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After 72 Years & 91 Votes – Why Is Pakistan Again Claiming Junagadh?

Junagadh was a part of the Kathiawar region along with other princely states that had already acceded to India. However, on August 15, 1947, to everyone’s surprise, Junagadh’s Nawab, Mahabatkhan Rasulkhanji decided to accede to Pakistan even though he had earlier given the impression that the future of his state lies in joining India.

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Pakistan has once again laid claim in the coastal region of Junagadh in Gujarat even after suffering a massive defeat during the 1948 plebiscite that formalised the accession of Junagadh into India.

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As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan unveiled a new map on the one year anniversary of the scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. The map includes all of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Sir Creek and Junagadh as a territory of Pakistan.

India rejected Pakistan’s move as “an exercise in political absurdity”, saying it was laying untenable claims to territories in the Indian state of Gujarat and “our Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh”.

Analysts believe that the inclusion of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh is possibly a ‘tit for tat’ response for India’s inclusion of Pakistan controlled Kashmir as part of the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, and of Gilgit Baltistan, as part of Ladakh in the new map, that the government released last year after the reorganisation of the state.

The inclusion of Junagadh whose decision to join India was formalised through a plebiscite in 1948, was not accepted by Pakistan then. After the initial resistance, Junagadh has never been a major issue between the two neighbouring nations until now, unlike Jammu and Kashmir.

Junagadh’s Accession To India

Junagadh was a part of the Kathiawar region along with other princely states that had already acceded to India. However, on August 15, 1947, to everyone’s surprise, Junagadh’s Nawab, Mahabatkhan Rasulkhanji decided to accede to Pakistan even though he had earlier given the impression that the future of his state lies in joining India.

Apparently, the decision to accede to Pakistan was taken under the influence of a Muslim Leaguer from Karachi, Shah Nawaz Bhutto (his son Zulfikar Ali Bhutto later served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan), who took charge of Dewan-ship of the state in May of the same year.

“Junagadh was an economic and administrative unit embedded in and deriving its sustenance from Kathiawar. Its detachment would turn it into a hothouse plant with no powers of survival. What worried me most were the immediate potentialities for turmoil when stability was the crying need of the hour. The Nawab’s action would have undesirable effects on law and order in Kathiawar as a whole. It would extend the communal trouble to areas where at present there was peace. There was also the fear that it would encourage the intractable elements in Hyderabad,” wrote V.P. Menon in his book ‘The Story of Integration of the Indian States (1956)’. Menon served as the Secretary to the Government of India.

He revealed that Pakistan didn’t respond to Jawaharlal Nehru’s letter “to accept and abide by the verdict of the people of Junagadh in respect of the accession of the State to either of the Dominions”.

Due to this, India initiated military action by deploying troops around the state, in an effective blockade. The Nawab of Junagadh fled to Karachi along with his family and all of the state’s treasury.

Following this, Bhutto wrote to Muhammad Ali Jinnah about the situation in Junagadh – no money, no food. He wrote in the letter that even the Muslims in Kathiawar were not interested in the promise that Junagadh’s accession to Pakistan had initially held.

Bhutto then held talks with Samaldas Gandhi, head of the Arzi Hukumat, a parallel government which was formed in Mumbai to take over after the Nawab fled. Bhutto requested Samaldas Gandhi to take over the administration and restore law and order. However, a day later he approached the Government of India to directly take over the administration of Junagadh.

Pakistan termed this a “direct act of hostility” by India. India responded saying that it had to step in to restore law and order and prevent a complete breakdown of the administration. It was done at the request of the Dewan of Junagadh who was acting on behalf of the Nawab who earlier fled to Pakistan.

The arrangement was then formalised by conducting a plebiscite held on February 20, 1948. Of 2,01,457 registered voters, 1,90,870 cast their votes and Pakistan suffered a massive defeat with only 91 votes in favour of accession to Pakistan. A referendum was also held in five neighbouring territories. Out of 31,434 votes cast in these areas, only 39 were for accession to Pakistan.

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