There is a widespread misconception that India had to fight for freedom from the British alone when Britain wasn’t the only country that was colonizing India. There were a few others too, though Britain was easily the largest and most influential power.
When India got its freedom from Britain, it was largely divided into three parts – India, Pakistan and the princely states that were left to make their own choices whether to merge with India or Pakistan or to remain independent.
Most of the princely states, however, chose to be a part of the Indian union. Jammu and Kashmir joined India on October 26, 1947, while Hyderabad was added on November 24, 1949.
Nevertheless, still, India’s political map looked much different at that time than how we know it today as there were a few states/union territories that were still not part of India.
Here are three parts of present-day India that joined the rest of the country much later.
1. Goa: Became part of India after 14 years
Goa was one of the very few places in India which was never occupied by the British. It was the Portuguese that had ruled over the present Indian state for about 450 years starting from the advent of Vasco De Gama, a Portuguese sailor who stepped in Goa in the year 1498.
It was expected from Portugal to free Goa after India got its freedom in the year 1947 from the British, but the country clearly rejected the appeal and cited, among various other reasons, for not giving up the colony that the Catholics wouldn’t be safe with India.
India’s then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for long decided to not take any military action against the Portuguese as he was an adherent follower of Gandhian philosophy and was hoping that the international pressure would make Portugal change its mind eventually. But the rest of India, people were demanding armed actions against the Portuguese to free Goa.
In the year 1955 when a satyagraha was launched, the Portuguese open fired at the protesters, killing 20 people and forcing Nehru to impose an economic blockade on Goa and deliberate on the possibility of a military action. In the year 1960, the United Nations asked Portuguese to tell a time frame by which Goa would be liberated, but the country paid no heed to the resolution.
When again the Portuguese fired at villagers in December 1961, Nehru dropped his Gandhian approach and decided to take military actions, ignoring his prestige as a preacher of non-violence in the world. And within 48 hours, 30,000 Indian troops forced Governor General of Goa, Vassalo e Silva, to sign a declaration, causing Goa to become a part of India finally.
2. Pondicherry: Became part of India after 6 years
Like Goa, Pondicherry too was not under the British rule for most of its colonial history, but rather, it was under the French occupation along with a few other enclaves in the Indian subcontinent scattered all over the country. But among all, Pondicherry could be called the most important from the perspective of both India and France as it was the largest of French enclaves and the only seat of power for the France in India.
Much like Britain, France started its influence in India through trade and established its first trading center in Pondicherry in the year 1674 under French East India Company. It was an attempt to compete with the British and Dutch who were already present in the sub-continent and were trying to increase their influence.
The entry of France led to constraints among the fighting European powers in India and the strained relationships of these countries in Europe were also observed here. This led to fights and eventually the Dutch captured Pondicherry in the year 1693, only to return back the territory in 1699 under the Treaty of Ryswick. Till the first war of Independence or Revolt of 1857, French territories were captured several times by the British but returned after treaties.
When India got its independence, France still held seven enclaves, of which Machilipatnam, Kozhikode, and Surat became part of India two months after India’s independence i.e., in October 1947. While the remaining four (Pondicherry, Yanam, Mahe, and Karikal) merged with India in the year 1954 forming the union territory of present-day Puducherry after the mayor of Pondicherry along with seven communes without a referendum decided to join India and thereby led the French India Socialist Party to raise the Indian Flag above Nettapakkam police station on March 30, 1954, ending French rule in India.
3. Sikkim: Joined Indian union after 28 years
Sikkim was the last state that joined the union of India officially after existing as an independent country since the first half of the 17th century. It wasn’t until 1975 that the sovereign country had become a part of India after a decisive referendum.
It was in the year 1642 that Chogyal Dynasty was established in Sikkim and since then it existed as a monarchy. When the British took control over India, Sikkim became a buffer state between China and British India. Nepal and Bhutan were also viewed as part of British India at that time. However, when the British left and it was Sikkim to decide whether it wanted to merge with India, the country declined the offer though India still took care of its defense, communication and foreign policy. Nevertheless, there was always a tug-of-war going on within the country among different groups of people on good governance and more people’s representation in the government and whether to be a part of democratic India or not, leading to political parties like Sikkim State Congress who supported accession of Sikkim to India and was closely aided by Indian National Congress and Sikkim National Party that opposed the idea.
The fight for better governance led to first general elections in Sikkim in which Sikkim State Congress emerged victorious. Soon after, a referendum on abolishing the monarchy was held in which more than 97% voters approved the move and in 1975, the Prime Minister of Sikkim asked India to include Sikkim as a part of India. On 16 May 1975, thereby, Sikkim officially became a part of India and Kazi Lhendup Dorjee became its first chief minister.