Continuing with October narrative

October 22 is an important date in Kashmir history

Zahir-ud-Din
Dr Javed Iqbal’s October Narrative –II is an interesting read. It was informative as well. However, he failed to admit a historic reality. The freedom movement was formally launched by the Qadiyanies on May 8, 1930. This was the day when reading Room Party came into being.

The April 29, 1865 incident is very important. Similarly the Silk Factory Agitation of 1924 is equally important. Before April 29, the shawl weavers on July 6, 1847 observed strike against exploitation by the Dogra rulers.

This is the first strike observed by workmen anywhere in the world. Soon after, thousands of weavers migrated to Lahore via Shopian. A British officer, Lt Reynell Taylor rushed to Shopian and persuaded the weavers to refrain from migrating to Lahore. Some grievances were taken note of.   

These are all isolated incidents and failed to trigger a full fledged movement. Even the Reading Room failed to deliver. Come on Javed Sahib, be bold and admit the reality. There is no harm in it. Give the Qadiyanies what is due to them.   
 October 22 is an important date in Kashmir history. On this day in 1947, the Maharaja received the shock of his life. The Muslim soldiers of 4 JAK Rifles revolted, killed their commander, senior officers, colleagues and captured Muzaffarabad.   

The rebels were soon joined by a group of around 3000 tribesmen from `areas not under Pakistan’s regular administration.’ Brandishing light weapons, they captured whole of Muzaffarabad.  

 
The tribesmen were commanded by Anwar Shah. Although lacking armoured transport, they rapidly advanced towards Srinagar destroying Maharaja’s army and other symbols (government buildings etc) of autocratic rule en route.  

Historians have given different reasons for the mutiny and the sneaking of tribesmen into state territory. Most of them believe that the tribesmen and the Maharaja’s erstwhile Muslim soldiers indulged in loot, arson and murder. But, there are some who have the gut to admit the truth. They believe the mutiny was inspired by the heroic resistance of freedom fighters in Poonch. And, the tribesmen, according to them, came to fulfil a promise which they had made to Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah when he was hosted by Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan in his native land in 1937.   

History reveals that Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was taken along by Nehru to attend an important session of the Congress in Soba Sarhad in 1937. There he came across Khan Abdul Gaffer Khan who hosted him for a couple of weeks. During his stay with Gaffer Khan, Sheikh Abdullah narrated the woeful tale of Kashmiris to the Pathans. The Pathans promised him help against Maharaja at “appropriate time.”

Kashmiris have been accused of betraying the freedom fighters and the tribesmen. But, a peep into Kashmir history narrates a different story. The Kashmiris received them amid chanting of pro-freedom slogans and extended full cooperation to them.  However, a National Conference worker and a condemned cycle thief, Maqbool Sherwani played truant and was duly punished at Baramulla.  

Of course Sheikh Abdullah’s activists armed with wooden (toy) guns would roam in Srinagar to warn the tribesmen of dire consequences incase they did not leave Kashmir immediately. They were commonly called Khuftan Fakirs and would chant Hamla awar hooshiar, Hum Kashmiri hain taiyaar (beware raiders; Kashmiris are ready to teach you a lesson). Surprisingly the Khuftan Fakir force had a women wing as well. Some of them were also sent to what now constitutes the LoC to `encourage’ and entertain the Indian soldiers.

After fall of Muzaffarabad, the scared Maharaja sent his deputy Prime Minister, RL Batra to New Delhi on October 23 with the request for large scale military assistance. Dhar was categorically told not to offer accession of the state to Indian union unless insisted by the government of India.

It is believed that Dhar failed to strike a deal. A dejected Hari Singh sent Prime Minister, Meharchand Mahajan to New Delhi.

Mahajan called on Jawaharlal Nehru at his Yark Road residence. According to Aatish-e-Chinar, Sheikh Abdullah was also there and helped Mahajan in striking a deal. Sheikh Abdullah narrates the conversation on the page 417. “Sign the instrument of accession, give us army and confer whatever powers you like on the National Conference but fly your troops to Srinagar today otherwise I will knock at the doors of Muhammad Ali Jinnah”, Mahajan told Nehru.

Nehru got angry and told Mahajan to go to Jinnah. Leaving a stunned Mahajan in the room, Nehru walked out. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah who was present in another room pacified Nehru. “Please do not get angry at this crucial juncture. We have to act now otherwise it will be too late.”

Sheikh Abdullah also informed Nehru that National Conference supported Mahajan’s views. After listening to Sheikh Abdullah, Nehru cooled down and came back to give the `good news’ to Mahajan.

Acknowledging Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s help, Mahajan later wrote, “I am highly thankful to Sheikh Sahib for his help at the crucial juncture. He saved Kashmir from going to Pakistan.”

On October 24, 1947 a number of developments took place. The activities of the `rebels’ and Pathan volunteers started attracting attention from quarters that mattered in those fateful days.

The Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan army, Gen Gracy was the first to express his concern publicly. In a strong worded message to the government of Pakistan, Gracy warned her of “chaos in Kashmir.” He urged the government of Pakistan to tell the tribal leaders categorically about Pakistan’s strict neutrality.

Totally unmindful of Gracy’s warning, the `rebels’ and Pathan volunteers continued their march towards Srinagar and enter Baramulla (some historians contest the date). The power station at Mahore which illuminated Srinagar was destroyed. The entire Valley plunged into darkness.   

Maharaja Hari Singh, it is believed, was seeking the blessings of his Raj Guru (head priest) in his palace.  While the head priest assured him of a bright future, the lights of the palace went off. Earlier the Maharaja had celebrated victory of truth over evil. The demon king Ravana’s effigy had been set ablaze. The head priest’s blessings boosted his spirits but the darkness in the room mocked at him and his head priest. It was not a good omen.

Meanwhile, the ‘Azad Kashmir’ government was re-founded with its headquarters at Tradkhel. Sardar Ibrahiem became the first president of ‘Azad Kashmir’. It was earlier founded by G N Gilkar on October 4.This was done to exercise control over the areas liberated by the `rebels’ and the Pathan volunteers.

The secretariat of the newly formed state operated from canvass tents. The officers had no chairs to sit in. Even paper pins were not available in the secretariat.

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