COUNT-DOWN TO INDIAN ARMY LANDING IN KASHMIR

 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.

M.C.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 Mahraja 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).

Pursuant to the above parleys, the Maharaja released Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah  on 29th September . To strengthen his defense  structure, he Simultaneously placed  an indent for Military supplies with Govt. 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. 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. 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, 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 send troops into 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.

 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 & 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 & 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 & sikh migrants t o eliminate Muslims, rape their women and occupy the properties of those fleeing in desperation. A script for demographic change had cleverly been  crafted  & effectively executed fully aided and abetted by Patiala Forces.

The news of Maharaja’s  overtures  & Indian Military assistance  travelled to Pakistan . on 14th October, the “Dawn” Newspaper  carried  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 demobilized world war II veterans. They contacted their acquaintances  and contacts in NWFP for assistance in taking revenge & liberate Kashmir.  This resulted in formation of  a ragtag force of tribesmen  mostly Masoods, Wazirs & Afridis, which proceed to Kashmir for its liberation. When they reached Baramulla, reports of atrocities like loot,  abduction & 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 & 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 & 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,the  date of signing is  disputed by many eminent authors & historians  ). 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 Safdar Jang  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 Army can  drive  out the Army-not the civilians”.

(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Feed back at amzargar1@indiatimes.com)