Monday, 20 July 2020

131 - The Disputed States III: Junagadh

At the time of independence, as I have mentioned in my previous two posts, the issue of accession of hundreds of princely states to India or Pakistan, was very important and gave considerable trouble to both countries. In the previous two posts, I discussed some aspects of Jammu & Kashmir and Hyderabad states. In this post, I shall write about Junagadh. Prior to the independence of India in 1947, Junagadh was a princely state in the Kathiawar region of the present day state of Gujarat, on the coast of the Arabian Sea. Its foundations were laid down in 1654 by Sher Khan Babi, and his descendants ruled this state for the next three centuries. It occupied an area of 8,643 Km2 and according to the census of 1941 had a population of 671,000 of which 128,000 were Muslims i.e. 19% of the total population.

In 1947 its ruler was Sir Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji, (1900 – 1959). He is famous for his love for animals particularly dogs. He also worked for the conservation of the wildlife and established Gir Forest protected sanctuary for the endangered Indian lions. 

    Junagadh and other Muslim princely states in Kathiawar. 

At the time of independence, the Nawab decided to accede to Pakistan and the government of Pakistan accepted his request for accession on the 13th of September, 1947. Now there were many problems in the way of full integration of the state into Pakistan. The biggest hurdle was obviously the majority Hindu population of the state, who were almost 81% of the total population and no amount of persuasion could have convinced them to join Pakistan. The second problem was its geography, as it lied almost 300 kilometers away from the Pakistani border, deep inside India. Though it was accessible by sea but definitely that was not enough in the given circumstances. 

Junagadh and other Muslim princely states in India.

As can be expected, the decision of the Nawab stirred unrest among the Hindu population of the state and many concerns in the Indian government. India being in a much stronger position than Pakistan, brushed aside the legal niceties and intervened with force and took the state under its control in late October 1948. A plebiscite was held on 20 February, 1948, with the following results:

Out of 201,457 registered voters, 190,870 exercised their franchise. Of this number only 91 voted for Pakistan. There was a separate but simultaneous poll in Manavadar, Mangrol, Babariawad and two other feudatories. Out of 31,434 votes cast in these areas, only 39 were for Pakistan.

Now the question is, is the issue still alive? I don't think so. I Never heard any statement in this regard. So we can say that it is a forgotten and dead issue. But interestingly there is one institute in Pakistan that is keeping this issue alive and that is Survey of Pakistan. They still publish maps showing Junagadh as a part of Pakistan. 

A map of Pakistan, published by Survey of Pakistan, showing the Junagadh as part of Pakistan. 

As I expressed earlier, I wish that like the division of Punjab and Bengal, both sides could have agreed to a clear formula about the accession of the princely states as well. I am sure that by a little effort all the subsequent conflicts, which are plaguing us even today, could have been avoided. 

Tariq Amir
Doha- Qatar
July 20, 2020.


  1. Hi sir. Thank you for this project it's very interesting to learn all of this. Please could you send me links to tehsil level census records from 194 if you have any? - RV

    1. Dear RV, sorry I do not have details of Junagadh at tehsil level.

  2. The way things turned out, i think the best would have been to do the following:

    1. Kashmir should have acceded to pakistan but Maharaja should have been alowed to keep the non muslim majority Jammu and Laddakh in india
    2. All the hindus from pakistan, bangladesh and kashmir should have been exchanged for equal number of muslims in india which would have reduced the muslims in india by 10 million in 1951 (there were 9.8 million hindus in pakistan and Bangladesh and 35.4 million muslims in india (including 2.3 million muslims in kashmir) . this means that after the above 2 steps the muslim population would have gone down to 23.3 million.
    3. Hyderabad had a population of 17.5 million in 1951 meaning that the state was large enough to accomodate most of the muslims of rest of india however in order to not hit the marathi, telugu and kannada hindus , the state should have been split up with only Bidar, Nander, Gulbarga, Atraf - e - Baladia , Medak Hyderabad and Nizamabad remaining in Hyderabad state while the rest of the state going to india. This would have been large enough to accomodate the muslism of central and most of south india . in lieu of this, the Bareilly division of UP should have been given to the nizam so that the muslims of northern india esp Delhi and UP could have been accomodated there. For sure this would have split hyderabad geographically but on the other hand it would have allowed india to get a better deal in terms of area as barelly division has more or less same population as the areas i proposed to be given to india but its area is much smaller then what india was getting from hyderabad state thus giving some comfort to india.
    4. In order for hyderabad to have a port, the muslim majority region of south malabar (calicut and malappapuram dist ) should have been given to hyderabad and this would have accomodated the rest of the muslims of south esp kerala region.
    5. Bangladesh, pakistan and Hyderbad should have been separate countries from day one while hyderabad would have included 3 non contigious regions of Bareilly division, malabar and remaining portion of old hyderabad state.
    6. rest of the small muslim ruled states like Bhopal, Junagadhm Janjira etc should have remained in india and india in return shoudl have allowed their muslim population to remain as well .

    All this would have more or less taken care of population transfers. i. india and pakistan would have had good relations with each other after a mutually decided partition and population transfers
    ii. Pakistna and Bangladesh woudl have been friendly as well as they would have avoided the 1971 debacle
    iii. muslims of india woudl have also gotten a homleand for them in the form of hyderabad
    iv. the sindhi muhajir issue in sindh would have not been there as the muslims of UP , Delhi CP etc (whih form the backbone of muhajir community) would have been living happily in hyderabad state along with their fellow co ethnists.
    v. issue of divided families betwen india and pakistan and Bangladesh and the persecution of hindus in pakistan wouldnt have existed.

    1. You have given very interesting details of your plan. I feel it would have too complicated to implement and most of the people would not have agreed to it. Voluntary migration of people is always a difficult thing to accomplish.

    2. I understand but something had to be done for the huge Muslim population left out in India. It was impossible for Pakistan and Bangladesh to accommodate all of them hence such a territorial adjustment was necessary. The issue with India's partition was that it looked only at the majority leaving the minorities (who needed the actual protection) at the mercy of the majority and we can see that it is hurting the minorities in India Pakistan and Bangladesh . Nobody thought about the minorities .

    3. Good point. What solution could have you suggested?