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Part 1: The Truth Behind Integration Of Indian Princely States

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Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (Rajaji); The Governor-General of India.

The Myth Of Sardar Patel Unifying India

It has been said that in 1947, the British left India fragmented in hundreds of independent princely states with a supposedly incompetent Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in-charge. While no other hope was in sight, Sardar Patel reportedly saved India by performing an Ashvamedh, led the army from the front like Bairam Khan, and doubled the empire of clueless Nehru.

This narrative does not just insult Nehru but other cabinet ministers, the Constituent Assembly, and the provincial governments. It also ignores the active if not violent involvement of millions of ordinary people who forced the ruling classes into progressively giving up their control over these states. Acceptance of such a narrative by history experts stems not just from ignorance of history but their inability to distinguish between the palace coups of the ancient feudal era and the checks & balances of the modern parliamentary democratic era.

Sardar Patel is often dubbed “Indian Bismarck“. This is a misnomer because Otto von Bismarck was the Prime Minister (Chancellor) of Germany. If any comparison could be made to Bismarck in the Indian context, it should be to Prime Minister Nehru.

From the Battle of Plassey to Battle of Jhansi, it took the mighty British empire an entire century to subdue the Indian Princely States. One should be sceptical of claims of Sardar Patel subduing the same princely states within a few weeks, regardless of Patel’s position. Bismarck himself took a decade to unify Germany.

The Truth

The Partition of India, as well as the Unification of India, took place on the same day: 15 August 1947. The Viceroy and Governor-General Earl Louis Mountbatten was responsible for both the events. Mountbatten‘s royal lineage, the status of war-hero, charming personality as well as his British military power were instrumental in forcing the hands of the monarchs of the princely states. Sardar Patel’s own trusted lieutenant VP Menon in his book “The Transfer of Power in India” describes Mountbatten and his wife Edwina as “true friends of India“.

All the 560 Princely States except for a handful, signed the Instruments of Accession even before the Partition of India and the Radcliffe Line was drawn between the two countries accordingly. Any claims of princely states being added to Indian territory only after the Partition are false and mischievous. The only states that were supposed to join India by then but did not were: Junagarh, Kashmir, and Hyderabad. India would eventually absorb the Princely States of Manipur and Sikkim as well.

Junagarh and Kashmir were annexed later under Mountbatten himself, while Sikkim and Hyderabad signed Standstill Agreements. When Rajaji became the Governor-General, Hyderabad and Manipur have finally signed the Instruments of Accession. While Sardar Patel and VP Menon were instrumental in cases of Junagarh and Hyderabad;  Manipur annexation was spearheaded by then Assam Governor Sri Prakasa.

The Chogyal of Sikkim had acceded to India in 1950. Patel’s deputy VP Menon made no mention of Sikkim in his magnum opus ‘Integration of the Indian States’. It is safe to say that, for whatever reason, Sardar Patel paid no attention to Sikkim as was the case with Kashmir. While the details are sketchy in popular literature regarding the involvement of national leaders, the groundwork was done by Sikkim State Congress.

Rajaji, Patel, and Nehru: Often called the “Head, Hand and Heart” respectively of Mahatma Gandhi.

History Has Been Kind To Sardar Patel

Sardar Patel died very early after independence while his colleagues like Rajaji, Azad, Kriplani, Rajendra Prasad, and Nehru lived until much later. His friends and enemies were generous in the eulogies and credited Patel with all the success including their own while avoiding the mention of any of his shortcomings. These narratives, unfortunately, have taken a life of their own as time had passed and the memories have faded.

The modern-day historians and experts have knowingly or unknowingly played into this hysteria. While his contributions to the nation cannot be trivialized, Patel was 72 years of age and was spread too thin between the two ministries: Home and (Princely) States. Patel suffered a heart attack in March 1948 and was advised against serious work.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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