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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Looking back at India’s illegal annexation of Junagadh

Mr. Amjed Jaaved sheds light on India's illegal occupation of Junagadh. Apart from occupying Jammu and Kashmir in 1947, India went through an act of aggression transgressed upon the Muslim-ruled princely state of Junagadh and occupied it by force soon after the partition of the Indo-Pak sub-continent.

Kashmir, Sir Creek, and Junagadh are unresolved disputes on the United States agenda. Sir Creek separates the Indian state of Gujarat from the Pakistani province of Sindh. India and Pakistan went to fisticuffs many a time in this region. Once a skirmish threatened to flare up into a full-fledged Indo-Pak war, then Pakistan’s army chief General Musa asked the Pakistan Air force chief to strafe marching columns of the Indian army. Asghar Khan phoned the Indian air-force chief. They both agreed not to intervene.

Pakistan did not forcefully agitate the Junagadh issue at the UN. The underlying reason was that India then could have pleaded that Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir was contradictory. It owned the Junagadh accession but disowned the Kashmir accession to India.

Sir Creek forms the boundary between the Indian state of Gujarat and the Pakistani province of Sindh. It has been a subject of dispute between the two countries, often leading to clashes between security forces.

Read more: Junagadh should be merged with Pakistan: Nawab of Junagadh

When the British were leaving India, there were 565 princely states under the overall suzerainty of the British crown. They were independent but were given the choice of joining India or Pakistan or remaining independent.

The genesis of the Junagadh dispute

The ruler of Junagadh, a princely state at the time of partition, was Muhammad Mahabat Khan Babi III.

Besides Babi, the other influential individual was the dewan, or prime minister, of Junagadh state, Shah Nawaz Bhutto, father of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

By August 14 and 15, nearly all of the princely state monarchs had signed their documents. Those who did not include the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir (Ramachandra Guha. The History of the World’s Largest Democracy: India after Gandhi). Hence the subsequent disputes.

Junagadh had three vassal states. The ruler of Bantva-Manavadar (Manavadar, for short) acceded to Pakistan. But, the rulers of the two other principalities (Mangrol and Babariawad), declared that they would become part of India. They thus unsuccessfully challenged their sovereign’s choice.

Read more: Why India failed to emerge as a world power

India’s lame excuse for Junagadh invasion

The Indian soldiers who had earlier invaded Kashmir ostensibly to repulse raiders invaded Junagadh & Manavadar to annex them. Pakistan could not send its forces to Junagadh because of logistic problems. Pakistan has recently unveiled a political map including the additional territory as “Junagadh and Manavadar.”

Thus ended the short-lived period of Junagadh belonging to Pakistan. The Nawab and the Dewan fled to Pakistan. On February 20, 1948, a referendum was held in Junagadh (including all of its vassal states) as a ruse to justify the invasion. India trumpeted results as it showed that out of 2,01,457 registered voters, 1,90,870 cast their votes and Pakistan got only 91 votes in favor of accession to Pakistan. A referendum was also held in five neighboring territories. Out of 31,434 votes cast in these areas, only 39 were for accession to Pakistan. Pakistan termed it a “farce”. Pakistan never accepted the results of the Junagadh referendum. Nehru promised to hold a similar referendum in Jammu and Kashmir but never did.

But as the following excerpt from historian Rajmohan Gandhi’s 1991 book shows, Patel’s views on Kashmir changed from the time that he went about integrating princely states into what would go on to become the Union of India. Much before Independence, when Patel had first discussed the problem of princely states with Louis Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy, later to be the first Governor-General of independent India, he had asked him to bring in “a full basket of apples” by the date of Independence. Would he be satisfied with a bag of 560 instead of the full 565, the viceroy had wondered.

Read more: Is Modi’s strong man image finally losing political clout?

A historical lie

India gives the impression that Patel was a very reasonable and flexible person. He wanted to barter away the disputed Kashmir to Pakistan in exchange for Junagadh and Hyderabad. But when Pakistan insisted that Junagadh has already acceded to Pakistan, Patel changed his mind. He then decided to annex Junagadh and Hyderabad too.

India says Junagadh was mentioned by Pakistan when the Security Council took up the issue of the hostilities in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir in January 1948. Under the UN Security Council resolution 39, a commission was set up for the “peaceful resolution of the Kashmir conflict”, and the mandate of this commission was to investigate allegations by India of the situation in J&K, as well as “other issues” raised by Pakistan, which included Junagadh that Pakistan accused India of “annexing and occupying by force”.

India’s perfidious leaders

At the time of the British withdrawal, there were 565 princely states apart from thousands of zamindari estates and jagirs. In 1947, princely states covered 40 percent of the area of pre-independence India and constituted 23 percent of its population. The most important states had their own British Political Residencies: Hyderabad of the Nizams, Mysore, and Travancore in the South followed by Jammu and Kashmir, and Sikkim in the Himalayas, and Indore in Central India.

India annexed all the princely states by hook or by crook, barring the disputed states.

Indian leaders harbored a perfidious wish to annex all the princely states. Take the disputed Kashmir. The puppet Kashmir governor had to publicly announce that “there were no plans to abrogate Article 35A [and Article 370 about special status].” But then they repealed not only article 370 but also article 35-A.

Read more: India’s claims on Kashmir rest on a dubious legal instrument

Nehru’s documented perfidy

Because of Nehru’s failure to keep promises, Sheikh Abdullah had begun to talk of independence. Nehru wanted to keep the bull at bay while concealing his desire to annex the disputed state. He made many assurances to tab Sheikh Abdullah’s over ebullience.

Avtar Singh Bhasin (India and Pakistan: Neighbours at Odd) tells on page 63 on the basis of Nehruvian diaries. Nehru addressed a lengthy letter to him [Sheikh Abdullah] on 25 August 1952 from Sonamarg, where he was then camping. After narrating the events since the accession of the State in October 1947, he went on to assure him of his commitment to the people of the State that the future would be decided by them alone, and if they wanted India to be put out of Kashmir, there would be no hesitation.

He wrote, if the people of Kashmir clearly and definitely wish to part company from India, there the matter ends, however, we may dislike it or however disadvantageous it may be to India. If the Constituent Assembly told India to get out of Kashmir, we would get out, because under no circumstances can we remain here against the expressed will of the people.

Kashmir assembly’s `accession’ disowned, Security Council owned: Nehru banked on so-called Instrument of Accession and its authentication by ‘Constituent Assembly’. But in a strange quirk of a volte-face, Nehru declared, “After consideration of the problem, we are inclined to think that it [plebiscite] should be held under United Nations auspices” (p. 28 ibid.). He reiterated in New Delhi on November 3, 1951, that “We have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar] as we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council, or the United Nations”(SJW: Volume 4: page 292, Bhasin p.228).

Read more: Nehru is a ‘criminal’ for granting special status to Kashmir: BJP lawmaker

Again, at a press conference on June 11, 1951, he was asked, “If the proposed constituent assembly of Kashmir decides in favor of acceding to Pakistan, what will be the position?” he reiterated, “We have made it perfectly clear that the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was not meant to decide finally any such question, and it is not in the way of any decision which may ultimately flow from the Security Council proceedings” (SJW: Volume 15, Part II, page 394. Bhasin page 56). He re-emphasized his view once again at a press conference in New Delhi On November 3, 1951. He said, “We have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar as] we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council of the United Nations.”

Security Council disowned as just a non-binding mediator

It is flabbergasting that during the period 1947 to 1952, Nehru kept harping commitment to a plebiscite. Then there was a sudden metamorphosis in his compliant attitude.

Bhasin points out that there was a perceptible shift in his [Nehru’s] stand on July 24, 1952, about the future of the State _ if the decision of the Security Council was at variance with that of the Constituent Assembly. Nehru said that unless the Security Council functioned under some other Sections of the Charter, it cannot make a decision which is binding upon us unless we agree to it. They are functioning as mediators and a mediator means getting people to agree (SJW, Volume 19, page 241. Bhasin page 56).

Read more: Pakistan Stands with Kashmir: Gandhi & Nehru’s Secular India is dead

Indian leaders accepted the UN resolutions willy nilly. At heart, they wanted to annex all the princely states as is obvious for instance from Nehru’s somersaults. Like Nehru, Vallabhai Patel also was no man of word. India has lame excuses to invade Kashmir, Junagadh, or for that matter any princely state.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing freelance for over fifty years. His articles are published in dailies at home (The News, Nation, etc) and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, et. al.). He is the author of eight books including Kashmir: The Myth of Accession. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.