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Patel forced Nawab of Junagarh to accede to India who had spent Rs 20 lakh on dog’s marriage

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New Delhi, Oct 31: Former deputy Prime Minister and Union home minister Sardar Patel's 182-metre high statue is unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat but Sardar Patel was equally towering as his statue is who is credited with driving eccentric nawab of Junagarh out of the country. The Nawab had spent Rs 20 lakh on the wedding of his two out of 800 dogs.

Patel forced Nawab of Junagarh to accede to India who had spent Rs 20 lakh on dog’s marriage

Junagarh nawab Mahabat Khan Rasul Khanji III was an eccentric man for his excessive love for dogs with 800 of them having one human attendant. He had spent Rs 20 lakh on the wedding of one such dog and declared that day a public holiday. Shahnawaz Bhutto, His deewan, was a Muslim League politician from Karachi and father of Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto was outmaneuvered by Patel's apt handling of the situation who later vowed for a 1,000-year-long war with India.

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Patel had accomplished an arduous task of accession of 552 states to India but cases of Junagarh, Travancore, Hyderabad and Kashmir were even more difficult. Patel had done it himself immortal in the hearts of people of India. If the issue of Kashmir was ticklish so was Junagarh from where he himself belonged to which is now part of Gujarat. The Nawab had decided that Junagarh should become part of Pakistan against the wishes of a majority of the people on the advice of a newly appointed Dewan Shahnawaz Bhutto.

The Nawab acceded to the Dominion of Pakistan on August 15, 1947, against the advice of Lord Mountbatten arguing Junagarh will connect Pakistan by sea. But the decision was not communicated to the government of India. Patel offered Pakistan to reverse acceptance of the accession but reluctantly agreed to hold a plebiscite. Patel was trying to resolve the issue with the assistance of VP Menon. In Junagarh's accession to Pakistan, Patel saw the first danger sign of the possibility of India splitting up again. Meanwhile, Mountbatten made a serious attempt to play a role in Junagarh which was not in the interest of India. Mountbatten had no control over Jinnah's actions but he projected that he could use his position as Governor General in averting a war with Pakistan by binding India to three conditions: first refer Junagarh to the United Nations; second, Indian troops should not enter Junagarh, third, a plebiscite in Junagarh. But what supported India's claim was that unlike Jodhpur, Junagarh had no land contiguity with Pakistan, though it could establish a direct link with Karachi through its port of Veraval, which is 300kms away.

Rulers of Nawanagar, Bhavnagar, Morvi, Gondal, Porbandar and Wankaner turned to Sardar Patel for handling the situation after Junagarh's decision of joining Pakistan. Mountbatten's suggestion to go to the UN was rejected by Patel saying that Junagarh was not a disputed matter, but was a case of blatant interference by Pakistan. Mountbatten expected that Prime Minister J L Nehru and Gopalaswami Ayyangar would lend him their support. Patel also rejected Mountbatten's other suggestion that the Central Reserve Police and not the Indian Army should be entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with the occupation of Babariawad and Mangarol. To Patel, the suggestion meant inviting unnecessary risks; he was firm that the operation should be handled by the Indian Army.

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Mountbatten and his advisers had hoped that Patel would be satisfied with the decision on occupation of Junagarh. Mountbatten was tactfully kept in the dark and by the time he discovered what was afoot, troops were on the move.

The government took over the Junagarh on November 9, 1947. On November 13, Patel visited Junagarh with a rousing reception. He addressed a huge public meeting on the grounds of Bahauddin College by assuring people that India would abide by their wishes. It was asked from the people whether they wanted to accede to India or Pakistan. Over 10,000 hands were raised in favour of accession to India. Patel then visited the famous Somnath Temple at Prabhas Patan. He was visibly moved to find the temple in a dilapidated condition, neglected and forlorn. The resurrection of the temple to its original splendor was immediately proposed.

Eventually, Patel ordered movement of forces to Junagarh's three principalities. Soon columns of Indian tanks and other vehicles carrying Indian soldiers entered Junagarh led by Brigadier Gurdial Singh, commander of the Kathiawar defense force. States of Nawanagar, Bhavnagar and Porbander had agreed to the request to place their forces under the command of Gurdial Singh. All these forces were suitably deployed, their movements and maneuvers creating a steadying effect all over Kathiawar. During that night when Bhutto left for Pakistan and over the next day the state infantry, and cavalry were disarmed and the treasury and other valuables were sealed. Civil officers accompanied by detachments of police of troops went to important places in the state and took over control peacefully. On November 9, Captain Harvey Johnson and chief secretary Gheewala, a civil servant of Junagarh state, formally handed over the charge of the State to the Indian Government.

Junagarh lacked the resources to resist India so it invited the government to take control of the situation. As soon as the situation normalized in Junagarh, the government decided to hold a referendum. A senior judicial officer of the ICS, CB Nagarkar, who was neither Hindu nor Muslim, had been asked to supervise it which had gone in favour of India.

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