Copious material on Pakistan’s incursion of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in October 1947 is published by historians and chroniclers in India or abroad. Owing to former Prime Minister Nehru’s misplaced trust in the UN Security Council, India’s plea that Pakistan must vacate the aggression was converted into a bilateral dispute by the Anglo-American lobby with vested interest embedded in the notorious ‘Great Game’ strategy in Central Asia of the mid-19th century.
Security Council’s maneuvering and politicizing of the Kashmir issue over a long period adversely affected the unbiased and objective analysis of the dispute. Writers, not committed to the fundamental principles of astute historiography, wrote about the incursion without dissecting or scrutinizing what was true and what was not. They depended on telling tales to escape the rigors of serious research.
A Work Of Deep Research
More than three-quarters of a century to date, when the memory of the holocaust in J&K was fast fading from the minds of the victims, an astute social scientist motivated by the urge to probe what had befallen the hapless minority communities of J&K State, individually or collectively, undertook the mission of studying and researching a tragedy of immense magnitude.
The outcome of twenty-three years of painstaking but sustained fieldwork by Dr. Ramesh Tamiri is a rare document with us in the shape of a 342-page volume titled Pakistan’s Invasion on J&K (1947-48): Untold Stories of the Victims.
Nearly half a dozen reviews of the book by eminent scholars have appeared so far, and more are in the pipeline. The common thread running through these reviews is that the dreadful story of J&K Auschwitz of October 1947 has been objectively told for the first time.
The narrators of the heart-breaking saga are none other than the victims themselves or their closest kin if they are no longer alive.
The author identified, met with, interviewed, and recorded the narration of no less than 450 persons; mostly the internally displaced Hindus and Sikhs from the Valley or the refugees from Pakistan-occupied J&K. Most of these people continue to live either in the refugee camps in J&K or are scattered all over the country looking for means of survival in exile. Identifying and contacting them was a time-consuming, uphill task.
The contents of the book are divisible into three interrelated segments. The first segment deals with the secret planning and launch of the J&K invasion. It brings to light many facts previously unknown.
The second and most important segment is the narrative of brutal torture, massacre, hostage-taking, kidnapping, and rape of Hindu and Sikh minorities in Muzaffarabad and Jammu region.
The details are supported by verifiable evidence and a profusion of photographic illustrations lending credibility to the recorded word.
The third segment deals with happenings in northern areas of Gilgit, Baltistan, Khaplu, Shigar, Skardu, Drass, Astore, Bunji, Chilas, etc. The volume is supplemented by exhaustive end-notes and carefully selected bibliography as a secondary source of information.
The work begins with a dissection of the incursion plan in which Pakistani top political leadership, such as MA Jinnah, PM Liaquat Ali Khan, NWFP Premier Abdul Qayyum Khan, Finance Minister Ghulam Muhammad, Sardar Shokat Hayat Khan, Pakistani army commanders like Maj Gen Akbar Khan, Col Sher Khan, Major Khurshid Anwar, et al. were the key actors.
Pakistani Muslim League activists, Ahmadi leadership, and the Left were accomplices in this perfidy. What is more intriguing, the former INA personnel in olive green were integral to the onslaught of the jihadi legions and tribal lashkars.
The hitherto less known role of the British civil and military top brass still in service in Pakistan government, like NWFP Governor Cunningham, Pakistan Army Chie General F Messervy, and his deputy, Gen Douglas Gracey, and Indian Army Chief Gen Robert Lockhart, all were involved in or privy to the conspiracy, hatched as early as June 1947.
In August 1947, Gen Thimayya — of 19 Div of Indian army fame — had gone to Lahore to attend a meeting on Boundary Force. He was staying with Gen Iftikhar of Pakistan. He had overheard Pakistani officers saying that the 13th Lancers and Probyns Horse Regiments would be stationed at Pahalgam and Gulmarg, respectively.
In his report to the Commonwealth Relations Office in London, Major Cranston of the UK High Commission had said that “thousands of tribesmen from Chitral, Dir, and Hunza would invade Kashmir if the Maharaja joined India.
He even gave the possible number of tribesmen who would join the invading force: 25,000 Hazaras, 15,000 /Chitralis, and 10,000 Hunza. The plan for the invasion was finalized in a meeting called by George Cunningham in Rawalpindi and attended by PM Liaquat Ali Khan, Qayyum Khan, the premier of NWFP, Nawwab of Mamdot, and some Pakistani senior military officers.
The author goes on to give the details of military planning of the incursion, allotment of sectors to commanders, their coordination system, and final assault.
Segment 2 of the book is crucial because it is here where we can imagine what brutalities and barbarism were thrust on the Hindu and Sikh minorities of the State. There are two categories of the victims; one is of Hindu and Sikh inhabitants of villages and towns that were overrun by the invaders, and the second is the Hindu and Sikh personnel employed in State services and posted far away from their homes in the distant nooks and corner of Maharajas administration.
So there are horrific stories of individual and collective killing, torture, rape and kidnapping of women. Nearly 170 Kashmiri Hindu state employees are listed to have been posted to Muzaffarabad, Skardu, Mirpur, Kotli, and Rajouri, Poonch in present-day POJK and Ladakh, Drass, Kargil, Skardu, Khaplu, Shigar, Bunji, Astor and Chilas in northern areas. Many of them were killed, and the lives of most of them were hanging by a thread till taken as war prisoners.
The tragedy that befell them, lonely and far away from their homes and hearths, was never known. The writer has invested unimaginable effort in recording their heart-rending stories either directly from the victims or through their closest kin.
The tales of taking them as prisoners, putting them in chains and solitary confinement, subjecting them to bonded labor, abusing and hurting them mentally and physically, and maltreating their family members, especially womenfolk – all this sends a shock down the spine of a reader.
Night after night, these hapless prisoners waited for the final call of the angel of death. Young women were kidnapped and disappeared from the scene, and it was later found that some of them were sold in the markets of Rawalpindi and Peshawar.
Dr Kashinath Tiku, the medical officer at Shigar, was forcibly inducted into the local Pakistan army battalion to render medical assistance to the wounded or sick soldiers. He remained in their captivity for nearly two years and was rescued by the Red Cross. He had gone through the ordeal and was a personal witness to the tragic drama.
This was the disaster fate brought to petty state employees posted in the distance and fallen in the clutches of Pakistani murderers. But the story of Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Kotli, Sharda, Rajouri, Budhal, and Chassana was never told as graphically and as poignantly as Dr Tamiri has done.
The total count of people massacred in barbaric lunacy computes to around 38,000 souls, the breakup of which is as this: Mirpur – 17,000; Rajouri – 7,000, Budhal – Chasana – 1,300, Muzaffarabad – 5,000 to 7,000, Bhimbhar – 3,000, Kashmir Valley – 1,500 and Gilgit -Baltistan – 300.
Some of the killings were so barbaric as to fail description. In Rajouri, innumerable families took poison to escape dishonor and humiliation. In Muzaffarabad, young women and girls jumped to death in the roaring Jhelum.
According to a report, about 1,800 young Hindu women and girls were abducted from Muzaffarabad on 22-23 October 1947. The Hindus of Rajouri have not celebrated Diwali ever since 1947 as a mark of commemoration of the carnage.
A few Hindu and Sikh survivors of the Muzaffarabad carnage became beggars and wore gunny bags to protect themselves from the cold winds of winter as they had not been left with a shred by the looters and arsonists.
The book tells us vividly how the Muslim soldiers of State Forces betrayed their Hindu colleagues and shifted allegiance to the invading forces. They served as guides of the invading lashkars, killed their Hindu colleagues, snatched their arms, and looted the knots. They distributed the looted arms among the highlanders on both sides of the Jhelum, who formed the tail-end of the charging lashkars.
Out of ignorance and lack of inquisitive faculty, the 1947 attack on J&K is given the name of “Tribal invasion of Kashmir.” But as we can deduce from the hair-raising stories in the book, it was a meticulously planned invasion of Kashmir by Pakistan in which the former colonial power structure was an accomplice.
The Kashmir invasion of 1947 was the fallout of the Great Game in Central Asia. An alert and vigilant India could have saved Kashmir from the scourge brought to the people by Pakistan in 1947.
India committed a blunder by taking the Kashmir issue to the Security Council. Even the order of ceasefire on the midnight of 31 December 1948, too, proved a disaster. Our mistakes in Kashmir strengthened the aggressive posture of Pakistan.
The book under consideration undoubtedly raises one question: that is, the partition of India should not have been accepted, at least in the way it was thrust upon us by our colonial masters.
At the end of the day, Kashmir is ethnically cleansed of its Hindu population; the Muslim majority is thoroughly radicalized; the blackmail remains in place, and the Kashmir dispute comes in handy for the opposition to beat the ruling party.
Before concluding this write-up, it has to be said that even in the darkest hour of their lives, the survivors of the holocaust will never forget the quality of humanism shown to them by some of their Muslim colleagues, friends, and well-wishers.
Humanism is not totally dead.
- KN Pandita (Padma Shri) is the former director of the Center of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University. Views Personal of Author.
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