Dhirubhai - The Man - Praja Mandal Movement

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Praja Mandal Movement

The people of Junagarh had for long been demanding popular representation and constitutional reforms in the state. The Praja Mandal agitation became ever more vigorous after India gained independence. The nawab unleashed a reign of terror to crush the popular protests.

Dhirubhai, still in his teens, plunged into the movement rallying a team of students to write patriotic slogans on the town walls in the dark of the night. He designed, painted and scribbled posters in secret hideouts, carried banned newspapers like Janmabhoomi and Navajeevan hidden under his shirt for rebel leaders, and distributed leaflets concealed in his school bag.

As the popular movement became impossible to crush or contain, the Nawab one night secretly fled to Pakistan in his private airplane, taking his pack of favourite hunting dogs with him but leaving behind the large haram of his begums. Soon after on 12th November, 1947, Junagarh joined the Indian Union by popular acclaim.

"That was the most exciting day of my life," Dhirubhai once said while reminiscing his school days. " Sardar Patel (the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of India) came to Junagarh that day and addressed a huge public meeting on the Bahauddin College ground. That was a glorious day.

The Sardar was my hero. I had washed, starched and pressed my half pant and shirt the night before, polished my worn out shoes and borrowed a new pair of boy scout socks from a classmate to turn out in my best attire to receive the Sardar. I pushed through the dense crowd at the meeting ground to be close to the dais hoping to catch the Sardar's eyes. Obviously, I couldn't succeed in that but I was thrilled enough to have reached so close to him."