Editorial : 71 years and Kashmir stays in home

Kashmiri protestors clash with Indian police as they took to the streets chanting pro-freedom slogans after prayers. Image courtesy AFP

By Deepika Bhan

India should be thankful to Pakistan for letting the state of Jammu and Kashmir to go with it. This may seem amusing but history has stories to tell. Seventy years ago, an event in history brought the state of Jammu and Kashmir within the fold of India. The monarchy in Jammu and Kashmir had decided to live as an independent nation between the boundaries of India and Pakistan. India had no issues with the Maharaja’s decision but Pakistan’s Jinnah had a vulturous greed to gobble the territory. And a try was made by Pakistan on October 22nd, 1947. Jammu and Kashmir that time was an independent nation state with its own king, army and police. The king was a Hindu and there was a considerable resentment against him among the Muslim subjects. The movement against the kingdom was spearheaded by a tall educated Kashmiri Muslim leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.

On October 22nd 1947, Pakistan Army along with Kabailies (tribals) from North West Frontier Province launched invasion of Kashmir. The Pakistani invaders quickly overwhelmed the Maharaja’s Army. Muzaffarabad fell in no time as the units of the Maharaja’s army deserted after killing Hindu and Sikh officers. After realising the gravity of the situation the Maharaja approached India on October24th. As hectic parleys were underway, the invaders took over Mohra power station plunging Srinagar city into darkness. The invaders from Pakistan next marched towards Baramulla. Here a brave Brigadier Rajinder Singh put up a valiant fight before getting martyred. He held the invaders for two days which proved to be crucial in the fate of the state. The raiders entered Baramulla on 26th October, plundering, looting and killing mostly Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and Christians. Many women were raped, killed and abducted. By next morning, the raiders reached the outskirts of Srinagar. There was virtually no army or police to fight the invaders. Sheikh Abdullah and his supporters organized a voluntary force of young men known as Salamati Fauj in the city. As the invaders were advancing forward, two separate stories were happening at the same time. Maharaja Hari Singh was seeking help in Delhi, and Sheikh Abdullah in Kashmir sent two of his confidantes to Pakistan to meet Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan. The Pakistani leadership dismissed Abdullah’s proposal which upset him and he took the flight to Delhi. On 26th October1947 Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Accession Treaty. Sheikh Abdullah consented to the accession. Thus the Maharaja and the Sheikh decided the fate of the state, but with a rider that the state have an independent status within the union of India. Nehru agreed to the arrangement. The nearly two month old government of independent India despite stiff opposition from the British officers went ahead with the rescue Kashmir mission.

Indian Army reached Srinagar airport on 27th October 1947. At that particular time they were not sure whether the airport was secure or fallen. The Pakistani raiders had not been able to capture the airport as Maharaja’s forces in Baramulla held fort strongly which delayed their Srinagar onslaught. It is also said that the invaders spent a day in Baramulla massacring people. Had the raiders not spent one full day to kill and maim helpless population, they would have probably seized Srinagar before 26th October.
The Indian Army took control of the airport but the forces had a precarious situation in hand. There was not much ground information and planning had to be done on the battle field itself. Still the army contingent landed and straightway went into battle field under the command of young Lt. Col Ranjit Rai. There also was not enough fighting material available, even petrol fell short. But Army fought bravely and secured Srinagar and later recaptured farther lands. Major Somnath Sharma fought raiders near Badgam to secure Srinagar airport. It is said that he was martyred while fighting valiantly in a situation that can unnerve anyone easily. The fight is said to have been in one to seven ratio. Major Somnath was awarded Param Vir Chakra posthumously, the first Indian to receive the highest bravery award. On November 7, 1947 the Battle of Shalteng happened which became the decisive one wherein the raiders were routed. Around 300 of them were killed in the fight and rest ran away and retreated.

The battle with Pakistani raiders continued for over a year. Gilgit was taken over by Pakistan after the Muslim army officers revolted and killed Hindu and Sikh officers. The Hindu Governor was taken as prisoner. The Pakistani raiders were also keen to get Ladakh. But it was the sheer vigor of the Indian Army and Air Force that saved the Buddhist dominated land. It was the extraordinary grit of two officers of the Indian Defence Forces that helped overthrow the Pakistanis. One was Air Commodore Mehar Singh who flew plane on May 24th 1948 at 23,000ft above sea level without oxygen mask and landed at the rough Leh airstrip. This enabled the Air Force to bring forces to the place. And the second was Major General Thimayya who took tanks to the snow covered treacherous Zojila pass on November1, 1948. 25 bunkers built by the Pakistani raiders were destroyed as they were completely taken in by surprise.

The war went on till ceasefire came into force on January 1st 1949. Indian Army did a spectacular job and recaptured two-thirds of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. A popular government led by Sheikh Abdullah was installed in the state on 5th March, 1948 even as the battle with Pakistan was continuing.

The battle with Pakistan has not ended. It continues even today because Pakistan believes that Kashmir is its unfinished agenda. Pakistan attacked India in 1965 and1971, and the kargil attack happened in 1999. Pakistan lost all wars with India and that is why it has entered into proxy war with India. It is creating, supporting and launching terrorists from its land against India. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is being repeatedly attacked and disturbed by terror attacks. Thousands have been killed so far including the security forces.

Pakistan has successfully played the religious card in the valley which is being aided and abetted by vested interests in the state. First Hindus were targeted and forced out of the valley and now the youth is being gradually radicalized. The plan is simple, target pro India elements from the state, attack security forces and do everything to seek international attention. Pakistan wants to keep the pot boiling in the valley; it is continuously violating ceasefire at LoC and International Border, launching sniper attacks against BSF and Army, and frequently pushing in the Pak army trained terrorists into Indian space. It is over three decades now that this type of proxy war is happening in the valley.

In its seventy-first year, the state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to suffer because of Pakistan’s malicious actions. But the security forces also continue to be inspired by the martyrdom of each of the soldiers who fall for saving the mother land.

(The author is a senior journalist with two decades of journalism experience .She hails from Kashmir .Her specialty interest areas include Jammu and Kashmir and Indo- Pak relations .She has worked in print and News TV as well )

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