Junagadh into Pakistan was not of Nawab but of Shahnawaz Bhutto
(Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday unveiled a new political map of the country. The image shown by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also shows the Junagadh region of the Indian state of Gujarat. Which of India and Pakistan was chosen by the Nawab of Junagadh in 1947 and how did he become a part of India? This report was first published on the website of BBC Urdu on August 25, 2017.)
At the time of Partition of India, there were hundreds of states in the subcontinent where Nawabs ruled. One such state was Junagarh in the southwestern coastal region of Gujarat.
The state of Junagarh was established by the generals of the Mughal Empire, also known as Babi Nawab. These Nawabs gave large estates and financial support to the Hindu temples and monasteries of the state.
More than 80% of the population of this large and prosperous state was Hindu but the Nawab of the state had decided to merge with Pakistan unlike India. Local elders and historians of the region say that Nawab Muhammad Mahabat Khan III annexed the state to Pakistan. The decision to merge was taken under pressure from his Diwan Shahnawaz Bhutto.
Shahnawaz Bhutto was the father of former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto K and was temporarily appointed Nawab’s Diwan.
The father of 85-year-old historian Harish Shambhu Prasad Desai was the Revenue Commissioner of Nawab of Junagadh. He says people were shocked by the decision to join Pakistan. “She is OK. Because the way people knew Nawab was not communal at all. There was no reason to go to Pakistan. Geographically, Pakistan is far from here. There was no air link, it was not possible to meet Pakistan in any way. Even then, it was not acceptable for the people to make such a decision.
Harish Desai says that after the announcement of integration in Pakistan, there was no major riot in Junagarh but there was so much panic among the people that ‘there came a time when there were government employees who were old and who did not go anywhere. The whole of Junagadh became empty except for him. People in the villages had sent their families to other states.
He said that the decision to merge with Pakistan was not of Nawab but of his temporary Diwan Shahnawaz Bhutto. Bhutto had practically closed Nawab Mahabat Khan. I never met anyone after the verdict. Maharaja Digvijay of Jamnagar was a very close friend of his. When he tried to meet the Nawab, he was not allowed to do so.
Ghulam Rasool Khan Yousafzai was 15 years old at the time. “There was chaos everywhere,” he said, recalling the scene. There was an atmosphere of fear, no one went out of the house, everyone was sitting in their houses. He also said that the decision to integrate in Pakistan was not made by Nawab Mahabat Khan. The world says that (Shahnawaz) Bhutto seduced him. Bhutto took him to Pakistan. We were ignorant at that time but father and everyone say that he went to Pakistan at the request of Bhutto.
It may be recalled that Nawab Mahabat Khan, in the midst of this chaos, flew to Pakistan with his wives and children on a Dakota plane and never returned. Other members of his family also moved to Pakistan, the United States and Europe. There are only a few distant relatives and other children who have settled in different places.
The state was formally annexed to India a few months after independence and the new generation of Junagadh is happy that the region could not join Pakistan.
Chirag Vinod Bhai Thakrar says, “If Junagarh had gone to Pakistan, the cultural heritage here would have been wiped out.” There are 2,000-year-old Buddhist caves, ancient pillars of Emperor Ashoka, and the sacred Sudarshan Pond. It would all be over.
Shaista Khokhar, a young law lecturer, is also happy to be in India. “We hear about Pakistan, how many restrictions there are on girls. If we were there, we wouldn’t be able to do as much as we can here.
The decision to go with Pakistan at the time of independence never had a negative effect on the relations between Hindus and Muslims.
“No one here thinks that the decision was made by a Hindu or a Muslim,” says Chirag. Hindus and Muslims lived side by side even before independence and this is the culture even today. Junagarh is a collection of Hindu-Muslim culture.
Local journalist Hanif Khokhar says that people here think that the decision to integrate into Pakistan was wrong and that it was not the decision of Nawab Mahabat Khan. Even today, people say that if the Nawab had stayed here, he would have lived with great respect. These incidents have no negative impact on today’s generation.
Junagadh is now a major tourist destination in Gujarat. Nawab’s palaces, guesthouses and Shahnawaz Bhutto’s residences have now been converted into museums and government offices.
Indigenous peoples are proud of their pre-partition common heritage. Beautiful mausoleums and magnificent buildings in various places give a glimpse of the prosperity and splendor of Junagadh.
These beautiful buildings and mausoleums of the past are reminiscent of the Nawabs and history here, but the memories of the announcement of the annexation of Junagadh from Pakistan seven decades after the partition of India are now lost somewhere in history.