This is the second part in our continuing article series, focusing on events that shaped the face of this country post-independence. This is a story of us, our fathers and grand fathers, mothers and grand mothers, and how the events in our almost 70 years of independence have affected us, our families, our lives and most importantly our country, India.
The day was 17th of August, 1947. The place was Junagadh in Gujarat. News spread like wildfire that Junagadh’s Nawab, Muhammad Mahabbat Khanji III has decided to accede to Pakistan and has already signed the Instrument of Accession in Pakistan’s favour. The news also made headlines in leading newpapers across the country and shook the power pillars on which the country stood like a toddler learning to walk. Nawab Muhammad Mahabbat Khan’s decision to jump ship meant that 3,337 sq miles of landmass alongwith its 6.7 lacs of population living in the Kingdom of Junagadh has joined Pakistan.
Before the fateful decision taken by the Nawab, he was famous widely for two of his interests. First was his intense love for animals, fore mostly for dogs. He had a number of dogs of different breeds along with a variety of other animals and birds at his palace. The incident for which garnered nationwide attention regarding his love for dogs was when he arranged a marriage between two of his dogs. A government holiday was also declared as a holiday for the people of Junagadh. The other interest for which the Nawab was popular widely was his love for dance and music, significantly for Gujarati Folk Music . Fabulous musical extravaganza were held at the concert halls of the Nawab’s immaculate Sardar Bag Palace.
Owing to the Nawab’s unusual affection for dogs and Gujarati Folk Music he was not taken too seriously by neither the British nor the Indians. However, the Nawab who was hardly noticed by the power players of the country later took advantage of the Lapse of Paramountcy, a provision in the Indian Independence Act, 1947 formulated chiefly by the British. The provision gave India’s 565 princely state three options: Join India; Join Pakistan; Remain a Free State. The Nawab of Junagadh finally opted for the second option and gave up Junagadh to Pakistan after signing the Instrument of Accession on 15th of September, 1947.
There were difficult problems to get around regarding the accession of Junagadh to Pakistan. The Kingdom was surrounded by Indian borders and hence the idea of Junagadh acceding to Pakistan was deemed impractical. Secondly the kingdom comprised of a Hindu majority who wanted Junagadh to be acceded to India. Anything different from the majority’s claim threatened a violent retribution by the Hindu junta. On 17th September 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and V P Menon met Lord Louis Mountbatten in the present day Rashtrapati Bhavan to discuss the future of Junagadh. Pandit Nehru stated that Pakistan had bribed Rs 8.00 crores to the Nawab of Junagadh in the name of development of sea- ports around the Rann of Kutch and for the establishment of an Army cantonment with 25000 soliders. In return Jinnah had blackmailed Nawab Muhammad Mahabbat Khan into signing the Instrument of Accession in favour of Pakistan. Lord Louis Mountbatten agreed on the vile tactics used by Jinnah to swallow the Kingdom of Junagadh. Sardar Patel conferred that it is necessary that Lord Louis Mountbatten send the Indo-British Army to Junagadh to aptly reply to Jinnah’s tactics. Patel further empasized that a hard approach be taken against Junagadh to set an example for other states like Kashmir and Hyderabad who had yet not acceded to the Indian dominion.
Mountbatten rejected Patel’s suggestion for military action against Junagadh saying that Jinnah cannot be serious since the merger of Junagadh with Pakistan will mean an impossible military liability for Pakistan itself. Mountbatten also read the situation like a true statesman when he opined that Jinnah through Junagadh wanted to prove a point that if despite the fact that Junagadh’s Hindu majority ruled over by a Muslim Monarch is ready to join Pakistan, it is completely rational if Kashmir with a Mulim majority ruled over by a Sikh Ruler can also accede to Pakistan.
Mountbatten’s foresightedness triumphed Patel’s Gujarati Nationalism and the idea of a military action against Junagadh was trashed. Lord Mountbatten however accepted Patel’s proposal to surround Junagadh and set up blockades on all ingress and egress points of the State. Nehru, being the Prime Minister, decided to send his trusted aide, V P Menon to Junagadh to have a talk with the eccentric Nawab. V P Menon’s primary objective was to find out if the Nawab’s decision to accede to Pakistan was his very own or had been orchestrated by his Diwan, Shah Nawaz Bhutto, patriarch of the greatest political family of Pakistan, the Bhuttos. Shah Nawaz Bhutto was the father of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Grand Father of Benazir Bhutto and Great Grand Father of Bilawal Bhutto. When V P Menon arrived at the Junagadh State Guest House, he was stalled by Shah Nawaz Bhutto from meeting the Nawab, stating that the Nawab was seriously sick and was not in a condition to discuss his decision of acceding to Pakistan with just about anybody. V P Menon emphasised that he was carrying a very important message from the Top Cabinet which needs to be delivered to the Nawab at the earliest. The Diwan kept stalling V P menon restating that it was absolutely impossible to get an audience with the Nawab. V P Menon requested to meet the Nawabzada of Junagadh to deliver the message but the Diwan continued to stall Menon stating that the Nawabzada had been extremely busy with his cricket seasons. Failing at every attempt to make inroads to meet any of the Royalties of Junagadh, Menon gave up and decided to return back to New Delhi. Before leaving Junagadh, Menon concluded that the people of Kathiawar were not pleased with the Nawab’s decision to accede to Pakistan and if the junta runs violent and revolts against the monarchy of Junagadh, the end of the Nawab’s dynasty is a matter of time and the person held accountable for this catastrophe would be Shah Nawaz Bhutto.
“Death with the sword in hand, is always preferable to execution by a mere stroke of the pen” -Kasim Razvi
After the failure at Junagadh, Menon returned back to New Delhi but en route he had succeeded in amalgamating two small estates of Junagad – Mangrol and Babriawad with India. In reply the Nawab of Junagadh marched his troops in both the estates. The Sheikhs of Mangrol and Babriawad had also written off the decision of accession to join with the Indian dominion. Patel considered this act by the Nawab as an act of aggression against the Indian state and emphasized that the move be crushed back into submission hastily. Nehru suggested that the Commander -in – Chief be informed regarding the situation in Mangrol and Babriawad and put his troops on full vigil. On 24th of September 1947, upon Nehru’s order the Indian Army cordoned off the borders of Junagadh. Mountbatten remained defiant on not initiating any military action against Junagadh and suggested that the Indian Cabinet take up this matter to the United Nations. Mountbatten clearly wanted to avoid a war between the two neighbouring countries, India and Pakistan under any situation. Sardar Patel on the other hand, was not at all impressed by the idea and retorted back that India will not put up an application to an organization to get it’s rights as a Nation of the World. Pakistan had encited the Nawab of Junagadh to march his troops against the Indian State in Mangrol and Bariawad and it is the essential need of the hour to make an example out of Junagadh in full view.
Nawab Mahabbat Khanji was trapped under a double edged sword. At his borders was the vigil of the Indian army at every point of exit and within his state he was facing the raging anger of the people of Kathiawar, mostly Hindus, already upset by the Nawab’s decision to accede to Pakistan. Fearing for his life the Nawab decided to flee Junagadh and take refuge in Karachi, Pakistan. The Nawab gathered his jewels and his dogs and his wives and took his flight to Karachi but forgot behind one of his wives and his son back at the Sardar Bag Palace.
The reins of the State of Junagadh were left to the Diwan, Shah Nawaz Bhutto. Bhutto appealed to Mohammad Ali Jinnah to help the state out of its problems but neither came Jinnah’s response nor any assistance. Junagadh was used as a pawn in a high stakes political game of borders. On 7th November 1947, Shah Nawaz Bhutto in the power bestowed upon him by the retreat of the Nawab to Pakistan, signed the Instrument of Accession in India’s favour and acceded the State of Junagadh to India. In February 1948 India held a plebiscite in Junagadh. India was favoured over Pakistan by 1.19 lacs to 0.91 lacs.
In 1947 The Time magazine had inferred that indigenous monarchs like Nawab Muhammad Mahabbat Khanji belong to a class of Rulers in India who ruled over 25% of the Indian population, had 11 honorary titles, 6 wives, 13 children and four Rolls Royce cars.
Among the princely states ruled by these rulers had already decided to take advantage of the Lapse of Paramountcy provision in the Indian Independence Act, 1947 and carve out a free state of their own from the Indian subcontinental land mass.On 11th June 1947, King Balaram Verma, the monarch of Travancore became the first ruler to proclaim the independence of a princely state. King Verma along with his Diwan, C P Ramaswamy Aiyyar wanted to keep Travancore an independent state, free from the dominions of India and Pakistan.
C P Ramaswamy read out the royal declaration that said that the Kingdom of Travancore will be a free State after the exit of the British. He extended that Travancore had a separate identity and the entity desires to exist in a state of freedom and peace. With this declaration the question marks on the splintering of the country into many independent princely states became clear. However the people of Travancore were not on the same page with King Verma and his Diwan, C P Ramaswamy Aiyyar and heavily protested the royal decision. On 05th June 1947, an assassination attempt was made on the life of C P Aiyyar. The King revisited his decision to stay independent and on 12th August 1947 sent a telegram to Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, through which he acceded the Kingdom of Travancore to India.
The Integration of the country however was not complete. In the middle of the country another Kingdom was situated which yearned for its independence too. This was the Kingdom of Bhopal, ruled by the Muslim Monarch, Nawab Hamidullah Khan. Nawab Hamidullah was an influential figure in the political ring. He was an effective chancellor of the Chamber of Princes, was close to Mohammad Ali Jinnah and was good friends with Lord Mountbatten. In fact, Jinnah had offered Hamidullah Khan the position of Secretary General of Pakistan. On 11th August 1947, Lord Mountbatten sent a letter to Hamidullah Khan requesting him to reach a decision to sign the Instrument of Accession before 14th of August 1947. In case the the Nawab chooses to reverse his decision or make amendments he can do so by 25th August 1947 after which the Instrument of Accession would be passed to the Ministry of State Affairs. Hamidullah Khan, who had a history of being a staunch opposer of Indian Congress, in his letter to Sardar Patel on 14th August 1947 expressed his willingness to join the Indian dominion and signed the Instrument of Accession.
The final and the biggest challenge in front of the country to complete the process of Integration of India was the Kingdom of Hyderabad. Hyderabad was ruled by Nizam Mir Osman Ali Bahadur who along with his advisor, Kasim Razvi proclaimed on 12th June 1947, that under no condition would he accede to the Indian Dominion after the exit of British interests in India. Hyderabad was the largest princely state in India. Comprising of fertile lands of present day Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka and Maharashtra, the Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Bahadur was touted to be one of the richest persons in the world.
On 1st November Kasim Razvi met Sardar Patel and made it clear that the autonomy and freedom of the State of Hyderbad cannot be compromised under any situation. The meet spiralled into a heated debate between Kasim Razvi and Sardar Patel yielding no outcome in the process. He is quoted to have said “Death with the sword in hand, is always preferable to execution by a mere stroke of the pen”. Kasim Razvi was a strongman of the Nizam of Hyderabad. As per several published reports it was found that during the Nizam’s period of rule until 1946 he was involved in many instances of brutal atrocities over the people of Hyderabad. In response the Governement of Hyderabad instituted an enquiry committee the findings of which accused Kasim Razvi to be a violator of human rights and was deemed a criminal.
Kasim Razvi was the leading figure for Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslameen that had recruited platoons of armed and ruthless men called Razakars. Razvi was characterized as a religious fanatic who “insisted on the right of Muslims to enslave the Hindu”. He was also implicated in the murder of patriotic Muslims such as Shoebullah Khan who condemned Razvi’s Razakars and advocated merger with India. Razvi launched criminal attacks on the Hindu population through a Razakar campaign of rape, arson, murder, and looting.
By 1947 the Kingdom of Hyderabd were under the boots of Kasim Razvi and his Razakars. Under duress India had signed a stand-still agreement with Hyderabad for a year. However after the completion of the stand-still agreement the Nizam Mir Osman Ali Bahadur refused to sign the Instrument of Accession and bought weapons from Pakistan worth Rs 20.00 Crores. Hyderabad was prepared to revolt against India and start a war. The majority population of Hyderabad were Hindus. The quarter of the population that was Muslim held various important positions in the Government. In the meantime fighting started in Kashmir and Kasim Razvi felt that since Indian forces were concentrated in the Northern Border it was near impossible for India to handle the heat if Hyderabad opens its offensive from the southern side. Indian Army of 1947 was clearly neither well equipped nor well trained to fight at two frontiers. Nehru however saw the possibility of the Nizam signing the Instrument of Accession in favour of Pakistan in response to a military action and India opening a second war front. Under mounting duress and political upheavals the Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Layak Ali met his Indian counterpart, Pandit Nehru to find a solution in the matter but with no success. Next Layak Ali met Sardar Patel who wrote off all claims by the Prime Minister of Hyderabad and clearly stated that there could be no separate state in the middle of an independent India.
Lord Mountbatten in his meeting with the Nizam of Hyderabad suggested that plebiscite be held in Hyderabad to clear the air over its accession. To this the Nizam replied that the relation between the subjects and the ruler of Hyderabad was an interior matter and no public referendum be held to decide upon the future of the Kingdom. On 13th June 1948 Nehru and Patel agreed to allow the State of Hyderabad special concessions, declined to other princely states. This made the Kingdom of Hyderabad autonomous with its own laws and constitutions and now could maintain an interior defence force of 20000 soldiers. Only under the situations of domestic disturbances can Indian forces enter the state of Hyderabad. Nehru and Patel were heavily criticised country wide for their weak stance against Hyderabad and were accused of favouritism.
After attaining a special status from the Indian Government it was believed that the Nizam would sign the instrument of accession but disproving all speculations the Nizam of Hyderabad declared that no other arrangement can be reached apart from complete independence of Hyderabad. A new country was to be formed in the middle of another country. Hyderabad was almost as big as present day Great Britain. Nehru had run out of options now. During a press conference Nehru announced that all negotiations with Hyderabad had fallen through. In Hyderabad Prime Minister Layak Ali threatened to take the issue to UN. Sardar Patel resting in Dehradun, due to his fragile health requested Prime Minister Nehru to take steps to resolve the matter of Hyderabad for once and all. There were no alternatives left for Pandit Nehru but military action against Hyderabad.
On 10th September 1948, Sardar Patel wrote a letter to the Nizam of Hyderabad in which he requested the Nizam of Hyderabad to accede to India for the very last time. Expectedly the Nizam refused and on 13th September 1948 the Indian Army initiated Operation Caterpillar or Operation Polo or Police Action. Indian Army attacked Hyderabad from all corners and fighting between the Razakars and the Indian army ensued for five days. On 17th September 1948 Nizam Mir Osman Ali Bahadur broadcasted his message to his people stating that he had ordered cease fire by his troops. He had also signed the Instrument of Accession and sent the same to the Governor General of India, C Rajgopalachari. After the declaration by the Nizam the Razakars surrendered to the Indian Army. After the merger of Hyderabad with India, Nizam Mir Osman Ali Bahadur was appointed the Head of State of Hyderabad. Kasim Razvi was placed under house arrest and tried under Indian laws on seditious activities and inciting communal violence. He was jailed from 1948 to 1957. He agreed to migrate to Pakistan as a condition of his release from prison, where he died in obscurity in 1970. His family had been residing there since 1949.