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Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III

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Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III

Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji (2 August 1900 - 7 November 1959) was the last ruling Nawab of Junagadh of the princely state of Junagadh in British India from 1911 to 1947. Famed for his extravagant lifestyle and his love of dogs, his decision to accede Junagadh to the Dominion of Pakistan following India's Independence led to the Indian Army taking military action. He is credited with pioneering a conservation effort that saved the world's last few Asiatic Lions from almost certain extinction.

Early life

Nawabzada Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III was born on 2 August 1900 at Junagadh, the fourth son of HH Nawab Sir Muhammad Rasul Khanji, GCSI (1858–1911; r. 1892-1911). As the fourth son, Mahabat was not expected to succeed to the musnaid of Junagadh; however, following the death of his three elder brothers by the time he was eight, he was made heir apparent, and succeeded his father upon his death in 1911. Mahabat was educated at Mayo College, and ruled under a regency until his formal accession on 31 March 1920. The following year, he was raised to a 15-gun personal and local gun salute; in 1926, he was knighted.

The Animal-loving Nawab of Junagadh

As Nawab, Mahabat Khanji was known for his love of animals, particularly dogs. At one point, he owned over 300 of them and is known to have spent several thousand rupees on grand birthday and 'marriage' parties of his favourite dogs.[1] However, Mahabat Khanji's love for animals also extended to the regional wildlife, particularly the Asiatic lion, which at the time was on the verge of extinction. The Nawab helped to forestall this by preserving vast tracts of the Gir forest in order to provide the lions with a stable habitat. He was also interested in animal husbandry, and his efforts in the field served to greatly improve the breeding stock of the local Kathiawadi stallions and of the Gir cows.

During his reign, the Nawab oversaw the opening of the Willingdon Dam, the construction of the Bahadur Khanji library (named after his ancestor, the first Nawab) and the opening of the Mahabat Khan College.

The Accession Conflict

At the time of Indian independence in 1947, all of the princely states were ordered to accede to either of the two dominions of India or Pakistan. Although by August 15, 1947, most of these states had chosen to accede to India, Junagadh's nawab, Mahabat Khan decided to merge his state with Pakistan.

Junagadh's population was predominantly Hindu, with the Muslim population accounting for only about a fifth of the its total population. The Nawab decided to accede to Pakistan on 15 August 1947, although the state was surrounded by India on three sides. There was no land border with Pakistan. With Pakistan's acceptance of Junagadh's accession on 13 September, the Indian government took drastic action, inducing two of the Nawab's vassals to accede to India for recognition as independent states. Mahabat Khanji, his family (including his dogs), and his prime minister, Shah Nawaz Bhutto, fled by plane to Pakistan on 24 October, never to return. Bhutto wrote to Samaldas Gandhi, leader of the Arzi Hukumat (or government in exile) to take over Junagadh.

The Indian Army then took Junagadh on 9 November, installed a new state governor, and called for a public referendum on the status of the state. The referendum, arranged by the Indian government, was held on 20 February 1948; of over 200,000 people who voted, 99 percent chose India and the rest chose Pakistan. The following year, on 20 January 1949, Junagadh was merged into the new Indian state of Saurashtra.

Exile and Death

After his exile from Junagadh, Mahabat Khanji and his family settled at Karachi, where he died, aged 59 on 17 November 1959 after a 48 year reign. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Dilawar Khanji, who claimed to be rightful Nawab of the state in absentia. The former Junagadh princely family still resides in Karachi, mostly.

Titles

  • 1900-1908: Nawabzada Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji
  • 1908-1911: Wali Ahad Bahadur Nawabzada Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji
  • 1911-1926: His Highness Sri Diwan Nawab Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji, Nawab Sahib of Junagadh
  • 1926-1931: His Highness Sri Diwan Nawab Sir Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji, Nawab Sahib of Junagadh, KCSI
  • 1931-1937: His Highness Sri Diwan Nawab Sir Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji, Nawab Sahib of Junagadh, GCIE, KCSI
  • 1937-1942: Captain His Highness Sri Diwan Nawab Sir Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji, Nawab Sahib of Junagadh, GCIE, KCSI
  • 1942-1946: Major His Highness Sri Diwan Nawab Sir Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji, Nawab Sahib of Junagadh, GCIE, KCSI
  • 1946-1957: Colonel His Highness Sri Diwan Nawab Sir Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji, Nawab Sahib of Junagadh, GCIE, KCSI
  • 1957-1959: Colonel His Highness Sri Diwan Nawab Sir Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji, Nawab Sahib of Junagadh, GCIE, KCSI, NQA

Honours

See also

References

Sources

  • Detailed biography
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