Who ruled India first

Political development since independence

After 1947 the Indian republic developed its own political profile. However, intra-social and neighborhood conflicts repeatedly put the state to the test.

The first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1955. (& copy AP)


India was rushed by comparison on August 15, 1947 and granted independence without the territorial parts of the Muslim separate state of Pakistan, after all attempts by the British colonial government to maintain at least a loose unity of India as a whole had failed. The Congress Party, the leading all-Indian movement in the Indian struggle for independence, and the Muslim League, which was working towards a state of its own, had already diverged too much. The partition plan of the British viceroy Lord Mountbatten took this into account: the predominantly Muslim districts were to fall to Pakistan, the Hindu to India; the two countries should each have their own constitution. But even with this solution, only two thirds of the Muslims lived in Pakistan, one third remained in India. The principalities, including Kashmir, should choose to belong to one of the two states.

India and Pakistan
The division turned into a human tragedy; a few days later the respective minorities (especially in the border area) fell victim to violent groups. A total of about a million deaths were to be mourned; twelve million people had to flee on both sides. The political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement Mahatma Gandhi, who had campaigned for fair treatment of Pakistan, was shot dead by a Hindu fanatic on January 30, 1948. However, India was granted independence not only with problems: unlike many developing countries, it inherited from the outgoing colonial power an efficient bureaucratic apparatus, a professional army, an independent judiciary and, last but not least, a representative democratic system of government.

An immediate problem after the partition was the integration of the princely states. Hyderabad and Kashmir were particularly difficult cases. In Hyderabad, the Muslim ruler hoped for international recognition as an independent state, but failed to bring the unrest of its largely Hindu population under control. Indian troops invaded in August 1948. In Kashmir, a Hindu Maharajah ruled a predominantly Muslim population. The authoritarian ruler sought independence despite opposing interests of the national conference, the politically dominant party in Kashmir, and negotiated a standstill agreement with Pakistan and India. Pakistan used the ensuing internal unrest to smuggle in "volunteers" who were later replaced by regular troops. The Maharajah sought assistance from India and signed an accession agreement. After the intervention forces were driven out by the Indian army, a democratic state government was set up in Kashmir. The fighting between Pakistan and India continued, however, until a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1949 that effectively split Kashmir in two.

The Constituent Assembly, which was still elected according to the old constitution, drafted the new constitution of the Indian Republic after independence, which came into force in 1950 and created a federal state with strong centralized elements. The new states initially brought together populations of different mother tongues and cultural identities. When the desire for the creation of homogeneous units grew in the 1950s, the government set up a reorganization committee, which redefined the boundaries on the basis of the residents' native language. In 1952 the first free elections took place in India, in which the Congress Party was confirmed as the strongest political force.