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Decolonization of French India

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Ajit K. Neogy

5. The French Proposal and the Acceptance of Nehru Plan

Texte intégral

  • 1 Aff. Politiques, C 370, D1 (A. O. M.).
  • 2 Note pour M. le Ministre (non datée). Etablie par Delavignette. Aff. Politiques, C 437 (A. O. M.).
  • 3 Lévi au Ministre des Affaires Etrangères (tél.), 24 dec. 1947.

1Since the joint declaration of 28 August 1947, no talk regarding the fate of the French pockets had taken place between the two governments. The French Government agreed to open negotiation without delay, but they procrastinated while the situation within the settlements was fast deteriorating. The solution to the problem lay in the withdrawal of France from her pockets in India. But they delayed fearing the repercussions it might have in her Overseas possessions. On the surrender of sovereignty was also involved the need of obtaining parliamentary approval. The Government of India meanwhile instructed its High Commissioner in London to press the French Government in this matter. The French Government rather charged the Government of India of being impatient, but the talks could no longer be deferred. However, before starting the talk the French Government appointed a fact finding mission consisting of Daniel Lévi on behalf of the French Foreign Ministry and Tézenas du Montcel on behalf of the French Overseas Ministry to examine the political situation in the French Indian settlements, the impact of the recently introduced reforms, the viability of the creation of a cultural centre and other subsidiary questions like the possible consequences that might flow from the eventual cancellation of the Customs Agreement concluded with the Government of India on 28 January 1941 and verifications of the Department of Finance and the Civil Supply Department.1 Delavignette, Governor-General of the Colonies, wanted the two high functionaries of the French Government to submit a quick report in order to enable the government to form an exact opinion on the action taken by Baron and take such decision, if necessary, which would guide him.2 From the point of view of the French Government the problem needed to be judged from two aspects –external vis-a-vis New Delhi and internal, i. e. development within the settlements. Tézenas toured the south Indian settlements with a view to making an on the spot study of the situation prevailing there while Lévi was holding meetings with the Indian leaders and officials which enabled him to get a glimpse of India’s stand on the vexed issue. Lévi complained to Girija Shankar Bajpai against Subbiah’s violent anti-French propaganda and the role of the Delhi Radio accusing France of having unleashed a “Hitlerian method” in Pondicherry and Chandernagore. He told Bajpai about the futility of holding a popular consultation when the people themselves were not seized with the nature of the problem.3 This, he feared, might generate excitement and serious troubles. Lévi incidentally told him that there were certain groups in Pondicherry who were in favour of giving Pondicherry a status analogous to that of the Republic of Andorra.

  • 4 As.44-45. Inde Française, Vol. 8. 8 mars 1948 (Qd).

2Having completed his tour in the French settlements of south India Tézenas reached Calcutta towards the end of December 1947 where he met Lévi and Baron. On the basis of the impression he had gathered from his tour as well as the experience which Lévi had gained in course of his talks with Indian leaders and officials, they contemplated certain measures which, if acceptable to the Government of India as well as the people of French India, might enable them to maintain themselves in the enclaves. They were: recognition by France, by means of a declaration, the right of the people to decide their future, maintenance of a status quo for 5 years on the expiry of which to hold a popular consultation by referendum for determining their final status and considerations of the results of the popular consultation not as a whole of all the settlements but separately for each settlement.4

  • 5 The Hindu, 3 January 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 368, D3 (A. O. M.).
  • 6 Extrait du Hindu, 26 January 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 368, D3 (A. O. M.).

3The first round of talks took place between Nehru and Lévi in early January (1948).5 Kashmir problem had kept him busy at that time. The talk did not last long. It was announced that the talks would be resumed in February.6 Lévi thought that this would give France time for respite. Immediately after this he went to Paris for holding consultation with his government.

  • 7 De Delavignette. Note pour le Ministre, 21 janv. 1948. Aff Politiques, C 437 (A. O. M.).
  • 8 Ibid.

4In Paris Lévi and Tézenas had a series of talks with the top officials of the French Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Empire such as Baeyens, Conseiller d’Ambassade, Directeur d’Asie Océanie du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Delavignette7 etc. The Ambassador and the Inspector of Colonies brought to their attention the helpless condition of the French Indian settlements which were economically dependent on the neighbouring Indian territories and, which, in case of hostility with Delhi, would be impossible to maintain –even by applying force. Lévi and Tézenas were convinced that the five settlements had strong chances of being absorbed in Indian Union. At least three of the settlements (Pondicherry, Karaikal and Yanam) could be preserved if, according to Lévi, a declaration assuring the French Indian people the right of deciding their future be given. A status quo of 3 to 5 years might at the same time be agreed upon with New Delhi. But this solution would possibly be difficult for the Government of India to accept; it might, however, receive the necessary approval in case an agreement was signed with Bao Dai in the meanwhile.8

  • 9 Ibid.

5In his note Delavignette conveyed to the Minister of the Overseas Empire the views of Lévi and Tézenas who thought that once the negotiation with New Delhi had started, France would get some time and follow a policy which, if implemented carefully, might succeed in enlisting the sympathy of the people in her favour and at the time of popular consultation they might tilt the balance in favour of an independent status providing France a scope to play an important role in the settlements. Delavignette did not think any other solution more appropriate than this and he believed that the Government might be favourably disposed to accept it. He was not inclined to treat the proposed solution as a “dangerous precedent” in so far as the French Overseas Empire was concerned. To him “brutal eviction from Pondicherry or from other settlements would be of no less a dangerous precedent”.9

  • 10 Hindusthan Times, 1 March 1948. As 44-55. Inde Française Vol. 8. (Qd).

6Lévi spent the whole of January and the greater part of February in Paris. Nehru had, in the meantime, declared in the Parliament that negotiations had been going on. He said that the two governments agreed that the future of the French possessions would be decided by the people of those settlements. The French Government authorized Lévi to open talks with the Government of India mainly on the basis of terms referred to above. The French Cabinet had accepted them on 9 February. Coming back to Delhi Lévi submitted the proposals to the Ministry of External Affairs. In an interview with the Globe the French Ambassador observed that he had brought with him from France very “fair” and “democratic” proposals. He said that he was optimistic about the outcome of talks between the two governments.10 The Ministry of External Affairs which had been studying the proposals stated in the Aide-mémoire that

  • 11 Aide-memoire: Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations (Govt, of India), 11 March 19 (...)

it is of utmost importance that an announcement should be made without delay on the agreement between the two governments on the main issue of principle.11

7The Ministry of External Affairs accordingly suggested

  • 12 Ibid.

a declaration by the French Government to the effect that “the people of the French establishments have the right to decide their own future, that their wishes will be ascertained by free vote on the basis of adult franchise and that the question as to when their wishes should be ascertained and other incidental details will be subject of further negotiations between the two governments”,12

  • 13 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 16 mars 1948. As 44-55. Inde (...)

8The Government of India was not satisfied with the French proposal of suspending the referendum till 1953 and Girija Shankar Bajpai did not hide his disappointment when Paul Emile Naggiar, French Ambassador and Delegate of France to the Commission of the Far East at Washington met him and broached the issue in early March 1948.13 This became the point of discord between the two governments.

  • 14 La Populaire, 1 April 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432, D2 (A. O. M.).
  • 15 Daily Mail, 24 March 1948.
  • 16 Ibid.
  • 17 Levi a Paris (tel.) 24 mars 1948. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 8 (Qd).
  • 18 Tel. (Très confidentiel) a l’Ambassade de France (New Delhi), 24 mars 1948. As 44-55. Inde Français (...)

9When the stage was set for renewing the talk at New Delhi between Nehru and Lévi, suddenly the situation in Chandernagore assumed a dangerous shape (20 March 1948). Bazin was besieged in his residence by a huge crowd led by the communists and a strong pressure was put on the Council of Administration for adopting a resolution in favour of integration of Chandernagore with Indian Union. The Council of Administration had to succumb to the pressure and a merger was announced. Lévi strongly protested against this. Nehru’ s reaction was equally strong. He declined to take cognizance of the documents of integration forcibly wrested from the Council of Administration.14 Nehru said that “an attempted weekend putsch, in which the French Residency was stormed, was the work of the communists”.15 Nehru told Lévi that the Government of India was not supporting the movement and refused to accept the merger.16 It was in this background that a meeting between Nehru and Lévi took place at New Delhi on 23 March. Nehru firmly objected to keep referendum pending for so many years.17 He told him that rapid changes were taking place in the internal condition of India and he particularly referred to the integration of the princely states. Various extreme forces supported by various political parties were persistently demanding the termination of French rule and he apprehended that during this long period these forces might foment troubles within the French pockets. Judging from the developments, Nehru thought the French formula was insufficient to meet the demands of the Government of India and the people of French India as well. On 24 March, he verbally offered suggestions or counter proposals as they were called. They were (i) the principle of referendum should be the object of declaration in the condition proposed by the French Government, (ii) elections to new representative bodies elected on the basis of universal suffrage in the five settlements should be held within a short time and (iii) the newly elected bodies would themselves decide the date on which the referendum would take place. These counter-proposals of Nehru were incorporated in Government of India’s Aide-mémoire of 27 March (1948). Nehru wanted France to take a quick decision failing which the internal condition of the colonies would further deteriorate. Both Lévi and Tézenas thought that these suggestions which deserved detailed clarifications should be considered by the French Government with all seriousness keeping in view the position taken by the Government of India and the mood of the agitating people. These suggestions had some advantages. They would ensure an unassailable position to France in so far as the public opinion in India as well as in French Indian settlements were concerned. But in case of their rejection by the French Government, the latter would fail to obtain from the Government of India 12 to 18 months’ time which the Nehru plan assured them. However, keeping these in view Tézenas and Lévi urged the French Government to take an urgent decision so that they could acquaint Nehru about French reaction to his plan. The French Government was inclined to stick to the suggestion of Lévi. On the same day a telegram from French Foreign Ministry instructed Lévi that if it was found impossible on the part of New Delhi to accept a 5-year time limit for holding the referendum the French would be ready to offer a compromise solution under which the referendum would be held in a period of not less than 3 years and not more than 5 years. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not in favour of conceding any more concession. The message further pointed out that if this was not acceptable to New Delhi, the relations between the two countries would be “gravely altered”.18 Meanwhile, Lévi made it known that Nehru formula was unacceptable to France because it left indeterminate the question of the timing and the machinery of the referendum.

  • 19 27 March 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432, D2 (A. O. M.).

10In his Aide-mémoire,19 the Minister of External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations, while expressing his desire to reach “a settlement of the problem in a spirit of friendship between the two nations”, told the French Ambassador that to postpone the referendum even for a period of three years would, in the present context of events, give rise to serious popular feeling both in India and in the French settlements and thereby cause considerable embarrassment not only to the French authorities but also to the Government of India.

  • 20 Note. Copie envoyée par Herzog, Chef de Cabinet de M. Coste Floret, 2 avril 1948. As 44-55. Inde Fr (...)
  • 21 Compte-rendu d’une reunion au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 2 avril 1948. As 44-55. Inde Franç (...)

11The Minister for External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations urged Lévi to give a serious consideration to the counter-proposals of Nehru and bearing in mind the developments within the French pockets, he emphasized the urgency of issuing a declaration on the lines suggested above. He also expressed the hope that France would guarantee free and impartial elections. The talks between the two governments suffered a jolt. The date of holding the plebiscite became the bone of contention. The French proposal of holding it in no less than 3 years and no more than 5 years was unacceptable to the Government of India for reasons stated above. But it was not possible for France to ignore the counterproposals of Nehru specially at a time when their position was vulnerable inside the settlements. Moreover France did not like to land herself into difficulty by alienating New Delhi. New Delhi had not yet instigated the pro-mergerists in the French pockets against France. She could have done it. Nehru had ruled this out in a letter to Lévi. But India had in her hands the economic powers to starve the settlements. Further New Delhi had already denied French military planes permission to fly over India on way to Indo-China since November 1947.20 This had greatly jeopardized French military operations in Indo-China. New Delhi had confirmed on many occasions her solidarity with the Annamite nationalist movement. This was clearly an indictment on French policy in Indo-China. France was getting worried over India’s role in the UN. She might raise the Vietnam question in the Security Council as she had done the Indonesian question in July 1947. France apprehended that an international intervention in Indo-China would be really “painful and undoubtedly disastrous”. France knew that India was a bit handicapped in her relations with Pakistan, but she would remain a deciding factor in the affairs of South East Asia. In the Pan-Asiatic conference held at New Delhi in November 1947, Nehru had emerged an undisputed leader of the Asian powers. India was still playing a moderate role. But if she adopted a hostile attitude towards France, its consequences would be far-reaching even in countries outside her frontier. Burma might follow the footsteps of India by refusing French military planes permission to fly over it. In that eventuality Karachi-Ceylon and Ceylon-Rangoon routes would be snapped and Indo-China would remain out of the bounds of the French. In Ceylon and also in Singapore ports the French merchants might face a general boycott. In all international meetings French misunderstanding with the great power of Asia would be exploited by the anti-imperialistic bloc. A rupture of relations with India might also damage the relations of France with the Commonwealth countries. These factors coupled with the structure of the French Union and the internal problems of the French pockets in India, were carefully weighed by the Paris authorities. At a meeting (2 April 1948) of the French Overseas Ministry Herzog, Chef de Cabinet of Coste-Floret, Delavignette and Baeyens examined the whole gamut of the problem –French proposal, Nehru’s counter-proposals, the condition in the French pockets etc. Herzog observed that so far as the date for holding the plebiscite was concerned India would not agree to the French proposal to put it off for so many years.21 Like Lévi he was in favour of dissociating Chandernagore from the rest of the settlements as a special case. Chandernagore, he argued, had become a Ville Libre in terms of the décret of November 1947 and the elections of the Municipal Assembly had already fallen due there. The new Municipal Assembly which was going to be elected on the basis of universal suffrage would itself decide the date of referendum in Chandernagore. But for the remaining four other settlements, where the Villes Libres decrees had not been promulgated, the existing Representative Assembly of Pondicherry would decide the date on which would take place the plebiscite, he opined.

  • 22 Tel. Ambassade de France (New Delhi), 12 avril 1948. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 8 (Qd). Also Af (...)
  • 23 Ibid.

12The views of the Overseas Ministry were telegraphically communicated to Lévi on 10 April by Bidault.22 As the counterproposals of Nehru did not involve immediate surrender of French sovereignty, the Overseas Ministry accepted them in principle but instructed Lévi to inform Nehru certain incompatibilities between the modalities of application contemplated and the existing administrative structure in the French settlements of India. Lévi was informed to tell that it had no objection to the referendum and was inclined to modify the terms of the draft declaration approved by the Council of Ministers on 9 February. It sought the views of Lévi as to whether the Government of India should be sent a copy of the modified declaration for preliminary study. The French Overseas Ministry, while accepting the dissociation of Chandernagore as a special case from the rest of the settlements, expressed its reservation about the remaining four south Indian settlements and instructed Lévi to draw the attention of Nehru on certain legal difficulties.23

  • 24 12 avril 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 437 (A. O. M.).

13In order to give the Indian Government some assurances of impartiality as well as to check undesirable pressures from outside in the event of new elections being held in the French settlements, Lévi assured Nehru that all possible measures would be rigidly followed for a free and fair election.24

  • 25 Pondichéry a Outre-mer (tel.) 23 avril, 1948. Aff. Politiques C 437 (A. O. M.).
  • 26 Aff. Politiques C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).
  • 27 The Hindu, 19 April 1948, Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).
  • 28 The Indian Express, 29 April 1948. Aff. Politiques C 428. D1 (A. O. M.).
  • 29 Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

14Through out the second and third week of April several exchanges of notes took place between the Government of India and the French Government without the conclusion of an agreement being in sight. One or other dilatory tactics the French Government brought out of its armoury to gain further time. Already it had raised some legal difficulties in respect of holding municipal elections in the four south Indian settlements. Baron informed the Overseas Ministry that he was against immediate holding of referendum because this would give rise to excitement and he believed “a reasonable delay” of 3 to 5 years would strengthen the French position in India.25 He suggested the dissolution of the municipal councils which had not been renewed in 1947 and his firm conviction was that 200 newly elected councillors and 39 members of the existing Representative Assembly would constitute an electoral college and the referendum would be an exclusive affair of south India. The question of issuing a declaration was also pushed below the carpet under one or other pretexts. Lévi told the French Foreign Ministry that the declaration would be held up till the disputed matter (i.e. the time of holding the plebiscite) was settled and an agreement concluded. The Government of India understood quite well the dilatory tactics followed by the French Government. Against this policy the people were getting tired. On 31 March, on the first day of the opening of the first session of the Representative Assembly, hostile demonstrations were organized against the Council of Administration. Jayaprakash, who visited Pondicherry on 10 April, delivered a fiery speech in the Odian Salai Maidan exhorting the people to fight unitedly for merging with India. On 16 April Léon St. Jean, an advocate from Karaikal, Secretary of the Congress group in Pondicherry Representative Assembly and delegate of the Alliance Française in south India, issued a pamphlet pointing out that “French India is an impossible anachronism” standing in the way of friendship between France and India. He demanded that the five French pockets should no longer remain under “French guardianship”. The pamphlet further averred that the intellectual and economic relationship between the two great countries could be developed on a bigger scale after dissolution of her colonial administration – “an administration which was never bright”.26 He said in a press communication that the three members of the Pondicherry Assembly including himself had formed an opposition bloc known as congress group.27 Léon St. Jean did not stop there. In the French India Representative Assembly he moved a resolution to the effect that “the Representative Assembly demands the immediate merger of the five French territories in India with Indian dominion, this merger being obviously followed by a transitory period”.28 The Hindu29 expressed its dissatisfaction on the “undue delay” in arriving at a settlement. It wrote

So far as the Government of India are concerned, they are anxious that for purposes of security no foreign power should retain a foothold on the mainland. It was a question of balancing the aspiration of the people of French India and the needs of the new born Indian state as against the vested rights of the French empire. Even the French have conceded that they had no right to stay on, but they contended that they have a cultural mission to fulfil because of historical association [...]. India will necessarily take steps to safeguard the cultural interests of the French Indians of today when they join the Union, but there can be no question of providing safeguards for the continuance of French cultural influence by political concession or arrangements.

15 Eight months had passed since the joint statement of 28 August 1947 was issued by the two governments agreeing that the question would be taken up at the highest level. The Hindu again wrote

  • 30 Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

Granted that a plebiscite is necessary to convince France and the world that the Indians in the settlement want to end foreign rule, it is difficult to understand why the issue should be posed as one of merger with India or Independence. It is impossible to visualize these trading centres, scattered over different parts of the country, as independent sovereign entities or their being allowed to remain so by a free India interested in her sovereignty. To give them the right of self-determination would be to reduce the principle of an impractical absurdity. After all the principle of a plebiscite was conceded to demonstrate the strength and reality of the “Quit India” movement in the French settlements. While it is true that there is no danger of French India voting for independence, there is no reason why the Government of India should agree to have that issue raised in the referendum.30

  • 31 Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).
  • 32 Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).
  • 33 Note pour le Ministre proposée par le Directeur des Affaires politiques, 14 mai, Aff. Politiques, C (...)
  • 34 Quai d’Orsay a l’Ambassade de France (New Delhi) tél. 18 mai 1948. Aff. Politiques, 432, D1 (A. O. (...)

16However, after a lot of dilly-dallying the French Council of Ministers adopted certain decisions on 29 April 194831 which would be followed by stages. In the first stage, it was agreed that there would be a referendum, then there would be the renewal of municipal councils and finally the new municipal councils would fix the date of referendum. In the second stage, Lévi would bring this to the knowledge of the Government of India and obtain its consent. The French Government would make the expected declaration. It was also decided that while Baron would consult the Representative Assembly, exchange of letters between Nehru and Lévi would concretize the agreement. The French Government also made it known that it would take all measures for assuring the regularity and security of elections and referendum as well. In the final stage municipal councils of south India would be dissolved and electoral campaign would start, elections in Chandernagore would be held on 16 and 23 May and elections for other settlements would take place later.32 The Municipal Assembly of Chandernagore separately and the members of the newly elected municipal councils of south India jointly would fix the date of referendum. On this point, there were differences of opinion between the Director of Political Affairs on the one hand and Lévi and Tézenas on the other. The Director was not willing to surrender this right to the municipalities whereas Lévi and Tézenas constantly maintained that the date and modality of referendum would be decided by the Municipal Assembly in case of Chandernagore and the municipal councils in case of the south Indian settlements.33 The decision of the French Council of Ministers broke the thaw. Nehru’s counter-proposals were accepted. Quai d’Orsay,34 in a telegram, informed the French Ambassador in New Delhi about the decision of the Ministry instructing him to break the news confidentially to Nehru.

  • 35 Madras Mail, 2 May 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432, D2 (A. O. M.). Procès-Verbaux: la première session (...)
  • 36 Subbiah, with whom I had developed a good friendship and whom I used to meet whenever I went to Pon (...)
  • 37 The Hindu, 1 May 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

17Things were moving swiftly in Pondicherry. On the same day, (i.e. 29 April) the French India Representative Assembly rejected35 the merger proposal of Léon St. Jean and adopted instead a resolution in regard to French India’s future demanding complete independence and sovereign status. The Socialist Party moved the resolution and the French India Communist Party seconded it. This was strange no doubt. The French India Communist Party had by now changed its stand towards the French pockets in India. The Communist Party suddenly found the Government of India an anathema. Slogans for the merger of the French Indian settlements were no longer heard so vociferously. The Government of India had refused to grant visa to Subbiah for his visit to France. He,36 along with his CPI comrades in Chandernagore, had taken active part in the mini-revolution of the town. The Government of India had banned the CPI. So did the Chandernagore Council of Administration. Now they felt no qualms of heart to support a resolution which aimed at blocking the process of merger. They now gave an all out support to the resolution which would give French India an independent and sovereign status. This attempted move to tear away French India from Indian Union was opposed by 3 members of congress group led by Léon St. Jean.37

  • 38 The Indian Express, 8 May 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432. D1 (A. O. M.).

18Different parties of French India held different views on the issue of the merger with the Indian Union. The French India Socialist Party leaders expressed the opinion that they should get their independence from the French rule first, and then by stages should decide whether to join the Indian Union or not. The French India National Congress wanted immediate merger of five French outposts with Indian Union. They were ready to go for referendum, if necessary, on this issue. The communists who were still recently advocating the cause of immediate merger held that they should get rid of the French rule first and for this no referendum was necessary. It criticized the Government of India for delaying the main issues by protracted negotiations. The defeat of Léon St. Jean’s integration proposal was unfortunate. The same Representative Assembly had earlier adopted an unanimous resolution on their own for immediate accession to the Indian Union. There was jubilation in France and Paul Coste-Floret, now French Minister for Overseas Empire, seemed to gloat over the decision when he remarked: “My Ministry can congratulate itself on the spontaneous outcome of the vote by the Representative Assembly”.38 He further said that this decision of the Representative Assembly to remain outside the Indian Union

  • 39 Ibid.

may well be the starting point for profitable and fertile negotiations for a resolution of the issue, while respecting the geographical situation of the French territories.39

  • 40 Conseil d’Administration (Chandernagor) a Outre-mer (tél.), 24 mai 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 434, D1 (...)
  • 41 The Statesman, 18 May 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 434, D1 (A. O. M.).
  • 42 Prakash Chandra Das a Paris (tél.), 19 juin 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 435 (A. O. M.).
  • 43 Pondichéry a outre-mer (tél.) 3 mai 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

19Already both the Governments of India and France had recognized that a referendum would decide the future of the five French settlements and the overzealous minister perhaps forgot that free French India in juxtaposition with a free India would be an anomaly and that no other course other than merger was the right remedy for the vexed problem. There is a lot of difference between a vote in the legislature and plebiscite which is a definite expression of opinion of the local population by a democratic process. Chandernagore had shown the way. In the mini-revolution of March, the people of Chandernagore had wrested a document of accession from the Administrative Council. Nehru refused to take cognizance of it, but this did not end the movement there. Rather it went on unabated. In early May Harihor Sett, the 70 year old President of the Administrative Council, sent a telegram to the French Foreign Affairs Minister expressing anguish for the delay in the matter of the publication of the joint declaration following the negotiations between the two governments regarding the political future of Chandernagore.40 In case of further delay, the aged President said, Chandernagore would join Indian Union. Sachin Modak, Secretary, Chandernagore Congress Karma Parishad also insisted on the issuance of a joint declaration and appealed to the people to rally round the banner of the Congress to strengthen the demand for union with India.41 Resentment against the provisional Administrative Council was also mounting and Prakash Chandra Das, President, NDF demanded immediate dissolution of the Administrative Council and its replacement by an impartial responsible government.42 There was a strong protest when the life of the provisional Administrative Council was extended for another six months. Elections to the Municipal Assembly in Chandernagore were to be held immediately after the joint declaration. The electoral roll needed revision. The Municipal Assembly thus elected would fix the date of consultation and the modalities of referendum. Hence there was a persistent demand for an early declaration. The Council of Joint Action had also threatened violence. Nor was Pondicherry all quiet. On 2 May, a huge crowd besieged the Representative Assembly which had rejected the nationalist motion for integration with Indian Union.43 Neither the Chandernagore Council of Administration nor the Representative Assembly of Pondicherry –one packed by members nominated by Baron and the other dominated by Goubert’s men– had the wisdom to appreciate the frayed mood of the people. Far from representing the people the members were living in a paradise of their own making. So was also the case of the chief oracles of the French Overseas Ministry. Outdated in their outlook, their ignorance of the position of the French in India complicated the problem and delayed the solution. They still clung to the obsolete and outworn concept of colonialism through the camouflage of French Union which had no relevance in an age of decolonization.

Notes

1 Aff. Politiques, C 370, D1 (A. O. M.).

2 Note pour M. le Ministre (non datée). Etablie par Delavignette. Aff. Politiques, C 437 (A. O. M.).

3 Lévi au Ministre des Affaires Etrangères (tél.), 24 dec. 1947.

4 As.44-45. Inde Française, Vol. 8. 8 mars 1948 (Qd).

5 The Hindu, 3 January 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 368, D3 (A. O. M.).

6 Extrait du Hindu, 26 January 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 368, D3 (A. O. M.).

7 De Delavignette. Note pour le Ministre, 21 janv. 1948. Aff Politiques, C 437 (A. O. M.).

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Hindusthan Times, 1 March 1948. As 44-55. Inde Française Vol. 8. (Qd).

11 Aide-memoire: Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations (Govt, of India), 11 March 1948. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 8 (Qd).

12 Ibid.

13 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 16 mars 1948. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 8 (Qd).

14 La Populaire, 1 April 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432, D2 (A. O. M.).

15 Daily Mail, 24 March 1948.

16 Ibid.

17 Levi a Paris (tel.) 24 mars 1948. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 8 (Qd).

18 Tel. (Très confidentiel) a l’Ambassade de France (New Delhi), 24 mars 1948. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 8 (Qd).

19 27 March 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432, D2 (A. O. M.).

20 Note. Copie envoyée par Herzog, Chef de Cabinet de M. Coste Floret, 2 avril 1948. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 8 (Qd).

21 Compte-rendu d’une reunion au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 2 avril 1948. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 8 (Qd).

22 Tel. Ambassade de France (New Delhi), 12 avril 1948. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 8 (Qd). Also Aff. Politiques, C 432, D2 (A. O. M.).

23 Ibid.

24 12 avril 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 437 (A. O. M.).

25 Pondichéry a Outre-mer (tel.) 23 avril, 1948. Aff. Politiques C 437 (A. O. M.).

26 Aff. Politiques C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

27 The Hindu, 19 April 1948, Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

28 The Indian Express, 29 April 1948. Aff. Politiques C 428. D1 (A. O. M.).

29 Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

30 Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

31 Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

32 Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

33 Note pour le Ministre proposée par le Directeur des Affaires politiques, 14 mai, Aff. Politiques, C 432, DI (A. O. M.).

34 Quai d’Orsay a l’Ambassade de France (New Delhi) tél. 18 mai 1948. Aff. Politiques, 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

35 Madras Mail, 2 May 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432, D2 (A. O. M.). Procès-Verbaux: la première session ordinaire de l’Assemblée Représentative (mars-avril 1949) et session extraordinaire de juin 1948.

36 Subbiah, with whom I had developed a good friendship and whom I used to meet whenever I went to Pondicherry, told me that he had not taken any part in the affairs of Chandernagore.

37 The Hindu, 1 May 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

38 The Indian Express, 8 May 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432. D1 (A. O. M.).

39 Ibid.

40 Conseil d’Administration (Chandernagor) a Outre-mer (tél.), 24 mai 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 434, D1 (A. O. M.).

41 The Statesman, 18 May 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 434, D1 (A. O. M.).

42 Prakash Chandra Das a Paris (tél.), 19 juin 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 435 (A. O. M.).

43 Pondichéry a outre-mer (tél.) 3 mai 1948. Aff. Politiques, C 432, D1 (A. O. M.).

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 1997

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