the main marker of sovereignty of a state, including by writers such as Edmund Burke. David P. Fidler and Jennifer M. Welsh, Empire and Community: Edmund Burke's Writings and Speeches on International Relations (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999), 226.

16. For a comprehensive summary of these practices, see Charles Lewis Tupper, Indian Political Practice: A Collection of the Decisions of the Government of India in Political Cases, 4 vols. (Delhi: B.R. Publishing Corp., 1974).

17. Stoler, Ann, “On Degrees of Imperial Sovereignty,” Public Culture, 18 (2006): 125–46.

18. Lauren A. Benton, A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires 1400––1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 226.

19. Ibid., 3.

20. In 1934, an attempt was made to codify the rights of the states. Residencies and states agencies were asked to consult the respective states in this regard. Almost all the states felt that a codification of all practices/rights was unnecessary as well as impossible. File No: 1-R/1934, Foreign and Political Department (Reforms), NAI, New Delhi.

21. Sunil Khilnani, Vikram Raghavan, and Arun K. Thiruvengadam trace the history of “fledgling” Indian constitutionalism from the legal histories written at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London after 1947. Sunil Khilnani, Vikram Raghavan, and Arun K. Thiruvengadam, Comparative Constitutionalism in South Asia (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013), 4; Bhagawan makes a case for Indian states in the imagining of postcoloniality and postcolonial constitutionalism. However, his analysis is one sided. He focuses only on “the intellectual vision (of Nehru and nationalists) that guided princely accession in the constitutional committees assigned to design India,” and not on the postcolonial vision of the princes themselves. Bhagawan, Manu, “Princely States and the Making of Modern India: Internationalism, Constitutionalism and the Postcolonial Moment,” The Indian Economic and Social History Review 46 (2009): 427–56. Finding colonial elements in the postcolonial Indian constitution has been common among legal historians, without any references to the states. Mithi Mukherjee argues that the juridical category of imperial justice came to define anticolonial representational politics in colonial and independent India; however, there is hardly any mention of the states. See Mithi Mukherjee, India in the Shadows of Empire: A Legal and Political History, 1774–1950 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010).

22. Upendra Baxi, “Modeling ‘Optimal’ Constitutional Designs for Government Structures” in Comparative Constitutionalism in South Asia, 28.

23. Ibid., 29.

24. Uday Mehta, “Indian Constitutionalism” in From the Colonial to the Postcolonial: India and Pakistan in Transition, ed. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rochona Majumdar, and Andrew Sartori (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007), 16.

25. Ibid., 24.

26. Classic works on Indian constitution point to this unilinear trajectory. The best example is Granville Austin, The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 8–9. He writes: “The Constituent Assembly was a one-party body in an essentially one-party country. The Assembly was the Congress and the Congress was India.”

27. Rohit De, Constitutional Antecedents (Unpublished manuscript) https:// (October 9 2015).

28. Elangovan, Arvind, “The Making of the Indian Constitution: A Case for a Non-nationalist Approach,” History Compass 12 (2014): 110.

29. Sumit Sarkar argues that “the connections between imperialist federalism and postcolonial structures were not only indirect, but operated mainly through reaction.” The divisive colonial plans only strengthened “the centralizing tendencies,” as opposed to the “federal tendencies” within mainstream nationalism. Although I agree with him that the postcolonial state whittled down federal provisions gradually, I argue that imperial federalism did directly impinge on the postcolonial state, especially by a reconfiguration of sovereignty. Sarkar's idea of federation seems peculiar not only for placing residual powers in the states (something the princes themselves did not want), but also because of the absence of any mention of divisible sovereignty. Sumit Sarkar, “Indian Democracy: The historical Inheritance,” in The Success of India's Democracy, ed. Atul Kohli (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 30–31, 36–37.

30. Frederick Cooper, Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa 1945–1960 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 10. On the other hand, it was the unwillingness of the British Parliament/crown to divide its sovereignty and let the American colonies govern themselves that led to their exit from the empire and eventual independence in 1776. Alison LaCroix, The Ideological Origins of American Federalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).

31. Cooper, Citizenship between Empire, 431. It is important to note that some states in India too advocated confederation, a collection of states federating inter se, before federating with the larger Indian union, Copland, The Princes of India, 107–8.

32. Collins, Michael, Decolonization and the “Federal Moment,” Diplomacy and Statecraft, 24 (2013): 2140. He writes that the compression of the historical space between empire and nation-state has arguably prevented us from asking how for the purposes of decolonization, nation-state became the only alternative.

33. Gary Wilder, Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization, and the Future of the World (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), 8–11. Wilder argues that Senghor and others could think universally in the language of empire and not in that of locality and territorial nation.

34. K. N. Haksar and K.M. Panikkar, Federal India (London: M. Hopkinson 1930), 35–36. They consider the existing relationship between the states and the paramount power as federal in principle. There were several articulations of federation before the Round Table Conferences. Sir C.P.'s speech titled Federal Idea (1928) is a masterly exposition of various constitutions in the world, to drive home the point that only a federal constitution suited future India. His appreciation of the American system and dissatisfaction with the British parliamentary system is very evident here. However, he thought that Americans suffered from an imbalance between a strong center and provincially independent units, as the latter had residual powers. This speech also prefigures his longstanding advocacy of federation with a strong center having residual powers and constituent states enjoying independence. It also pushes back in time his anti-Westminster proclivity best seen in the 1946 American-modeled constitution in Travancore. Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, Federal Idea, The Sri Krishna Rajendra Silver Jubilee University Lecture, Mysore, August 8, 1928, esp. 6–10, 18 (C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation Library, Chennai).

35. Haksar and Panikkar, Federal India, 55–62, 74–76.

36. The ideological and comparative constitutional influence on the federal imagining of the Indian states is a rich area that, unfortunately, does not fall under the purview of this article. Suffice it now to say that many saw the German Constitution as a good precedent, not the least because the German Constitution evolved through individual negotiations with the center and was not top down. Therefore, it allowed for diversity of sovereignties as represented in units. Almost all works written on federation near this time discuss federalisms elsewhere. For example, Naravane, The Indian States in the Federation of India, 137–38; and Frederick Whyte, India, a Federation? Being a Survey of the Principal Federal Constitutions of the World (Simla: Government of India Press, 1926).

37. Haksar and Panikkar, Federal India, 5.

38. Ibid., 31 (emphasis mine).

39. It may be noted that the Indian states played a very crucial part in the making of the GOI Act (1935), a fact usually not recognized. Political departments are filled with files on federal negotiations. The States Ministers Committee, of which Sir C.P. and K.M. Panikkar were members, suggested important amendments to the GOI Bill 1935. [Cmd. 4843] The Government of India Bill Views of Indian States, HCPPO (May 20, 2016). Authors of this act were largely British judges and civil servants in India who had drafted other acts that the GOI Act (1935) replaced. Important among them were Maurice Gwyer, Sidney Rowlatt, and B.N. Rau.

40. A. Sreedhara Menon, Triumph and Tragedy in Travancore: Annals of Sir C.P.'s Sixteen Years (Kottayam: Current Books, 2001), 191.

41. Speeches of Sachivottama Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, 30.

42. Ibid., 33.

43. Ibid., 34.

44. Ibid., 36.

45. Nadadur Desikachariar Varadachariar, Indian States in the Federation (Bombay: H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1936), 153. Appendix II is the speech delivered by Sir Shanmukham in the Cochin legislative council on February 13, 1936.

46. Hansard's Parliamentary Debates (February 5, 2016).

48. File No 283 P(S)/46, 1946, Political Branch, Political department, NAI.

49. Sastry, Indian States and Responsible Government, 96–97, 102–3; Sir C.P. refers to this doctrine in a speech thus: “This doctrine means that … when implementing these doctrines … changes that take place in world conditions and in the environment should also be taken into consideration. So construed, a treaty is as much or as little operative as the stronger party or the more persuasive or insistent party may succeed in arranging. Doctrines of equity have been defined as varying according to the measure of Lord Chancellor's foot.” Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, Treaty Rights of the Indian States, (Bombay: Indian Council of World Affairs, 1945), 8. Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.

50. Sastry, Indian States and Responsible Government, 120–21.

51. Some studies (although they do not address the states question) argue that the 1935 Act was a product of the Conservative imagining of an India within the empire. Federation was expected to divide India wherein Congress took control at the center, whereas parochialism and localism reigned in the provinces, which would lighten the demand for Indian independence. For the purposes of this article, suffice it to say that the provenance of the act and its provisions were rooted in imperial constitutionalism or at an attempt to legislate and federate within the empire. See Conservative Party's imaginings of the act in Carl Bridge, Holding India to the Empire: The British Conservative Party and the 1935 Constitution (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1986); and Andrew Muldoon, Empire, Politics and the Creation of the 1935 India Act: Last Act of the Raj (Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2009).

52. John Percy Eddy and Frederick Horace Lawton, India's New Constitution; A Survey of the Government of India Act, 1935 (London: Macmillan and Co., 1935), v.

53. The Government of India Act, 1935 (Delhi: Government of India Press, 1937), 2–3.

54. Ibid., 3.

55. Ibid., 9, Section 12(g).

56. Speeches of Sachivottama Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, 32; Sastry also attributes the legalistic arguments of Sir C.P. to these provisions of the act, Indian States and Responsible Government, 120.

57. [Cmd. 4843] The Government of India Bill…and a provisional draft instrument of accession, HCPPO, 43.

58. 1854–55 (455) East India (annexation of Karouly), HCPPO, 11.

59. K. N. Haksar, Indian States and the Federation (Bombay: D. B. Taraporevala, 1937), 7.

60. Ibid., 29–30 He particularly drew attention to Sections 137–40 of the 1935 act regarding federal finances.

61. Ibid., 38.

62. Shafaʼat Ahmad Khan, The Indian Federation; an Exposition and Critical Review (London: Macmillan, 1937), 24.

63. Taraknath Das, Sovereign Rights of the Indian Princes (Madras: Ganesh, 1924), 20.

64. Rama Varma, The Making of the New Constitution for India (Ernakulam: Industrial School Press, 1934), 7–8. He writes: “In an ordinary federation rivalries are only between provinces and central government, but here between provinces and states and both provinces and states and the imperial government, the vast Hindu majority versus Mohemadans, the caste Hindus versus depressed classes, capital versus labor and Indian capital versus foreign capital.”

65. Ibid., 8–9.

66. Naravane, The Indian States in the Federation of India, 136.

67. B. R. Ambedkar, Federation Versus Freedom ( Poona: Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, 1939), 8–9.

68. Ibid., 43; He did not believe that this real equality will come about, as the states would continue to have special rights and prerogatives due to their inherent sovereignty.

69. Haksar, Indian States and the Federation, 35–36.

70. Varma, The Making of the New Constitution, 8 (emphasis mine).

71. Sir C.P., Treaty Rights of the Indian States, 14.

72. Section 3(2) stipulated that the act does not affect the relationship between the states and the viceroy/crown. There are many other sections that indicate this fact in different ways. For example, Sections 285–87. The Government of India Act, 1935, 4, 180–81.

73. De Montmorency argues that “Austinian doctrine that the Indian states and their rulers do not exist except as a figment of imagination because they are not repositories of a sovereignty which is at once unlimited and indivisible” will prevent the federation from materializing. Nor were federation and hereditary rule (in the states) antithetical to him. De Montmorency, Indian States and Indian Federation, 5, 147.

74. Das, Sovereign Rights of the Indian Princes, 59. Austinian formulation is also seen in Varadachariar, Indian States in the Federation, 49–50. He argues that the states themselves are creations of the British who possess absolute sovereignty. This is both true and untrue. States such as Travancore antedated the advent of Europeans.

75. Henry Maine, an advocate of divisible sovereignty, famously noted: “Sovereignty … indicates a well ascertained assemblage of separate powers or privileges. The rights which form part of the aggregate are specifically named … as the right to make war and peace, the right to administer civil and criminal justice, the right to legislate and so forth. A sovereign who possesses the whole of his aggregate of rights is called an independent sovereign; but there is not, nor has there ever been, anything in international law to prevent some of those rights being lodged with one possessor, and some with another. Sovereignty has always been regarded as divisible.” (emphasis mine). Quoted from Ramusack, The Indian Princes and their States, 94.

76. A. Sreedhara Menon, A Survey of Kerala History (Kottayam: DC Books, 2007), 253.

77. This was a subsidiary alliance treaty that obligated the state to keep a British battalion in the state at its own expense in return for protection from internal and external enemies. Even though the British troops were removed as early as 1830, Travancore continued to pay the subsidy to the British. This did not result in any change in the terms of the treaty, however. For the full text of treaties, see Charles Umpherston Aitchison, A Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sanads, Relating to India and Neighbouring Countries Vol X, (Calcutta: Superintendent Government Printing, India, 1909), 129–38.

78. Most notably, the Federal Structure Committee aka the Sankey Committee and the Joint Parliamentary Committee, both appointed by the British government.

79. Hamidullah Khan to Sir C.P., February 1944, Private Papers of Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, Roll No, 1392, NAI, New Delhi. In 1936, the annual exports and imports were worth 8,16,00,000 B Rs and 7,43,00,000 B Rs respectively; T. K. Velu Pillai, The Travancore State Manual, Vol II 1940 (Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala State Gazetteers Department, 1996), 604.

80. File No: 308-P/46, Political Department, NAI.

81. The provisions I mention here are a condensed version of the 1946 January draft (aforementioned) and its final version as the Travancore Constitution Act 1122 (April 8, 1947). See the final draft of the Constitution in File No: 16(14)-P/47, Ministry of States, NAI, New Delhi.

82. The 1946 version called them executive committees and there were to be six of them with three members each. The April 1947 version called them administrative committees with the same stipulation of numbers.

83. Many dominions of the British Empire such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand continue to stay under constitutional monarchy. After independence, Attlee tried to convince Nehru that India should stay within the Commonwealth with allegiance to the crown. Harshan Kumarasingham, A Political Legacy of the British Empire: Power and the Parliamentary System in Post-Colonial India and Sri Lanka (London: I.B. Tauris, 2013), 39–41.

84. File No: 16(14)-P/47, Ministry of States, NAI.

85. The Constitution received both negative and positive reviews from all parts of the empire. For responses See File No: 308-P/46 (Titled: Reforms in Travancore) and File No: 239-P(S) /46, Political Branch, Political Department, NAI and Mātṛbhūmi (Malayalam national daily, Calicut), January 18, 1946, pg. 1–2 (see esp. the editorial on page 2 titled “Thiruvathamkoorile Bharanaparishkaram” translated as “Administrative Reforms in Travancore”) and January 22, 1946, pg. 1.

86. Statement by the Cabinet Delegation and His Excellency the Viceroy (as issued in New Delhi on May 16, 1946) (February 5, 2016).

87. The Dewan-President’ Statement at the Joint Sitting of The Travancore Sri Mulam Assembly and The Sri Chitra State Council (Trivandrum: Government Press, 1946), 10. V.K. John, Bar-at-Law, argues, on the basis of public international law, that the Indian Union, by virtue of being the paramount power in a well-defined geographical area, will have paramountcy over smaller powers (the states) within that geographical area. Hence paramountcy is not transferred; rather, it attaches to the paramount power by virtue of its paramount position. This exposition is predicated on a conception of the nation-state with definite boundaries and unified sovereignty and has no locus standi in imperial constitutionalism, as the cabinet mission statement makes clear. File No: 41-PR/47, Theory of Paramountcy, Ministry of States, NAI, New Delhi.

88. Theoretically, the postcolonial Indian state could not claim paramountcy over the states, as paramountcy was not transferrable; it could only lapse, after the British forsook the legal relationship with the states.

89. Efforts at thinking about India's future in federated or multinational terms with the United States and the Soviet Union as examples were common among Indians of all religious and political persuasions. The most interesting person is the founder of Muslim League, Aga Khan's vision of a South Asiatic Federation, including Aden, Mesopotamia, Malay, Ceylon, Burma, Singapore, and other regions, which he articulated as early as 1918. Faisal Devji, Muslim Zion (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 29–30, 71–73.

90. De Montmorency critiques Congress's hostility toward the states, which left the federation in a “coma.” De Montmorency, Indian States and Indian Federation, 147–51; Nehru declared that those states that did not join the Constituent Assembly would be declared enemies; Gandhi said that the states could not remain independent, and exhorted the British to prevent that possibility; See Mātṛbhūmi, April 20, and June 15, 1947, respectively. All these political claims point toward one national independence, one constitution, and one national sovereignty as representative of its constituents, an eventuality the states always wanted to avoid by federating.

91. The Dewan-President’ Statement at the Joint Sitting, 11.

92. Ibid., 12.

93. Sir C.P. demanded a third union, Rajasthan (union of princely states), in the event of partition of British India, to safeguard their independence from either union. “Pakistan Must Be Opposed,” The Times of India (1861–Current), Apr 04, 1946, 3.

94. A negotiating committee was appointed to work out the representation of the states in the Constituent Assembly. Nehru, one of its members, insisted that states send elected representatives. Sir C.P., a member representing the states, argued that half of the representatives from Travancore would be appointed from non-officials in the legislative assembly, but he insisted that the choice of representatives was the prerogative of the state concerned; “States Gave Bargaining Power to Congress,” The Times of India (1861–Current), Jun 17, 1946, 5.; Naravane also argues that there was no legal status for states' subjects, nor were they the subjects of the British crown, king/ruler is the fountain of all legal authority; Naravane, The Indian States in the Federation of India, 164.

95. “States Peoples Voice Must Be Heard,” The Times of India (1861–Current), Jun 10, 1946, 8.; at the same conference Sardar Patel stated that sovereignty resides in the people and not in individual rulers. Congress President Kripalani said that sovereignty resides with the people; K.M. Munshi said that the constituent assembly will be its locus; Mātṛbhūmi May 20 and January 4, 1947, respectively.

96. “States Gave Bargaining Power to Congress,” The Times of India (1861–Current), Jun 17, 1946, 5.

97. “Sir G. Ayyangar's Suggestions,” The Times of India (1861–Current), Dec 20, 1946, 3.

98. Ibid.

99. “Sovereignty Issue,” The Times of India (1861–Current), Dec 30, 1946, 8.

100. Mātṛbhūmi, February 8, 1947. “Samsthanangalkku swantham bharankhatana nirmmikkam: Brittanu athu cherukkanavila” (trans. “States can have their own constitution: Britain cannot resist it”), Feb 8, 1947, pg.1.

101. Menon, Triumph and Tragedy in Travancore, 239.

102. Travancore's demand for independence from the Indian Union requires a separate study. Menon has argued in different books that it was the decision of the Maharajah to stay independent and that Sir C.P. only stood by him as a “loyal servant” and has tried to salvage Sir C.P. from his antagonists. I do not find such debates useful, because beyond the individual, one has to see the genealogy of that demand and the conditions that made such non-national imaginations possible. A. Sreedhara Menon, Svatantratiruvitāṃkūr Vādavuṃ Sar Si. Pi. Enna Villanum: Viṭṭupōya Kaṇṇikaḷ (Kottayam: Ḍi. Si. Buks: distributors, Current Books, 2000). It may also be mentioned that there was strong resistance from different quarters within the state against the decision to stay independent. Sir C.P.'s image as an autocrat and his distrust of democracy only worsened the situation. It is not in the purview of present article to focus on grassroots political reactions to Sir C.P. and his own reception of them. A perusal of Mātṛbhūmi for the years 1945–47 makes clear that the people in Travancore were as equally caught up with the issue of a united Kerala as with the coming into being of India.

103. M. J. Koshy, Constitutionalism in Travancore and Cochin (Trivandrum: Kerala Historical Society, 1972), 186.

104. Samuel Moyn, Fantasies of Federalism, Dissent, Vol.62, Number.1, Winter 2015, 145–151, esp.148.

105. Travancore acceded to the Dominion of India on only three federal areas (defense, external affairs, and communications) with no obligation to adhere to the future constitution of India, as VP Menon's letter dated July 14, 1947 to Sir C.P. assures. File No: 8(2)-PR/47, Ministry of States, NAI.

106. 1947 accession of the states was quite an imperial moment based on colonial legality. The real integration of the states took place in stages in postcolonial India, a history that needs to be written.

107. Correspondent, Our. “Ex-Travancore Ruler's Assets in Dispute.” The Times of India (1861–Current), May 04, 1982, 19.

108. Correspondent, Our. “Travancore Ex-Ruler's Plea on Assets Upheld.” The Times of India (1861–Current), Oct 18, 1982, 4.

Much of this article was written in the International History Seminar led by Mark Bradley and James Hevia at the University of Chicago in the fall and winter of 2014–15. Bradley's encouragement proved crucial; the author thanks him for reading and commenting on every draft of this article. The author also thanks Dipesh Chakrabarty, Roy Kimmey, and all the participants in the Seminar for commenting on earlier drafts of this article, as well as the editor of Law and History Review and four anonymous reviewers who gave insightful suggestions and helped in revising the article.


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