'In Dethroned, Zubrzycki weaves such anecdotes, trivia and some razor-sharp sketches of people and places into a silky smooth yarn. He not just illuminates the labyrinthine plots and counterplots that determined India’s borders, but also delves into the motivations of people who played pivotal roles.’
'Although it covers, in narrative detail, only a handful of years, [Dethroned] skilfully fills in the background with vivid flashbacks to the colonial era and the system of 'paramountcy' which regulated the dealings of the Crown and the Raj with the states. ... Much of this unvarnished analysis is new. And it is delivered with verve, and narrative pace, and a delicious sense of irony. I felt, at times, as if I were reading a crime thriller. Dethroned is not the last word on this subject, but it adds significantly to our understanding of a dark episode in India's recent history.'
IAN COPLAND, author of The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire
A fascinating and thought-provoking narrative of nation-building which resonates beyond India down to the current century.'
Asian Review of Books
Dethroned: Patel, Menon and the Integration of Princely India
Juggernaut, Hurst 2023
The gripping saga of how the princely states were coaxed, coerced and bludgeoned into joining India.
On 25 July 1947, India’s last viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten stood before the Chamber of Princes and prepared to deliver the most important speech of his career. He had just three weeks to convince more than five hundred and fifty princely states to become part of a free India. The alternative was unthinkable—the fragmentation of the subcontinent into dozens of autocratic fiefdoms and the undermining of decades of nationalist struggle.
The story of how the princes were coaxed, coerced, outmanoeuvred or bludgeoned into joining India is a saga of promises and betrayals, of brinkmanship and intrigue that brings together a fascinating cast of characters: Mountbatten, the blue-blooded royal the princes mistakenly believed would be their saviour; Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the pragmatic, tough-minded politician and patriot, who employed both fury and charm to get his way; V.P. Menon, the cigar-smoking civil servant and tireless master-strategist; Jawaharlal Nehru, who made no secret of his contempt for the princely order; and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, assiduously wooing wavering princes to his side. And finally, an array of bejewelled rulers grappling with the challenge of a lifetime.
What Patel and Menon described as a ‘bloodless revolution’ was anything but as Indian troops thwarted Junagadh’s bid to join Pakistan, violence engulfed Kashmir and ‘Operation Polo’ put an end to Hyderabad’s dreams of independence. Patel and Nehru’s differing responses to these crises would widen the rift between them—Nehru’s reluctance to use force infuriating Patel, who in turn would be branded a communalist for his insistence on sending in the army to dethrone Hyderabad’s nizam.