(By Saadut ) For India 27th October in Kashmir is a day of conquest, for Kashmiris it remains a day of military occupation that never seems to end.
By early 1947 an internal revolt against the Dogra rule had started in the Poonch region. This revolt was driven by unending Dogra oppression and backbreaking taxation primarily forced on the majority Muslim population. Many of Poonchies were known to have served under the British army; of the 71,667 J&K citizens having served in the WWII under the British Indian forces, 60,402 were Muslims. (Josef Korbel ‘Danger in Kashmir’).
Understanding well that such oppression could lead to a rebellion by these ex soldiers against his tyrannical rule, Maharaja Hari Singh in July 1947 ordered them to surrender whatever firearms they had. But soon after these arms had been confiscated, some by order dictum and most by force, Muslims found that the collected weapons had been distributed to non Muslims in their region, who hardly constituted 10% of the population, thereby pointing to political foul play by Dogra rulers. Later in August 1947, Dogra forces fired on processions in Poonch, killing scores and forcing many more to flee across towards Pakistan.
In August 1947, a limited ‘Standstill Agreement’ between the Dogra Maharaja of Kashmir and Pakistan was put in place. The Dogra Maharaja sought a similar agreement with India, which was declined, India instead asking for a discussion in New Delhi with the Maharaja’s representative. India’s refusal to sign a ‘Standstill Agreement’ created further doubts about the intentions of India vis-à-vis this princely state.
From September 1947 (to October), one of the worst massacres in the history of Jammu & Kashmir was executed under the auspices of the Dogra Maharaja, against Muslims in Jammu. Horace Alexander wrote in ‘The Spectator’ (January 16, 1948), that the killings had “the tacit consent of State authority” and put the figure of this massacre at 200,000. The Times (London) in its report (‘Elimination of Muslims from Jammu’, Part II, 10th August 1948, p. 5) wrote “2,37,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated…… by all the forces of the Dogra State, headed by the Maharaja in person and aided by Hindus and Sikhs.” As hundreds of Muslims forced by the Dogra forces, fled Jammu and Poonch regions, on 12th October 1947 Pakistan dispatched a telegram to Dogra rulers detailing these atrocities and demanding an impartial inquiry. The Dogra rulers promised an inquiry, but did nothing to stop this orgy. Incidentally Kashmir valley did not record any communal violence even after these massacres had been reported. In spite of having been appointed as the ‘Chief Emergency Administrator’ on 30th October 1947, Sheikh Abdullah admitted to having known, but exerted nothing to prevent this carnage or punish the culprits. (‘Atishe Chinar’ page 312, 331).
“Unlike every part of the (Princely) State(Jammu & Kashmir) , Hindu and Sikhs slightly out-numbered Muslims (in Jammu) and within a period of about 11 weeks, starting in August, systematic savageries ……practically eliminated the entire Muslim element in the population, amounting to 5,00,000 people. About 2, 00,000 just disappeared, remaining untraceable, having presumably been butchered.” (Ian Stephens, then editor of The Statesman (Calcutta) in his book ‘Pakistan’ P-200).
The Poonch rebels angered by news of these horrific massacres, many of whom had already fled to Pakistan, started organizing an armed mutiny against the Dogra Maharaja. Along with the Mirpur rebels, they sought active help from Pashtun Afridis, who were known to manufacture weapons in the ‘Illaqa-i- Ghair’ North-West Frontier tribal areas. On 22nd October 1947 these rebels with active support of tribesmen (and some Pakistani military officers) invaded the Dogra forces in Kashmir. The Dogra Maharaja looked towards India for military help, yet still nurturing his wish of an Independent Jammu & Kashmir.
This military help, to save the Maharaja, came at the cost of accession talks. But not only does the document of accession have its own shades of doubts, even the military help extended by Indian has its unanswered questions. Indian claims on Jammu and Kashmir hang by the “Instrument of Accession” reported to have been signed between Maharaja Hari Singh and the then Governor General of India Lord Mountbatten. Alastair Lamb claims that it would have been impossible for V.P Menon to get the signatures of Maharaja on October 26th, since Menon would have to shuffle then between Delhi, Jammu, and Srinagar in a single day, while the Maharaja was in transit. Another puzzling fact is the overwriting of dates on the copies of ‘the accession document’ where ‘August’ has been overwritten with ‘October’, clearly pointing to either such a document draft existing before the tribal invasion or doubting the veracity of the document itself (Alastair Lambs argument of the impossibility of the Maharaja signing it).
Even though India has been claiming that its troops landed in Kashmir on 27th October (overnight) after the “Instrument of Accession” had been signed the previous day, there are inconsistencies to this version. Indian troops in reality had reached Kashmir even before 27th October (even before the signing of the instrument of accession). Soldiers of the Maharaja of Patiala, who was already a part of the Indian Union, were dispatched and reached Srinagar on October 17th 1947. These troops, who represented not the Maharaja of Patiala but the India Union now, were already at the Srinagar airfield by then, camouflaged in civilian trucks and taken control of the Airport there. (Alastair Lamb, Kashmir, a Disputed Legacy 1846-1990). Clearly the October 27th operation by the Indian army was not prompted just by the tribal invasion, given the scale of such operations for a country who has just won her Independence would have not been easy. The logistics and planning required for such military operations could not have been drafted and executed overnight between 26th and 27th October 1947.
The Dogra rulers of Kashmir were not any hereditary kings nor did they have any claim on being descendants of Kashmir. They had been handed over the rule of Kashmir by the British for a price, after the latter defeated Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who had occupied and ruled Kashmir before that. Hence the right of Dogra Maharajas to Kashmir was as good as of any other invading and occupying ruler, having no right whatsoever to decide the accession of Kashmir without involving the aspirations of its people.
Meanwhile up north, for some unknown reasons, the invading tribesmen got held up for two days in Baramulla, giving the Indian forces the advantage to land and proceed from Srinagar. In their retreat the tribesmen were reported to have indulged in looting and killing there, so did the Indian forces while invading Kashmir. While the tribesmen left, Indian military stayed back, consolidated, expanded and turned Kashmir into the world’s largest prison.
27th October continues to be a dark phase for Kashmir, when military might trampled over civilian rights. A symbol of political treachery sold by India as military help, not to secure the commoners in Kashmir, but to secure a despotic king who in the following years was to be replaced by proxy rulers in democratic packing. Who landed the first Dakota with Indian soldiers in Kashmir is immaterial, what is important that India used the Srinagar airstrip on 27th October to force a silent invasion into Kashmir, that continues to a hold a grip only by military force.
All promises of India that preceded or followed the October 27th invasion were trampled over time.
“I should like to make it clear that [the] question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the State to accede to India. Our view, which we have repeatedly made public is that [the] question of accession in any disputed territory or State must be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people and we adhere to this view” (25th October 1947 telegram from New Delhi (Nehru) to PM of UK C.R. Attlee. Govt. of India, White Paper on Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi 1948, p.46).
Indian P.M Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister, in his November 2nd, 1947 broadcast to India from New Delhi “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given, and the Maharaja has supported it, not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not, and cannot back out of it. We are prepared when peace and law and order have been established to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations. We want it to be a fair and just reference to the people, and we shall accept their verdict. I can imagine no fairer and juster offer.” (Govt. of India, White Paper on Jammu & Kashmir, New Delhi 1948, p.55)
October 27th stands as a dark day in remembrance of these promises by India that were sold to political deceit, unleashing its military machine with impunity against Kashmir. October 27th is the start of India’s war against Kashmiri civilians.