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Decolonization of French India

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Ajit K. Neogy

12. Critical Year of Indo-French Relations

Texte intégral

  • 1 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tel.) 7 janv. 1952. Inde Française, Vol. 14. Also tel. 16 janv. 1 (...)
  • 2 There was no such thing as Pondicherry Cabinet. There were advisers.
  • 3 Commissaire (Pondichéry) au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 22 dec. 1947. Aff. Politiques, Inde (...)
  • 4 Government of India’s Aide-mémoire 31 March 1952. As 44-55 Inde Française, Vol. 14 (Qd).

1Indo-French relations, although passing through jerks and jolts, were yet to reach a breaking point. The border skirmishes, the sham elections for the French National Assembly and the Representative Assembly of Pondicherry, denial of civil rights and goondaism unleashed by the Socialist Party ruffians enjoying the patronage of the Pondicherry authorities, were no doubt major irritants between the two countries. French charge of not reducing economic pressures by India and Indian charge of French failure to improve the standard of political life as recommended by the neutral observers stood in the way of reconciliation. Stanislas Ostrorog who had succeeded Daniel Lévi as French Ambassador at New Delhi in October 1951 was not a rabid promoter of French interests in India in the sense the French Overseas Ministry had been. After a careful study of old documents he came to the conclusion that the existing position of the French settlements was precarious and it would not be prudent to try to consolidate them. The settlements were economically useless and their political behaviour had defamed the sanctity of the French political system. He also harboured doubts about the integrity of those rallying round Goubert’s Party, the pillar of French support in the French settlements. He was also sceptical about the loyalty of the recently elected members of Pondicherry Representative Assembly. Even Goubert, who was a socialist leader in Pondicherry, had to move with a different political group in France. He also pointed out that time was going against France. India’s relations with the Commonwealth countries were excellent, her relations with the United States were improving and Peking and Moscow were leaning towards her whereas France and Portugal were very much isolated in Asia. French involvement in Indo-China and North Africa inhibited her to assert her position in Asia and Africa. Ostrorog was, therefore, in favour of maintaining a low profile in the French Indian affairs. He even postponed his visit to Pondicherry lest that might create an adverse impression. He wanted France to re-examine Indian demands. A scrupulous maintenance of silence seemed to him to be the wise policy and during Ménard’s three-day stay in New Delhi they decided to keep quiet for sometime and avoid any polemics with the Government of India on the question of French pockets.1 But nevertheless, Ménard wrote to the Indian Consul General (Tandon) to take measures necessary for stopping agitation, particularly the one spearheaded by Dadala in Bahur. India was busy with general elections and Nehru in his Belgaum speech reiterated India’s resolve to settle French Indian problems in an amicable manner. Tandon, already disillusioned with disunity among pro-mergerist groups and in his bid to integrate the settlements with India, held a meeting with the six councillors2 of the Pondicherry Government prominent among them were Goubert, Muthupillai and Balasubramanian. They discussed the various aspects of the five-year old problem. Tandon sought their cooperation for the integration of the settlements with Indian Union without referendum. This proposal received a cold reception. Rather they held New Delhi responsible for the present state of relations between the two governments. They pointed out that the economic measures followed by the Government of India had marred the former relations of mutual confidence and suggested that the same could be restored if a more liberal policy was followed in respect of movements of men and merchandises between Pondicherry and the enclaves. Immediately after this, Tandon left for New Delhi for a fortnight and there he discussed the whole gamut of Indo-French relations including the economic situation in the French settlements. Tandon must have kept in mind the trend of the talks he had with the local leaders of Pondicherry. He must also have borne in mind the opinion of Rajagopalachari (Chief Minister of Madras) who believed that the denunciation of the Customs Union agreement was a capital blunder. He, for reasons stated above, was in favour of following a policy of reconciliation which, he thought, would in the long run facilitate the process of integration. He was inclined to put a stop to the free-port status of Pondicherry as an essential step for checking smuggling and at the same time to restore the Customs Union with such modifications as the existing situation needed.3 The Government of India had taken note of the economic abnormality mentioned in the neutral observers’ report and in its opinion the only practical method of restoring normal economic and commercial relations as well as of stopping smuggling seemed to be “the resumption of such a (customs) union with such modifications as present conditions may suggest”. In fact in its Aide-mémoire the Government of India expressed its readiness to enter immediately into negotiations for the revival of the Customs Union (for Pondicherry and Karaikal) with the French Indian Government.4 Such an agreement, if concluded quickly, might avert the necessity of enforcing measures which the Government of India had determined to take for checking smuggling from French India.

  • 5 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tél.) 8 dec. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 53 (Qd).
  • 6 The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs also made the same proposal in its letter of 16 July 1952.
  • 7 Government of India’s Aide-mémoire, 16 sept. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 14 (Qd).
  • 8 Note sur des Etablissements français de l’Inde, 24 fév. 1953. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 15 (Qd (...)
  • 9 Government of India’s Aide-mémoire 16 dec. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 62 (Qd).
  • 10 Note. 6 juillet 1953. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 15 (Qd).
  • 11 Ibid.

2In the same Aide-mémoire the Government of India pointed out that the French Government had so far taken no steps to remedy the defects characterizing the political life of the settlements. French reaction to New Delhi’s offer of reviving the Customs Union was negative. The French Government objected to accept a Customs Union which had been condemned by the Government of India. They desired a new economic arrangement suitable to the existing needs. In its note of 3 July 1952, the French Government remarked that the adoption of the Customs Union Convention of 1941 to the existing situation would give rise to difficulties, that it would nullify the efforts made by the French Government since then to place the economy of the French Establishments upon a new basis, that these efforts have borne fruits and the local population could not appreciate the introduction of a “new system of trade relations with India.” The negative attitude as expressed by the French Government was also deplored by Ostrorog. Contraband trade in French India, he said, posed a danger to the national economy of India and he remarked that by rejecting Indian proposal which might have helped arrive some kind of solution, the French Overseas Ministry had taken a grave risk and responsibility.5 However, the French Foreign Ministry submitted instead a counter proposal on 9 July (1952) suggesting that talks should take place in Paris between the two governments for the purpose of restoring “normal economic relations and good neighbourliness” as well as to discuss measures necessary for combating contraband trade. The Ministry also wanted to know the decision of the Government of India on this proposal and also the names of persons who would represent them in the proposed meeting. The Government of France was moving ahead on the presumption that New Delhi had accepted their proposal. The Government of India was surprised at the changed attitude of the French Government “as it seems to run counter to what was reported to the neutral observers and has been incorporated in their official report”.6 In view of the changed French attitude it pointed out that “the Government of India would consider themselves free, after explaining their position to the public, to take such measures as are necessary in the light of the new conditions to safeguard their own interests, e.g. the creation of barbed wire fencing round the French Establishments (Pondicherry and Karaikal) to prevent smuggling, the introduction of permit system to check the traffic of contraband between the French Establishments and the Indian Union, etc.”.7 Nevertheless the Government of India agreed to co-operate as fully as possible with the French Government in establishing friendly understanding between the two governments, but in the concluding portion of the Aide-mémoire New Delhi stated that, in view of certain conditions existing in the French establishments and their physical position vis-à-vis the Indian Union, they could not think of any other method of restoring normality in the commercial and financial relations between India and French establishments except through a Customs Union. The Government of India requested the French Government to let them know in precise detail what exactly they proposed to recommend. The French Government did not clarify their proposals. Rather in its two notes of 19 November (1952) France urged India to commence negotiations for purposes relating to restoration of normal economic relations between Indian Union and the French settlements on the basis of French suggestion and to hold an enquiry into the incidents mentioned by India by a team of neutral observers.8 This note will be discussed a little later. However, the French Government remained silent about the clarifications sought by the Government of India. In the absence of any such clarifications New Delhi expressed its inability to participate in the proposed discussion at Paris and indicated that in the absence of any Customs Union agreement it would be taking all possible measures to do away with smuggling.9 What really prevented the French Government from accepting Indian offer of reviving the Customs Union came to light later in course of a talk which Ostrorog had in the Overseas Ministry with Jaquinot and Delteil, Chef de Cabinet et Directeur Politique during his visit to France in the middle of 1953. Here also he observed that the Indian offer had been rejected by the Overseas Ministry and he made it clear that bearing in mind the profound influence and respect Nehru commanded at international level, France on her own should forge better relations with India. Ostrorog also questioned the economic and financial efficacy of retaining the settlements “at any cost”.10 Even Delteil believed that with the exception of some specific profits made by the Bank of Indo-China, France had no economic interests in the settlements and their maintenance was rather a liability on France. He fully shared the views of Ostrorog and was in favour of revival of the Customs Union. Delteil further revealed that not economic interests but local internal factor actually baffled the solution. The local factor, according to him, was Goubert – “the all-powerful” deputy from French India who had become the real arbiter of the fate of French India and to whom the henchmen as well as the police owed their allegiance.11 The French Government feared that in case it followed a policy of reconciliation with the Government of Delhi and if Goubert found such a policy prejudicial to his personal interests he would violently react and provoke anarchy in the settlements. The short-sighted policy of the Overseas Ministry and Goubert factor, in fact, played a prominent role in nullifying the prospect of a solution to the vexed problem.

  • 12 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer (Confidentiel) 30 juin 1952. Aff. (...)
  • 13 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères à l’Ambassade de l’Inde, 17 nov. 1952. Aff. Politiques C 2275 (A. (...)
  • 14 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères à l’Ambassade de France (tel.) 5 juin, 1952. Also Ostrorog au Mini (...)

3In the months to come, the differences between India and France went on widening. The Government of India had already incurred the displeasure of the French Government by divulging to the press (May 1952) certain portions of the neutral observers’ report which the latter had supplied to the former “by courtesy”. The report was no doubt confidential and it was not for public consumption. By divulging it to the press the Government of India had acted in an irresponsible manner. The French Foreign Ministry found itself embarrassed and it charged the Government of India of “bad faith”, of violation of norms of secrecy and of misleading the people and of tendentious publication of the report.12 This, they observed, was done with a view to justifying the impossibility of holding the referendum.13 On the instruction of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs the French Ambassador at New Delhi expressed its displeasure and lodged a strong protest to the Government of India.14

  • 15 The Indian Express, 9 Jan. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2270, D 5 (A. O. M.).
  • 16 Consul Général de Pondichéry au Commissaire de la République des Etablissements français en Inde, 1 (...)
  • 17 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 30 juin 1952. Aff. Politiques, I (...)

4To this is also added the border incidents in which the two governments levelled charges and counter-charges against each other and which further vitiated the Indo-French relations. French Indian goondas were accused of entering the Indian territory of Villupuram and attacking the people15 on the one hand, while Dadala, on the other hand, since his defection, had been actively operating on the borders of Bahur with the pro-mergerist refugees. The Pondicherry authorities, on several occasions, had drawn the attention of the Indian Consul General at Pondicherry the depredations launched by Dadala on the French nationals and urged him to restrain him. The Pondicherry authorities further complained that the Consul General was extending patronage to Dadala. No doubt Dadala had close rapport with Sellane Naicker, Saravane and other pro-mergerists, but the Consul General dismissed the complaints of the Pondicherry authorities and certified that he had not committed any acts of violence or terrorism.16 Ménard later wrote to the Overseas Ministry wherein he admitted that the situation was becoming normal in Bahur and that Dadala and his people had suspended their activities.17

  • 18 The Indian Express, 30 June 1952.
  • 19 Commissaire de la République (Pondichéry) au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer (tel.) 17 août 1952. (...)
  • 20 The Hindu, 24 Sept. 1952.
  • 21 Ibid, 28 Oct. 1952.
  • 22 Aff. Politiques, C 2275, D2 (A. O. M.).
  • 23 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 7 oct. 1952. Aff. Politiques, In (...)

5The inhabitants of the commune of Bahur had been feeling the pinch of economic restrictions imposed by the Indian authorities. They had been suffering from acute shortage of food and other essential commodities. They were discontented. The death of Venkatesa Padaychi, a pro-French Municipal Councillor of Bahur in Cuddalore hospital, caused by a wound inflicted by some unknown persons further enraged the pro-mergerists there.18 At a public meeting held a month ago (May 1952) the people demanded merger with Indian Union. They believed that by joining the Indian Union regular supply of food would be assured. Some elected municipal members of Bahur also threatened to resign and declared openly in favour of merger with Indian Union without referendum. The Pondicherry authorities retaliated by adopting repressive measures and anti-merger elements terrorized them. This resulted in daily exodus of pro-merger French nationals from Bahur to adjoining Indian Union villages such as Pallianelianour between the French commune of Tirubhuvane and Nettapakam. Dadala later shifted his activities to Sinna Kenganankupam in Indian territory holding meetings and passing resolutions condemning goondaism in French Indian territories.19 There was no doubt that Dadala sometimes committed excesses and Subbiah did not spare words to condemn him. E. Thangavelu Gounder, the deputy mayor of Bahur municipality, was blacklisted for having expressed his pro-Indian sentiments and asked the French to quit the settlements without referendum.20 He was harassed by the French police. It was further reported that the French Police Inspector, aided by ruffians, had been going on from house to house, beating men and women and threatening to drive them out of their homes. Signatures were obtained under threat on a memorandum which made out that the villages were pro-French.21 Since the activities of the Pondicherry authorities affected the people and the Government of India directly, it was no longer possible for them to remain silent spectators. The Government of India addressed a protest note directly to the French Government at Paris. This marks a departure from the usual procedure of lodging complaints regarding specific incidents with the local authorities in French India through India’s Consul General in Pondicherry. This direct protest to the French Government was an indication of the seriousness with which New Delhi viewed the mounting series of anti-Indian incidents in Pondicherry since the middle of last August. Trespasses by French Indian police within Indian territory, detention and interrogation of Indian nationals lawfully entering the settlements and arrest of pro-merger leaders within the settlements had been occurring sporadically since 1950.22 By October 1952, the total situation of Bahur deteriorated so much so that the Indian press grilled the excesses of the French police and the goondas indulging in terror. Ménard had ultimately to depute Moisset, Administrateur en Chef (Chef du Bureau Politique) to hold an inquiry into the situation.23

  • 24 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 30 juin 1952. Aff. Politiques, I (...)
  • 25 The Madras Mail, 1 July 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2271 (A. O. M.).
  • 26 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 12 août 1952. Aff. Politiques, I (...)

6Tension in Pondicherry was in the ascendancy after July 1952. It was at that time the volume of contraband trade increased and huge quantities of gold, diamond and watches flowed into Indian territories. The Government of India had to enforce strict measures to stop it. Pro-merger movement was limping, lacking in speed and energy. This induced Ménard to write to the French Overseas Ministry that he did not think the pro-merger organizations would cause any anxiety to them for the time being.24 To him Subbiah was the most influential and efficient leader fighting for the integration of the French settlements. He was in fact trying to forge a “Democratic Front” and appealed to the leaders of the political parties to sink their difference and join together “for the common cause of liberating our country from the French imperialist rule”.25 Subbiah had always been active and relentlessly working to achieve the declared goal. His politics did not find favour with many, nevertheless his commitment was above board. He was active in Madras, he was visiting the borders and holding meetings at Cuddalore and other places. Goubert had kept the communists at bay. However, taking note of the growing activities of Subbiah, Ménard wrote to the Minister of the Overseas Empire that if the Socialist Party was abandoned (for their excesses etc.), the communists would reappear and continue to play among the workers the same role they had played in 1948 and in such an eventuality the integration of French settlements with India could hardly be avoided because, in his opinion, the communists were more intransigent than the congressites in this respect.26

  • 27 The Hindu, 31 Aug. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2271 (A. O. M.).
  • 28 Stanislas Ostrorog au Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, 17 janv. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vo (...)

7While things were moving this way a new wave of terrorism was launched in Pondicherry culminating in an attempt to kill the 65 year old Sellane Naicker, President of the pro-merger congress and Dean of the Pondicherry Bar Council.27 Fortunately for him the bullet hit him on one of his legs and he was removed to Madras for treatment. This heinous act shocked everyone and it once more established the prevalence of organized gangsterism in Pondicherry. Of course physical liquidation of political adversaries was not a new phenomenon in Pondicherry politics. Tandon, Indian Consul General, was also a target of attack. A plot to kill him was hatched by a group of men who were known to Ménard and this surprised Ostrorog when Ménard broke the news to him.28 It is not difficult to discern the hands which master- minded the plot. Nehru had already openly said in the Indian Parliament that the political life in the French settlements was largely influenced by methods of gangsterism of the party in power and in such a situation referendum was impossible. Its consequences were bound to be far-reaching in so far as it influenced the future course of events.

8The policy of persecution continued in the border villages. It exceeded all limits in the commune of Bahur and quite a good number of people fled for shelter in the south Arcot districts. C. E. Bharatan and other pro-merger leaders, who had attended the Indore session of the All India Congress Committee, met Nehru and apprised him of the French Indian problems, particularly the terror let loose there. French Indian leaders also met Rajagopalachari at Cuddalore and acquainted him of increasing goonda activities in the French pockets. Meanwhile the prohibition policy of the Madras Government failed because of the large scale smuggling of liquor which had become a regular trade between Pondicherry and the Indian Union. Nehru had taken serious exception to the oppression being suffered by the people and the nationalist elements of Pondicherry and Goa. Soon Nehru visited Madras which was passing through a long spell of drought caused by the failure of monsoon. The French Indian leaders including Dadala and Tandon met him there and again brought to his attention the story of oppression and denial of civil liberties and also the heinous attempt made on the life of Sellane. They strongly urged him to arrive at a settlement. Apart from the left, congressmen themselves criticized Nehru’s policy of moderation followed so far. Nehru had already ruled out the use of force to resolve the problem. But India could not remain a passive spectator to the activities of the goondas who, flourishing under official patronage, had been coercing the people and the Government of India directly. Now under the changed situation he, on 9 October (1952), declared at Madras that foreign settlements like Pondicherry and Goa must inevitably become parts of Indian Union. “It is unfortunate for any one to imagine that bits of Portuguese and French empires can continue in India”, he remarked. Referring to French India be added

  • 29 The Hindu, 11 Oct. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2275 (A. O. M.).

Three years ago there was some kind of agreement between us about some plebiscite and preparations were made. That had not taken place yet. Meanwhile methods of gangsterism have flourished. An atmosphere of goondaism have been created there and if a person talks about merger with India, goondas are likely to smash his head...29

9He further added

The idea of plebiscite had been crushed by the other side through fraud and deceit and attempts had been made to create conditions of terrorism in order to prevent people from voting for merger with India.

  • 30 Ibid.

10Nehru also said that “one respected leader of Pondicherry, only a few days back, was brutally attacked.” and he ended by saying that “There is then the end of plebiscite business”.30 Nehru’s declaration was followed by a note of protestation to the French Government. In one sense, this was no new declaration. Nehru had earlier expressed his views on the historic fatality of the settlements, i. e. their ultimate fusion with Indian Union. But the declaration in a public meeting in the above stated context carried a special significance. This amounted to a public repudiation of the June Agreement of 1948 round which so much fuss had been made all these years.

  • 31 Déclaration faite par le Ministre de la France d’outre-mer devant la Commission des Territoires d’o (...)

11As a reaction to Nehru’s Madras declaration Pierre Pflimlin, French Overseas Minister, said before the National Assembly’s Overseas Territorial Committee the methods of violence which the Prime Minister of India had referred to existed also in Indian territories and he particularly pointed out the activities of Dadala who, accompanied by a band of armed people, had been creating havoc along the Franco-Indian borders as well as in the French enclaves and complained that the Government of India had taken no steps whatsoever to stop his activities. He denied the existence of such goondaism in French India. He further said that Nehru, whose moral authority was universally respected, had been “misinformed”.31 He also declared that the French Government would soon prepare a dossier of incidents which would belie the statement of Nehru. He remarked

  • 32 Ibid.

France stands by 1948 agreement. She could never accept claims to dispose of peoples forming part of the French community against their will. This would be contrary to the constitution of the French Republic and to the democratic principles guaranteed by the United Nations.32

  • 33 Le Figaro, 23 oct. 1952. Le Monde, 24 oct. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2275 (A. O. M.).

12Both Le Figaro and Le Monde accused that French citizens were being molested by the Indian police as well as by those of the fugitives who had taken shelter in Indian territories and reiterated the intention of France to stick to the agreement of 1948.33

  • 34 Govt, of India’s Aide-mémoire 24 oct. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2275. Also As 44- 55. Inde Française (...)

13Nehru’s Madras declaration was followed by an Aide-mémoire of the Government of India to the French Government in which New Delhi again deplored the failure of the French Government to take any step to set right the defects in the political life of the French settlements.34 The political life of the French Indian settlements was already marked by the absence of freedom of speech, press or association and by the outbreak of political terrorism. The Aide-mémoire stated the numerous incidents which had taken place in connivance with the local authorities in Indian territory bordering the settlements and the various representations made by the Indian Consul General in Pondicherry and the Indian Embassy at Paris which had gone unheeded. Armed bands of hooligans wielding sticks and carrying French flags were allowed to operate with complete immunity in these settlements in such a manner that one would not be unjustified to conclude that they were given a free hand by the authorities. In carrying out this policy the French police, on certain occasions, even violated Indian territory. The existing state of affairs, the Indian note averred, had convinced the Government of India that no useful purpose would be served by proceeding further on the basis of having a referendum in the French settlements. Under such a situation the Government of India was constrained to inform the French Government that the former did not consider themselves bound any longer by the June Agreement. The Government of India however favoured negotiations to take place between the two governments on the basis of direct transfer of territories to India leaving constitutional and other matters to be settled by negotiations. France was reminded that these settlements, vestiges of colonialism, were incompatible with the status of Indian Republic and New Delhi was convinced that no other solution other than direct transfer of sovereignty over the French pockets to Indian Union was possible. Any negotiations, according to the Aide-mémoire, on this basis would be welcome to India.

14The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ note of 19 November (1952) apprised the Indian Embassy at Paris that it was impossible on the part of the French Government to agree to Indian demand of direct transfer of the French Indian settlements to Indian Union without referendum. The French note pointed out that the inhabitants of the French settlements, whatever their origin, had been taking part in the political life of France since the Third Republic by being elected to the French National Assembly, the Council of Republic and the Assembly of French Union. Hence it would not be possible to dispose of their future without their consent. Besides there was the French constitutional embargo. Pierre de Pimodan, who was sent by the French Foreign Ministry to French India, also ruled out merger without referendum. But France expressed its readiness to resolve the controversial border incidents with the good office of a third party.

  • 35 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères à l’Ambassade de l’Inde. Note Politique. As 44-55. Inde Française, (...)
  • 36 As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 44 (Qd).
  • 37 Note sur les relations franco-indiennes pendant 1947. 28 oct. 1947. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. (...)
  • 38 Une communique du Gouvernement indien sur la situation dans les Etablissements français de l’Inde, (...)
  • 39 Ibid.

15In the meantime the Pondicherry Government prepared a list of incidents that had taken place since the month of November 1951 and forwarded it (13 October) to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. The list included 98 incidents of which one French inhabitant died and 70 were wounded. The list particularly recounted the misdeeds of Dadala.35 Towards the end of the year Dadala had been operating at a place called Valavanur on the Pondicherry-Villupuram road, stopping buses, examining them and checking passengers. Dadala’s men were also preventing vendors of Kizhour (Kissor) to carry their stuff in French Indian territory.36 In another note which examined the Indo-French relations since 1947 the Paris authorities observed that most of the Indian charges were “invented or distorted”.37 The Government of India, on the other hand, released an official communiqué on 26 October 1952, evidently in reply to the French list detailing therein, since independence, “350 grave cases of aggression, incendiarism and acts of banditry” in the French settlements with the complicity of the French police which rendered referendum to determine the future of the French settlements impossible.38 There were several cases of intimidation which were unreported and unknown for the French Indian police themselves were frequently a party to the depredations of the goondas and any complaint made by the public against assault, molestation and any other harassment were not only unheeded by the police but sometimes brought police displeasure on the complainants. The communique claimed that during this period 1 051 families from Pondicherry alone had taken refuge in Indian Union territory being unable to continue to live under the conditions prevailing there. In Mahe 84 percent of the population had fled on account of “terror” stalking the tiny settlement and had taken shelter in India.39 The communiqué further added that

  • 40 Dark Record of Goondaraj in French settlements in India, 26 Oct. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vo (...)

the prevalence of smuggling had created a criminal class in the French settlements but organized use of goondas for political purposes to terrorise people known for their desire to merge with India started only when the political party in power found that it could not survive against the resurgence of national feeling without the use of force.40

  • 41 Ostrorog au Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, 16 nov. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 14 (Qd).
  • 42 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tel.) 27 oct. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 71 (Qd).
  • 43 Affaires Etrangères a l’Ambassade de France (tél.) 30 oct. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 14  (...)

16At a later date, Ostrorog reacted by observing that all the charges brought against France were “outrageously distorted” and there had been in the establishments “neither terror, nor murder, nor incendiarism, nor pillage. The public peace is not disturbed and the people, on the whole, are seized little with political problems”.41 Between 27 November 1951 and 8 October 1952, there had been 26 major cases of violation of Indian frontiers. The publication of list and counter-list, no doubt, constituted a drab and dull story, but they were inseparable part of the whole exercise and added a new chapter of controversy and misunderstanding between the two governments. This, in fact, sowed the seeds of dissension between Paris and New Delhi. In a telegram to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ostrorog remarked that France had entered into open conflict with the Government of India and with it had disappeared the hope of a peaceful agreement. In his opinion simple denial on the part of France of these charges whether made from Paris or Pondicherry would be of no avail. He said that public opinion in India was against France and the “correct retort”, he believed, would be to offer publicly to the Government of India the despatch of a new mission of neutral observers with which India had refused to associate herself earlier. His intention was to raise French Indian problem to international level. If India refused to accept, he pointed out, she would be in a difficult position. If she accepted it, France would have the possibility of appealing to the neutral observers to highlight the unjustifiable character of the charges. This, in his opinion, would be a fitting reply to “Indian manoeuvre” –to put Nehru in embarrassment and “to gain time” for France.42 Even the French Council of Ministers was inclined to send such a mission of observers, but the Government of India did not give any countenance to it.43

17There was another reason which gave a jolt to Franco-Indian relations. This emanated from Franco-Tunisian and Franco-Moroccan relations. French policy in North Africa and India’s deep concern for it imported a fissure in the relations between the two countries. Disastrous handling of French negotiations with Indo-China had brought disgrace to her. Apart from this

  • 44 Janata, 20 July 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 64 (Qd).

the violent and deliberate destruction of the nationalist movement in Madagascar, the bloody events of Setif in Algeria, of Casablanca in Morocco and only last January, in the Cap Bon area of Tunisia are grave indications to the world that something is gravely wrong with the French colonial policy and that French public opinion particularly, those section of French opinion whose responsibility is to create and direct such policies, have not only failed in their task but practically lost all control.44

18Both Tunisia and Morocco, protectorates of France, had been struggling long to gain their freedom. The Istiqlal Party in Morocco and the Neo-Destour in Tunisia spearheaded the nationalist movements and increasingly came into clash with the French rulers who had no intention of letting go their hold on either territory. These movements, always strong, gained added momentum when Libya was placed under UN trusteeship with promise of early independence, and after Libya had achieved nationhood under her own King, the Tunisian and Moroccan desire to get rid of the colonial bondage became all the more stronger. The years since 1950 were a history of tortuous negotiations with the French attempt to silence the two peoples with the offer of reforms which kept all the power in the hands of the Resident General. The nationalist parties had at times been persuaded to join coalitions formed under the ‘reformed’ constitutions, but the tug-of-war continued and it was not surprising to see the Sultan of Morocco being compelled to denounce the nationalists with whom he was in active sympathy. Being protectorates, both Morocco and Tunisia were bound by the treaty relations with France and both were anxious to terminate the treaties which were imposed on them by force. The question of Moroccan independence was the first to be raised at the United Nations at Paris at the instance of the Arab League, but France succeeded in preventing it from being placed on the General Assembly’s agenda.

  • 45 National Herald, 31 Aug. 1952. Hindusthan Times, 17 Aug. 1952.
  • 46 He was representative of the Tunisian Neo-Destour Party. He came to India in course of his tour of (...)
  • 47 Miss Margaret Pope was a British journalist. She made an extensive tour of North Africa. Later she (...)
  • 48 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tél.) 21 juin 1952. As 44-55, Inde. Vol. 64 (Qd).
  • 49 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tél.) 2 mars 1952. As 44-55, Inde. Vol. 64 (Qd).
  • 50 Affaires Etrangères a l’Ambassade de France (New Delhi), 18 sept. 1952. As 44-55. Inde, Vol. 23 (Qd (...)

19In Tunisia negotiations dragged on since August 1950 round what the French termed as “Experiment”45 and gradually it became obvious that though Robert Schuman had declared that independence was the “final goal” for all territories of the French Union, this final goal in regard to Tunisia was no where in the offing. The “Experiment” was in fact a spurious scheme for constitutional reform aimed at protecting and preserving the interests of the French colonists of Tunisia in suppression of the national aspirations of the Tunisians. The refusal of the Neo-Destour Party to approve the reforms marked the breakdown of the negotiations. Chenik, Tunisian Prime Minister, requested the Security Council to intervene in the dispute. But France did not wish for international mediation, nor did they wait. The Tunisian refusal was retaliated by measures that shocked all lovers of freedom and roused a very wide sympathy throughout the world. Taieb Slim46 and Margaret Pope,47 during their visit in India, gave graphic accounts of the terrible French repression aimed at suppressing the national liberation movement of the Tunisian patriots. A virtual reign of terror was unleashed resulting in torture, mass imprisonment and summary execution. Chenik was arrested. The French troops did not spare women and children. Attempts of the Afro-Asian countries to raise the Tunisian question was foiled by France. Habib Bourguiba’s visit to India and Nehru’s total support for the Tunisian liberation movement48 imported new fissures in Indo-French relations. Earlier the Socialist Party of India had observed a “Tunisian Day”49 to express solidarity with the struggling people of Tunisia and processions and demonstrations were organized in Delhi and Bombay in protest against the French tyranny in Tunisia. The Indore session of the Indian National Congress had already taken a resolution on Tunisia. This was not taken kindly by the French Government.50

  • 51 The Hindu, 16 Aug. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2271, D1 (A. O. M.).
  • 52 Prime Minister Nehru declared that he had close personal relations with the nationalist party since (...)
  • 53 The Indian Express, 17 Oct. 1952. Aff. Politiques. C 445 (A. O. M.).
  • 54 Ibid.

20French Morocco was also getting restive and the demand for independence presented to the French Government in March last remained unanswered. The nationalist leaders of Morocco did not remain idle and reiterated their demands for a change in the existing status of Morocco and for setting up a Moroccan Government able to negotiate with France. Mohamed Douri and Ahmed Tazi, members of the Istiqlal Party (Independence) visited London for holding consultation with Asian and Arab Embassies in connection with Iraq’s move to sponsor the question of French Morocco before the next (i.e. October) session of the UN General Assembly.51 Nehru’s sympathy for North African nationalist leaders in their quest for abolishing the status of protectorate52 and his determination to secure the discussion of the North African affairs in the UN alarmed France.53 They even suspected him, after his denouncement of the June Agreement, of preparing the ground for an attack in the same forum on the existence of French settlements in India.54

21The year 1952 thus witnessed the enactment of many events which were not at all conducive to the maintenance of Indo-French relations. Ostrorog stated that open hostility had started between the two countries. Hostilities in the true sense of term had not really broken out. Diplomatic relations still continued and diplomatic etiquette remained unimpaired. But nevertheless Indo-French relations suffered a setback. Nehru’s denunciation of the June Agreement and India’s rejection to accept referendum as a means to solve the fate of the French settlements closed one chapter of the Indo-French relations and opened up a new one –a chapter which facilitated the gradual process of merger with Indian Union through a tortuous process of negotiation.

Notes

1 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tel.) 7 janv. 1952. Inde Française, Vol. 14. Also tel. 16 janv. 1952. Also Ostrorog au Ministre des Affaires Etrangeres, 17 janv. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 44. Also Ministre des Affaires Etrangères au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 21 janv. 1952. Inde Française, Vol. 14. (Qd).

2 There was no such thing as Pondicherry Cabinet. There were advisers.

3 Commissaire (Pondichéry) au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 22 dec. 1947. Aff. Politiques, Inde E 29 (A. O. M.).

4 Government of India’s Aide-mémoire 31 March 1952. As 44-55 Inde Française, Vol. 14 (Qd).

5 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tél.) 8 dec. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 53 (Qd).

6 The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs also made the same proposal in its letter of 16 July 1952.

7 Government of India’s Aide-mémoire, 16 sept. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 14 (Qd).

8 Note sur des Etablissements français de l’Inde, 24 fév. 1953. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 15 (Qd).

9 Government of India’s Aide-mémoire 16 dec. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 62 (Qd).

10 Note. 6 juillet 1953. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 15 (Qd).

11 Ibid.

12 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer (Confidentiel) 30 juin 1952. Aff. Politiques. Inde E 30 (A. O. M.).

13 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères à l’Ambassade de l’Inde, 17 nov. 1952. Aff. Politiques C 2275 (A. O. M.).

14 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères à l’Ambassade de France (tel.) 5 juin, 1952. Also Ostrorog au Ministre des Affaires Etrangères (tél.). 6 juin 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 14 (Qd).

15 The Indian Express, 9 Jan. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2270, D 5 (A. O. M.).

16 Consul Général de Pondichéry au Commissaire de la République des Etablissements français en Inde, 10 sept. 1952. As 44-55. Inde, Vol. 64 (Qd).

17 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 30 juin 1952. Aff. Politiques, Inde E 30 (A. O. M.).

18 The Indian Express, 30 June 1952.

19 Commissaire de la République (Pondichéry) au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer (tel.) 17 août 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2275, D 2 (A. O. M.).

20 The Hindu, 24 Sept. 1952.

21 Ibid, 28 Oct. 1952.

22 Aff. Politiques, C 2275, D2 (A. O. M.).

23 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 7 oct. 1952. Aff. Politiques, Inde E 30 (A. O. M.).

24 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 30 juin 1952. Aff. Politiques, Inde E 30 (A. O. M.).

25 The Madras Mail, 1 July 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2271 (A. O. M.).

26 Commissaire de la République au Ministre de la France d’outre-mer, 12 août 1952. Aff. Politiques, Inde E 30 (A. O. M.).

27 The Hindu, 31 Aug. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2271 (A. O. M.).

28 Stanislas Ostrorog au Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, 17 janv. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 44 (Qd).

29 The Hindu, 11 Oct. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2275 (A. O. M.).

30 Ibid.

31 Déclaration faite par le Ministre de la France d’outre-mer devant la Commission des Territoires d’outre-mer de l’Assemblée Nationale, le 22 oct. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 14 (Qd). Also L’Aurore, 23 oct. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2275 (A. O. M.).

32 Ibid.

33 Le Figaro, 23 oct. 1952. Le Monde, 24 oct. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2275 (A. O. M.).

34 Govt, of India’s Aide-mémoire 24 oct. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2275. Also As 44- 55. Inde Française, Vol. 14 (Qd).

35 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères à l’Ambassade de l’Inde. Note Politique. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 14 (Qd).

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

37 Note sur les relations franco-indiennes pendant 1947. 28 oct. 1947. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 44 (Qd).

38 Une communique du Gouvernement indien sur la situation dans les Etablissements français de l’Inde, 26 nov. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 445 (A. O. M.). Also a report on the “Dark Record of Goondaraj in French Settlements in India”, 26 Oct. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 71 (Qd).

39 Ibid.

40 Dark Record of Goondaraj in French settlements in India, 26 Oct. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 71 (Qd).

41 Ostrorog au Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, 16 nov. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 14 (Qd).

42 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tel.) 27 oct. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 71 (Qd).

43 Affaires Etrangères a l’Ambassade de France (tél.) 30 oct. 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 14 (Qd).

44 Janata, 20 July 1952. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 64 (Qd).

45 National Herald, 31 Aug. 1952. Hindusthan Times, 17 Aug. 1952.

46 He was representative of the Tunisian Neo-Destour Party. He came to India in course of his tour of the Asian countries to seek popular and financial support for the cause of Tunisia.

47 Miss Margaret Pope was a British journalist. She made an extensive tour of North Africa. Later she came to India, visited Kanpur, Bombay and other places for Aid Tunisia Campaign. She was deputed by the Neo-Destour Party to canvass support for Tunisian freedom movement.

48 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tél.) 21 juin 1952. As 44-55, Inde. Vol. 64 (Qd).

49 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tél.) 2 mars 1952. As 44-55, Inde. Vol. 64 (Qd).

50 Affaires Etrangères a l’Ambassade de France (New Delhi), 18 sept. 1952. As 44-55. Inde, Vol. 23 (Qd).

51 The Hindu, 16 Aug. 1952. Aff. Politiques, C 2271, D1 (A. O. M.).

52 Prime Minister Nehru declared that he had close personal relations with the nationalist party since 1927. As 44-55. Inde, Vol. 64 (Qd).

53 The Indian Express, 17 Oct. 1952. Aff. Politiques. C 445 (A. O. M.).

54 Ibid.

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 1997

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