October 22 is being observed as black day in many parts of the globe to highlight atrocities committed by Pakistan on the people of Jammu and Kashmir commencing from this day in 1947. It marks the day when the Pakistan Army joined by raiders, known as Kabailies, invaded the region, causing untold misery to its innocent residents, killing thousands, pillaging, raping and transporting women to be sold as slaves. The state of J&K had sought to be independent and in pursuit of this desire had signed a standalone agreement with Pakistan, which it broke.
Hindus and Sikhs were mercilessly slaughtered and thrown into rivers. Muslim women pleaded for their lives but to no avail. Truckloads of looted goods and captured women were taken away as booty. Those who recollect those days consider them worse than the Holocaust launched by the Nazis in areas captured by the German army. Kashmir was amongst the few regions in India which has escaped the misery of Partition, but the raiders subjected the population to a phase even worse than that.
In his book Raiders in Kashmir, retired Major General Akbar Khan, a Pakistan Army officer, admits to the Pak Army playing a leading role in the 1947 conflict in Kashmir. The operation was code-named ‘Gulmarg’. He states that the aim of the operation was to invade, plunder and inflict violence on the people of Kashmir, to intimidate and oppress the population, forcibly occupy the region, depose Maharaja Hari Singh and take control of the state. Akbar Khan also mentions that Pak forces were instructed to be ruthless and barbaric.
The initial attack came as a surprise. Almost nothing stood between Pakistan and its objective of Srinagar except a few companies of the J&K State Army under Brigadier Rajinder Singh, Chief of Staff of the state forces. The state army was outnumbered, but by bold and determined delaying actions between Uri and Baramulla, they managed to slow the advance of the Pakistan invaders along the Jhelum Valley road. They also succeeded in destroying a vital bridge at Uri, upsetting the timetable of Pakistan’s tribal force. Consequently, the raiders could only reach the vicinity of Baramulla by 25th October, instead of the outskirts of Srinagar. There were many other local heroes, who delayed the advance, one of them being Maqbool Sherwani.
In Baramula town alone, of the population of 14,000 only 3,000 survived. Sheikh Abdullah describing the invasion in his address to the UN in 1948 stated, ‘Those killed were from all religions, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. The raiders came to our land, massacred thousands of people — mostly Hindus and Sikhs, but Muslims, too — abducted thousands of girls, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims alike, looted our property and almost reached the gates of our summer capital, Srinagar.” Brigadier Rajinder Singh, under whom the state forces fought a heroic battle, was ambushed on the night of 26-27 October. He is known as ‘Saviour of Kashmir’ and was awarded Independent India’s first gallantry award, the ‘Mahavir Chakra’ (MVC) for his bravery.
It was in response to the loot, plunder and merciless killing of innocents in Baramula, located 30 km from Srinagar, that Maharaja Hari Singh signed the accession of the state to India on 26 October, leading to the arrival of the Indian Army in Srinagar on 27 October, which prevented further massacres in the Valley. As per the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), “Pakistan has perpetuated the myth that the tribal raiders were liberators and came to Kashmir to fulfil their religious obligation of jihad because Muslims were being killed in Jammu in communal riots. However, the reality was that it was not as if Muslims had been spared.” They intended to loot, plunder and kill, with no concern to religion.
Has Pakistan changed since its approach since then? It continues to kill innocent Indian Kashmiris, this time by infiltrating terrorists and cross border shelling. The killings and rapes of Kashmiri Pandits in the early nineties was the next similar attempt. Simultaneously, Pakistan suppresses its own Kashmiri residents by denying them basic rights, converting POK and Gilgit Baltistan into a military state, with no development.
In the same voice it claims Kashmir as a part of its territory, solely on religious grounds. The reality remains that it has no love for Kashmir or its people but only of the water resources which emanate from the state. It failed in 1947, 1965 and 1999 and would fail in the future too.
The signing of the accession document was the commencement of a bloody war, where Pak’s first misadventure into Kashmir was thwarted. It broke its own accord with the Maharaja of Kashmir and attempted to capture Kashmir by force. It failed. Had Pak played by the rules, demanded from the British a desire to implement the wishes of the population, things may have been different. It has never learnt and repeated the same blunder on multiple occasions, failing every time.
Maj Gen Harsha Kakar was commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery in June 1979 and superannuated in March 2015. A prolific writer, he writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines. His blog is www.harshakakararticles.com and twitter handle @kakar_harsha.