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.
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: