15th August, the day decided by the British Parliament to leave India by implementing the Indian Independence Act, was approaching. The cunning lawmakers in Britain knew that their strength had decreased after the 2nd World War and they would no longer sustain its rich colony. British think tanks drafted the Indian Independence Act of 1947 in a way that it erodes the land into separate sovereign identities. India and Pakistan today are two countries, but back then, they were a collective federation of 565 princely states.
The Indian Independence Act declared ‘Lapse of Paramountcy’ which meant that all princely states situated in Indian and Pakistani territory could either join India or Pakistan or create their own independent state. This clause in the law created chaos among the Indian leaders who were keen on keeping India united, they had already witnessed the state being partitioned and further fragmentation was not acceptable. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel worked tirelessly to unite a majority of the princely kingdoms in India but, some states wanted to stay independent or accede with Pakistan.
The Junagarh Issue
On the day of India attaining independence, Junagarh acceded to Pakistan and the entire nation was in shock. The Nawab of Junagarh, Nawab Mohammed Mahabat Khanji being a Muslim joined hands with Pakistan and left his 90% Hindu population in dismay. On 17th November, Indian newspapers serialized this news and a shock wave ran through the country. The Indian cabinet discussed this problem and concluded with immediate border vigilance.
Administrative sources informed the cabinet that Pakistan had offered Nawab Mohammed Mahabat Khanji a whopping sum of Rs.8 crores in exchange to his kingdom’s inclusion in Pakistan. Junagarh would act as a platform to Pakistani forces if they ever wanted to be the aggressors. Moreover, extensive ports in Junagarh made it a strategically important region. While this decision of the Nawab triggered obvious discontent among his subjects, protests and vandalizing of the Nawab’s property commenced. In a fit of fear, the Nawab fled to Karachi leaving Shah Nawaz Bhutto- his Prime Minister- to face the wrath.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, was the mastermind behind this issue. Jinnah never wanted Junagarh. His eyes, ever since Pakistan was created, were set on integrating Kashmir in Pakistan. Junagarh was just a sacrificing ploy. He knew that out of all states, Junagarh had a Muslim administrator so he chose to persuade its weak Nawab. His trick was simple- if India demands Junagarh to become a part of India because it has an overwhelming majority of Hindus, then Jinnah could have demanded Kashmir saying that Kashmir has a Hindu King but a Muslim majority.
Kashmir, at that time, was an independent kingdom but, because its administrator was Hindu- Jinnah assumed that they might accede to India if they ever decide to join either dominion. His vision was shrewdly wicked and it was causing Indian leaders to find appropriate measures soon.
Indian leaders were convinced that the Army must be sent immediately to defeat the Nawab’s army so that the choice of the people is sustained. But, few leaders detected the hidden agenda and requested not to summon the army. The vigilance at Junagarh border had increased by the day. Internal violence and protests had reached a magnitude where Shah Nawaz Bhutto lost control. He immediately appealed for help from Pakistan. But, neither did their army march towards their newly acceded land neither did Mohammed Ali Jinnah reply to Bhutto’s letter.
Bhutto fled to Pakistan after he wrote a letter to the Indian government saying that his administration cannot govern Junagarh and he legally transferred the right to govern the state in the hands of India.
Indian forces took control of Junagarh and soon implemented state governance. A referendum was taken to know where the people of Junagarh wanted to accede. Without any surprise, almost 100% voted for India while a mere population of 91 people voted in favor of Pakistan.