The Nawab of Junagadh, Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Babi was from the Babai community of Pashtun descent. Pashtun or Pakhtun tribe residing primarily in the region lying between the Hindu Kush in northeastern Afghanistan, north of the Indus River in present day Pakistan. Babi dynasty ruled Junagadh in western India since 1730.
Known for his extravagance the last Babi Nawab was so fond of his 800 dogs that he had spent Rs.20 lacs in those days for – marriage of two of them. If the Nawab could not see the writing on the wall and chose to accede the dominions of Junagadh with the newly formed Pakistan, one can only blame his eccentricity. Lest we forget, Junagadh lies in the Saurashtra peninsula of Gujarat in western India.
It so happened that at the time of Indian independence in August 1947, all of the princely states had to make a choice to accede to either of the two dominions of India or Pakistan.
The Nawab spent the summer of 1947 holidaying in Europe. In his absence, his dewan, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, father of Zulfikar Bhutto and Grandfather of Benazir Bhutto was running the show. Zulfikar and his daughter, both became Prime Ministers of Independent Pakistan later on. Upon his return, the Nawab made the decision to accede to Pakistan on 11 August 1947.
However, his vassal states Babariyawad and Mangol decided to be with India. The Nawab did not approve of this accession and prevailed upon Sheikh of Mangol to renounce his accession to India and sent his troops to occupy the Babariawad.
The Home Minister and the architect of unification of India, Sardar Patel naturally saw this as an aggression upon the State and called for immediate military response though Jawaharlal Nehru ensured to first establish the validity of accession of principality of Babariawad to India. Once satisfied about the authenticity, a telegram was sent to vacate Babariawad. Orders were given to Indian Army to go to Babariawad and get the territories in India’s possession.
With predominantly Hindu population, public in Junagadh and other places started to manifest it’s discontentment with the decision of Nawab Ultimately, people from Saurashtra, especially Junagadh proclaimed to “liberate” Junagadh from the Nawab’s regime by establishing government-in-exile, the Aarzi Hukumat (in Urdu: Aarzi: Temporary, Hukumat: Government) under the leadership of Samaldas Gandhi, son of Gandhi ji’s elder brother Laxmidas alias Kalidas.
The Indian Army finally captured Babariawad in November 1947 leading to the integration of Junagadh into the Union of India. Needless to say, the Nawab had to make a hasty retreat from Babariawad and Mangrol and in October, 1947 had to flee to Karachi with his family and dogs to Pakistan.
On November 8, 1947, after signing some important documents at his office, Shahnawaz Bhutto whose office had become the hotbed of politics during those turbulent days, also left Junagadh, never to return again. The next day, British political agent Captain Harve Jones handed over Junagadh to the Union of India. Thus Junagadh became part of India.
One may thank the Nawab for one thing though, the present day Gir National Park lies on the personal hunting grounds of dog loving Nawab. He did some pioneering work in Lion conservation which saved India’s lions from certain extinction, just like Nawabs of Junagadh.