- Princely states ruled over about 2/5th of Indian subcontinent and account for 1/3rd of population of British Empire in India.
- Some princely states were as large as big European countries and while others were very small.
- They all recognised paramountcy of British crown. They enjoyed little independence in relation to British empire and were treated as subordinate or feudatory powers.
- However, in their internal affairs full autocratic powers. Most princely states were autocratically ruled. High economic burden through taxation, poor educational standards and social services pushed up the anger.
- However, people in British Provinces were given some political rights and participation in administration. This contrast led to anguish which transformed into a popular movement in the princely states.
Nature of the Movement
- People under this movement fought against their feudal princes and British administration simultaneously for their rights.
- Main demand was democratic rights.
- Activities involved constructive programs such as establishing schools, use of Khadi, encouraging cottage industries & agitation against untouchability.
- First session of an All-India States’ People’s conference was held in Bombay in 1927. This conference brought together the representatives of princely states and called for encouraging political dialogues.
Role of Congress in Prajamandal Movement
- Nagpur session of 1920: Congress called upon princes to grant responsible government. However, political action in states could not be taken in the name of Congress. This stand continued till 1935.
- Cooperation was increased with the state’s peoples’ conference. Committees could be formed in states but no direct action was to be taken.
- In 1935, Jawahar Lal Nehru was invited to become president of All India States’ Peoples’ Conference.
- Lucknow session of Congress, 1936: Stated that people of states should have the same rights of self-determination as those of the rest of India.
- Haripura Session of 1938: Problems of states were discussed in detail. Demand for Purna Swaraj was for the whole of India, inclusive of Princely States. Still, movement in the states could not be launched in the name of Congress.
- Tripuri Session, 1939: Shift in the policy of Congress. A resolution was passed enunciating its new policy by complete removal of restraint on itself.
- During Quit India Movement, Congress formally extended the call for launching a struggle to the people of states as well.