The creation of Pakistan was the outcome of a movement which claimed that Hindus and Muslims were ‘separate nations’ and can’t co-exist in a single state. After its establishment, Pakistan defined itself as an Islamic state and pursued politics which was blatantly communal and reactionary. In October 1947, it launched naked aggression to annex J&K, trampling all international conventions and inflicting unspeakable brutalities on non-Muslims in the areas which came under Pakistani occupation.
Unlike the communal violence witnessed during Partition, killings of Hindus and Sikhs in the wake of Pakistani attack on J&K in 1947 were state-sponsored ethnic cleansing. The objectives of Pakistan’s invasion went beyond conquest of the land. It aimed at destroying non-Muslim populations too.
There is a continuity between Pakistan’s attack on J&K in 1947 and cross border terrorism unleashed by it in 1989-90.The pattern of ideological campaign informed by jihad and use of terror as an instrument for ethnic cleansing of minority groups remains the same.
The tribal lashkars were brainwashed to believe that Muslims in Kashmir were living in subjugation, where neither were they allowed to practice their religion nor the honour of their womenfolk was safe. There was an understanding between Chief Minister of NWFP, Khan Abdul Qayoom Khan, and tribal lashkars that they could plunder the state at will. The tribesmen were given license to rape and take away women as well.
In Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Bhimber-Deva-Vatala and Rajouri towns, which had substantial non-Muslim population, Pakistani invaders had been directed to destroy non-Muslim habitats wholesale through killings, arson, rape and abduction of women.
In Muzaffarabad, even patients in hospitals were killed in cold blood. Women were raped on the streets at different places in full public view. Hundreds of women were kidnapped and taken to the tribal belt of NWFP. Many girls jumped from Kishenganga bridge into the river flowing below to escape humiliation. The deserters of the State army from Jammu and Mirpur were quite brutal and carried away many women.
This was repeated at Bhimber where over 5000 non-Muslims had taken shelter in the tehsil building. Majority of them were killed. Only a small section was able to escape. Hundreds of women took poison to save their honour. Others were abducted. In the Deva-Vatala region, over a thousand people were killed by Pakistanis in 30 villages.
On the day of Diwali in Rajouri, more than 7000 Hindus and Sikhs were killed by Pakistani invaders, their collaborators in the local population and state army deserters. Most of the women here saved their honour by swallowing poison. The Hindus of Rajouri do not celebrate Diwali to keep alive the memory of their loved ones killed in 1947.
Mirpur witnessed one of the horrendous religious cleansing campaigns in human history. Alibeg camp became Auschwitz from where every day the people were taken out and killed. Hundreds of women were kidnapped, dishonoured repeatedly and then sold in towns of Western Punjab and NWFP. As per one estimate only two thousand out of 25000 people in Mirpur managed to reach Jammu safely and some were repatriated later by the International Red Cross.
In Askardu, an ex- INA officer Col. Mataul Mulk was deputed as commander by the Pakistan army. The surrender of Indian garrison in August 1948 was followed by mass murder and rape. He shamelessly bragged in his report to the Headquarters, “All Sikhs shot, all women raped.’’ The Sikhs were tied with ropes and then asked to jump into the river. While they moved towards the river, they were shot dead. Only the Sikh women and children below ten were left alive.
The three members of a Kashmiri Hindu family were axed to death with swords. The Pakistani soldiers made an attempt to strangulate Niranjan Nath Nadir and push him into the nearby well. His two pet dogs fought with the Pak soldiers and saved him from being drowned.
In Shigar, the Sikh shopkeepers were tied to the trees and then shot at. Their family members were collected in the evening and stabbed to death. Among the attackers were Pakistani soldiers who forcibly married the two women survivors. One of the jawans had killed the mother, sister and brother of the woman he married.
In Khaplu, two Kashmiri Pandits, the doctor and his pharmacist, were killed. The doctor’s wife was abducted and tortured before she was released. At Astore the non-Muslims who refused forced conversions were shot dead.
In the Kashmir valley the invaders ransacked village after village and town after town that came in their way. The same process of loot, arson, rape, abductions and killings was repeated against Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs. In Baramulla town, Kashmiri Hindus were dragged to concentration camps and women raped for three days. 36 Kashmiri Hindus were killed in the town.
In almost all villages, where Kashmiri Hindus escaped killing, they were forced to become Muslims and at some places coerced to take beef. At many places, the Pandit couples were asked to perform marriage anew as per the Shariat.
Over 135 Kashmiri Hindus were killed. There were nine major massacres. Seven baraatis were killed at Biner. In Aijar village, 13 members of the Pandit community were massacred, while in Chandrahama village, 17 Pandits were killed. The victims included women as well.
There was targeted violence against the Sikhs. While in the case of Kashmiri Hindus, the priorities for Pakistanis were loot, conversion and then killings. In case of the Sikhs it was killings, rape & abductions and then loot. The massacre of the Sikhs took place at ten places in Kashmir. In village Yaarbug, the Sikhs were taken to Gurudwara and burnt alive. The Sikh women were abducted and taken across to Pakistan. The Sikhs resorted to honour killings at many places to save their women from falling into the hands of Pakistanis.
Ramesh Tamiri is a researcher on History, politics and culture of Kashmir. He has been regularly writing on these subjects in different periodicals. He worked on oral history of Pakistan invasion on J&K 1947-48 for twenty years. His two books on the theme will be published early next year.