Junagadh was a Princely State whose area was about 3,337 square miles, and it was ruled by Nawab Sir Mahabatkhan Rasulkhanji (or Nawab Mahatab Khan III) at the time of independence in 1947. There are many stories of the eccentricity of the Nawab and of his love for dogs, including his expenditure of £21,000 on the wedding of two of his dogs. In the chapter ‘A Junagadh Bitch that was a Princess’ in ‘Maharaja’, Diwan Jarmani Dass states that on the occasion of the marriage of his favourite bitch Roshanara, the Nawab had invited Rajas, Maharajas, Viceroy and other distinguished guests, had declared state holiday for three days, and had entertained over 50,000 guests. The book describes the crazy reception of the bridegroom—a dog:                                                                     “The bridegroom’s party was received by the Nawab of Junagadh at the railway station, accompanied by 250 male dogs in gorgeous clothes and jewellery who came in procession from the palace to the station on elephants with silver and gold howdahs. The Ministers and officials of the State and the members of the Royal family of Junagadh were also present at the station to receive Bobby, the bridegroom.”

Junagadh is to the south-west of Kathiawar. Its neighbours were all Indian States, and to its south and south-west is the Arabian Sea. Junagadh had no geographical contiguity with Pakistan. Its distance by sea from Port Veraval to Karachi is about 300 miles. Out of its population of about 6.7 lacs, 82% were Hindu.

The people of the state desired merger with India. However, the Nawab signed the Instrument of Accession in favour of Pakistan on 15 August 1947. He was aided by his diwan, Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto—father of the late Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto—who was close to Jinnah. The accession was kept a closely guarded secret by Pakistan. Jinnah had reckoned that if sufficient time passed before the matter became known, India would accept the accession as a fait accompli. There were only some rumours; and India made an enquiry with the Pakistan High Commissioner to India in the matter. There was no response. A reminder on 6 September 1947 also elicited no response. It was only on 13 September 1947—about a month after the accession—that India was informed that Pakistan had accepted Junagadh’s accession and had also signed the Standstill Agreement.

The British knew of the accession earlier, but had kept quiet. Mountbatten promptly recognised Junagadh as Pakistani territory, and advised so to the King in his report. He even stated in his report:
“My chief concern as Governor-General was to prevent the Government of India from committing itself on the Junagadh issue to an act of war against what was now Pakistan territory.”

Mountbatten revealed: “Pakistan is in no position even to declare war, since I happen to know that their military commanders [British, at the top level, at that time] have put it to them in writing that a declaration of war with India can only end in the inevitable and ultimate defeat of Pakistan.”

Mountbatten was least concerned that Junagadh, a Hindu-majority state (which was not even a border-state), had acceded to Pakistan. In sharp contrast, he was much concerned that J&K had acceded to India, and played all his dirty games to ensure that the accession became disputed by fooling the gullible Nehru. After Junagadh had acceded to Pakistan Mountbatten wanted to make sure India did not use its armed forces to occupy Junagadh. He played his tricks on Nehru and Gandhi to ensure the same. Expectedly, Nehru, the PM, remained silent! Jinnah had correctly assessed that an ever indecisive and vacillating Nehru would only indulge in his usual “international situation and international reaction” high-talk, but would, again as usual, soft-pedal the whole matter in order to avoid taking any decision or action. As for Lord Mountbatten, the cunning Jinnah knew Mountbatten would not allow India to take any precipitate action. All that Jinnah wanted was that there should be no physical action from India’s side. Gandhi, being a pacifist, and more concerned about his “Mahatma” label and its associated brand of “non-violence”, never considered appropriate action to gain back Junagadh. Given Nehru-Gandhi inaction, only Sardar Patel could have been the rescuer.

“He [Sardar Patel] rejected Nehru’s soft-pedalling in the suggestion that ‘it would be desirable for us to send a message to the British Government about the Junagadh affair’ with a polite comment: ‘I am not quite sure whether we need say anything to the British Government at this stage.’ Patel was not willing to let India revert to the pre-Independence years and allow the British to play their earlier partisan role which was pro- Muslim and pro-Jinnah.”

Sardar Patel vehemently objected to the “forcible dragging of over 80 percent of Hindu population of Junagadh into Pakistan by accession in defiance of all democratic principles”. Jinnah and Mountbatten had failed to factor-in the fact that if there were pacifists on India’s side unassertive on India’s interests like Gandhi and Nehru whom they could manage, fool- around and outmanoeuvre; there was also a wise, don’t-meddle-with-us Iron-Man on India’s side.

All of Mountbatten’s diversionary tactics failed to work on Sardar Patel. Mountbatten tried his options one after the other, as each failed. He counselled Patel on one premise after another: Adverse world opinion! Needless war! War when so many urgent tasks demanded attention! Why not refer the matter to the UNO? If at all necessary, use only the Central Reserve Police, not the Indian Army!

Sardar Patel rejected all of Mountbatten’s options and suggestions, and went in for military operations to settle the issue once and for all. That required guts—something that Nehru and Gandhi lacked. Patel did not let the matter linger, like in cases of Kashmir or Hyderabad. Patel tactfully kept Mountbatten in the dark, and moved troops before Mountbatten came to know. Kathiawar Defence Force, a newly created command of Indian troops, was first deployed in the territory adjoining Junagadh, and then occupied Babariawad and Mangrol, which Junagadh had claimed as its territory.

Sardar planned and executed the Junagadh operation so well that the Nawab of Junagadh fled to Pakistan on 26 October 1947 leaving the state to Shahnawaz Bhutto, who, facing collapse of the administration, invited India on 7 November 1947 to intervene, and left for Pakistan on 8 November 1947. The Indian army moved in on 9 November 1947, and Sardar Patel arrived to a grand reception on the Diwali day of 13 November 1947.

The Nawab fled with his dogs, emptying the treasury of cash and valuables. Leonard Mosley recounts in ‘The Last Days of the British Raj’:
“The Nawab had already fled to Pakistan in his private plane. He crammed aboard as many of his dogs as he could, plus his four wives. One of them discovered, at the last moment, that she had left her child behind in the palace and asked the Nawab to wait while she fetched her. The moment she left the airfield, the Nawab loaded in two more dogs and took off without his wife…”

Wrote V Shankar: “But he [Sardar Patel] had to contend with two important factors, one of them being Lord Mountbatten…Sardar had to be particularly patient because very often Lord Mountbatten succeeded in enlisting Pandit Nehru’s sympathies for his point of view…He was convinced that, in this matter of national importance, police action could not be ruled out in the case of Hyderabad and that the threat of its accession to Pakistan must be removed at all costs. As regards Junagadh he was not prepared for any compromise and finally succeeded in evolving and executing his own plans despite Lord Mountbatten’s counsels against precipitating matters or his suggestion of a plebiscite [under UN auspices] …He [Sardar] remarked with a twinkle in his eye, ‘Don’t you see we have two U.N. experts—one the Prime Minister [Nehru] and the other Lord Mountbatten—and I have to steer my way between them. However, I have my own idea of plebiscite. You wait and see…’”

Writes C Dasgupta in ‘War and Diplomacy in Kashmir 1947-48’:
“At the end of September [1947], the Indian government decided that a show of force was unavoidable. Sardar Patel pointed out that by sending its armed personnel into Babariawad, Junagadh had committed an act of war against India. The princely state which had acceded to India had a right to expect that India would protect them against aggression. A weak posture would undermine India’s standing with the Princely States and would have repercussions in Hyderabad, where the Nizam was holding out against accession. In an effort to head him off from this course of action, Mountbatten suggested lodging a complaint to the United Nations against Junagadh’s act of aggression… Patel observed that possession was nine-tenths of the law and he would in no circumstances lower India’s position by going to any court as a plaintiff. The Governor-General asked him whether he was prepared to take the risk of an armed clash in Kathiawar leading to war with Pakistan. The Deputy Prime Minister [Sardar Patel] was unmoved. He said he was ready to take the risk…”

Sardar was really a Sardar—he lived up to his title! Without Sardar, one does not know what other Kashmir-like states or additional Pakistans would have been created—especially, if Mountbatten and Nehru had a free run. If Sardar Patel had not taken the action that he did in Junagadh, and allowed the status quo—its accession to Pakistan on 15 August 1947—to continue, India would have faced difficult situation in Hyderabad. Indeed Kasim Rizvi, the leader of Hyderabad’s Razakar, had questioned: “Why is the Sardar thundering about Hyderabad when he cannot control even little Junagadh?”

A plebiscite was held in Junagadh by India. At the instance of Sardar Patel, it was conducted not by the UN, but by an Indian ICS officer, CB Nagarkar, on 20 February 1948, in which 99%—all but 91 persons—voted to join India. Sardar was not gullible like Nehru to allow himself to be made a fool of by letting Mountbatten have his way, refer the matter to the UN— which Mountbatten had suggested for Junagadh too—and allow domestic matters to be internationalised, and be exploited by Pakistan and the UK.

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