Junagarh and Kashmir
Are there any parallels to be explored?
FLASHBACK BY ABDUL MAJID ZARGAR
The political history of Junagarh has a lot of resemblance and relevance to Kashmir problem. It, therefore, deserves to be told.
At the time of Partition in 1947, Junagarh State was located at the foot of the Girnar hills, 355 km south west of Ahmedabad and is currently, the district headquarters of Gujarat state. It had an area of about 3,336 sq. miles and was bounded on the south by the Arabian sea and had sixteen ports of which the main one was Veraval. It had a population of about five lakhs and forty five thousand, of them 80% being Hindus. The most revered Hindu temple “Somnath” falls in this district.
The ninth and the last Nawab Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III ascended the throne as a minor on the January, 22, 1911. He was educated at famous Mayo College of Ajmer, and ruled under regency until his formal accession to throne on 31 March 1920. He was at the helm of affair till 1947 and announced the accession of his state to Pakistan on August 14, 1947. For reasons still unknown, Pakistan sat on the Nawab’s request for accession for a month, and accepted it only on September 13.
Indian leaders were understandably incensed by the Nawab’s declaration. Meanwhile American interference in the matter started coming to surface through leak of a cable note by its Embassy, in New Delhi to its State Department on October, 28, 1947, which said: “the obvious solution before the governments of India and Pakistan is to agree to the accession of Junagarh to India and of Kashmir to Pakistan.”
Sardar Patel, the Indian Home Minster, uncompromising on Indian unity and belonging himself to Gujarat, more than everyone else was visibly disturbed. The first thing he did was to secure the accession to India of Junagarh’s two tributary states, Mangrol and Babriabad on Ist November 1947. As expected, the Nawab of Junagarh protested that his “vassals” had no right to do what they had done. The Sardar’s reaction was to send a small army contingent to protect the twosome. Around the same time, in the city of Bombay, a provisional government of Junagarh was formed. Its head was Samaldas Gandhi, a nephew of the Mahatma and a resident of the princely state. Many writers opine that his appointment was a tacit approval of Mahtama Gandhi to the ensuing Army operation in Junagarh.
As a part of the preparation for the annexation of Junagarh, the Government of India constituted a “Kathiwar Division” of the Indian Army with Brigadier Gurdial Singh as the Chief with Rajkot as Headquarters. Besides, three War Ships were anchored at the port of Porbunder and eight Tempest War planes were stationed at the Rajkot Airport. While the Army and police started to move in gradually, the civil administration was quick to march to occupy the ‘Junagarh House,’ at Rajkot. A vigorous agitation against the Nawab’s proclamation and for a popular government in the state followed. In sheer panic, the Nawab fled to Pakistan, taking with him his family, of course, and 12 of the 2,000 pedigree dogs he owned. The man left holding the State was Junagarh’s newly appointed Dewan or prime minister, Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, a Muslim League leader close to Pakistan’s founder, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, and father of the more famous Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Isolated and helpless, Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto found that his position was becoming more and more untenable. On November 9 he threw in the towel and informed the government of India that he would like to hand over the administration of Junagarh to it. After a brief discussion, the formal transfer took place on November 9 when the regional commissioner at Rajkot, M. N. Buch, took over. To validate its legal claim over the territory, India held a plebiscite in Junagarh on February 20, 1948 where out of 2, 01,457 registered voters, 1,90,870 exercised their franchise. Needless to say that India won overwhelmingly.
Two things are little known to the public of this high voltage drama. One that a reference resolution pertaining to the Junagarh accession dispute is still pending before the United Nations for disposal and is not formally withdrawn by Pakistan as in the case of Hyderabad state. Two The Pakistan government still recognizes Nawab Mohmmad Jahngir Khanji, the grandson of the last Nawab Muhammad Mahabat Khanji as the present Nawab of Junagarh who was installed with all pomp and show as the eleventh Nawab of a State in exile on October 9, 1991. It has an official website www.junagadhstate.org/home.html.In that respect the issue of Junagarh is geographically dead in India, but politically alive in Pakistan.
A narration of the Junagarh episode cannot be complete without a fascinating footnote provided by Inder Malhotra, the well known columnist. According to him in April 1980, three months after Indira Gandhi’s return to power, Pakistan’s then president, General Zia-ul-Haq, first met her at Harare during Zimbabwe’s independence celebrations. On arrival he presented her an autographed, coffee-table book on his country. She opened it only after he had left and was furious to find that the map on the book’s front piece showed not only the whole of Jammu and Kashmir but also Junagarh, Mangrol and Babriabad as parts of Pakistan. Instantly, she ordered two of her aides to take the book back and return it to the military ruler personally.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Feed back at email@example.com)
Lastupdate on : Sun, 29 May 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 29 May 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 30 May 2011 00:00:00 IST
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