Ever since I learnt that something important was written in this particular volume of Sardar Patel’s Correspondences which came out in seventies, I kept searching for it but never got hold of it. It was much wanted book “Sardar Patel’s Correspondence – 1945-50 Volume 7 – Integrating Indian States – Police Action in Hyderabad”, edited by Durga Das, published by M/s Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad – 380014. Never ever, I could find it in any library in many places in my great country, India. Although, other volumes were traceable in number of libraries, the Volume 7 was not traceable. More I searched, I got despaired. The search was on for this much wanted text of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel which was sent by telegram on 11th September, 1949 to Nanjappa, Chief Commissioner, Cooch Behar on handing over this princely state to Central Administration of India.
Finally, a copy was found. I got exalted, went up above the sky. It appeared to me that I got the goldmine. How such important information could remain hidden for so long? I got a copy of it so kindly sent to me by Shri Surinder Singh Ahluwalia, Hon’ble Member of Parliament (MP) of Darjeeling Loksabha Constituency. With my earnest request, the Hon’ble MP took all the pains to search a copy and find it from the Library of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Smarak Trust (Regd.), 7 Jantar Mantar Road, New Delhi. The Hon’ble MP wasted no time and sent it to me by hand of his trusted assistant Shri Shiv Deo. Readly, I went through the volume and found the mosy important facts favouring the unfortunate people of my fellow Rajbanshi community, the deprived subject Rajbanshi people of erstwhile princely state Cooch Behar. I must say, the editor, Durga Das, who was Editor-in-Chief, India News & Feature Alliance; Formerly Chief Editor, Hindustan Times, New Delhi; author of ‘India-from Curzon to Nehru and After’ wrote the following astonishing fact in the introduction to Volume VII , page [1vii] :
Cooch Behar did not want to merge with West Bengal as there was an anti-Bengali feeling in the State. The Maharaja, it was alleged, was considering the possibility of acceding to East Pakistan. The Sardar ruled out merger with West Bengal and the Maharaja accepted the Sardar’s advice and handed over the State to the control of the Centre. In a message to mark the occasion Patel said: “To give up sovereignty over territory is no mean sacrifice. I am grateful to him (Maharaja) for the spirit of accommodation and understanding which he has displayed and the manner in which he accepted our advice.”
The book contains eye opening correspondences of the Sardar that may change the whole scenario of the ill fated subject Rajbanshi people of erstwhile princely state Cooch Behar and all Rajbanshis of the neighbouring states and countries. Without any bias or hidden agenda, I am going to unveil the truth which Maniben Patel, beloved daughter of the Sardar, took pains to preserve, compile and publish the mind boggling correspondence of her father who was instrumental in uniting almost all princely Indian states with free Dominion of India on gaining its independence in 1947.
Excerpt No.1. Page.547-548/Ser.No.457
15 May 1949
My dear Vallabhbhai,
You remember I spoke to you on several occasions about allowing Cooch Behar to be merged to West Bengal. I am perfectly sure you are inclined in the same direction. It may be that it will take a little time before the preliminaries can be settled before the merger is decided.
You know that Sri Sarat Chandra Bose has filed his nomination for the Assembly from South Calcutta, the last date of nomination being 24 May. Poling is taking place on 12 June. I certainly expect help, advice and co-operation from you and Panditji. In this connection may I suggest to you that the announcement from the Centre that Cooch Behar would be merged to West Bengal would be a great help to us in the election campaign? When you have finally decided about this merging, kindly let us know so that we can keep the field ready and make our propaganda that this merging has been affected not by Sri Sarat Chandra Bose but by the West Bengal Government. The Provincial Congress Committee has decided to put up a candidate, strong one, against Sri Sarat Bose. But, of course, the polling booth is always a tricky customer.
I hope you are keeping well.
An early reply will be welcome.
The Hon’ble Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Deputy Prime Minister
Reply of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: Page No.548/ Ser. No.458
18 May 1949
My dear Bidhan,
Thank you for your letter of 15 May 1949 regarding Cooch Behar. I am afraid we cannot hustle things through like this. In view of the local feeling, it will not be possible for us to do this overnight. We have to tread warily.
The Hon’ble Dr. B.C. Roy
Excerpt No.. Page.549/Ser. No.459
29 June 1948
My dear Sardarji,
My wife and I have just returned from Cooch Behar. This was our first visit to the State after your decision that its relations with India should be carried on through me. You may therefore be interested in the report of my impressions which is given in Rustamji’s letter to Kripalani, copy enclosed. The only further comment which I wish to make is on the subject of the anti-Bengali feeling in the State.
I was informed that out of the State’s population of between six and seven lakhs the Bengalis number a mere 30,000; yet Bengali propaganda would make it appear as if Bengalis constitute the greater portion of the population. The bulk of the population consists of Rajbanshis including Muslims between whom and the rajbanshis there is so far amity and free social intercourse. The danger of the situation lies in the fact that the Bengal Congress leaders are lending themselves to propaganda that Cooch Behar should be merged with West Bengal. This is resulting in the Congress as a whole tending to become unpopular in Cooch Behar. Any attempt to bring Cooch Behar under the wing of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee would be violently resisted and in the present state of feeling the Congress would find few Cooch Behari adherents. The best solution in the present circumstances would be to let Cooch Behar come under the wing of the Central Congress; but if that not possible, the second best would be let it be affiliated to the Assam Provincial Congress. This is only the second best solution as it might still further exasperate Bengali feeling against Assam. During my visit I was cordially received by all classes of people which was not a personal tribute to me but relief at seeing in me visible evidence that Cooch Behar was not tied to the apron strings of West Bengal.
By their aggressive attitude the Congress leaders of West Bengal and Calcutta press are increasing the animosity roused against West Bengal in this part of India. Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee is visiting Shillong on the 7th and is staying part of the time with us here and the rest with Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy (at his Shillong house) who is accompanying him. I am arranging that every possible courtesy should be shown to them and will take the opportunity of their visit to impress upon them tactfully that if they really want the present anti-Bengali feelings to subside they must put a curb on West Bengal’s propaganda machine for a greater Bengal wanting to absorb bits here and there from her neighbours. Dr. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh, who recently stayed with us in Shillong, created a very good impression both by his moderation.... We were meeting him for the first time, and my wife and I took a very great liking to him. In difference to his advice, Bordoloi*[Premier of Assam] is seriously considering the grant of some compensation to the few sufferers in the Gauhati disturbance and I am encouraging him to persuade his colleagues to agree to this gesture of friendship.
With my kind regards and hoping that you are getting better and better every day.
The Hon’ble Sardar Vallbhbhai Patel
*Gopinath Bardoloi : headed Congress Ministry in 1937-39 and again in 19945.
Excerpts from Page:550/Ser No.460
10 July 1948
My dear Hydari,
Thank you for your letter of 29 June regarding Cooch Behar. I am glad you went there. It has enabled us to get a first-hand report pf how things are shaping there.
I have seen your letter to Jawaharlal regarding Bengal versa Assam. It is unfortunate that things should develop on these lines. I shall see what can be done to check these matters from worsening.
With kindest regards,
His Excellency Sir Akbar Hydari, KCIE, CSI, ICS
Governor of Assam
Excerpts from Page: 551-552/Ser. No.461
29 July 1948
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Deputy Prime Minister
Ministry of States
I, on behalf of the State Prajamandal, beg most respectfully and humbly to submit herewith a copy of the resolution passed unanimously in a meeting for immediate merger of the State and thereby saving Hindusthan from future danger and troubles.
Resolved that a most reactionary group has been formed, formulated and patronised by the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, to serve his personal purpose of dominating and ruling the people for his own exploitation to the detriment of the interest and safety of the Indian Union. Ignoring the fact that the Raja of the small State (which has an area no greater than that of a sub-division in an Indian district) had so long been allowed to rule the State to serve the ends of the British Raj, His Highness, in collusion and collaboration with his favourite Muslim pro-League and scheduled caste ministers, thinks that he can still now play the same reactionary role as was done previously during the British era. The Ministers of the State are absolutely pro-League and they are in constant touch with Pakistan and the result of their friendship has been to divide the Hindus of the State into two factions namely Cooch Beharis and non-Cooch Beharis (two nation theory). All sorts of rules and regulations have been and are being formed to drive out the caste Hindus of the Indian Union from the State.
The effect of this division among the Hindus by rules and laws has been to effect both solidarity and expansion of the Muslims of the State. The outcome of this policy is to Muslimize the whole State effacing the Hindus. His Highness and his puppet ministers for the purpose of their own personal gain have been dragging the State to be Pakistanized. Attempts are being made to send a deputation to the Deputy Prime Minister of the Indian Union to persuade not to merge the State and with that end in view false figures and charts have been prepared. The actual income of the State is only Rs.48,00,000 but by including false figures as that of tobacco excise duty (which the consumers pay and who practically live outside the State) and also false figures of income tax which according to the prevailing rules and custom should go to the Indian Exchequer, the total income of the State is falsely shown Rs.75,00,000. It will suffice to say that the land revenue of the State is only Rs.22,00,000. To allow the State to remain autonomous will be suicide to the safety and interest of Hindustan.
In view of the above circumstances and many others it is resolved further unanimously that for the safety and interest of the people of Cooch Behar and custom for the solidarity of the Indian Union the State of Cooch Behar be at once merged with such a province which is indissolubly connected with Cooch Behar State culturally, economically, geographically and linguistically.
For the State Prajamandal Cooch Behar
Excerpts from Page:552/Ser. No.462
4 August 1948
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
COOCH BEHAR STATE AUTHORITIES FORCING PEOPLE TO SIGN AGAINST MERGING AND MAKING PROPOGANDA AGAINST INDIAN DOMINION. TAKE ACTION.
BAMANHAT THANA CONGRESS
Excerpts from Page:553-554/Ser. No.463
Camp Birla House
11 September 1949
FOLLOWING IS SARDAR PATEL’S MESSAGE:
(BEGINS) ON THE HANDING OVER OF COOCH BEHAR TO CENTRAL ADMINISTRATION I SEND TO ITS PEOPLE MY BEST WISHES AND ASSURANCE ON BEHALF OF THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA THAT, THOUGH FAR, THEIR INTEREST AND WELFARE WILL CLAIM OUR CLOSE AND INTIMATE ATTENTION. I AM FULLY AWARE OF THE MANY PROBLEMS, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC, WHICH AFFECT THE STATE AND I AM CONFIDENT THAT WITH THEIR COOPERATION AND ASSISTANCE WE WOULD SUCCEED IN SOLVING THEM IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE STATE AND THE COUNTRY. FOR THEIR HAPPINESS AND PROSPERITY, UNITY AND MUTUAL ADJUSTMENT BETWEEN THE CONSTITUENT ELEMENTS OF THE POPULATION ARE ESSENTIAL PREREQUISITES, WITHOUT THESE SUCH RESOURCES AND PERSONNEL AS WE MAY BE ABLE TO SPARE FOR THEM WOULD AVAIL LITTLE. I HOPE THEREFORE THAT THE PEOPLE OF COOCH BEHAR WILL WORK WITH SINGLE-MINDEDNESS AND DEVOTION TO DUTY AS A UNITED TEAM FOR THEIR OWN BETTERMENT AND TO ACHIEVE THEIR DUE PLACE IN THE POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE SET-UP OF INDIA. TO ACCEPT TRANSFER OF TERRITORY FROM A RULER IS NO SMALL RESPONSIBILITY. I AM THEREFORE CERTAIN THAT HIS HIGHNESS THE RULER OF COOCH BEHAR WILL APPRECIATE THE SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY WHICH WE FEEL ON THIS OCCASION. TO GIVE UP SOVEREIGNTY OVER TERRITORY IS NO MEAN SACRIFICE. I AM GRATEFUL TO HIM FOR THE SPIRIT OF ACCOMMODATION AND UNDERSTANDING WHICH HE HAS DISPLAYED AND THE PROMPT MANNER IN WHICH HE ACCEPTED OUR ADVICE. MAY HE AND HIS PEOPLE FEEL HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS UNDER THE NEW DISPENSATION WHICH IS BEING INAUGURATED TODAY - ENDS.
Excerpts from Page : 554/Ser. No.464
4 October 1948
My dear Sardar Sahib,
There has been all sorts of reports in the newspapers about the developments in Cooch Behar. It was suggested that the Muslims from Eastern Pakistan were infiltrating into Cooch Behar and some reports went to the length of suggesting that there would be a definite attempt made to make Cooch Behar join Pakistan, and this movement would not be wholly repugnant to the ruling house. The police report which I recently saw was very much to that effect. Last week Mr. Himmat Singh K. Maheshwari who is now the Chief Minister in Cooch Behar called on me. I have known him for a long time as he was in the UP Civil Service. He assured me that all these reports were completely baseless. There was absolutely no infiltration of Muslims of any kind and no pro-Pakistan movement of any description. The Muslim Minister who is an elected representative on the Legislative Council is an entirely harmless individual. He suggested that all these reports were parts of propaganda for ulterior ends. I have advised him to submit a full report to you of all that is happening and what the true state of affairs in Cooch Behar is from his point of view. Cooch Behar having acceded to the Indian Dominion, the Government of India are vitally interested in its security, and should, I think, be kept informed correctly of what is happening in the State. I dare say that this advice was unnecessary and you are in full possession of all these facts.
With respectful regards,
The Hon’ble Shri Vallabhbhai Patel
Deputy Prime Minister
*Minister in first Congress Ministry, UP, 1937 and later in 1946; Governor of Orissa, 1947; Minister of Home and later Defence in Nehru Cabinet; Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh
Reply- Page:555/Ser. No.465
9 October 1948
My dear Katju,
Thank you for your letter of 4 October 1948. I am so glad to hear what you say about Cooch Behar, particularly the reliance you place in its Chief Minister, Himmat Singh K. Maheshwari. I was a bit uneasy about conditions there as reported by my Bengali friends. It is something that things are not as bad as they are painted.
2. I shall certainly keep in view J.L. Jobanputra, the ex-Dewan of Sachin State. I know him personally.
With kindest regards,
His Excellency Shri Kailash Nath Katju
Governor of West Bengal
Hope better sense prevails in the corridors of political power at the highest level in India to rectify the errors which were committed against the most docile, simple, patriot people of Rajbanshi communities as mentioned in above mentioned correspondence of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Hope his assurances given to Rajbanshis are honoured in right earnest.
Jai Hind !