“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. This was a moment that which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to new, when an age ends, and when soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance…” Tryst with destiny
The speech, rich in emotion and rhetoric has been widely quoted since that night and continues to remain one of the most touchy ones till date.
Currently I’m reading Ramachandra Guha‘s “India after Gandhi – The History of the World’s Largest Democracy“. I must admit, this is so interesting a read that I wanted to write few excerpts from the book pertaining to the drama that followed after Independence in relation with the making India as one dominion.
Many accounts have been written on what happened just before and after 15th August, 1947. But very few book account the details how India who, in pre British Raj, was an amalgamation of some 550 princely state came together as ONE. Many historians, academicians and political theorist had one question in mind, ” Even if India wins freedom, how long will they able to sustain it?” and “Will the disintegration of India shall stop with Indo-Pak division?” These questions have troubled many of them as and when India and the Indians continued to believe in the ideals of democracy. For the India stood for exception to their rules. The book deals in detail about the incident that followed independence day. The efforts of iron man of India, Sardar Patel, and V P Menon in bringing some 564 princely states under one banner is exemplary.
Particular references have been made for states such as Travancore, Bhopal, Junagadh and Hyderabad and a separate chapter on Kashmir.
However theres is something special about Junagadh (which in my opinion is responsible to some extent to the crisis in Kashmir).
Curious Case of Junagadh
(The writing that follows is my interpretation of the story of Junagadh from the book, Read it at your own Risk 😉 )
Junagadh, one of the few states that had not signed up by 15th August, had a muslim nawab ruling over mainly hindu populace. So according to Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s “Two Nation Theory”, Junagadh having 82% of hindu population had to accede to Indian dominion. However the Nawab of Junagadh advised by its minister announced accession to Pakistan. Pakistan pondered over this issue for few weeks then finally assented to the accession. [This be known that while C P Ramaswamy, the then Dewan of Travancore, had declared Independence of Travancore, Jinnah had welcomed it.]
“It seems to have done this in the belief that it could then use Junagadh as a bargaining counter to secure Jammu and Kashmir. That state too had not acceded to either dominion by 15th August. It had Hindu Maharaja and a majority Muslim population: in structural terms, It was Junagadh in Reverse.”
The accession to Pakistan had enraged Indian leaders. Within few weeks of accession to Pakistan people of Junagadh revolted against nawab. He fled to Karachi and left Junagadh in the hands of his ministers. Sir Shah Nawaz the then Dewan of Junagadh wrote to Muhammad Ali Jinnah that, after immediate accession a number of congratulations poured in, but when situation is grim, Pakistan and muslim brethren are indifferent and cold. Muslim of Kathiawar had lost all their enthusiasm for Pakistan. Finally after long drama, Sir Shah Nawaz handed over the administration to Indian Government.
While all this was happening, Indian delegation met Jinnah on junagadh issue. Jinnah’s response was that the matter of accession is of Nawab that holds a plebiscite or public opinion is inconsequential.
While Nehru always wanted Kashmir to be part of India, Patel was at one time inclined to allow the state to join Pakistan. His mind changed on September 13, the day the Pakistan Govt. accepted the accession of Junagadh. For “if Jinnah could take hold of a Hindu-majority state with muslim ruler, why should the Sardar not be interested in a Muslim majority state with a hindu Ruler”
What followed is known to all…