By Abdul Majid Zargar
Whatever might have been Hari Singh’s earlier inclination regarding future dispensation of Kashmir, there is now abundant & credible evidence to suggest that following Gandhi’s personal visit to Kashmir and Poonch agrarian uprising on oppressive Tax system , he decided by the end of August 1947 to join India and was waiting only for an auspicious occasion to do so. Inspite of a Stand-still agreement with Pakistan in force, Mehr Chand Mahajan, then Kashmir’s Prime-Minster designate met Nehru in Delhi in mid September to discuss the modalities of joining.
As he writes in his Autobiography -Looking Back (p 126), ” I told Nehru the terms on which the Maharaja wanted me to negotiate with India. Maharaja is also ready to introduce necessary reforms in the administration of the State and release Sheikh Abdullah. Nevertheless, it was increasingly clear that if Maharaja was going to accede to either Dominion, it would be India.” (See also Origins of a dispute: Kashmir 1947, By Prem Shankar Jha-page 47-49). A broad understanding was accordingly reached with Nehru and Patel to put Kashmir in India’s lap.
Pursuant to the above understanding, the Maharaja released Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah on 29th September. To strengthen his defence structure, he simultaneously placed an indent for Military supplies with Government of India, on Ist October with an ostensible purpose of quelling Poonch uprising. This was followed by a request that Indian forces be stationed near the border so that they be called at short notice in case of need. India had already undertaken the construction of Pathankot-Jammu road on a war-footing basis, for quick movement of its forces, following award of Gurdaspur district in its favour through a surreptitious scheming of Mountbatten and Radcliffe.
As a follow up measure, Indian Home Minster Patel wrote to Defence Minster, Baldev Singh on 7th October- “I hope arrangements are in place to send immediately supplies of arms and ammunition to Kashmir State. If necessary , we must arrange to send them by Air”. (Patel’s Correspondence -Durga Das Page 57). Patel also sent RSS ideologue Golwalker to Kashmir in October to boost the morale of Hari Singh and his Hindu staff. He advised Maharaja to completely purge his army of Muslims. Till this point of time there was neither any plan nor indication of any tribal incursion into Kashmir.
When the proposal of sending military equipment was received by Defense Ministry, the Commander-in-chief , General Lockhart raised a pertinent query as to how could arms be supplied to an independent State Kashmir, which had not acceded to Indian dominion? In this connection, a reference was made to an earlier decision taken by Joint defense Council that no arms should be made available to Hyderabad which had not acceded to India by then. Though the decision was specific to Hyderabad, which was ruled by a Muslim king, it provided a precedent against sending arms to Kashmir. (Mountbatten papers File MSS Eur F 200/246, India Office records, London). Hearing Army Officer’s views, Patel turned furious. He arranged a meeting of the Defense Committee next day under the chairmanship of Governor General Lord Mountbatten. Sensing a strong urge of Indian Ministers to extend military assistance to Maharaja, Mountbatten argued that it would be a folly to provide military assistance to an independent State like Kashmir. He warned that Pakistan could do exactly the same thing, thus precipitating an inter-dominion war. As an alternative he suggested some sort of defense pact” or “provisional accession” with Kashmir to enable him to send troops there. The idea of a temporary accession took shape in this meeting.
But Patel was not a man to care for such diplomatic niceties. He requested his friend Maharaja of Patiala to send his troops to Kashmir. By then Maharaja of Patiala had already acceded to Indian Union and for all technical and legal purposes his forces, barring completion of some ceremonial events, were a part of Indian Army. In deference to Patel’s wishes, Maharaja of Patiala dispatched around 8000 men of his forces who entered Jammu and Kashmir on 13th of October. Out of this, around 3000 men reached Srinagar by 18th/19th October .Those who stayed in Jammu fully complimented the efforts of Maharaja’s Hindu forces ,RSS activists and Sikh migrants to eliminate Muslims, rape their women and occupy the properties of those fleeing in desperation. A script for demographic change, cleverly crafted earlier by Patel, Golwalker and Mahajan combine, was now being effectively executed and fully aided and abetted by Patiala Forces.
The news of Maharaja’s overtures and Indian Military assistance travelled to Pakistan . On 14th October, the “Dawn” newspaper carried a headline as “Kashmir’s accession to Indian Dominion regarded as foregone conclusion”. A similar news dispatch was sent by Margaret Parton, a widely respected journalist working with New York Herald Tribune, who had arrived in Kashmir from Peshawar the earlier week. Meanwhile, Kashmir was in crisis and reeling under the shortage of fuel & essential commodities due to a condition which Kashmir administration described as economic blockade enforced by Pakistan but Pakistan narrating as mere disturbance in supplies due to anarchic conditions prevailing in the affected territories and the traders and carriers reluctant to face the peril to their lives and cargo.
The Jammu genocide of Muslims highly infuriated the Poonch rebellions, most of whom were demobilised World War II veterans. They contacted their acquaintances and contacts in NWFP for assistance in taking revenge and liberating Kashmir. This resulted in the formation of a ragtag force of tribesmen mostly Masoods, Wazirs and Afridis, which proceed to Kashmir for its liberation. When they reached Baramulla, reports of atrocities like loot, abduction and rapes of women committed by them started pouring in. An attack on the Christian Mission in Baramulla made headlines across the world. That these were highly exaggerated reports was later confirmed by Sheikh Saheb himself in his public address on 13th July 1953 at Martyr’s Graveyard and as Alastair Lamb recorded later in his book “The Genesis of Kashmir dispute” (page 187)- that whatever happened in Baramulla is nothing as compared to sufferings of Kashmiri men, women and children at the Indian Army’s hands since 1989. He suggests that those massacres which may have been forestalled by the Indian Military lift in 1947 ‘were not prevented; they were merely postponed for two generations, with Indians now the vandals.
On 23rd October, the Maharaja arrived at Srinagar after completing a tour of Jammu Province. He was apprised about the scale of tribal incursion launched very early the previous day. He sensed that this was the occasion he was looking for to accede to India. Noting that his own and a contingent of Patiala forces were insufficient to repulse the attack, he deputed Ram Lal Batra to Delhi with a power of attorney to enter into an accession with Delhi on his behalf . But Patel wanted an accession duly signed by the ruler himself. Menon was deputed to prepare the papers & leave for Srinagar. According to him he flew to Srinagar on 25th and the accession was signed by Maharaja on 26th October. (Based upon undisputable facts and documentary evidence, the date of signing is established beyond doubt to be ante-dated ). On 27thOctober, the Ist Sikh Regiment of Indian Army, under the command of Col. Ranjit Rai, landed at Srinagar Airfield. At 10-30 AM on that day Delhi received a wireless message from the Srinagar Airfield conveying the news that the operation was a success. National Conference hailed the arrival of Indian Army as aid coming through divine herons. (Tair-n-Ababil)
At the planning stage, which had been made much earlier in August 1947, the decision was to send Ist/5th Gurkha Rifles to Srinagar which was changed at the last minute to Ist Sikh Regiment. The real reason for the change is the fact that Sikh regiment, after having witnessed the horrors of partition in undivided Punjab, was comparatively better motivated to fight Muslims in Kashmir. Another reason appears to be the fact that Gurkha Rifles was largely headed by British officers, who were unwilling to step into an independent State and invite adverse international reaction. Before departure of Indian forces from Safdarjang Airport, Gandhi was informed about the operation. The apostle of peace warmly approved of the dispatch of Indian armed forces for the defense of the state by saying: “I would not shed a tear even if the little union force was wiped out bravely defending Kashmir. I would opt for violence of the brave instead of non-violence of a coward”
In the context of killing of many Kashmiri Muslims at the hands of Indian Army, immediately on its arrival, Kh. Gulam Ahmad Ashai, a close companion of Abdullah, once told him of his mistake in acquiescing to invite Indian Forces into Kashmir. On 12th November 1947, Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah, in Nehru’s presence, told a gathering at Baramulla that Indian forces would remain in Kashmir only until the raiders had been pushed out. It was Colonel Adalat Khan, another companion, to correct him by saying -“Sheikh Sahib- it is impossible to send back Indian Army now- only a superior Army can drive out this Army-not the civilians”.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Feed back at abdulmajidzargar @gmail.com)