The partition of the sub-continent in 1947 not only gave birth to new independent states of India and Pakistan, it also created what’s internationally known as the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir. The bloodletting at the time of partition consumed millions of lives on both sides. However, for Kashmir and its people, the blood continues to be spilled and history continues to be a nightmarish experience. In this excerpt from Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s autobiography Wular Kinarey, the aged Hurriyat leader talks about the year of 1947 and what he witnessed as a young eighteen year old boy on the cusp of political maturity. The excerpt is taken from the first volume of Wular Kinarey. The translation from Urdu is by Irfan Mehraj, editor of Wande Magazine.
In those times, we had no means or resources to be aware of the events taking place in the world. We had no source of information or access to the outer world. The newspapers, radio or even close connections with people from city and towns – which could have been our sources of information, were very limited. When old folk would travel from Bandipora to Zurimonz, they would relay to us what the situation was like or where the tide has turned. In fact the news of partition of Indian subcontinent in 1947 was relayed to us by these people only. Hindustan was partitioned into two nations. Pakistan came into existence, which was formed on basis of its Muslim-majority population. Bengal was partitioned; the eastern part went to Pakistan. Punjab too was divided, in the case of Punjab – the western Punjab became part of Pakistan. In the Indian subcontinent, there were nearly 600 princely states and kingdoms [under the principality of British Raj]; some of which became part of India and some joined Pakistan. The princely state of Hyderabad, which was a Muslim state – was annexed by India to its dominion by sending its military to the state. Junagadh was another princely state which had chosen to become part of Pakistan. But here too, the Indian government send its military and made it part of Rajasthan.
Jammu and Kashmir was a Muslim-majority state where majority of the people were quite happy at the creation of Pakistan. People were quite hopeful that they too will become part of Pakistan now. But the Maharaja of the state, who was the last Maharaja of the Dogra family, could not decide the fate of Jammu and Kashmir till August 1947. However the Indian politician Gandhi had already set his eyes on Kashmir even before the partition of the sub-continent. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was in jail at that time and Maharaja was pressurized to release him. However, Abdullah was released from prison in September 1947 following a ‘pact of loyalty’ with the Maharaja. People were expecting Sheikh to throw his weight behind the accession with Pakistan. But the truth was that the Indian National Congress had already lured Sheikh in 1938 with their charmed ideas of secularism, and Sheikh had fallen for it and he became averse to the politics and vision of the Muslim League. At a public address Sheikh delivered in Hazuri Bagh area of Srinagar, he gave signs which revealed the content and intent of his mind and thoughts. It became evident what Sheikh’s mind was thinking.
Around the same time in October 1947, tribesmen from the border areas started their journey to Kashmir. Their clear objective was to wrest Jammu and Kashmir from Dogra Maharaja’s dominion and make it part of Pakistan. They defeated Dogra forces at several places and despite many impediments reached near Shalteng (outskirts of Srinagar).
They were however stopped by workers of National Conference in Baramulla and this halted their movement towards Srinagar. They were however lead to surrounding areas in Baramulla where they indulged in loot and killings of Hindus and Sikhs, and the National Conference workers aided them in this. During those days, I was stationed at Dengiwech village where I was both studying and teaching. I was a witness to how National Conference workers in Rawich village lead the tribesmen into the village and got the Sikh neighbours killed and looted their property. I remember how one of my friend late Ghulam Ahmad Shah of Rafiabad (Baramulla) who maintained cordial and brotherly relationship with the Sikh community came to their help and tried to save them. He gave sanctuary to Sikh women at his own home. I am a witness to seeing several dozen Sikh daughters and sisters residing at the small house of Ghulam Ahmad Shah. In Batasuma, the entire village had stood up and were active in protecting the women of the Sikh community like their own children. They would give them hope and assurances. In that period of calamity, the village community would take care of their food and would also reason with them and encourage them to not to fall into trap of hooliganism.
If the tribesmen had not been misled in Baramulla in taking a wrong route, they would have reached Srinagar and seized Srinagar airport and thus Kashmiri people would not only have been freed of oppressive hundred year rule of Dogra aristocracy but also prevented the further occupation of Kashmir by Indian forces. The tribesmen would have left after their objectives were met. They had not come to rule over us. At this time, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah felt that he was losing his power and his lust for power didn’t evince any pity from him for his people who became its victims.
The Dogra Maharaja on the pretext of tribal invasion, sought help from India and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah at that time encouraged the then prime minster of India Jawahar Lal Nehru to send his troops to Kashmir. Sheikh had friendly relations with Nehru. Because of these friendly relations Sheikh became careless about the consequences. His own desire for power caused irreparable damage to the whole Kashmiri nation by following an undignified path and policy. There is no doubt that the tribesmen indulged in ignorant and brazen acts. But theirs was a temporary calamity. The whole of India and Pakistan was witness to these inhuman acts where Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs were shedding each other’s blood and raping each other’s women and looting each other’s property. In fact in Jammu and Kashmir also, the Dogra forces, Hindu extremists, and Muslim hating forces were busy in the widespread killing of Muslims. When all of this was taking place, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was watching all this but his humanity seemed to have been crushed under his feet.
27 October 1947: Black day and a long dark night
I was telling to you about how on the pretext of tribal invasion, the Dogra Maharaja sought military help from India and Kashmiri leaders of that time, who were released from prison in September 1947, agreed with this proposition and that is how on 27 October 1947 Indian state landed its troops on Kashmir and thus started their military occupation. Before this, on the occasion of partition of Indian sub-continent a conspiracy was hatched by the British Raj and Indian National Congress. Because of this conspiracy namely Radcliffe awards there was open betrayal in the partition of Punjab in which district Gurdaspur’s those tehsils which had Muslim majority population, were given to India and in this way the ground was prepared for Indian capture of Kashmir by providing a land route to Kashmir through Gurdaspur. I have come to know this later in life after learning about the history of this unfortunate land and the events surrounding the beginning of Indian military occupation of Kashmir.
The Indian occupational forces were successful in pushing the tribesmen away from the valley. In Shalteng, several tribesmen were killed by Indian forces. How could they have faced the wrath and power of Indian armed forces? They did not have any Army help. They did not even have any supply line. They did not have the character of an organized and purposeful regular Army. Pakistan had just come into existence and whatever Army it had it was under the control of a British Army general namely Douglas Gracy and the health of the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah was deteriorating each past day. He was suffering from Tuberculosis. The rulers of Pakistan at that time were given instruction that if in-service army is not available, Pakistan should gather and organize the retired Army men and try to stop Indian forces entry at Jammu. But the short-sighted rulers of Pakistan at that time couldn’t muster courage and will to follow on this plan of action. I also learned from the pages of history that Quaid e Azam Jinnah, who was bedridden with illness, was stricken with grief after losing Kashmir and he had ordered General Gracy to send its Army to Kashmir. But because the British Raj was part of this whole conspiracy General Gracy stayed true to this conspiracy and declined to follow the orders of Jinnah and the tribesmen could not do anything against the onslaught of Indian forces and gave their lives and could not achieve their objectives. The entire responsibility of this calamity falls on those traitors of the nation who misled the tribesmen from the right route and put them on the path of loot and murder. And the tribesmen could not remain united for long for the objective that they had set out for.