November 25, 1947, Pakistani Invasion of Mirpur
Bal K. Gupta (USA)
The world knows about Auschwitz, the ethnic cleansing in Serbia, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda, and the genocide in Darfur, but there is no written, eyewitness account of the events that took place between 1947 and 1948 in the small town of Mirpur in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). I witnessed the atrocities committed by Pakistani soldiers and Pathans [Muslim tribesmen of the North West Frontier Province and borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan], which ultimately led to the murder of approximately twenty thousand innocent Hindus and Sikhs of Mirpur. As a ten-year-old child, I—along with five thousand Hindus and Sikhs—was held prisoner in the Alibeg prison. On March 16, 1948, only about sixteen hundred prisoners walked out from the Alibeg prison alive. I was one of them. Most of the survivors of the Alibeg prison have died in the past sixty years. As one of its few survivors still alive, I feel compelled to express my accounts and document the events I witnessed.
On August 15, 1947, British rulers partitioned India into two separate countries, India and Pakistan. In 1971, Pakistan was further divided into Pakistan and Bangladesh. These partitions were based on religion, with the intent of India existing as a Hindu majority country and Pakistan as a Muslim majority country. However, one Muslim majority state, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), bordered both India and Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir’s Hindu ruler wanted the state to remain independent, rather than join either India or Pakistan. In an attempt to annex Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan because of its Muslim majority, Pathan (also called Pushtoon or Pakhtoon) mercenaries invaded the state with the full support of the Pakistan army.
Mirpur City (commonly known as Mirpur) was one of many small cities in Jammu and Kashmir that lay directly on the border of India and Pakistan. Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims had lived peacefully with one another for centuries in Mirpur, but on November 25, 1947, the Pakistani invasion forced the Hindu and Sikh populations to flee towards India. The migration was supposed to be an orderly event overseen by the (Hindu) Jammu and Kashmir army. However, improper planning by military officers and civil administrators resulted in the abandonment of Mirpur before the evacuation was complete; thus, leaving Mirpur’s remaining Hindu and Sikh populations at the mercy of the advancing Pakistani Army and heavily armed Pathans.
By November 25, 1947, there were nearly twenty five thousand Hindus and Sikhs living in Mirpur. During the city’s capture, close to twenty five hundred were killed in the infernos that erupted due to Pakistani artillery fire. Another twenty five hundred escaped with the retreating Jammu and Kashmir army. The remaining twenty thousand were arrested by the invading Pakistani army and the Pathans, and marched in a procession towards Alibeg. Along the way, the Pakistanis and Pathans killed about ten thousand of the captured Hindu and Sikh men and kidnapped over five thousand girls and young women. About five thousand Hindus and Sikhs who survived the twenty-mile trek by foot to Alibeg were quickly imprisoned.
The Alibeg prison, which was located about two miles from Pakistan’s border, was originally a large Sikh temple (Gurudwara) that was converted into a prison by the Pakistani army to retain Hindu and Sikhs. It was outrageous that a Sikh holy shrine was converted into a human slaughterhouse. In the first twenty days, between fifty and one hundred young men were taken out of the prison and killed by guns, swords, or axes every night. By the end of December, the Pakistani soldiers had murdered about two thousand Hindu and Sikh young men. More than one thousand sick prisoners, particularly children and the elderly died of illness, food poisoning, or malnutrition. On average, the death rate was between fifteen to twenty prisoners per day that lasted about fifty days, until January 1948, when the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) arrived at the Alibeg prison and helped stop the killing. In March 1948, the ICRC liberated Alibeg’s surviving population of sixteen hundred individuals.
Of Mirpur’s original Hindu and Sikh population (about twenty- five thousand people), only about five thousand survived the Pakistani invasion. The survivors included the sixteen hundred Hindus and Sikhs from the Alibeg prison, who were liberated by the ICRC in 1948. From 1948 to 1954, the ICRC also liberated about another one thousand kidnapped women. Approximately twenty-five hundred Hindus and Sikhs safely reached Jhangar (India) along with the retreating Jammu and Kashmir army.
What took place in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir was the genocide of Hindus and Sikhs. As a result of the invasion, generations of Hindus and Sikhs disappeared—their family histories ended abruptly. My grandmother, my paternal uncle, and my maternal great-grandfather were some of those who died in the burning infernos of Mirpur. My mother, who was disabled, could not leave and was interned in a camp near Mirpur. About a dozen of my aunts were kidnapped from the Mirpur courthouse, Alibeg and Thathal. My wife’s grandmother and aunt were among those killed during the forced march of prisoners towards Alibeg. My wife’s cousin was one of the girls kidnapped by the Pathans. She was likely taken to the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan or Afghanistan and her fate is unknown to this day. My mother’s uncles and her cousins were killed along with their views by the Pathans. Many of my cousins who were small children died of shock, the lack of medicines, and malnutrition in the Alibeg prison.
(Above are excerpts from my book Forgotten Atrocities: Memoirs of a Survivor of the 1947 Partition of India).
Source: World Hindu News (WHN)