Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 1997
  • Online publication date: October 2009

6 - Indian summer


We have got to deal with facts as they are… The Indian States are governed by treaties … The Indian States, if they do not join this Union, will remain in exactly the same situation as they are today.

Sir Stafford Cripps, 1942


The convulsions wrought by the Pacific War are rightly considered by historians to have been instrumental in the collapse of European colonialism in Asia; but in the short term the outbreak of war, in India at least, had the effect of reinforcing the imperial presence, strengthening the colonial government's control over public life and temporarily halting moves to devolve power through constitutional change. In turn, this paradoxical outcome made life much tougher for the Congress, which after three comfortable years in ministerial office found itself again on the receiving end of police repression. Yet there were winners as well as losers from this new dispensation. While Congress languished in opposition, other groups and parties flourished in the political vacuum opened up by its withdrawal from the legislatures. One was the Muslim League; another, the princes.

The war was kind to the rulers in several ways. Firstly, it generated a martial, authoritarian culture in India which was on the whole congenial to their talents and traditions as blue-blooded kshatriyas. Several younger rulers distinguished themselves on active service, the maharaja of Bundi, for example, earning the Military Cross for valour in Burma; while older members of the order such as Ganga Singh and Hamidullah took a prominent part in the planning and promotion of the war effort.