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Decolonization of French India

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Ajit K. Neogy

11. Pro-Mergerists in Despair and Despondency

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  • 1 Lévi au Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, 10 janv. 1951. Aff. Politiques, C 439 (A. O. M.).

1It has been discussed earlier the circumstances under which the neutral observers waiting at Paris on their way to India had to go back to their respective countries. Much water had flown since then down the Bay of Bengal. India had been consistently complaining against the progressive degeneration of situation within the French settlements –a situation described by Subbiah as a “régime de terreur impérialiste”1 rendering the holding of free and fair referendum impossible. France was trying to shelve the referendum being unsure about its outcome. 80,000 people were living outside Pondicherry in the surrounding enclaves and the customs restrictions renewed by India between Pondicherry and the enclaves had made their life difficult. Pondicherry authorities apprehended that if they voted for fusion with Indian Union as a way out of the present impasse Pondicherry might slip out of their hands. French position was really precarious at this stage. The slogan for integration of the settlements without referendum was gaining ground. The French Government might have thought that the Indian complaints could be countered by despatch of a crop of neutral observers to French India believing that a favourable report would help absolve France of Indian charges. Accordingly, it decided to send a small batch of four neutral observers to French India on a fact finding mission. They were not to take any decision but only to report whether or not Indian charges had any basis and whether or not referendum could be possible.

  • 2 Embassy of India to the French Foreign Minister, 9 Feb. 1951. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 49 (Qd (...)

The Indian Embassy in its note of 9 February (1951) pointed out to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs that, with some of the political leaders in the settlements still in jail or under duress the present time is not quite opportune for such a visit as the report of the observers would necessarily be incomplete.2

  • 3 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères à l’Ambassade de l’Inde, 12 mars 1951. As 44-55. Inde Frangaise, V (...)

2The same note also stressed that the visit must precede the grant of amnesty and that reasonable time be given to the leaders of the people to resume normal activities. If these conditions were satisfied the Government of India, the note added, would welcome the visit of the observers provided their selection and the precise nature of their duties were worked out in consultation with it. In its note of 13 February the Government of India maintained the same stand. But in spite of the representation of the Indian Embassy, the French Government’s decision to send a party of neutral observers to French India on “a mission of observation and information”3 was deplored and again in its note of 20 March (1951) the Indian Embassy pointed out that

  • 4 Indian Embassy to French Foreign Ministry, 20 March 1951. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 49 (Qd).

Even though the purpose of this mission is described as one of information and enquiry it is difficult to accept the view put forward by the (French) Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the proposed visit of the neutral observers is unconnected with the question of referendum and that it is solely the concern of the French Government.4

  • 5 Indian Embassy to the French Foreign Ministry, 31 March 1951. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 49 (Qd (...)

3The French Government had so far done nothing for the passage of the bill regarding amnesty of the Mahe rebels. It had also done nothing regarding the composition, timing and programme of work of the team of neutral observers. The Government of India was already disappointed on the attitude of the French Government in connection with the revision of the voters’ lists. It wished the neutral observers to examine the modalities for consultation, but they were sent to India with different instructions. Under the circumstances, the Indian Embassy informed the French Foreign Ministry the decision of the Government of India to dissociate itself from the visit of the corps of neutral observers and declared that they would not recognize the findings of the neutral observers’ team nor would allow themselves to be bound by their report.5

  • 6 Lévi a Comrep (Pondichéry) (tél.) 31 mars 1951. Aff. Politiques, Inde F 21 (A. O. M.).
  • 7 Krabbe of Denmark was another member of the neutral observers’ commission.
  • 8 Ibid.

4Lévi had already informed6 the Pondicherry authorities that Holger Anderson and François Perréard would arrive at Pondicherry on 26 March where would also reach Manuel O Chan from Manila.7 Reacting strongly against the impending visit of the neutral observers Rajkumar said in New Delhi that they were coming under the patronage of the French Government and the motive was to get from them a certificate to the effect that the condition of the settlements was perfectly allright for holding the referendum. He did not consider them competent to judge the existing situation simply because they had been sent by the International Court of Justice. He again remarked that the referendum could not be impartial with the “Quisling party” in power.8

  • 9 Report of the neutral observers. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 45 (A. O. M.).
  • 10 Ibid.
  • 11 As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 71 (Qd).

5The neutral observers’ commission actually reached Pondicherry on 31 March and went back to Paris on 25 April (1951). It visited all the four settlements. Anderson (who had been to Mahe in 1949) decided to go to Yanam. So far Karaikal was concerned it was decided that the whole team would go there. They also visited Mahe and Yanam. The commission met a large number of people in the four settlements including the political leaders, lawyers, doctors, journalists, merchants, students, workers etc. it talked to them on the problems of French India and listened to their views and prepared a report stating that “a longer stay in the settlements would have undoubtedly enabled us to have gone more thoroughly into certain questions and complete our observations”. It also stated that “we have only been able to record and quote, as faithfully and objectively as possible, the testimonies and information secured”. While the report dismissed as baseless the various charges of the Government of India, it mentioned the “abnormal” economic and commercial relations between the French establishments and between them and the Indian Union.9 According to the report the people of the enclaves had been reduced to the status of prisoners consequent on the policy of the Government of India and the Indian measures were designed to coerce them into voting for Indian Union in the referendum. In order to organize the referendum in the best possible conditions the report stressed the necessity of re-establishing the customs and commercial relations with India. The neutral observers’ report admitted the prevalence of contraband trade between Pondicherry and the neighbouring Indian territories and pointed out “certain defects characterizing the political life in the French settlements” and reported that elections so far held in Pondicherry were never free and fair –rather they were always attended with violence and very few could freely exercise their votes.10 They also explained how the system of terror came to be established there. In their report they stated that the chiefs of the party in power recruited groups of “handymen”, commonly designated by the name of “goondas” or rowdies, from the working classes and were armed with sticks and clubs to attack political rivals.11 The neutral observers’ report urged the necessity to clean up the situation for making referendum free and fair. About Mahe trial a clean chit was given to the judicial proceedings of the Mahe tribunals. According to the report the whole proceedings had been conducted in accordance with the French legal text applicable in this connection, not only in French India but in the whole of the French territories elsewhere. The commission did not think that the procedure followed had been too hurried. Rather contrary to the allegations of New Delhi, the French authorities, guided by a spirit of conciliation, had given proof of extreme indulgence towards the accused. The report observed that the majority of the people of the settlements, perhaps with the exception of Mahe, were not inclined to suffer any change in status –rather they favoured the maintenance of status quo. As declared earlier in its note New Delhi refused to be bound by the findings of the neutral observers’ delegation.

* * *

  • 12 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 23 août 1951. Aff. Politiques, E (...)

6The fear of uncertain results of the referendum had dissuaded France to hold the referendum. New Delhi wanted to put it off for other reasons –the most important being the absence of congenial condition for holding it. Although the merger movement suffered from many limitations the Indian authorities tried to gear it up and the movement entered a new phase from the middle of 1951 on account of the withdrawal by the Government of India the warrant of arrest in force against Subbiah. Before taking up that story it is necessary to focus once more the mockery of elections in French Indian settlements. Only a couple of months back the neutral observers’ delegation had recorded the seamy side of the political system in French India. The Pondicherry authorities did not bother to rectify the wrongs which had sadly hamstrung the whole electoral process. Instead they preferred to shut their eyes to the irregularities and illegalities which were strongly denounced by the press and the public leaders. This is again evident from the Deputy election to the French National Assembly which had taken place on 17 June 1951. Saravane’s term having ended he sought reelection. He was contested by Goubert who was elected securing 90,053 votes while the former polled only 149 votes. The results of the election evoked suspect and surprise. All sorts of manipulations and manoeuvrings were unabashedly resorted to. Official patronage was extended and administrative resources were placed under the disposal of Goubert. Voting was conducted in accordance with the French Indian tradition. Voters were frightened and rigging was unprecedented. Saravane was unseated and this defeat ultimately sealed his political fate. Despite this Ménard submitted a different version of the election. In his report to the Overseas Minister he wrote that the election passed off in a peaceful manner and that the election of Goubert was more a victory of the cause of French Union than the Socialist Party, but nevertheless he described Goubert as the “champion de notre cause”.12 This clearly established the link between the patron and the protégé.

7Subbiah had to go under political hibernation since 1948. Almost along with the Pondicherry authorities the Government of India had issued warrant of arrest on him on many counts and more particularly to prevent the extension of communist activities in South Arcot districts. Nehru’s anti-communist policy was strongly resented by Subbiah. The CPI also received a raw deal in his hands. The Government of India’s warrant had interdicted his entry in the South Arcot districts. He had incurred the displeasure of the Pondicherry Government for many reasons. He was a staunch critic of the French imperialism. One of the founders of the French India Communist Party he had organized the working class population against the exploitation of the management. He was no less ruthless in dealing with his political adversaries. To cut him to size the Pondicherry authorities groomed up Goubert and a warrant of arrest was issued on him thereby forcing him to leave the French territories and enabling Goubert to make deep inroads into his strongholds. Both French and Indian Police Intelligence wings co-ordinated their efforts for tracing his movements. This, however, failed to deter him from carrying on his activities. Since 1948 he had to move from place to place to evade arrest. His house was burnt and looted in his absence; the office of the French India Communist Party was destroyed and its press badly damaged. The Government of India had gained nothing by issuing the warrant of arrest against Subbiah. By branding him as a dangerous man the Government of India indirectly strengthened the hands of the Pondicherry authorities and he was looked upon as a common enemy. This, coupled with the policy of vendetta followed by the Socialist Party, no doubt eroded Subbiah’s political base and facilitated Goubert’s unhindered ascendancy in the administrative-cum-political hierarchy of French India. Goubert was a official raised to eminence because it suited the French Government to use him.

8The Government of India was hopelessly watching the political thuggery of Goubert’s Socialist Party. The pro-mergerists and the communists were subjected to various types of persecution. A virtual reign of terror was set up everywhere. In order to escape from harassment and humiliation many had left the French territories for shelter in the border villages which later became the centres of pro-merger activities. It was a day for the storm troopers of the Socialist Party who were involved in anti-social activities such as smuggling of pearls diamonds, gold, watches, liquor, silk yarn, fountain pens and other costly articles. The French Indian ports had already been declared free-ports (free for imports) with effect from 1 April 1949. Pondicherry and Karaikal had become the paradise of the smugglers and hirelings. Their unrestricted activities produced an imbalance in the socio-economic life of the port-towns. Some people grew rich overnight. Describing the situation, the Indian Consul General wrote

  • 13 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 June 1950) Ministry of External Affairs File No. 35/R & 1 (...)

the ministers and other members of the Socialist Party are steeped in graft and corruption to such an extent that the misuse of public funds is said to be causing concern to the French authorities. The top ranking Socialists including ministers indulge in smuggling into and from India which at present is a thriving trade; and men of little means who have amassed wealth within a short time are said to have built houses and kept motor cars.13

  • 14 Report of the neutral observers. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 45 (Qd).
  • 15 The Hindu, 13 April 1951. The Indian Express, 8 April 1951.
  • 16 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 June 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No.35/R &  (...)

9This short-cut method of growing rich lured others and induced them to join the ranks of Goubert’s party. The President of Pondicherry Chambers of Commerce told the neutral observers delegation that many Indian citizens living in Pondicherry were also engaged in the contraband trade.14 The contraband goods, after their arrival, were immediately smuggled into the Indian territories. The Government of India was losing customs duties. People engaged in this trade favoured the continuation of Goubert’s regime for their benefit while doctors, government employees and teachers of the French administration began to feel the pinch. Failing to cope with their fixed salaries they brought out a procession and proceeded to the Representative Assembly for submitting to the President a memorandum for increasing their emoluments, but they were prevented from proceeding by the goondas of the Socialist Party who knew nothing of socialism but who enjoyed the patronage of the Socialist Party. The police remained dumb spectators.15 The goondas were in fact paid private army of the Socialist Party who found employment in the local municipal bodies, government departments and the three textile mills. The slightest semblance of opposition was ruthlessly crushed by murder, loot, arson, intimidation and a reign of terror was perpetually maintained.16

  • 17 Ibid.
  • 18 V. Subbiah, Saga of Freedom of French India, p. 295.
  • 19 Ibid. op. cit., p. 296.

10The policy of terrorism had virtually stopped pro-merger political activities. The pro-merger congress leaders of Pondicherry and Karaikal –Sellane and Ambroise, Xavery and St. Jean– were averse to fight against the Pondicherry authorities and reluctant to take any risk. Saravane had already become irrelevant. A leader capable of facing the challenge was necessary. There was none among the existing leadership. Subbiah who was out of Pondicherry could alone do it; his political views had changed. Before his dismissal from power he had sworn loyalty to the French. After the hassles and harassment he had suffered in the hands of the French administration he was obliged to revise his opinion. He was a good organizer. He had still a good network in and around Pondicherry. In spite of the strong-arm policy of Goubert many mill-hands were still loyal to Subbiah.17 The warrant of arrest issued by the Government of India was hanging on his head like the Sword of Damocles. It was at that time (around July 1951) V. V. Giri, then Indian High Commissioner in Ceylon, visited Pondicherry at the behest of Nehru with a view to making an on the spot study of the situation. Giri met some important people like André and pro-mergerist leaders. He expressed his desire to meet Subbiah who was at that time hiding in Madras. A meeting between them, however, took place at Madras and they discussed about the “freedom movement” inside the French Indian settlements.18 Soon after this the warrant of arrest on Subbiah was revoked. Giri might have had a hand in the withdrawal of the warrant of arrest. This, however, enabled him to work overtly for the merger of the settlements with Indian Union. Now staunchly anti-French and a formidable foe of Goubert, he geared up his activities along the borders of Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe and Tellicherry in order to co-ordinate his activities with the harassed and hounded party workers living as refugees in camps on the border villages as well as the pro-merger people. Villupuram became the centre of his activities and Swadeshmitran –the Tamil weekly and the mouth-piece of the working class population of Pondicherry–– began to reappear from there and it became the chief organ of the movement.19 By the end of 1951 Subbiah succeeded in forming some semblance of unity, if not of action, among the disparate and disintegrated groups bereft of leadership.

  • 20 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (16-31 Oct 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R  (...)
  • 21 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 Oct. 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R  (...)

11In this connection it will not be out of context to discuss about the pro-merger leadership of the French Indian settlements. A glimpse of the French India leaders –pro-mergerists and anti-mergerists, ministers and functionaries– can be obtained from the reports sent from Pondicherry by the Indian Consul General to New Delhi. Pro-merger Committees of Pondicherry and Karaikal were formed to organize and consolidate all those who were tired of the thuggery of the socialist paratroopers. But unfortunately, the former leaders of the French India National Congress who were so active in 1947 had almost become spent-force and refused to bestir themselves.20 The committees consisted of diverse elements having little in common. Rajkumar wanted the pro-merger committees to plunge headlong against the anti-merger forces, but they could not. Sellane Naicker and Ambroise were two moving spirits of the Pondicherry pro-merger committee. Sellane, who was President of the committee, lacked initiative. He was a good man, not an organizer. A good adviser no doubt, he could not establish himself as a dynamic leader. He worked through Dadala Ramannaiya who had defected from the French. Ambroise was the working President of the committee. Most of the pro-merger leaders were senior advocates and veteran politicians. They were frightened because they knew that they could be crushed in a minute if they raised their heads.21 Hence they preferred to remain inactive rather than to come out in the open. Indeed terrorism unleashed by the Socialist Party had engendered in them a fear psychosis. They did not hold a single meeting. Not a single hand bill condemning the Socialist Party sponsored violence was issued by them. Sellane and Ambroise told S. K. Banerjee in no uncertain terms that without protection from the Government of India it was not possible for them to work openly. When R. K. Tandon, the succeeding Consul General, expressed his desire to meet them in Pondicherry they became horrified with the idea lest they should incur the wrath of Goubert’s men. He eventually met them at Villupuram in Indian territory. Tandon found them totally demoralized and were not in a mood to make sacrifices. The average voter realizing that he got neither protection nor justice was afraid to come forward to vote for merger. The Consul General too realized that protection and security were necessary prelude to a referendum.

  • 22 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 Oct. 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R  (...)
  • 23 It was believed that he was trying to get his son and son-in-law who were then studying in Paris em (...)
  • 24 Papoussamy who met Léon St. Jean at Karaikal gave an interesting account of the conversation he had (...)
  • 25 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (16-31 Oct. 1950). File No. 35/R & 1/50. (National Archives of (...)
  • 26 Ibid.

12Picture in Karaikal was slightly better though not satisfactory. The Karaikal pro-merger committee passed a resolution requesting France to transfer to India her sovereignty on the French Indian territories on 15 August 1950.22 But rivalry in leadership prevented them from launching a concerted pro-merger movement. Xavery and Léon St. Jean were President and Vice-President of the Karaikal pro-merger committee. Xavery was a veteran advocate, a politician of Karaikal and a member of the old Conseil Général. But there was deep resentment against him for his failure to activate the pro-merger committee. For various reasons, he refrained from giving advice to his committee, far from giving any lead.23 Léon St. Jean was also a senior advocate and a member of the Representative Assembly. There was also resentment against his leadership. He was blamed for being over-cautious and over-constitutional; he had never dared to oppose Goubert and had in fact always voted with him in the Representative Assembly.24 In Karaikal internal differences were very much on the surface. Nagarajan, Secretary of the pro-merger committee, was impatient for action. In fact due to his taking the lead, differences had arisen between him and Xavery and Léon St. Jean was working against Nagarajan. Efforts to reconcile their differences had only temporary results. Léon St. Jean wanted to give leadership but he lacked courage. Tandon suspected him of being an opportunist.25 Pakkirissamy happened to be a political enigma. His opportunism was almost proverbial in French Indian politics. Tézenas du Montcel did not hold high opinion about him. But he had rapport with Rajkumar and was believed to have pro-merger sympathies. The pro-mergerists of Mahe represented by the Mahajana Sabha were mostly in exile outside Indian territories. I. K. Kumaran and C. E. Bharatan who spearheaded the revolt of Mahe had to take shelter outside Mahe. They were dedicated workers and worked hard for merger with Indian Union. Tandon who had visited Mahe between 21 and 23 October (1950) found complete absence of pro-merger activities there. Meetings and processions were banned. Goondas were let loose to terrorize people harbouring pro-merger sentiments. Liquor was a strong weapon used to corrupt pro-mergerists, particularly the Indian officials who visited Mahe. The pro-merger groups which had met at Cuddalore nominated I. K. Kumaran and C. E. Bharatan to represent them at the Nasik Congress of All India Congress Committee.26

  • 27 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 23 août 1951. Aff. Politiques, E (...)

13Balasubramanian, President of the French Indian Representative Assembly, was essentially a man of Goubert. He told Tandon that his present position and the existing situation in French India had forced him to side with the socialists. He also told Tandon not to trust Goubert on any account on the question of merger with India. But the same person promised to work with Goubert after the Assembly election. Balasubramanian, according to Tandon, was playing “a double game like most of the politicians here”. In his opinion he was working in league with Pakkirissamy and again denigrating him. This induced the Indian Consul General to conclude that Balasubramanian was “a man without backbone” and both he and Pakkirissamy wanted “to have the best of both the worlds”. The double standard of Balasubramanian can also be confirmed from a report of the French Governor to the Overseas Minister wherein he pointed out that after Goubert’s election to the French National Assembly both Muthupillai and Balasubramanian met him and assured him to faithfully collaborate with the French representative at Pondicherry and renewed their adherence to the cause of French Union.27 The interesting thing is that most of the French Indian leaders with the exception of Kumaran, Bharatan, André, Counouma and Subbiah had no scruples and vied for coming closer to the two governments as and when necessary.

  • 28 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 Feb. 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R  (...)
  • 29 Ibid.
  • 30 Ibid.

14The lack of honesty and integrity as well as shady deals on the part of the leaders of French India prompted S. K. Banerjee to reach an uncharitable and yet a correct conclusion that the politicians of French India were known for their willingness to change side as suited their pockets.28 This vicious situation was no doubt the making of the Pondicherry authorities who ruled the settlements in the name of the French Republic. Far from trying to arrest the downward trend, they were more interested to perpetuate it with the sole purpose of retaining their hold on the settlements. Most of the politicians who were connected with Rajkumar’s pro-merger committees were escapists and followed an ostrich like policy. S. K. Banerjee reported29 that there was “a move on the part of some notorious anti-merger elements like Balasubramanian, Muthupillai, Tetta and Léon St. Jean to form a second pro-merger group to outshine the one already formed by Rajkumar”. “This move”, he believed, was evidently sponsored by Goubert himself so as to prepare the ground for his return to our favour”.30 The Socialist Party had not declared whether or not they favoured referendum. Their strategy was not to come out in the open till they knew for certain that France would give up her possessions to India. The moment they would come to know about it they would declare themselves to have always been faithful supporters of India’s cause. Until then they would serve the Pondicherry authorities as courtiers.

  • 31 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 June 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R  (...)
  • 32 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report, (1-15 March 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R (...)
  • 33 Ibid.

15The ministers in French India were not angels either. They indulged in corruption and embezzlement of public funds.31 Both Camouillie and Ménard were really concerned about the volumes of corruption in which those ministers were involved. Neither of them were strangers to French Indian politics and its actors. That was why before his arrival in Pondicherry as Acting Governor, Goubert sent telegram to Paris urging the cancellation of the appointment of Camouillie. Goubert became a nationalist and an ardent pro-mergerist when Ménard unearthed the financial scandals in which he was involved and adopted methods to plug the loopholes. Sivasubramania Pillai, Food Minister and a Socialist leader of Karaikal who played an important role in dethroning Pakkirissamy from the Mayorship of Karaikal Municipality, amassed considerable wealth and Tandon did not rule out his link with the flourishing smuggling trade. Goubert owned no less than ten houses in Pondicherry. Notwithstanding these the Pondicherry authorities were not inclined to deprive Goubert of his power and restrain the activities of the Socialist Party. Rather Goubert was lionized and the Pondicherry authorities adopted unprecedented steps to keep him and his followers in good humour. Chambon, before his departure for Paris, named Goubert as President of the Council during his absence and entrusted Mouzon, Secretary-General, with the current charge of the administration. By dividing the two functions, Chambon ensured that Goubert was lured by the glamour of a high sounding name with extra powers except that of a casting vote whereas the administration remained safe in the hands of Mouzon.32 Immediately after that Goubert and his two lieutenants – Muthupillai and Karendra Mudaliar (Finance Minister)– were made Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur. These unprecedented honours, bestowed on them, had completely won over Goubert. It is surprising that France, in order to win the support of a handful of corrupt leaders, debased her highest insignia of honour and this was pinned on their chests at a public ceremony by the Acting Governor Chambon whose relations with Goubert were not satisfactory and whom Goubert had tried to remove from his post in collaboration with Bouhard, the police chief.33 Strange were the ways of the French Indian politics! The French administrators were concerned more with politics and less with administration. They completely ignored the economic and social development of their possessions in India. They constantly engaged themselves in political machinations by setting up one against another and permitting the party in power to throw all morals and scruples to the wind. They had established democratic institutions, but they had seen that none of them worked honestly and that they had allowed them to be exploited to the fullest for their own benefit. The presence of goondaism, the manipulation of elections and the creation of a political party with full support of the local government had always been typical of French India. Colonialism found in French India its true and ardent votaries.

* * *

  • 34 The Hindu, 1 Nov. 1947. 1947. Aff. Politiques, C 2272, D 7 (A. O. M.).

16Meanwhile tensions on the borders of Pondicherry had been increasing and skirmishes between the refugees camping on the borders and anti-mergerists occurred. There were complaints and counter-complaints of police excesses. The border incident at Mortandi on 24 November (1951) testifies to the high handed manner resorted to by the Socialist Party to put down all opposition. To this is also added the tense situation which had developed in the Kottakupam frontier which is the nearest Indian territory bordering the French Indian town of Pondicherry following the posting of armed police on the Indian soil and of French police units on the French Indian territory with a distance of only a few yards in between the two forces. Civil rights of the people were denied. In Pondicherry and Karaikal, the anniversary of the Indian independence passed off without any procession or public meeting. Elaborate police arrangements were made to enforce the ban on celebration, goondaism went on unabated and people were passing their days under the shadow of fear. Diplomatic personnel and their associates were not even spared by the goondas of the Socialist Party. Police force was stationed in front of the house of the Indian Consul General and that of the house of Ramanujan, Press attaché to the Consul General.34 Textile workers were dissatisfied and Subbiah’s efforts to rally them again worried the Pondicherry authorities.

  • 35 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 22 dec. 1951. Aff. Politiques, E (...)
  • 36 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 7 dec. 1951. Aff. Politiques, E  (...)
  • 37 Ibid.
  • 38 Comrep (Pondichéry) au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer. (tél.) 17 dec. 1951. Aff. Politiques, C 2 (...)
  • 39 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 22 dec. 1951. Aff. Politiques, E (...)
  • 40 26 dec. 1951. Asie-Océanie. Inde Française, Vol. 44 (Qd).

17It was in this background that the elections to the Representative Assembly was held in the middle of December 1951. Saravane’s efforts to weld together anti-Socialist and pro-merger forces failed in spite of the promise of money by the Indian Consul General. The pro-mergerists were in fact fragmented –each leader demanding precedence over the other. Moreover the Indian National Congress was somewhat reluctant to ally with Saravane possibly because of the troubles fomented by his followers on the borders were not taken kindly by the Congress.35 Even Tandon’s attempts to regroup the pro-mergerists did not yield results. The Socialist Party, on the other hand, was much ahead of its opponents and was too hopeful of its success. But it did not issue any election manifesto and hence its attitude towards referendum still remained a mystery. Subbiah had been organizing meetings on the borders and exhorting people to work unitedly for Indian Union, but his close link with the DMK –an anti-congress party in the south– left one guessing as to the amount of support Tandon would extend to him. Failing to forge unity Saravane cabled unsuccessfully to France for adjourning the elections36 in order to gain time. Keeping in mind the tensions on the borders of Pondicherry, the total political scenario within the settlements and unable to make a dent in the socialist strongholds which could be possible only by unity, the pro-merger parties had decided to boycott the elections.37 As they failed to field any list of candidates the Socialist Party candidates were elected unopposed in Pondicherry and in other dependencies.38 This was another mockery of elections no doubt. The internal bickerings among the pro-merger parties enabled Goubert’s party to win the battle without firing a shot. Ménard wrote to the French Overseas Minister that election had taken place in a peaceful atmosphere in Pondicherry and Karaikal without any untoward incident.39 Naturally this gave a lie to the Indian charge of the atmosphere of terror reigning in the French Indian pockets. To this Franc-Tireur observed that “rigged elections” of December 1951 had produced despair and discontent among the pro-mergerists.40

Notes

1 Lévi au Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, 10 janv. 1951. Aff. Politiques, C 439 (A. O. M.).

2 Embassy of India to the French Foreign Minister, 9 Feb. 1951. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 49 (Qd). Also. As 44-55. 13 mars. 1951, Vol. 13 (Qd).

3 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères à l’Ambassade de l’Inde, 12 mars 1951. As 44-55. Inde Frangaise, Vol. 44 (Qd).

4 Indian Embassy to French Foreign Ministry, 20 March 1951. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 49 (Qd).

5 Indian Embassy to the French Foreign Ministry, 31 March 1951. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 49 (Qd).

6 Lévi a Comrep (Pondichéry) (tél.) 31 mars 1951. Aff. Politiques, Inde F 21 (A. O. M.).

7 Krabbe of Denmark was another member of the neutral observers’ commission.

8 Ibid.

9 Report of the neutral observers. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 45 (A. O. M.).

10 Ibid.

11 As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 71 (Qd).

12 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 23 août 1951. Aff. Politiques, E 29 (A. O. M.).

13 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 June 1950) Ministry of External Affairs File No. 35/R & 1/50. (National Archives of India, New Delhi).

14 Report of the neutral observers. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 45 (Qd).

15 The Hindu, 13 April 1951. The Indian Express, 8 April 1951.

16 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 June 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No.35/R & I/50. (National Archives of India, New Delhi).

17 Ibid.

18 V. Subbiah, Saga of Freedom of French India, p. 295.

19 Ibid. op. cit., p. 296.

20 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (16-31 Oct 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R & 1/50. (National Archives of India, New Delhi).

21 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 Oct. 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R & 1/50. (National Archives of India, New Delhi).

22 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 Oct. 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R & 1/50. (National Archives of India, New Delhi).

23 It was believed that he was trying to get his son and son-in-law who were then studying in Paris employed under the French and was therefore lying low. (Consul General’s Fortnightly Report 1-15 July 1950).

24 Papoussamy who met Léon St. Jean at Karaikal gave an interesting account of the conversation he had with the latter. Leon St. Jean said, “Bonjour, Cher ami! Je sais que vous etes parmi nous depuis quelques jours. Vous avez gagné la bataille. Vous ne me comprenez pas? Je vais vous dire j’ai aussi travaillé Goubert –Vous lui auriez donné certaines assurances et vous l’auriez convaincu. M. Goubert et son parti voteront demain pour l’Union Française. Vous avez réussi dans votre mission, je vous félicite”. There is no scope to verify the statement. But if there had been an iota of truth in it one can get from this an index of Léon St. Jean’s real affiliation. Levi a Schuman, 26 oct. 1949. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 53 (Qd).

25 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (16-31 Oct. 1950). File No. 35/R & 1/50. (National Archives of India, New Delhi).

26 Ibid.

27 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 23 août 1951. Aff. Politiques, E 29 (A. O. M.).

28 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 Feb. 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R & 1/50. (National Archives of India, New Delhi).

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid.

31 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report (1-15 June 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R & 1/50. (National Archives of India, New Delhi).

32 Consul General’s Fortnightly Report, (1-15 March 1950). Ministry of External Affairs. File No. 35/R & 1/50. (National Archives of India, New Delhi).

33 Ibid.

34 The Hindu, 1 Nov. 1947. 1947. Aff. Politiques, C 2272, D 7 (A. O. M.).

35 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 22 dec. 1951. Aff. Politiques, E 29 (A. O. M.).

36 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 7 dec. 1951. Aff. Politiques, E 29 (A. O. M.).

37 Ibid.

38 Comrep (Pondichéry) au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer. (tél.) 17 dec. 1951. Aff. Politiques, C 2272 (A. O. M.).

39 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 22 dec. 1951. Aff. Politiques, E 29 (A. O. M.).

40 26 dec. 1951. Asie-Océanie. Inde Française, Vol. 44 (Qd).

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 1997

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