Junagadh was a princely state of British India, located in what is now Gujarat, outside but under the suzerainty of British India.
In the independence and partition of British India of 1947, the 552 princely states were given a choice to either join the new Dominion of India or the newly formed state of Pakistan.
The Nawab of Junagadh, Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III, a Muslim whose ancestors had ruled Junagadh and small principalities for some two hundred years, decided that Junagadh should become part of Pakistan, much to the displeasure of many of the people of the state, an overwhelming majority of whom were Hindus. The Nawab acceded to the Dominion of Pakistan on 15 September 1947, against the advice of Lord Mountbatten, arguing that Junagadh joined Pakistan by sea. The principality of Babariawad and Sheikh of Mangrol reacted by claiming independence from Junagadh and accession to India. When Pakistan accepted the Nawab's Instrument of Accession on 16 September, the Government of India was outraged that Muhammad Ali Jinnah could accept the accession of Junagadh despite his argument that Hindus and Muslims could not live as one nation. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel believed that if Junagadh was permitted to go to Pakistan, it would exacerbate the communal tension already simmering in Gujarat.
The princely state was surrounded on all of its land borders by India, with an outlet onto the Arabian Sea. The unsettled conditions in Junagadh had led to a cessation of all trade with India and the food position became precarious. With the region in crisis, the Nawab, fearing for his life, felt forced to flee to Karachi with his family and his followers, and there he established a provisional government.
Vallabhbhai Patel offered Pakistan time to reverse its acceptance of the accession and to hold a plebiscite in Junagadh. Samaldas Gandhi formed a government-in-exile, the Aarzi Hukumat (in Urdu: Aarzi: Temporary, Hukumat: Government) of the people of Junagadh. Eventually, Patel ordered the forcible annexation of Junagadh's three principalities. Junagadh's state government, facing financial collapse and lacking forces with which to resist Indian force, invited the Government of India to take control. A plebiscite was conducted in December, in which approximately 99.95% of the people chose India over Pakistan.
After the announcement by the last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, on 3 June 1947, of the intention to partition British India, the British parliament passed the Indian Independence Act 1947 on 11 July 1947. As a result, the native states were left with these choices: to accede to either of the two new dominions, the Union of India or the Dominion of Pakistan.
The Indian Government made efforts to persuade Nawab Sahab of Junagadh to accede to India, but he remained firm. The Indian minister V. P. Menon came to request an accession to India, threatening consequences in case of denial. The Nawab however decided to accede to Pakistan, and an announcement to this effect was made in the gazette of Junagadh (Dastrural Amal Sarkar Junagadh) on 15 August 1947.
Immediately after making the announcement in Dastrural Amal Sarkar Junagadh, the Jungadh government communicated to Pakistan its wish to accede, and a delegation headed by Ismail was sent to Karachi with the Instrument of Accession signed by the Nawab. The Constituent Assembly of Pakistan considered the proposal in detail and approved it. The Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as Governor General of Pakistan, counter-signed the Instrument of Accession on 15 September 1947. This was notified in the Gazette of Pakistan and Dasturul Amal, the Gazette of Junagadh, on that date.
The Instrument of Accession provided for the right of the Pakistan legislature to legislate in the areas of Defence and Communication, as well as others.
Although the territory of Junagadh was geographically not adjoining the existing Pakistan, it had a link by sea through the Veraval Port of Junagadh.
V. P. Menon, the Secretary of the States department of the Government of India, travelled to Junagadh on 17 September 1947 and met Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, the dewan (or Chief Minister) of Junagadh. Menon said he had brought a message from the Indian Government and wished to deliver it to the Nawab in person. Bhutto said he could not arrange a meeting with the Nawab as he was not feeling well. Menon expressed displeasure, but conveyed the message of the Indian Government to Bhutto, insisting that Junagadh should withdraw its accession to Pakistan. Bhutto told Menon that the accession was now complete and that according to international law only the Government of Pakistan was responsible.
Menon went to Bombay and met Samaldas Gandhi, a journalist of Rajkot who was related to Mahatma Gandhi, and others, and unfolded the scheme of "Arziee Hukumat" (Provisional Government).
On 24 September 1947, Mohandas K. Gandhi condemned the action of the Junagadh government in a prayer meeting held at Delhi.
In the meanwhile, there were exchanges between the governments of India and Pakistan. Pakistan told the Indian Government that the accession was in accordance with the Scheme of Independence announced by the outgoing British and that Junagadh was now part of Pakistan. While this exchange of correspondence was going on, India closed all its borders to Junagadh and stopped the movement of goods, transport and postal articles. In view of worsening situation, the Nawab and his family left Junagadh and arrived in Karachi on 25 October 1947.
On 27 October 1947, Bhutto, as Chief Minister of Junagadh, wrote a letter to Jinnah explaining the critical situation of the State government. As the situation worsened, he wrote again on 28 October 1947 to Ikramullah, Secretary of the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, seeking help and directions.
When all hopes for assistance from Pakistan were lost, Bhutto wrote by telegram on 1 November 1947 to Nawab Saheb at Karachi, explaining the situation and the danger to life and property, considering an armed attack was imminent. In a return telegram, the Nawab authorised Bhutto to act in the best interests of the Muslim population of Junagadh.
A meeting of the Junagadh State Council was called on 5 November to discuss the critical situation. The Council authorised Bhutto to take appropriate action. He sent Captain Harvey Johnson, a senior member of the Council of Ministers, to Rajkot to meet Indian officials.
Another meeting of the Junagadh State Council was convened on 7 November, and some prominent citizens of Junagadh state were also invited. The meeting continued till 3 o'clock in the morning and decided that instead of surrendering to the "Provisional Government", the Indian Government should be requested to take over the administration of Junagadh to protect the lives of its citizens, which were being threatened by Provisional Government forces.
On 8 November, Bhutto sent a letter to Nilam Butch, Provincial Head of the Indian Government in Rajkot, requesting him to help to restore law and order in Junagadh to prevent bloodshed. Harvey Johnson took the message to Rajkot. The head of the Indian administration telephoned V. P. Menon in Delhi and read out the letter. Menon immediately rushed to see Jawaharlal Nehru and explained the situation. After consultation with Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, the home minister and other ministers, a formal order was drafted and a notification issued announcing the take-over of Junagadh at the request of its Chief Minister. The notification promised a referendum in due course.
Bhutto left Junagadh for Karachi on the night of 8 November 1947. On 9 November, the Indian Air Force flew several sorties at low level over Junagadh.
Soon columns of Indian tanks and other vehicles carrying Indian soldiers entered Junagadh state, led by Brig. Gurdial Singh, commander of the Kathiawar defense force. The States of Nawanagar, Bhavnagar and Porbander had agreed to the request to place their State forces under the command of Gurdial Singh. All these forces were suitably deployed, their movements and manoeuvres creating a steadying effect all over Kathiawar. The Army Commander had strict orders not to violate Junagadh territory in any way. At 6 p.m. on 9 November, Captain Harvey Johnson and Chief Secretary Gheewala, a civil servant of Junagadh state, formally handed over the charge of the State to the Indian Government.
On the same day, Nehru sent a telegram to Liaquat Ali Khan about the Indian take-over of Junagadh. Khan sent a return telegram to Nehru stating that Junagadh was Pakistani territory, and nobody except the Pakistan government was authorised to invite anybody to Junagadh. He also accused the Indian Government of naked aggression on Pakistan's territory and of violating international law. The Government of Pakistan strongly opposed the Indian occupation. Nehru wrote:
In view of special circumstances pointed out by Junagadh Dewan that is the Prime Minister of Junagadh – our Regional Commissioner at Rajkot has taken temporarily charge of Junagadh administration. This has been done to avoid disorder and resulting chaos. We have, however, no desire to continue this arrangement and wish to find a speedy solution in accordance with the wishes of the people of Junagadh. We have pointed out to you previously that final decision should be made by means of referendum or plebiscite. We would be glad to discuss this question and allied matters affecting Junagadh with representatives of your Government at the earliest possible moment convenient to you. We propose to invite Nawab of Junagadh to send his representatives to this conference.
The Government of Pakistan protested, saying that the accession of the state to Pakistan was already accepted. In reply to the above telegram, the Prime Minister of Pakistan sent the following:
Your telegram informing that your Government had taken charge of Junagadh was received by me on November 10, 1947. Your action in taking over State Administration and sending Indian troops to state without any authority from Pakistan Government and indeed without our knowledge, is a clear violation of Pakistan territory and breach of International law. Indian Government’s activities on accession of Junagadh to Pakistan have all been directed to force the State to renounce accession and all kinds of weapons have been used by you to achieve this end. We consider your action in taking charge of Junagadh Administration and sending Indian troops to occupy Junagadh to be a direct act of hostility against Pakistan Dominion. We demand that you should immediately withdraw your forces, and relinquish charge of administration to the rightful ruler and stop people of Union of India from invading Junagadh and committing acts of violence.
This was the followed by a Press Statement made by the Prime Minister of Pakistan. It was communicated to Prime Minister of India on November 16, 1947 and read as follows:
In spite of the gravest provocation, we have refrained from any action which should result in armed conflict. We could with full justification and legal right could have sent our forces to Junagadh but at no time since the accession of state, was a single soldier sent by us to Junagadh and our advice throughout to the State Authorities was to exercise the greatest restraint. Manavadar, another State which had acceded to Pakistan and Mangrol and Babariawad have also been occupied by Indian troops.
Immediately after the take-over of the state, all rebel Muslim officials of the state were put behind bars.They included Ismail Abrehani, a senior minister in the Junagadh government, who had taken the instrument of Accession to Jinnah for his signature. Abrehani refused to leave Junagadh, even when he was offered in jail the option of going to Pakistan, saying that despite its occupation Junagadh was part of Pakistan according to international law and he preferred to remain. He stayed and later died in Junagadh.
A plebiscite was held on 20 February 1948, in which all but 91 out of 190,870 who voted (from an electorate of 201,457) voted to join India, i.e. 99.95% of the population voted to join India.
Junagadh became part of the Indian Saurashtra State until November 1, 1956, when Saurashtra became part of Bombay State. Bombay State was split into the linguistic states of Gujarat and Maharashtra in 1960, and Junagadh is now one of the modern districts of Saurasthra in Gujarat.