Memoirs of a Survivor


Bal K. Gupta

On August 15, 1947, the British relinquished their power in India to two political parties-the Indian National Congress in India and the Muslim League in Pakistan. At that time, 525 indigenous states spanned the length and breadth of India. According to the terms of the Instrument of Accession , the rulers of these states had the prerogative to accede to either India or Pakistan. The British advised the rulers to consider two factors: the will of the people and geographical contiguity.
For the most part, the accession did not pose any problem. Almost all of the princely states lying within the boundary of India joined India and those closer to Pakistan joined Pakistan. However, Jammu and Kashmir was an exception. Jammu and Kashmir was the largest princely state and because it was located in the Himalayas, it was contiguous to both countries. Within the state, opinions differed about which country’s policy to adopt. The majority of the Muslim population (60 percent) wanted Jammu and Kashmir to join Pakistan whereas the Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist population (40 percent) wanted it to join India. It was a great trial for the Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh to sort out the matter. The Maharaja wanted Jammu and Kashmir to remain independent so he decided, instead, to sign a Standstill Agreement with both India and Pakistan.
Pakistani Invasion: Dharam Mitter Gupta (a Hindu refugee from Mirpur) writes “Pakistan’s rulers were not happy with this decision and wanted Jammu and Kashmir to be a part of Pakistan because of the state’s Muslim majority. Iin order to annex Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan, the Pakistani Army and Pathans from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) invaded the state. Pakistani army Major General Akbar Khan organized the entire operation. On October 21, the Pakistani Army and Pathans simultaneously attacked districts of Muzzafrabad, Baramulla, Poonch, and Mirpur, killing about 100,000 Hindus and Sikhs.”

Margaret Burke White (an American journalist in Kashmir in 1947) writes: “During this massacre, many villages were destroyed and innocent women (Hindus, Sikhs as well as Muslims) were raped or kidnapped by the Pathans. Two nuns of the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Baramulla were not spared and shot dead. The famous Muslim martyr, Maqbool Sherwani, and many moderate Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir and Deputy Commissioner of Muzzafrabad, Duni Chand Mehta were also killed.”
General Palit, (an Indian army Colonel in Kashmir in 1947) writes “British law allotted each state about twenty thousand soldiers but because Jammu and Kashmir was so large, it was insufficient for preventing an outside attack. On Muzzafrabad front, on October 22, 1947, Pakistani Army attacked the town of Ramkot. The overwhelming numbers of the Pakistani Army and Pathans defeated the small number of Jammu and Kashmir soldiers controlling the bridge. Thus, Muzzafrabad fell to Pakistan invasion. On October 25, Brigadier Rajinder Singh and Jammu and Kashmir army put heavy resistance to the Pakistani army and laid down their lives near Baramulla. Thus, Baramula fell to Pakistani invasion.

On Mirpur Front, platoons of 3 JAK Rifles vacated their posts under heavy Pakistani artillery: Alibeg on October 18; Hill post (on the border with Jhelum) on October 19; and, Dadyal on October 25. Bhimber fell to Pakistani invasion on October 29. Roads to Jhangar, Bhimber, Mangla Fort and Jhelum were captured by Pakistani army. 3 JAK Rifles consolidated its entire forces in the beleaguered Mirpur City. Finally, Mirpur fell on November 25 to the Pakistani Army. Jhangar was saved due to the gallant resistance put up by Brigadier Mohammed Usman of Indian army who was ultimately killed by Pakistani artillery.”

Non-cooperation from Pakistani Government: Prior to August 15, the Indian princely state governments were responsible for their internal intelligence while the British government provided all outside intelligence information. A covert understanding existed between the Pakistan government and the Pakistani Army about the invasion of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, neither the Indian government nor the Jammu and Kashmir government ever received any information about the recruiting of Pathans, collection and marshaling of vehicles, or collection of arms and ammunition from Pakistani arsenals. The Jammu and Kashmir government was under the illusion that occasional border raids by the Pathans and Pakistanis were signs of unrest of local Muslims and acts of communal vengeance. Prior to October 26, Jammu and Kashmir’s government was even sending reports of these incidents to Rawalpindi and asking the Pakistani Army and civil authorities to help quell these unrests. As a conspiracy to annex Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistani Army refused to supply arms, ammunition, and gasoline to the Jammu and Kashmir Army as per the terms of the Standstill Agreement.

Desertion of Muslim soldiers to Pakistan: General Palit writes “In addition, the Pakistani Army and local pro-Pakistan Muslims had captured and sealed off all the state’s entry and exit points. They even succeeded in subverting Muslim elements in the Jammu and Kashmir Army that was comprised of 50 percent Muslim officers and soldiers. Those were troubled times when the stress and strains of communal propaganda reached critical proportions. Many Muslim soldiers and officers of battalions of 2, 4 and 6 JAK Rifles deserted and joined Pakistani army as the Azad Kashmir Force (AKF). They also killed their Hindu commanders and soldiers before desertion. This dealt crippling blow to the defense of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Economic Blockade by Pakistan: Pakistan also applied an economic blockade of Jammu aand Kashmir to coerce the state into acceding with Pakistan. As of October 26, no direct road or rail link between Jammu and Kashmir and India existed, except for a dirt road from Jammu to Pathankot (India). All rail and road links connecting Jammu and Kashmir with the outside world passed through Pakistan, which meant that food and other necessities stopped entering Jammu and Kashmir. The postal system did not work and Pakistani banks tied up bank accounts in Jammu and Kashmir. My Uncle Mukand Lal owned a warehouse in Mirpur. The Pakistani railways held up his entire shipment of goods and the banks froze his accounts.

Accession with India: Prof. Balraj Madhok (a Hindu refugee from Kashmir Valley), writes “On October 23, the prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir, M.C. Mahajan, advised Maharaja Hari Singh to visit India’s Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru, in New Delhi and announce its accession to India. Pandit Nehru refused to meet the Maharaja until he released the Kashmiri Muslim leader, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, and made the Sheikh chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The Maharaja, though disappointed, had no alternative but to release Sheikh Abdullah. In Srinagar, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession on October 25and handed it over to India’s representative, V.P. Menon who flew back to Delhi. He presented it to Pandit Nehru and his cabinet and they signed it on October 26. V.P. Menonflew to Jammu and delivered itto the Maharaja. Thus, on October 26, Jammu and Kashmir legally became a part of India. On October 30, Sheikh Abdullah was appointed as chief emergency administrator of Jammu and Kashmir.”
October 26, 1947, might have been the day that marked Jammu and Kashmir as an official Indian state but the reality is that Pakistani forces had already usurped more than half of the state. The Indian government took three days to accept Maharaja Hari Singh’s Instrument of Accession and this delay enabled the Pakistani Army to advance further into Jammu and Kashmir. Regardless, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and moderate Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir rejoiced at the news of accession to India. The Indian Army began an airlift to Srinagar to counter the Pakistani Army and Pathans who were trying to storm the Srinagar airport. It was a miracle that the Indian Army pushed them back, cleared the airport and occupied Baramulla within a short span of time. Volunteers of Sheikh Abdullah took up the civil defense of Srinagar. On the Jammu front, the Indian Army’s gains were not so astounding.

Maharaja’s Blunder: During this time, many Hindu and Sikhs fromKaahmir Valley were fleeing to Jammu due to the onslaught of Pakistanis. As the Pakistani army neared the outskirts of Srinagar, Maharaja Hari Singh chose to leave Srinagar for Jammu on October 25 – a decision that was later termed an act of cowardice by both Indian and Kashmiri leaders. My wife and her parents were part of a caravan of buses that followed the Maharaja to Jammu. On November 25, one month later, Rao Rattan Singh, deserted Mirpur in the same manner for which Hindus and Sikhs survivors of Mirpur never forgave him.

Holocaust of Jammu and Kashmir: I could not find independent figures of causality and migration in Wikipedia, etc. Dharam Mitter Gupta writes “With the capture of road links by the Pakistani Army, some local Muslims and Pathans burnt the homes of Hindu and Sikhs, abducted women, robbed or murdered men, or forced them to flee.In a few cases, Jammu and Kashmir Army soldiers were able to evacuate some Hindus and Sikhs to the safety of larger towns, like Muzzafrabad, Baramulla, Poonch and Mirpur. Prior to the Pakistani infiltration, Hindu and Sikh populations in above districts was about 150,000. The Pakistanis killed more than 100,000 Hindus and Sikhs after they captured these districts and renamed this area Azad Kashmir.”

Late Sorayya Khurshid, a Muslim refugee woman from Jammu in Pakistan writes: “Had there been no Pathan tribal invasion, the history of Jammu and Kashmir might have been different. In 1947, the Muslims of Jammu were practically decimated. As many as 200,000 Jammu Muslims lost their lives in 1947 and most of them died around November 5.” Muslim population was around 550,000 in Jammu, Udhampur, Reasi and Kathua districts. Many were forced to flee to Pakistan but over 150,000 chose to stay in India due to protection provided by Indian army under Brigadier Usman and visits of Pandit Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah to the affected areas. Around November 25, in revenge of killing of Jammu Muslims, 20,000 Hindus and Sikhs of Mirpur were killed.
(The article is based on excerpts from “Forgotten Atrocities: Memoirs of a Survivor of 1947 Partition of India”. )

Source: Daily