Of Jinnah and Junagadh

Print edition : October 13, 2001

Jinnah Papers: Pakistan: Pangs of Birth 15 August-30 September 1947; first series, Volume V; editor-in-chief Z. H. Zaidi; Quaid-e-Azam Papers Project, Cabinet Division, Government of Pakistan; distributed by Oxford University Press; pages 725; Rs.950.

This is the second and concluding part of the article.

IN New Delhi the only issue was when and how to move in. The Governor-General, Mountbatten, reported to the King: "A Cabinet meeting to consider the Junagadh situation summoned for 5 p.m. on 17th September. I was informed that the members of the Cabinet had, prior to this meeting, decided among themselves that military action was the only answer." He sent for Nehru and Patel and persuaded them "to take no decision which the world could interpret as putting India in the wrong and Pakistan in the right, and that all the resources of negotiation should first be exhausted" (H.V. Hodson; The Great Divide; p. 431).

A second track was set afoot, however, with Patel's blessings. V.P. Menon, Secretary to the Ministry of States, and N.M. Buch, Government's Regional Commissioner at Rajkot, along with military officers, discussed the situation with local politicians. U.N. Dhebar, later Congress president, reported to Patel on September 21, setting out the agreed strategy - a proclamation denouncing the Nawab of Junagadh and appointing a provisional government. "The Manifesto or Proclamation will be drawn upon American lines." The headquarters of the government "will be on Indian soil. As we acquire Junagadh territories, Government will shift there. We shall receive moral and material support. We will hold the meeting in course of the next week in Bombay. We shall send draft proclamation tomorrow" (Sardar's Letters Mostly Unknown; Vol. 2, pages 75-76).

Jinnah complained to Mountbatten about Indian troop movements in the region (September 18). Mountbatten's reply (September 22) reiterated India's position denying "information about large troop concentrations around Junagadh." He said: "Pakistan Government unilaterally proceeded to action which, it was made plain, Government of India could never and do not acquiesce in. Acceptance of accession to Pakistan cannot but be regarded by the Government of India as an encroachment on Indian sovereignty and inconsistent with friendly relations that should exist between the two Dominions. This action of Pakistan is considered by the Government of India to be a clear attempt to cause disruption by extending the influence and boundaries of the Dominion of Pakistan in utter violation of the Principles on which partition was agreed upon and effected''. None could doubt "the Principles" he was hinting at. He asked Pakistan to reconsider (that is, nullify) the accession or face "responsibility of consequences". He repeated Nehru's offer - "accept the verdict of the people of Junagadh in the matter of accession, the plebiscite being carried out under joint supervision of Indian and Junagadh governments"; effectively, under India's since the decrepit regime of Junagadh could hardly perform (page 608). It was a demand for surrender. Pakistan had no cards to play. India held them securely in its hands and decided to play them to a decisive conclusion.

September 25 was a fateful day. The Ministry of States issued a detailed press note complaining that Pakistan had accepted the accession "without any warning" (Sardar's Letters, page 80). In Bombay on that day, a Provisional Government of Free Junagadh was set up with Samaldas Gandhi as its president. Narendra P. Nathwani, later a High Court Judge, was one of its members. K.M. Munshi, who was close to Patel, drafted the "Declaration by the Subjects of Junadagh State" (vide K.M. Munshi; Somanatha: The Shrine Eternal; pages 68-9 for the text). Pakistan had accepted the accession "in disregard of such declared wishes and in defiance of all natural ties which bind the people of Junagadh (82 per cent of whom are non-Muslims) to the people of Kathiawar and to the Dominion of India and in breach of the understanding on the basis of which certain parts of India were allowed to secede and form into a separate State of Pakistan; namely that only contiguous areas predominantly inhabited by Muslims were to be included into the Dominion of Pakistan with the free and willing consent of the people inhabiting those areas."

Munshi recorded: "The Provisional Government of Junagadh moved to Saurashtra and took possession of the Junagadh House at Rajkot. Young men from all over Saurashtra flocked to its banner of freedom. Large sums of money flowed in, volunteers were armed and trained. On the Dessehra Day, the "Day of Victory" - October 24, 1947 - the volunteers of the Provisional Government began their operations. People rose against the Nawab's rule in several parts of Junagadh."

Did Jinnah and Liaquat follow contradictory policies? For Liaquat asked Mountbatten's Chief of Staff Ismay in Karachi: "Why, if it was suggested that a referendum should be held in Junagadh one should not be held in Kashmir?" This was discussed by the Indian Cabinet on September 22. Ismay was of the opinion that "one of the main objects of the Pakistan Government was to use Junagadh as a bargaining counter for Kashmir" (Hodson, page 432).

Liaquat and Nehru met in New Delhi on October 1 under Mountbatten's auspices. He reiterated the commitment to the democratic principle: "Nehru nodded his head sadly. Liaquat Ali Khan's eyes sparkled. There is no doubt that both of them were thinking of Kashmir." Nehru took Patel into confidence on September 25: "We are already considering the possibility of military action" (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru; Second Series; Vol. 4, page 425).

V.P. Menon records that on October 4, the Government of India considered the Junagadh situation: "It was decided to inform the Prime Minister of Pakistan that the only basis on which friendly negotiations could start and be fruitful was the reversion of Junagadh to the status quo preceding the accession of Junagadh to Pakistan and that the alternative to negotiations was a plebiscite.'' So much for the sanctity of the Instrument of Accession.

In a statement on October 5, 1947, the Government of India said: "Any decision involving the fate of large numbers of people must necessarily depend on the wishes of these people. This is the policy which the Government of India accept in its entirety and they are of the opinion that a dispute involving the fate of the people of any territory should be decided by a referendum or plebiscite of the people concerned. This is a method at once democratic, peaceful and just. They suggest, therefore, that the issues regarding Junagadh should be decided by a referendum or plebiscite of the people of the State. Such a referendum or plebiscite should be held under impartial auspices to be determined by the parties concerned."

Two days later, the Government of Pakistan issued a statement setting out its views on the accession of Junagadh. The statement suggested the withdrawal of troops by the Government of India from Sardargarh and Batva and by Junagadh from Babariawad: "The Pakistan Government have also informed the Government of India of their willingness to discuss the conditions and circumstances in which a plebiscite should be taken by any State or States.'' Why did Jinnah not affirm this on November 1?

Unable to bear the pressures, Shah Nawaz Bhutto pleaded with Jinnah, on October 27, urging that "you immediately arrange for a conference of the representatives of the two Dominions to decide the Junagadh issue." On November 5, the Junagadh State Council decided on "a complete reorientation of the State policy... even if it involves a reversal of the earlier decision to accede to Pakistan" (Hodson; p. 438). The Dewan was authorised to negotiate.

Bhutto cashed the blank cheque by opening negotiations with Samaldas Gandhi on November 7 through Capt. Harvey Jones, Senior Member of the Junagadh State Council, asking him to take over the State's administration. It was decided, however, to hand over the State to the Government of India instead. On November 8, Bhutto wrote to Buch on these lines (V.P. Menon, Integration of Indian States; page 137). On November 9, the Indian Army moved into Junagadh. Nehru formally informed Liaquat about the move. Admiral Satyindra Singh has recorded the Navy's plans "to land the Indian Army for the Junagadh operations - Exercise Peace as it was called" (The Statesman; September 21, 1997). On December 8, at a meeting with Liaquat in New Delhi, as Mountbatten recorded: "Pandit Nehru, while openly admitting that India had been in some ways in the wrong about Junagadh, claimed that the parallel with Kashmir was not tenable because of the vast differences in scale between the two" (SWJN; Vol.4, page 362).

Both Nehru and Mountbatten realised now what India was up against. "The fact is that Kashmir is of the utmost vital significance to India as well as to Pakistan. There lies the rub," Nehru wrote to Sri Prakasa, High Commissioner to Pakistan. Earlier he had dismissed Pakistan's interest in Kashmir and began doing just that later. New Delhi sticks to this stand even in 2001, rendering compromise impossible. Nehru admitted: "Kashmir is going to be a drain on our resources, but it is going to be a greater drain on Pakistan. In a military sense we are stronger.'' India could not quit. "Kashmir gives us an example of communal unity and cooperation. This has had a healthy effect in India and any weakening in Kashmir by us would create a far more difficult communal situation in India" (SWJN; Vol. 4; pages 346-7). Nehru lived to see the situation in Kashmir deteriorate to a point where Jan Sangh leader S.P. Mookerjee could exploit it in 1952-53 to whip up communalism. Things have worsened since. The "drain" on resources continues.

Mountbatten told both Nehru and Liaquat on December 8 that "the whole future welfare of India depended on an agreement over Kashmir between the two Dominions. The effect that such an agreement would have on world opinion would also be very great" (ibid; p. 361). But, Sir Chimanlal Setalvad had foreseen it all even as the events had begun to unfold. In a letter to The Times of India (October 3, 1947) he wrote: "Many of those who are enthusing over the activities of the so-called 'Provisional Government' of Junagadh do not seem to realise the dangerous consequences that are likely to follow from what is happening. The Junagadh Government has acted unwisely in acceding to Pakistan, ignoring geographical considerations and the wishes of its subjects, but that affords no justification for what is being done. The 'Provisional Government' was formed and functioned for some days in Bombay with the avowed object of overthrowing by force the established Government in Junagadh."

He renewed his plea after the Kashmir crisis erupted. "Pandit Nehru in his broadcast has rightly asked the Pakistan Government how and why the invaders of Kashmir came across the Frontier Province or West Punjab, and how they came to be fully armed. He charges the Pakistan Government with violation of international law and an unfriendly act towards India. He alleges that the Pakistan Government was either too weak to prevent the invaders of Kashmir from marching across its territory or that it was willing that this should happen. Exactly the same poser can be put to the Indian Dominion with regard to Junagadh" (The Times of India; November 3, 1947).

The Government of India held a plebiscite in Junagadh as well as five of its erstwhile feudatories on February 20, 1948. It was conducted by an ICS officer C.B. Nagarkar. Out of an electorate of 2,01,457, 1,90,870 cast their votes. Only 91 voted for Pakistan. Of the 31,434 votes cast in the five princeling areas, only 39 voted for accession to Pakistan (Menon; page 142). The result would not have been different even if the U.N. had conducted this plebiscite.

But it puts paid to the debating ploys about "no self-determination for a part of the nation" and "the core of nationalism". Junagadh was quintessentially Indian. Negotiations on plebiscite in Kashmir came to a naught because for five years (1949-53) Nehru would not yield on the powers of the Abdullah government or on the strength of Indian forces in the State. Their presence was not in issue. He then proceeded to argue that efflux of time had rendered the accord on plebiscite obsolete.

Pakistan's aggression in 1965 extinguished the option of plebiscite. But its grievances of old persist. Thanks to India's policies, the alienation of Kashmiris has deepened. Time has not extinguished the "Kashmir dispute". None in the wide world believes it has.

Today, in 2001, India needs seriously to grapple with the problem of forging a sound and realistic foreign policy in a democracy so that it can craft a Kashmir solution which does not entail the State's secession - yet goes beyond the Line of Control. India cannot countenance the former; Pakistan cannot, the latter. Therein lies a challenge to diplomatic creativity.

The Volume gives glimpses of Jinnah's remarkable personality. A man of sterling integrity, courage and sharp and cold intelligence, he stumbled badly in the hour of triumph and left the State he had created a heritage it could have well done without. Nehru did likewise.

While respecting their memory, we need to learn from their mistakes in order to chart a new course. Recall the murky record, we must. For, as George F. Kennan wrote: "When the ambivalence of one's virtue is recognised, the total inequity of one's opponent is also irreparably impaired" (Russia and the West; p. 372). This applies to both sides - and Junagadh remains a dark chapter which neither wishes to recall.

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