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Decolonization of French India

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Ajit K. Neogy

15. On Way to Paris Talk

Texte intégral

  • 1 The Hindu, 8 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).
  • 2 The Madras Mail, 7 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).
  • 3 The Times of India, 8 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

1The merger movement was gaining in strength every day. No doubt the defection of Goubert and the Socialist leaders, who were until recently popular members of Pondicherry Council of Administration, and their participation in the liberation movement overnight changed the whole situation. But the steps taken by the Government of India and the courage and determination of the pro-merger groups gave a new complexion to the whole movement. By the beginning of April (1954) the liberation volunteers victoriously marched into and occupied more villages of Bahur and Nettapakam communes. The liberation movement took a new turn on 7 April when the Indian national flag was hoisted for the first time in Pondicherry as a sequel to “Operation Pondicherry” launched by the French India Communist Party led by Subbiah. Hundreds of volunteers, mill-hands and handloom workers participated in the “direct action” day by way of holding demonstrations right from dawn demanding fusion of the French pockets with India.1 It was by no means a peaceful demonstration. A large number of fishermen, on whom Subbiah had a powerful hold, mustered strong in a massive manner to make the show a total success. To cope with the situation the Pondicherry administration called 300 French military personnel, who were on leave in Pondicherry but destined to leave for Saigon for the Indo-China war. Army pensioners in Pondicherry had also been called on duty as a precautionary measure against any trouble in the town. These men, equipped with lights and cycles and armed with bayonet-fixed rifles and revolvers, patrolled the streets of Pondicherry throughout the night of 6-7 April.2 The procession started in four corners of the French Indian capital and converged on Odian Salai maidan to hold a meeting. The French Indian police and army personnel dragged down the Indian flags, swooped down upon the demonstrators and made a large number of arrests. The bastion of French India capital was invaded. The situation, charged with excitement, was really going out of control and a French police officer described the movement as “most dangerous”.3

  • 4 Gazetteer of India Union Territory of Pondicherry, p. 264. Vol. 1.
  • 5 The Hindu, 12 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

2Misfortune followed upon misfortune. A few more villages of the Bahur commune declared themselves free from French control.4 The merger movement acquired new feathers when 22 villages of the Manandipeth commune with a population of 23,000 threw off the yoke of French rule. The Government of India expressed full sympathy for the movement, but set aside the demand of the liberation leaders to incorporate the liberated villages with Indian Union or take over their administration. For the purpose of preserving law and order as well as maintaining continuity in the normal life of the people in the liberated zones, they set up administration of their own. Temporary United Front Government was formed at Nettapakam consisting of 3 members belonging to the Merger Congress, Socialist and Communist parties in Thirubuvanam commune to take charge of the liberated villages. It was also decided to sink all past differences and misunderstanding among the various sections and parties and work for the achievement of the common objective of merger with India.5

3The merger leaders in fact could not overcome their past rivalries. It was impossible to effect a reconciliation between Subbiah and Goubert – two arch rivals dating back from the days of Baron. Their relations with Lambert Saravane was not cordial. Rivalry among the congress leadership in Pondicherry and Karaikal was proverbial. The socialists led by Goubert liberated Nettapakam and the communists liberated Thirubuvani. Goubert accused the Communist Party of resorting to pinpricks towards those engaged in the liberation struggle. Subbiah accused the Socialist Party workers of indulging in violent acts in Thirubuvanam. Such an attitude was sure to have an adverse effect on the entire movement for liberation. This was sensed by R. K. Nehru who was aware of “many rivalries and jealousies dating from the past”. He was in favour of giving “our immediate attention” on this matter. The French Government was busy with Indo-China situation and according to him the local officials and the Overseas Ministry “seem to be playing for time” hoping that “internal conflicts will develop among the merger groups if they are not pressed too hard”. R. K. Nehru, therefore, observed

  • 6 R. K. Nehru’s letter, 12 April 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 18 (Qd).

We should not allow such a situation to arise, for, if there is a breakdown of the administration or some other conflicts in the outlying communes, there will be reactions in Indian territory. We may be obliged to take some action in spite of our declaration that we shall not take control of the French territory. If the movement fails for some other reasons, the French will be able to say that the demand for immediate merger does not have enough public support.6

4R. K. Nehru’s reference of the possible failure of the movement due to “some other reasons” was explained by him as the absence of financial resources which might lead to the break-up of the so-called administration in the western communes and the jealousies among the various groups. Since Kamaraj was, according to him, very busy and unable to give time to the merger leaders, R. K. Nehru suggested that some committees of two or three responsible leaders should be set up for handling funds and also for giving aid to the various merger groups. Kewal Singh played a key role in this crucial phase of the liberation movement. He acted as the main link between the merger leaders and the Indian Government. Financial support came through him and it was again he who maintained a balance among the various merger groups and leaders.

  • 7 The Times of India, 12 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

5Immediately after “Operation Pondicherry” the Central Merger Congress invested Sellane Naicker with full power to conduct the Satyagraha in Pondicherry.7 This was in contrast to the radical movement recently organized by Subbiah and its aim was to eschew violence of any kind that might defeat the purpose. The Central Merger Congress and the French India Congress Party organized a massive demonstration in Pondicherry on 13 April on the occasion of Tamil Nadu Year’s Day and thousand of textile operatives joined it. It was a big rally and the most spectacular phenomenon was the participation of women in the demonstration. The Hindu wrote

  • 8 The Hindu, 12 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

Women with babes in arms and girls carrying the Indian tricolour formed the vanguard of the satyagraha procession, organized by the United Front, which marched through the streets of Pondicherry shouting pro-merger slogans.8

  • 9 The Indian Express, 14 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).
  • 10 Franc-Tireur, 3 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 2271, D 3 (A. O. M.).
  • 11 The Madras Mail, 16 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

6Green-capped French policemen and red-capped French soldiers resorted to all types of brutality to suppress the demonstration. The police lathi-charged indiscriminately. Mill workers were arrested. Goondas had a free day. Munussamy of the French India Youth Congress was taken into custody. Sellane Naicker was besieged in his house and the house of Swami Lourdes, Bharat Yuvak Sangha leader, was surrounded by goondas armed with daggers.9 Tensions in Pondicherry further shot up when a party of French India police, trespassing the Indian territory, opened fire in the Indian part of Pillechavadi village – 7 miles north of Pondicherry where French Indian nationals and refugees had taken shelter. The injured persons had to be removed to the Government Hospital at Tindivanam in south Arcot district. The Government of India took a serious notice of the second violation of Indian territory by French Indian armed police and shooting of Indian villagers in Pillechavadi –the first act of violence occurred when the French police had fired on a gathering of 600 people who were demonstrating in a village near Pondicherry for merger.10 New Delhi sent a strong protest note to the French Ambassador demanding punishment of the policemen responsible for the outrage, compensation for the damage of property and personal injury suffered by Indian nationals.11

  • 12 The Times of India, 20 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).
  • 13 The Hindu, 21 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).
  • 14 The Madras Mail, 25 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

7Police repression and goondaism knew no bounds in Karaikal. Anti-mergerists threw stones at the house of Léon St. Jean.12 Nagarajan was mercilessly beaten. The Tribunelle Correctionnelle (Petty sessions) of Karaikal convicted Shaik Madar Sahib Maricar and Nagarajan, each to three months’ imprisonment and a fine of 100 francs for rebellion, resistance to police and for organizing demonstration defying the government ban on processions. They were ordered to be expelled from certain parts of the French settlements in India for a further period of two years after the term of imprisonment was over.13 In spite of the assurance given by the Administrator of Yanam, the Yanamese were restive for freedom from French rule and the liberation movement was gaining a tempo there. Dadala decided to start a satyagraha movement at an early date. An Action Committee for the merger of Yanam was formed with Pydah Venkatanarayana as President and volunteers were enrolled. The rowdy elements threatened the people with dire consequences if they supported the pro-merger movement.14

  • 15 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tel.) 29 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 72 (Qd).
  • 16 The Indian Express, 5 May 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).
  • 17 Ibid. Also The Hindu, 4 May 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).
  • 18 Expose verbal de M. le Ministre de la France d’outre-mer (Objet: situation des Etablissements de l’ (...)
  • 19 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tél.), 29 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 72 (Qd).

8Mahe situation was worsening. It was passing through the final phase of the struggle and the Mahajana Sabha and the Praja Socialist Party had formed a front for the final showdown. There was no cessation of police repression on the pro-mergerists. Tensions gripped this small Malabar village. Taking advantage of the volatile situation, the communists, who were always strong in the Malabar, infiltrated into Mahe. The Mahe police also very often sneaked into Indian territory. Many Mahe leaders were still living outside Mahe. This created a vicious situation. Afraid of communist infiltration as well as of the banished Mahajana Sabha leaders who were denied amnesty but who had been actively working for the liberation of Mahe, the Mahe administrator had imposed restrictions upon entry into Mahe. The Indian Government too had tightened the passage to and fro Mahe. On the night of 26-27 April, some communists had attacked the French aldée (village) of Kellaye. This was followed by the opening of fire on some communist infiltrators in the enclave of Cherukellai.15 Two people were killed on the spot and one, seriously wounded, died later in the Tellicherry Civil Hospital. This unfortunate incident of Cherukellai created a furore. New Delhi protested against this incident both to the French Government and the Pondicherry authorities. Next day the Mahajana Sabha volunteers under the leadership of the Action Committee liberated the enclaves of Cherukellai. I. K. Kumaran hoisted the Indian national flag over the Cherukellai police station. This was followed by the adoption of a resolution (1 May) by the Municipality demanding immediate merger without referendum of the French settlements and forwarded the same through cable to Paris authorities. Things were moving in a dizzy pace in Mahe. Kewal Singh left for New Delhi to discuss the question of granting passage to and fro Mahe after the Malabar Special Police had refused Mahe Administrator permission to cross over to Naluthara.16 After his talk in Delhi it was agreed to allow passage to French Indian nationals to and fro Mahe. The French authorities, on the other hand, granted, the passage to Indian policemen and officers through Mahe following a discussion with the Mahe Administrator.17 Meanwhile general situation in Naluthara had gone out of the gear. There was complete lawlessness. Goondaraj was reigning supreme. Pro-mergerists were openly attacked, but in spite of this Pallur and Pandakkal were freed. Indian police and the congressites played a vital role in the capture of the two places. With the fall of Cherukellai and Naluthera and the liberation of Pallur and Pandakkal there remained under French control only the port-town of Mahe which was “no bigger than the size of the Garden of Luxembourg”.18 A 7- man council comprising councillors from Naluthara assumed charge of the administration of these two places. Ostrorog, defended the French position in Cherukellai; R. K. Nehru replied that the activities of the French police had excited the Indian citizens.19

  • 20 The Hindu, 3 May 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).
  • 21 The Indian Express, 14 May 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).
  • 22 T61. from Kakinada, 24 May 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 54 (Qd). Also R. K. Nehru to M. de (...)
  • 23 Madhimchetty Satia au Commissaire de la République (Pondichéry), 10 mai 1954. As 44-55. Inde França (...)
  • 24 Ibid.
  • 25 Escargueil visited Yanam, on 28 May 1954.
  • 26 The Hindu, 27 May 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).

9Merger movement in Yanam was taking shape under the Yanarn Merger Action Committee. Towards the end of April some prominent citizens of Yanam adopted a resolution for merger with Indian Union and forwarded the text of the resolution to Prime Minister Nehru, goondaism in Yanam really exceeded its limits from the first week of May. This resulted in the exodus of 40 respectable families to Indian territory. Among them were Madhimchetti Satyanandam, Mayor of Yanam and Kanakalye Tattyya.20 Sala, the Yanam Administrator, retaliated. The Mayor was suspended from functions and hired ruffians were given a free-hand to teach the pro-mergerists a suitable lesson.21 It was reported that Magistrate Guerman and Police Commissioner Bornet, accompanied by Police force and ruffians destroyed the houses of the pro-mergerists including the house of Madhimchetti and some persons were indiscriminately arrested.22 Villages were raided. People were beaten up. By early June hundreds of Yanam citizens had become refugees in Indian territory. The Mayor believed that Sala whom he described as porte-malheur pour Yanam was responsible for the lawless situation in Yanam.23 He was high-handed and arrogant. He had alienated the people by his misbehaviour and created a situation which forced them to cross over to Indian territory.24 Reports of progressive deterioration of Yanam situation and excessive brutalities let loose there had obliged Escargueil, Secretary-General (French Embassy), to visit the place. His explanation for the destruction of the house of Madimchetty as the result of the outbreak of popular wrath against him was ridiculous.25 Kewal Singh too had to make a move there to assess the situation.26 Victimization of the pro-merger people continued unabated in spite of the assurance given by Escargueil. Methods of terrorism and intimidation persisted despite India’s gesture to create a good will by relaxation of permit system and supply of petroleum.

  • 27 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tel.) 6 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).
  • 28 Ostrorog à Schuman, 27 mars 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 16 (Qd).

10Going back to New Delhi Tézenas du Montcel had a long discussion with Ostrorog and they both came to the conclusion that situation in French India had come to such a pass that a concerted solution with India was eminently desirable.27 According to Ostrorog the Indian Prime Minister was genuinely interested for an amicable settlement and France should take advantage of this. Already he had informed Maurice Schumann that India had no intention to achieve a thunderous victory (triompher avec éclat) over France.28 Rather for political reasons she wanted her relations with France to be based on compromises calculated to find a way out of the crisis. In the altered situation he apprised Quai d’Orsay that French insistence on holding plebiscite in French Indian settlements in fulfilment of constitutional obligations was no longer acceptable to India and the recent developments had confirmed this. Ostrorog suggested that France should tell India without hesitation that she subscribed in principle to the integration of the settlements with Indian Union under conditions acceptable to both. To him a concerted solution was less prejudicial to national interests than a sudden liquidation of her possessions in India and he hoped France to respond to the suggestions already offered by India.

  • 29 Note sur l’Etablissement français de l’Inde, dec. 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 55 (Qd).

11Tézenas, a strong critic of India, too admitted in his report to the French Government that if referendum had taken place in the situation existing in the French Indian settlements the results were sure to go against France. Even if the results had gone in favour of France this would not be acceptable to India. Moreover, France was unable to ensure the normal economic life in the settlements. To abandon them, even after obtaining a favourable mandate, would be humiliating for France. The Inspector of Colonies candidly admitted that France had no power to save the settlements. But he did not think that simple overtures of negotiations to India would lead to the lifting of the economic blockade or stopping of its systematic expansion. He thought of a different means for obtaining at least a partial withdrawal or relaxation of the economic pressures. His suggestion was to internationalize the problem of French India by appealing to the Court at the Hague or the Security Council. Pressure of international opinion, he thought, would force India to relent. Or France should proceed with a policy of “unilateral evacuation”.29 Tézenas also suggested a scheme of joint administration in which Indian officials would participate. The French Government carefully studied the report. France wanted to act urgently. France had great misgivings about the wisdom of appealing to international authorities. France had also to think the tragic situation into which her partisans in French India would be plunged in case of her “pure and simple evacuation”. All these induced the French Government to opt for a solution on the basis of a negotiation with India. Eventually it was the last suggestion of the Inspector of Colonies which the French delegation tried to hawk in a slight modified manner in the Paris talks (May-June 1954).

  • 30 Ostrorog a Pondichéry (tél.), 16 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).

12Meanwhile, Jacquier and Pakkirissamy Pillai had reached Paris. For two days they had almost non-stop conversation with Jaquinot, his officials in the French Overseas Ministry as well as the members of the French Foreign Ministry in search of a solution to the problems of French Indian settlements. Wishing to maintain the French Indian possessions as link between France and India, they declared that the French Government agreed to give a condominium status to her French Indian possessions.30 The proposed condominium status suggested an equal division of the administrative power between the Indian and French officials. There was thus no difference between the suggestion of Tézenas for a joint administration scheme and the condominium proposal announced by Jacquier. Jacquier said

  • 31 The Times of India, 16 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

I believe that the destiny of the settlements is not to be anonymous cantons isolated in an immense country [...]. Their destiny is to be a commercial link, a free area, between India and France [...]. I am sure the economic interests of the settlements can be understood by France and India.31

13 The condominium solution was a non-official proposal. Originally a brain-child of Baron, Lévi lent his support to it. Revived recently by the Inspector of Colonies and taking their cue from him, Jacquier and Pakkirissamy involved the two ministries of France and obtained their endorsement for it. It was so to speak a mask –a last-ditch effort of the French Government to prop up a decadent colonial fabric even by way of sharing power with the Government of India. But curiously enough not a single nationalist leader of French India was consulted in this matter and it can be imagined the type of reception such a proposal received. Goubert, Muthupillai and Muthu Kumarappa Reddiar expressed their disapproval for condominium proposal. They remarked

  • 32 The Hindu, 20 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

The idea should have come from Ménard, the present French India Commissioner, who had once served in a condominium in New Hebrides, where both the French colonial office and the British colonial office had equal opportunity owing to considerable portions of the population being respectively of British and French origin. The principle of condominium may have been possible between colonial powers in some unknown area with only a military importance, but it would be ridiculous to think of a condominium as proposed now between a colonial power and a nation pledged to fight colonialism over a cent per cent Indian area, which is part and parcel of the mother land. The proposal for condominium would again make the settlements the venue for draining away India’s wealth by smuggling out goods and currency.32

  • 33 The Hindu, 27 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).
  • 34 Gazetteer of India. Union Territory of Pondicherry, p. 274. Vol. I.

14Nationalist leaders including congressmen and communists of Pondicherry and Karaikal, rejected categorically the non-official proposal announced from Paris for a Franco-Indian condominium over the French settlements in India. Similar was the reaction of I. K. Kumaran of Mahe.33 The Working Committee of the Karaikal United Merger Front strongly criticized the proposal and adopted a resolution disapproving it.34 The condominium proposal was circulated with the deliberate intention of confusing the situation and delaying the transfer of power.

  • 35 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères à Ostrorog (tel.) 16 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (...)
  • 36 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tel.) 20 avril. 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).
  • 37 J. Laniel à J. Nehru, 16 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).
  • 38 J. Nehru to J. Laniel, 23 April 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).

15Around the same time Ostrorog received a message from Quai d’Orsay to the effect that the French Government was sending Christian Belle to New Delhi where he was to reach on 18 April with a personal letter from Joseph Laniel, President of the French Republic, for handing it over to Prime Minister Nehru35. Christian Belle, a seasoned diplomat, was not new to India. He had been here previously and he knew many high Indian officials and top ranking political leaders. Moreover, he could act on his own. Accordingly Belle reached New Delhi and met the Indian Prime Minister who was happy to have received the letter of the French President proposing a free and sincere exchange of views on the French Indian problems for the purpose of reaching an equitable solution without creating bitterness between the two countries.36 The letter of the French President expressed a keen desire to open negotiations relating to the four settlements in India. He expressed his regrets for the recent events which had complicated the relations between the two countries. The French Government, the letter pointed out, might have appealed to international authorities, but it abjured such a step for the sake of friendly settlement with India. The French President urged the Indian Prime Minister to take part in a joint endeavour for making an arrangement taking into consideration the rights of all the parties concerned and more particularly of the interested people, in accordance with the common views of the two countries37. Commending the sense of responsibility” displayed by the French President and the “initiative” taken by him as reflected in his letter, Prime Minister Nehru reciprocated the desire of the French Government for a friendly and peaceful settlement of the problems of the French Indian pockets “without leaving any ill-will or bitterness between the two nations”. He also referred to the recent development in the settlements which “doubtless adds to our difficulties”, but this situation, according to him, needed to be tackled with “wisdom and speed”38. He admitted that India sympathized with the spontaneous movement of the people of the French settlements who desired to unite with the rest of their countrymen in India, but she had kept herself aloof and adhered strictly to international practice and she had no desire to reach “unilateral decisions” in this matter. He pointed out that France was aware of the Indian approach for a friendly settlement, i. e. immediate de facto transfer of authority to be followed later by de jure transfer of sovereignty, and “This approach”, he added, “appears to us to be practicable and offers a peaceful and equitable solution satisfactory to both countries”. With regard to the reference made by the French President to international action, Prime Minister Nehru wrote

  • 39 Ibid.

The Government of India have taken no steps which violate any principle of international law or recognized international behaviour. They have endeavoured to adhere strictly to international law and proprieties.39

16Anxious to settle the 7-year old vexed problem, Prime Minister Nehru emphasized that

Our two governments should enter into active negotiations forthwith for the solution of this problem and thus implement as early as possible the desire of the people .

17He added that during these negotiations nothing should be done which might worsen the situation and efforts should be made to create an atmosphere helpful to those negotiations. Ready “to assist” the French President in his initiative”, the Indian Prime Minister concluded by suggesting the French Government to appoint representatives to discuss the matters with them at New Delhi without delay. The Government of India, according to him, had no difficulty to send a representative to Paris for the same purpose.

  • 40 Ostrorog a Schuman, 24 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).

18The exchange of letters and the willingness of the two governments to start negotiations for reaching a solution to the problem bedevilling the relations between the two countries was significant in so far as it had broken the thaw. This was also a significant move because it defeated the dilatory tactics of the French Overseas Ministry which intended to shelve up the issue indefinitely –a policy against which Ostrorog had expressed his displeasure to Schuman.40

  • 41 Marolles aux Affaires Etrangères (tél.) 14 mai 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 18 (Qd).
  • 42 As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 38 (Qd).
  • 43 Statement by R. K. Nehru on Indo-French negotiations held in Paris. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. (...)
  • 44 Ibid.

19The stage was thus set right for holding negotiations between the two governments. Prime Minister Nehru, on his return from Colombo, also said at Madras that the French Indian problem was going to be examined soon in a conference between the two countries. The Indian Prime Minister had earlier expressed satisfaction over the willingness of the French Government to negotiate with India for breaking the deadlock and true to his assurances some relaxations were made in the passport system and in the supply of petroleum in order to create a proper climate for discussion. N. R. Pillai had also instructed the Madras Government to discourage local authorities from doing any thing that might damage the negotiations.41 The conference took place at Paris from 14 May and continued till 4 June 1954. The Indian delegation was headed by R. K. Nehru, Foreign Secretary. Other members of the delegation were Padmanavan (Deputy Director of Political Affairs) who acted as Technical Adviser and N. B. Nair (Secretary to the delegation). The French side was represented by Guy de la Tournelle (Director General of Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) as leader of the French delegation. The Overseas Ministry was represented by Delteil, Director of Political Affairs and Dommel, Assistant Director of Foreign Finance represented the Ministry of Finance and Duvauchelle, Secretary of Foreign Affairs acted as Secretary of the French delegation.42 Negotiations between the two delegations started on 17 May. The basic position of the Government of India was clarified in the first meeting. The Indian delegation pointed out that the Foreign Establishments in Indian soil were an integral part of India, though politically they were still separate. R. K. Nehru made it clear that independent India could not accept the continuance of foreign rule in any part of Indian territory. The unification of these areas with India was inevitable, but the Government of India desired that unification should take place in a peaceful way by methods of friendly negotiations.43 The Indian delegation pointed out that grave events were taking place in the French settlements, and many parts of the settlements had already passed under popular control. Repressive measures were being taken by the local authorities, but the dynamic movement of the people could not be suppressed by these measures. The elected representatives of the people and all leading political parties had declared unreservedly in favour of immediate merger with India without referendum. In view of this the Government of India demanded quick transfer of sovereignty, but in view of the constitutional difficulties which were repeatedly mentioned by the French Government, they had suggested a compromise formula. In the first state, there should be a de facto transfer of administration as a whole to India. During this transitory stage, the de jure sovereignty of France should continue. This stage should be of short duration and further negotiations should take place for the transfer of de jure sovereignty. The second stage should be completed after sovereignty had been transferred.44

  • 45 Conférence Franco-Indienne. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 38 (Qd).

20 The French delegation took the position that administrative power was an attribute of sovereignty and that de facto transfer of administration, without a popular consultation, was constitutionally impossible.45 Some counter-proposals were also put forward by the French delegation. It was suggested that the two governments should negotiate a final agreement for the purpose of giving the people a regime in conformity with their traditions and wishes. This agreement should be subject to some form of popular consultation. Until the final agreement came into effect, the Government of India should be associated in the administrative control of the settlements. This association should take the form of the appointment of Indian Advisers in the Departments of Health, Agriculture, Economic Affairs, Post and Telecommunications and Public Works and Ports and also in some financial agencies. The Customs Department should be entirely taken over by the Government of India. Some system of consultation should be established between the French Commissioner and the Indian Consul General so as to ensure that the Government of India’s views on administrative matters were available to the local French authorities. The role envisaged for Indian officials was that of Advisers who could have the right to submit their views to the local authorities without exercising any power. All effective power in the Establishments was to remain with the French authorities. In the Police and other departments, there would be no Indian officials even in the capacity of Advisers.

  • 46 As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 38 (Qd).

21These counterproposals were naturally rejected by the Indian delegation. In the discussions which followed, the Indian delegation again referred to the developments which were taking place in the establishments. The appointment of a few Advisers in some less essential departments could not contribute in any way to a solution of the problem. Indian officials could not in any case function in a subordinate capacity under a colonial administration, especially one which had lost the support of the people. “Responsibility must go with full authority and in matters of this kind, division of control should be avoided”, said the Indian delegation. The Indian delegation suggested that this proposal showed some lack of appreciation of the real situation. But in spite of this differences of approach and views negotiations continued for reaching a settlement. The Indian delegation suggested that some French officials, including the Commissioner, might remain in the establishments during the transitory period as representatives of French sovereignty. This was, however, subject to full control of administration being entrusted to India, under the de jure sovereignty of France, pending a final settlement.46

  • 47 Conférence Franco-Indienne. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 38 (Qd).

22The French delegation again pointed out that it was constitutionally impossible to transfer administrative authority to India prior to a popular consultation. The delegation, however, made some new proposals. These proposals were that the French Commissioner should be replaced by two delegates –one delegate should be the representative of France and the other delegate a representative of India. All the powers at present exercised by the French Commissioner should vest in the French delegate, while the Indian delegate should assist him and should also have the right to intervene with suggestions (droit de regard). He should have no independent power, but he should function as Vice-President of the Executive Council which would be an Advisory Body. In some of the less essential departments, e.g. Economic Affairs, Public Works etc. Indian heads of departments should be appointed.47 They should, however, be subject to the authority and control of the French Secretary-General and the French delegate. In the liberated enclaves, police responsibility should be entrusted to India. In Mahe, Yanam and Karaikal, the existing administrators should be replaced by local personalities who would be jointly nominated by the two governments. Finally, all representative institutions in the settlements should be suspended.

  • 48 R. K. Nehru’s statement on Indo-French negotiations held in Paris.

23The Indian delegation’s reply to these proposals was that constitutional difficulties should not ignore the new developments which called for a realistic solution. To meet the difficulties, however, to the maximum extent, the delegation made some further modifications in its proposal. It suggested that the French delegate might keep some departments under his direct control and also function as the representative of French sovereignty during the transitory period. In other words that only part of the administration should be transferred, pending a final settlement. It was essential, however, that this should consist of some important departments, more particularly the Police, Judiciary, Treasury and Economic Affairs, Customs etc. and that these departments should be under the full and undivided control of the Indian delegate. French Advisers could be attached to these departments and some system of consultation and co-ordination should be established between the two delegates. The departments entrusted to India should, however, have Indian officials as their executive heads and the administration of these departments should be the sole responsibility of the Indian delegate. The transitory period during which these arrangements should continue should not exceed 3-4 months. During this period, negotiations should take place for a final agreement between the two governments about the transfer of sovereignty. As regards the other proposals, the delegation made it clear that the Government of India could not agree to the suspension of representative institutions. This was a retrograde step which was opposed to democratic principles.48 The French delegation had referred to the constitutional difficulties involved in transferring administrative control. The Indian delegation pointed out that if the Customs administration could be transferred, there could obviously be no objection in principle to the transfer of other important departments. The transfer of the Police Department was in any case essential if law and order was to be restored and suitable conditions were to be created for negotiating a larger settlement and giving effect to its provisions.

24In the final meetings which took place on 3 and 4 June further attempts were made to reconcile the differences between the two delegations. The final outcome of the negotiations was as follows

  1. The French delegation agreed with the Indian delegation’s suggestion that the transitory period should be 3-4 months duration.
  2. Both the delegations agreed that, during the transitory period, negotiations should take place for a final agreement between the two governments about the transfer of sovereignty. The French delegation made it clear that this agreement would be subject to some form of popular consultation. The Indian delegation replied that if the administrative arrangements for the transitory period were mutually acceptable, there would probably be no difficulty in coming to an agreement about some form of popular consultation.
  3. The French delegation agreed that the earlier proposal for a referendum on the question of transfer of sovereignty should be finally given up in view of the objections raised by the Indian delegation.
  4. The French delegation agreed with the suggestion of the Indian delegation that the representative institutions in the establishments should be revived.
  5. The Indian delegation expressed their general agreement with the proposal for the replacement of Administrators in Mahe, Yanam and Karaikal by representatives nominated jointly, subject, however, to mutually acceptable administrative arrangements being made in the establishments as a whole for the transitory period.
  6. The Indian delegation made it clear that the Government of India could not accept police responsibilities in the liberatea enclaves unless mutually acceptable administrative arrangements were made for the establishments as a whole for the transitory period.
  7. The transitory administrative arrangements suggested by the Indian delegation were that the Police, Judiciary, Treasury, Economic Affairs and other essential departments should be placed under the full and undivided control of the Indian delegate who would also continue as the representative of French sovereignty during the transitory period.
  8. The transitory arrangements proposed by the Indian delegation were not acceptable to the French delegation. The only department which the French delegation was prepared to transfer to Indian control was the customs department. In some departments, Indian heads of department were to be appointed, but the administration as a whole and the Police, Judiciary and Treasury in particular, were to remain under the direct control of the French delegate. The delegation, however, agreed that the Secretary-General in the establishments should be appointed with the concurrence of India.
  9. The final proposal of the French delegation could not be accepted by the Indian delegation as they meant in effect that India should lend her support to a colonial regime functioning in Indian territory by allowing some Indian officials to play a subordinate role in the administration, while effective power in important spheres continued to vest in French authorities.
  10. The Indian delegation extended its stay in Paris for a few more days in the hope of reaching an agreement on the crucial issue of transfer of power. As an agreement on this issue could not be reached, it was decided by the delegations that the negotiations should be discontinued
  • 49 The Hindu, 16 June 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).

25 The three week-long (14 May –4 June 1954) Franco-Indian talks at Paris failed. Failure to effect a reconciliation between the view points of the two delegations led to discontinue their talks. It was a rupture although France refused to call it so. Several possibilities were considered by the two delegations with a view to reaching a settlement. Even if there had been a rupture of talks, there had not been a rupture of diplomatic relations between the two governments. The news of the failure of Paris talks created a terrible disappointment in Pondicherry and the south Indian settlements. The reaction among the common men in the settlements was one of sorrow at the prospect of having to live through more troubles before the French settlements were finally merged with India. Deep regret was expressed in official circles in New Delhi for their attempts to settle the question had not met with success. Strictly speaking Paris talks did not go in vain. It went a long way towards mellowing the hard attitude of both the countries. It reflected the spirit of compromise demonstrated by both sides in agreeing to modify their original stand even in the points which they had regarded as fundamental. While the Indian delegation was prepared to allow some form of a popular consultation, the French delegation was willing to drop the idea of referendum.49

Notes

1 The Hindu, 8 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

2 The Madras Mail, 7 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

3 The Times of India, 8 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

4 Gazetteer of India Union Territory of Pondicherry, p. 264. Vol. 1.

5 The Hindu, 12 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

6 R. K. Nehru’s letter, 12 April 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 18 (Qd).

7 The Times of India, 12 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

8 The Hindu, 12 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

9 The Indian Express, 14 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

10 Franc-Tireur, 3 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 2271, D 3 (A. O. M.).

11 The Madras Mail, 16 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

12 The Times of India, 20 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

13 The Hindu, 21 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

14 The Madras Mail, 25 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

15 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tel.) 29 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 72 (Qd).

16 The Indian Express, 5 May 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).

17 Ibid. Also The Hindu, 4 May 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).

18 Expose verbal de M. le Ministre de la France d’outre-mer (Objet: situation des Etablissements de l’Inde), 6 juillet 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 20 (Qd).

19 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tél.), 29 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 72 (Qd).

20 The Hindu, 3 May 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).

21 The Indian Express, 14 May 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).

22 T61. from Kakinada, 24 May 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 54 (Qd). Also R. K. Nehru to M. de la Tournelle, 22 May 1954. Inde Française, Vol. 54 (Qd). Also The Hindu, 27 May 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).

23 Madhimchetty Satia au Commissaire de la République (Pondichéry), 10 mai 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 54 (Qd).

24 Ibid.

25 Escargueil visited Yanam, on 28 May 1954.

26 The Hindu, 27 May 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).

27 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tel.) 6 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).

28 Ostrorog à Schuman, 27 mars 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 16 (Qd).

29 Note sur l’Etablissement français de l’Inde, dec. 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 55 (Qd).

30 Ostrorog a Pondichéry (tél.), 16 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).

31 The Times of India, 16 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

32 The Hindu, 20 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

33 The Hindu, 27 April 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 461 (A. O. M.).

34 Gazetteer of India. Union Territory of Pondicherry, p. 274. Vol. I.

35 Ministre des Affaires Etrangères à Ostrorog (tel.) 16 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).

36 Ostrorog aux Affaires Etrangères (tel.) 20 avril. 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).

37 J. Laniel à J. Nehru, 16 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).

38 J. Nehru to J. Laniel, 23 April 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).

39 Ibid.

40 Ostrorog a Schuman, 24 avril 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 17 (Qd).

41 Marolles aux Affaires Etrangères (tél.) 14 mai 1954. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 18 (Qd).

42 As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 38 (Qd).

43 Statement by R. K. Nehru on Indo-French negotiations held in Paris. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 38.

44 Ibid.

45 Conférence Franco-Indienne. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 38 (Qd).

46 As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 38 (Qd).

47 Conférence Franco-Indienne. As 44-55. Inde Française, Vol. 38 (Qd).

48 R. K. Nehru’s statement on Indo-French negotiations held in Paris.

49 The Hindu, 16 June 1954. Aff. Politiques, C 464 (A. O. M.).

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 1997

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