Dominion of India

period of Indian history between 1947 and 1950

The Dominion of India, officially the Union of India, was an independent dominion in the British Commonwealth of Nations existing between 15 August 1947 and 26 January 1950. Until its independence, India had been ruled as an informal empire by the United Kingdom. The empire, also called the British Raj and sometimes the British Indian Empire, consisted of regions, collectively called British India, that were directly administered by the British government, and regions, called the princely states, that were ruled by Indian rulers under a system of paramountcy. The Dominion of India was formalised by the passage of the Indian Independence Act 1947, which also formalised an independent Dominion of Pakistan—comprising the regions of British India that are today Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Dominion of India remained "India" in common parlance but was geographically reduced. Under the Act, the British government relinquished all responsibility for administering its former territories. The government also revoked its treaty rights with the rulers of the princely states and advised them to join in a political union with India or Pakistan. Accordingly, the British monarch's regnal title, "Emperor of India," was abandoned.The Dominion of India came into existence on the partition of India and was beset by religious violence. Its creation had been preceded by a pioneering and influential anti-colonial nationalist movement which became a major factor in ending the British Raj. A new government was formed led by Jawaharlal Nehru as prime minister, and Vallabhbhai Patel as deputy prime minister, both members of the Indian National Congress. Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy, stayed on until June 1948 as independent India's first governor-general. The religious violence was soon stemmed in good part by the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi, but not before resentment of him grew among some Hindus, eventually costing him his life. To Patel fell the responsibility for integrating the princely states of the British Indian Empire into the new India. Lasting through the remainder of 1947 and the better part of 1948, integration was accomplished by the means of inducements, and on occasion threats. It went smoothly except in the instances of Junagadh State, Hyderabad State, and, especially, Kashmir and Jammu, the last leading to a war between India and Pakistan and to a dispute that has lasted until today. During this time, the new constitution of the Republic of India was drafted. It was based in large part on the Government of India Act, 1935, the last constitution of British India, but also reflected some elements in the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Ireland. The new constitution disavowed some aspects of India's ages-old past by abolishing untouchability and derecognising caste distinctions. A major effort was made during this period to document the demographic changes accompanying the partition of British India. According to most demographers, between 14 and 18 million people moved between India and Pakistan as refugees of the partition, and upwards of one million people were killed. A major effort was also made to document the poverty prevalent in India. A committee appointed by the government in 1949, estimated the average annual income of an Indian to be Rs. 260 (or $55), with many earning well below that amount. The government faced low levels of literacy among its population, soon to be estimated at 23.54% for men and 7.62% for women in the 1951 Census of India. The government also began plans to improve the status of women. It bore fruit eventually in the passage of the Hindu code bills of the mid-1950s, which outlawed patrilineality, marital desertion and child marriages, though evasion of the law continued for years thereafter. The Dominion of India lasted until 1950, whereupon India became a republic within the Commonwealth with a president as head of state.
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