(By zahir ud Din)
October 1947 witnessed hectic diplomatic activity in New Delhi and Karachi (then the capital of Pakistan), and military movement in Jammu and Kashmir which was still silent on the issue of accession. Contrary to common belief, Indian troops entered Kashmir on October 17, ten days before October 27! The troops were later taken by Lt General LP Sen, then a Brigadier in the Indian army, under his command somewhere in the Budgam district.
It all started on October 12. The Pakistan government sent a telegram to the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehr Chand Mahajan, to inform him about “large number of villages (in Poonch) that can be seen burning from Murree Hills”, pointing out that as “Pakistan army obtains large number of recruits from Poonch” the situation was “fraught with danger” to “friendly relations that Pakistan wishes to retain with Kashmir.” The message also sought restoring order and discipline among the Maharaja’s troops. In his reply on October 15, Mahajan complained of infiltration from Pakistan and said that his government was “prepared to have impartial inquiry into the whole affair to remove misunderstandings and restore cordial relations.”
Mahajan followed his message with a telegram to the Quaid-e-Azam on October 18 stating that if Pakistan’s “extremely unfriendly acts” were not stopped, the Maharaja’s government “will be justified in asking for friendly assistance”. The reply from the Foreign Minister of Pakistan categorically denied Mahajan’s allegations, and pointed out the “exodus of Muslims” from the border areas of the State.
In Jammu, at the behest of Patel, arms meant for government forces were distributed among the Hindus and RSS men from the neighboring Punjab. Nehru has made a mention of this in his letter to Patel on October 7. The massacre of Muslims on a large scale had already commenced across the region.
The reply went on to say: “We are astonished to hear your threat to ask for assistance from an outside power” with the object of completing “the process of suppressing the Muslims to enable you to join India as a coup d’état against the declared will of 85 per cent of population of your State.” The message warned of the “gravest consequences” if measures toward that end were not “stopped.” Finally, message stated that the Pakistan government appreciated the suggestion of an impartial inquiry, and asked Mahajan to “immediately to nominate your representative on the Enquiry Committee” whereupon the “Pakistan government will nominate its representatives without delay so that the Committee can proceed at once with a thorough inquiry into the whole matter.”
Mahajan hinted at seeking friendly assistance which had already arrived a day earlier on October 17. A battalion of the Patiala State Forces reached Srinagar on October 17. It took positions around the Srinagar airfield and reinforced the Maharaja’s garrison in Jammu.
The positioning of the troops unveils a conspiracy. How did Mahajan and the Maharaja know that the Srinagar airfield would be of vital importance in the coming days? Why did the Maharaja feel the necessity of reinforcing his Jammu garrison? Did he know in advance that he would have to run away from Kashmir in the coming days?
Surprisingly, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah had an exclusive meeting with the Maharaja on October 16, a day before the troops entered Kashmir! While it is not known what transpired between them, the development reflects that the `plan for annexing Kashmir’ had been designed long before. Hari Singh’s inability to take a decision on accession was to win enough time for implementing the plan.
It can now be safely presumed that on November 16, Hari Singh knew that the Srinagar airport was going to be used by the Indian troops in the coming days, and needed to be guarded.
Hari Singh granted general amnesty to political activists. The Sher-e-Kashmir and his associates were released. All of them had been booked for the Quit Kashmir Movement, which was a serious offence. On the contrary, Chaudhary Abbas and his colleagues were not released. They were in jail for taking out a procession. The Indian leadership, Hari Singh and others knew that the Sher-e-Kashmir, who had already taken a decision to join India on October 3 during a Working Committee meeting of the National Conference, would tame the people of Kashmir and there would be no resistance to the NC’s decision of joining India. That is exactly what happened. The Sher-e-Kashmir exiled the political leadership or jailed them. The workers were terrorized by his goons. Kashmir remained silent.
But the situation in Jammu was different. The Jammu people never accepted the Sher-e-Kashmir as their leader. He (the Sher-e-Kashmir) has accepted this. A violent response, like the one witnessed in Poonch, was expected. At the behest of Patel, arms meant for government forces were distributed among the Hindus and RSS men from the neighboring Punjab. Nehru has made a mention of this in his letter to Patel on October 7. The massacre of Muslims on a large scale had already commenced across the region. This was done with a design – to break the Jammu Muslims and to change the demographic complexion of the region. They succeeded in both. The Sher-e-Kashmir, who was the emergency administrator, did not take measures to prevent the carnage. He could have prevented it, but that was not in the plan.