Sunday, April 23, 2006

Indian History Trivia (1): The Story of Junagadh

[NOTE:The reason for this post (and hopefully, some more to come):

... as history moves, many insightfully delightful trivia of history get buried under a simplified black-n-white version of the historical experience.

The popularity of the simplified version is because it is uncomplicated and clearly distinguishes the "good" from the "bad" - and therefore, is very convenient for the MSM and the 0/1-binary thinkers (which inhabit the MSM, ideologue community and even the blogosphere).

History, on the other hand, is primarily amoral, and has a tendency of punching holes in the contemporary zeitgeist...

So here goes the "first installment" of this series - based on "facts" as I know them: just a story often not told/known... and no ideological implications
:]

While we often say that India got its independence from the British on August 15, 1947, actually, the British never ever ruled the entire India as we know it now - at least not technically.

There was one part which was the British India (Direct Rule), and there was the other part consisting of 562 Princely States, covering roughly 40% of land-mass of what we now call India (Indirect Rule). About 100+ of these Princely States were quite large, e.g., Travancore, Hyderabad, Baroda, Mysore, Kashmir, etc., while many were small "jagirdaris"...



While the British India was governed by the British Parliament, there was a separate political arrangements with the princes, and it came under something/somebody called "Chancellor of Indian Princes".

In early 1947, when England decided to free India, the British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act (in June 1947, which marked the foundation of two separate nations - India and Pakistan).

However, this Act did not apply to the Princely States. The freedom to these states was given by a separate Cabinet Memorendum, which declared that the British Government will cease to have any political or defense arrangements ("Power of Paramountcy") with the Princely States. The memorendum was clear that the Princely States were free to decide to either join India or Pakistan before August 1947 - or devise their own sovereign political system for self-governance.

Most of the Princely States were small and decided to join either India or Pakistan before independence (in return for a promise that the government will maintain their Princely perquisites, which finally got abolished in 1970-71).

There were, however, three exceptions:
  • Hyderabad (which had a population of around 1.4cr, with a muslim Nizam and around 80% hindu population): the Nizam of Hyderabad either wanted to remain sovereign (and become a part of the British Commonwealth), or join Pakistan (which would have made an interesting map of Pakistan;)... Anyway, the state was annexed by India.

  • Kashmir (with a hindu Maharaja and a muslim majority in the population, and, to make thing more complicated, an adjoining borders with Pakistan): There is a confusion about whether the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, ever signed the letter of accesion with India or not - he had not done that till India and Pakistan became independent in August 1947. Some records say that he wanted to be a part of India, but by then the situation had gone out of hand, and Indian army landed to curb the infilteration... etc. etc... but that remains a murky, messy situation... Even now!

    ...and Junagadh

    Junagadh was an interesting case:

    The Nawab of Junagadh was a muslim, with a large hindu population. Geographically, it was a peculiar piece of the jigsaw in what were to become the two nations of India and Pakistan. It was a state in erswhile Saurashtra, surrounded by the hindu Kathiawad regions (which had acceded to India) on three sides, and facing the Arabian Sea on the fourth.

    The Nawab, however, decided to join Pakistan, which predictably did not go very well with the local populace, and they revolted. The neighbouring states also added to pressure by creating blckade ("chakka jam") to any grains, vegetables, or material from reaching Junagadh.

    As the revolt grew, the Nawab fled to Pakistan along with his family, taking almost all state treasury with him, and leaving his Deewan (Prime Minister) to manage the affairs.

    The Deewan of Junagadh did the best that he could have done to bring the situation to normalcy. The situation continued to worsen. The newly formed Pakistan was still dealing its own issues to extend help to a distant Junagadh... and finally the Deewan wrote to Jinnah that since Pakistan was not been able to help Junagadh, and the situation was worsening, he would be handing over Junagadh to Indian government - which he did around Octover 47, through a letter to the Regional Commisioner of Saurashtra, Mr Buch.

    A few months later a plebicite was held in which more than 190,000 voted to be a part of India, while only 91 favoured to be a part of Pakistan (Pakistan contested the results, and Indian government upheld it... as one would have anticipated)

    But here is the somewhat poetic twist to the story:

    The Deewan of Junagadh was a person called Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto. His son, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, grew up to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan (was executed by Zia-hl-Haq in 1977)... And his grand-daughter, Benazir Bhutto served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan twice in the late 80s and the 90s.

  • 4 comments:

    Diganta said...

    I read the story in Wikipedia as well, nice one.

    Vivek said...

    Hari Singh in fact did sign 'accession to India', after the Pakistani tribals attacked Kashmir and over-ran most of the state.

    Facts need to be ascertained before publishing History, otherwise it shall just be 'fable agree upon'

    Madhukar said...

    Vivek,
    In a way all history is a "fable agreed upon" by a set of people;)

    Yes, one version is that Hari Singh signed the accession on October 26th. The other doubts the authenticity of the document. Yet another, the very fact that he signed it... etc. That's why I had only written that there is confusion about the issue.

    Anirudh Patil said...

    That was a very interesting piece of information..

    About Kashmir, whether Hari Singh signed the treaty or not is debatable. But it is very clear that he was quite reluctant to join India. It was only when the Pakistani's infiltrated Kashmir that he "signed the treaty".