Meanwhile, the independence movement was reaching it’s peak. At Bhopal, State People’s Conference came into being in 1938. Khan Shakir Ali Khan was its founder-president and Chaturbhuj Malviya its secretary.
Certain anti-British posters were published by Praja Mandal urging the Nawab of Bhopal to join the “Quit India” movement, resulting in the arrest of Shakir Ali Khan, Govind Prasad, Brindavan and others. In 1944, Nawab Hamidullah Khan was elected for a three-year term as Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes for the second time, having been elected Chancellor between 1932-35, In the beginning, the princes seemed to favor the idea of a union or confederation of all princely states to be called Rajasthan. An overwhelming majority of the princes were Hindu, who were eventually convinced that their Muslim chancellor was selling them out to Pakistan. With support from Mountbatten, the new viceroy, Rajasthan was scuttled before it was floated while His Highness the Nawab of Bhopal threatened to resign! From the period of 1935 till 1937, Hamidullah Khan was the president of Board For Control Of Cricket In India (BCCI). By the year 1947, Jinnah had announced his retirement from politics (June 1947), after making Pakistan a reality for the Indian Muslim League. Nawab Hamidullah Khan was the Muslim League’s favored candidate as the premier of Pakistan. Meanwhile Hamidullah Khan was under heavy pressure from the Indian government to sign an accession agreement.
The reason for Bhopal being allowed to delay signing an accession agreement were, first, that as Chancellor of the Chamber of Princess, Nawab Hamidullah had assumed a high profile standing on the internal political scene in India. Hamidullah Khan was a close friend of both Mohammad Ali Jinnah as well as Jawaharlal Nehru. Hamidullah Khan, feeling cornered in India and looking forward to a bright future in Pakistan, planned to abdicate in favor of Abida Sultan, the heir apparent and leave for Karachi. He was prevented from doing so by the family dispute that he could not resolve, although he tried his best. Jinnah was eventually forced to come back from his retirement when Nawab of Bhopal was unavailable and fear was that Mountbatten would push his own governor generalship. The desparation of Nawab Hamidullah in these last days is apparent in the following passage from Abida Sultan’s autobiography “Memoirs of a rebel princess”
On 13th August 1947, I was summoned to HH (His Highness)’s farmhouse at Nichey-Ka-Bagh where he exercised. On being ushered to his room, I found him sitting alone, sweating heavily. He then pulled out his revolver and pointing it straight at me, ordered me sit down. ‘I am leaving soon for Pakistan’, he said, ‘I want you to take over the affairs of the State. I shall probably be appointed Governor General. Jinnah has asked me to come over. But I want you to ensure that I receive five lakhs a year from the State. Do you accept?’ ‘Why don’t you pull the trigger,’ I replied, “I am unarmed. As for the State, it is for you to decide what you want to do with it. I shall not be a party to its merger in the Indian Union and for people to say that a woman could not prevent the handover of a state that our forbears had own through blood and sacrifice’.
It was only in 1948, under leadership Dr Shakar Dayal Sharma (later President of India) a strong agitation, unprecedented in the history of Bhopal, for the merger of the state with India commenced which continued till the state was taken over by the Government of India. In March 1949, V. P. Menon arrived in Bhopal to finalize the merger agreement. It was evident that the Congress party, forever suspicious of Hamidullah Khan’s links with Mr. Jinnah and his earlier attempt to form a third block of princely states, was repaying him by insisting that, even as a distinguished political figure, he had no role to play in Bhopal or on the political scene of Central India. According to the merger agreement, Hamidullah Khan was to receive a privy purse of Rs. Eleven (11) Lakhs annually. The die was cast; the princely state of Bhopal was banished forever to the annals of history. Bhopal was merged to the Madhya Bharat state of India on 30th April 1949.
Photograph: The Nawab of Bhopal coming to meet Mr. V. P. Menon on merger of Bhopal with India (Courtesy: RajBhavan, M.P.)