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Monday, June 04, 2018

Patel Reversed Junagadh’s Accession To Pakistan And Reintegrated In India

Did you know that Prabhas Patan, where the famous Somnath temple is located would have been in Pakistan had not Sardar Patel acted with dispatch and decisiveness in October-November 1947? Thanks to the history doctored by omission and commission by the left-illiberal historians few people in India today know the story of Junagadh. As everyone knows, the British gave 565 princely states the option to join India or Pakistan in August 1947. Of these two could not have joined India because of their geographical location.

A third, Kalat which constitutes a major part of Balochistan wanted to join India but Nehru’s political myopia prevented that. Jinnah moved swiftly to annex the mineral-rich State. Jammu and Kashmir was not the only state which Pakistan sought to occupy by force. Whereas Pakistan could only partially succeed in its designs on J & K, it fully occupied Kalat. Thus Pakistan which was founded based on religion had a violent streak in its national psyche since its inception although peace lowers on the Indian side delude themselves that the leopard would someday shed its spots.

Some would argue that agreeing to the accession of Kalat to India would have attenuated the arguments for the integration of Hyderabad in India. However, Pakistan advanced the same arguments to annex Junagadh as India could for the accession of Kalat but did not, and did for the accession of Jammu and Kashmir but still lost a third of its territory.     

Of the remaining princely states Sardar Patel seamlessly integrated 560 states into the Indian Union, including a recalcitrant Hyderabad. Nehru who handled Jammu and Kashmir made a dog’s breakfast of it. There was another state, Junagadh which while pretending to join India secretly planned and joined Pakistan on August 15, 1947. Read why its accession would have been disastrous for India and how Sardar Patel reversed its accession to Pakistan and brought it back into India’s fold.

The princely state of Junagadh is at the south-western corner of the Saurashtra peninsula of modern Gujarat. It was an important state of what was known as the Kathiawar group of states in pre-independence India. Junagadh was deep inside and surrounded on three sides by India and on the south and southwest by the Arabian Sea. It has no overland route to Pakistan. The distance between the nearest ports Veraval (Junagadh) and Karachi (Sind, Pakistan) is about 300 miles. Another complicating geographical factor about the state is that throughout its borders either its territories jutted into neighbouring states like fingers or their territories jutted into it. Spread over 3,337 square miles, it had a population of 6.71 lakh according to 1941 census of which 80% were Hindus. Its famous Jain and Hindu temples including the famous Somnath temple attracted pilgrims from all over India.

While giving the impression that the state would accede to India, Junagadh secretly negotiated and on August 15, 1947 declared its accession to Pakistan. This was not acceptable to India for strategic reasons and the possible cascading effect it would have on the delicate negotiations with Hyderabad that were under way. On Pakistan’s right to accept Junagadh’s accession to it, Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan informed Nehru that ‘a ruler had the absolute right to accede without reference to the moral or ethnic aspects of accession’.

In a discussion with Jinnah, Mountbatten read out the full statement of the Pakistan Prime Minister as reported by the Statesman of September 21, 1947:

The correct position is that the Indian Independence Act of 1947 has left all Indian States completely free to join either one Dominion or the other or to enter into treaty relations with either. Legally and constitutionally there can be no question of putting limitations on this right of the States. Muslim League leaders before 15 August and the official spokesman of the Pakistan Government thereafter have publicly declared their agreement with this view; and have since rigorously stood by it. No objection has been raised by Pakistan to any State acceding to the Dominion of India.” (Italics added.) [1]

This was exactly India’s case regarding Jammu and Kashmir then and all along. Jinnah agreed that it was the legal position. Thus there appears to be unanimity on the subject of accession of Princely States in both India and Pakistan. Despite this, Mountbatten suggested that the matter of Junagadh and later, Hyderabad, and Jammu and Kashmir should be referred to the United Nations Organisation. In the case of Junagadh, Sardar Patel vetoed the proposal saying that there was grave danger in being a plaintiff before the UNO. As we will see later, the decision was taken out of Patel’s hands in the case of Jammu and Kashmir with disastrous consequences.

After futile negotiations with the eccentric Nawab of Junagadh and Pakistan, the cabinet decided to move a brigade of the Indian army to the Kathiawar states surrounding Junagadh which have already acceded to India for their protection and to assist their forces. It was designated as the ‘Kathiawar Defence Force’ (KDF).

The landlocked Junagadh state was dependent on the surrounding Kathiawar states for its economy and food grains. But as Junagadh now joined enemy Pakistan, in view of the uncertain political conditions, traders in the adjoining states refused to do business with it, resulting in a virtual economic blockade. There was utter chaos and a hundred thousand Hindus fled from the state. Realising the situation was going out of control, the Nawab took flight to Pakistan taking with him the entire State treasury.

One of the factors that precipitated the crisis was the peculiar situation of two tiny states, the principality of Babariawad and the Sheikdom of Mangrol in relation to Junagadh. In the pre-independence period Junagadh had jurisdiction over Babariawad and a portion of Mangrol. The two tiny states declared independence as soon as the British Paramountcy ended and signed instruments of accession with India. An angered Junagadh sent its troops to occupy Babariawad and Mangrol. India considered this an act of aggression and was forced to move its forces to liberate Babariawad and Mangrol. Mountbatten was informed of the move only after the army was already on the march. It was a move that pre-empted him.

In the meantime, the Kathiawar Congress leaders formed a provisional government (Arzi Hukumat) with Samaldas Gandhi as its President and with its headquarters at Rajkot. After the Nawab’s flight, the forces of Arzi Hukumat began dispersing into various parts of Junagadh. Sir Shah Nawaz, the Dewan of Junagadh opened negotiations with Samaldas Gandhi requesting him to take over the administration and restore law and order in the state. Despite protestations from Pakistan, the state’s request to accede to India was accepted. When Sardar Patel visited Junagadh on November 13 he received a rousing reception. As per earlier promise India conducted a referendum in Junagadh on February 20, 1948. Of the 2,01,457 registered voters 1,90,870 exercised their franchise and all except 91 voted in favour of the state’s accession to India. In a similar referendum conducted in Mangrol and Manavadar, Babariawad, Bantwa and Sardargarh, of the 31, 439 votes cast, only 39 favoured Pakistan. A year later on February 20, 1949 all these states were finally and fully integrated with the Indian Union.



[1] Krishna, Balraj. (2007). India’s Bismarck Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. India Source Books. New Delhi. p. 205.

Excerpted from ‘TWISTING FACTS TO SUIT THEORIES’ AND OTHER SELECTIONS FROM VOXINDICA pp. 306-309


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