Dr.Ramesh Tamiri unravels details about the conspiracy and ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims in J&K in 1947-48. He presented these details as a part of the research paper in a National Symposium at Sri Nagar in October,2020
Jammu and Kashmir( J&K) was part of Princely India under British colonial rule. Partition plan didn’t extend to the princely states. The ruler was given the choice to join either of the two dominions –India or Pakistan after lapse of British paramountacy.The problems arose in case of Hyderabad, Junagarh and J&K because the rulers in these states didn’t belong to the majority community of that particular state.
J&K ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh , delayed accession for two reasons.One,Pt.Nehru put a pre-condition that Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference should be included in the Govt. before accession document is signed.Maharaja had doubts over what role Sheikh Abdullah would play.He did not give any commitment on this. Second reason for the delay was that he feared that his state would be used as a pawn for a compromise with Pakistan.His strategy was to wait till Junagarh and Hyderabad decided the issue. A section of Congress leadership also gave him this advice.Pakistan’s strategy was to grab all the three states.
Though publicly Pakistan took a stand that only the ruler was entitled to decide the issue of accession but even as early as June 1947 it began conceiving plans to grab J&K by force. It is a misnomer to call Pakistan’s naked aggression against J&K in 1947 as ‘Tribal Raid.’ Pakistan organized the invasion and directly supervised the operations.
Major Onkar Singh Kalkat,who had opted for India and was awaiting repatriation, was posted at Bannu,NWFP.On 20 August 1947 he stumbled upon a letter marked ‘Personal/Top Secret.’ It was addressed to his Brigade Commander CP Murray, a British army officer, and signed by Gen.Frank Messervey, Chief of Staff of Pakistan army. Attached to the letter was was a copy of the plan that Pakistan army had prepared for launching invasion against J&K.The plan code-named ‘Operation Gulmarg’ envisaged use of non-state actors- the Pashtun tribesmen as footsoldiers for the attack. Each tribe was asked to raise a Lashkar of 1000 persons.Deputy Commissioners and Political agents were to recruit these tribesmen. The Pathan officers from the Frontier Force Regiment were to function as commanders of the tribal Lashkars. As per this plan all arms, ammunition and other requirements were to be moved to Abbotabad by 15 October.An area of 10 miles on outskirts of Abbotabad was marked for the invading force.Details of the Operation Gulmarg summarised by Major Kalkat are available in his memoir titled The Far Flung Frontiers.
As per this plan separate lashkars were allotted for Abbotabad-Baramulla axis,Hajipur-Gulmarg axis ,Tithwal-Sopore-Bandipur axis and Poonch-Bhimber-Rajouri – Rawalakot-Jammu axis.One Infantry Division was to be stationed at Muree and another one Brigade at Sialkot for back-up support.
Role of Col.Akbar Khan
Did Col.Akbar Khan,who was that time Director of Weapons and Equipment GHQ Rawalpindi, have any role in framing of this plan as some suggest?No definite answers are available.In his separate plan which he prepared in second week of September 1947 on the orders of Mian Iftikharuddin he had kept no role for Pashtun Lashkars. But then how he was to command the whole Lashkar force if he had no link with this plan? In the ‘Operation Gulmarg’ plan Col.Akbar Khan was also to organise ‘Azad army’ from deserters of State army.
Another confirmation that Pakistan had drafted a plan for invasion of J&K state comes from Gen.Thimayya. In August 1947 he had gone to Lahore to attend a meeting of the Boundary Force. He overheard Pakistani officers talking about stationing their respective regiments at Gulmarg and Pahalgam soon. About the same time two senior commanders of 11 Cavalry ( Frontier Force)were asked to participate in the task of Jehad-e-Fisabilillah ( ‘Freedom for Kashmir’).
There were two separate plans drafted for the attack on J&K. One was prepared at Peshawar and another one at Lahore.
This Plan was brain-child of NWFP Chief Minister, Khan Abdul Qayoom Khan. It assigned main role to tribal lashkars in the invasion. NWFP Governor Sir George Cunnigham and senior Britishers serving in Pakistan army were kept in the loop.
This plan was prepared by the Ex- INA officer Col.Mohammad Zaman Kiani in consultation with Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan, a minister in West Punjab Govt. Former INA officers: HR Rehman,Dara,Arshad,Buruhanuddin Mulk and Habibur Rehman were assigned key role in this. Col.MZ Kiani talked about pincer attack from Kashmir and Jammu sides. His plan had three main features:
- Using Poonchi ex-servicemen as foot-soldiers for the invasion.2.Setting up internal subversive network for attacks within Kashmir valley.3. Preventing Indian reinforcements from reaching Kashmir by disruption of line of communication on Pathankot-Jammu road.
Col.Akbar Khan’s plan ‘Armed Revolt inside Kashmir’ was not much different from Kiani Plan but it stressed inclusion of Mirpuris besides the Poonchis in the invasion.
Chief Ministers of NWFP and Punjab were directed to enroll ex-servicemen from Poonch and Punjab to provoke large-scale anti-state and communal violence in Poonch and organize border raids from Kathua to Bhimber.
Recruitment of Pashtun Tribesmen
Major Khurshid Anwar,leader of Muslim League’s National Guards and Pir Manki Sharif extensively toured NWFP in second week of September 1947 to enroll tribesmen for ‘Jihad.’ The task of recruitment and arming of tribesmen was handled directly by NWFP Govt.
The cry of holy war-Jihad was raised. Incendiary speeches were delivered by motivators and organizers to raise raw communal passions among tribal lashkars. Special songs were composed in a mix of Pashto and Hindko to inflame sentiments of tribesmen drafted for Kashmir invasion and claim that it was a voluntary effort.
The tribal lashkars were told that their Muslim brethren in J&K were ‘slaves’ of Hindu Maharaja.It was said that neither they could practice their religion nor their womenfolk were safe. The recruiters digged in to the minds of wild Pashtun tribesmen that subjugated Muslims of the state were to be liberated.This propaganda influenced them.
The tribesmen were told that Kashmir was a rich country and they could plunder the state at will. In fact, there was an understanding between NWFP Chief Minister Khan Abdul Qayoom Khan and tribal lashkars through Major Khurshid Anwar on this.Col.Akbar Khan shamelessly defends it,saying that the tribesmen had “ no other remuneration.” The tribesmen were also given license to rape and take away women.
Khan Abdul Qayoom Khan had his own force too , comprising the members of the Frontier Police, separate from that of Khurshid Anwar’s tribesmen.When the two forces converged near Srinagar dispute arose who would make triumphant entry in to Srinagar for plunder.Since each side was unwilling for compromise it was decided that they would not attack Srinagar till dispute was resolved. Khan Abdul Qayoom Khan then sent SP Khushdil Khan to Srinagar to call back his force.
Besides tribal lashkars Pakistani soldiers in civvies,workers of Muslim League and Communists led by Latif Afghani were enlisted for invasion force. All criminals in the tribal belt of NWFP were released for joining ‘jihad’ for Kashmir. The Chief Minister of NWFP also arranged participation of Afghan Parwindas in Kashmir campaign.
In June 1948 at the instance of Pak Govt. Ahmedi leadership helped raise Furqan battalion from among the young volunteers of Ahmedi community. Some retired officers belonging to Ahmedi community too were recalled and attached to Furqan battalion.
The main role in the invasion was given to the Pakistan Army, the Frontier Constabulary, the Kassadars and Tribal Levies.
Khwaja Abdur Rahim was appointed Commissioner of Rawalpindi, which looked after three districts bordering J&K-Rawalpindi,Gujrat and Jhelum. He openly called for conquering northern India and slaughter of non-Muslims in presence of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and Nawab of Mamdot.He incited tribesmen by telling them that he had made a plan to kill Hindus of Jammu and then settle tribesmen there. Veteran journalist CGK Reddy,an important eyewitness to the conspiracy , describes him as one of the worse communal maniac.He holds him responsible for the slaughter of the non-Muslims in the Alibeg camp in Mirpur. Jamaat Islami ideologue Maulana Abul-Ala Maudoodi and Ahmedi leader Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmed were asked to assist in the invasion.
Subversion in Kashmir
A key component of Pakistan’s invasion plan was to subvert loyalities of Muslim officers and other ranks in J&K administration and State army. It sent a senior Muslim League functionary, Nasira Siddiqui,to Srinagar in early August 1947.Her assignment was to subvert loyalty of Muslim officers in the state administration and the army and enlist their support for subversive game-plan. After Govt. learnt about her activities she was asked to leave the state immediately.She re-entered Kashmir and received a bullet injury at Pattan on 27 October 1947.
Groups of students from Islamia College Lahore and Aligarh extensively toured the state.They also tried to influence senior Muslim officers in State administration,police and army. Some officers changed their loyalities and began helping in the Pakistan’s subversive game-plan.These disloyal officials openly instigated civilian population to take up arms. The disloyal officers in army regularly briefed Pakistani planners about deployments at different places and allied decisions. Peer Asamuddin Gilani of Muzaffarabad , who had access to Maharaja ,wrongly briefed him that if he stationed Muslim troops at Muzaffarabad-Pakistan border Pakistanis would not attack the State troops because a Muslim would not attack Muslim.
Muslim Conference workers from Srinagar were sent to Abbotabad for training in firearms. An Ahmedi leader Mahmud Ahmad allegedly sent 700 rifles and a huge cache of ammunition to Ch.Hameedullah Khan, President of Pro-Pakistani outfit Muslim Conference. In late August 1947 senior functionaries of NWFP Govt. smuggled arms and ammunition to Srinagar and distributed this to different Pak cells.Ex-servicemen,belonging to West Punjab and NWFP, were sent to Kashmir and stationed at strategic points.
Border raids were organized from Kathua to Bhimber to disperse the state forces and target Hindus and Sikhs. Loot, arson, killings and abduction of women continued unabated. Over 200 villages were subjected to arson and large numbers of non-Muslims were killed.There were horror stories about abduction of women. Pakistan army was directly involved in some of the raids. There was active connivance of disloyal officers in police,army and administration in this.
Pakistan had also hatched conspiracies to attack Maharaja at Bhimber on 20 October 1947 while he was on tour of border areas.Last minute change in the tour itinerary foiled Pakistan’s plot.
In another plot Sheikh Abdullah was to be invited to Pakistan and arrested.In case he came then a provisional govt. was to be floated under his name and Kashmir attacked.Statements would then be issued in his name making think Kashmiris that Sheikh Abdullah had sent the invaders.
False claims have been made that Jinnah had no role in planning the invasion.This is contradicted by the evidence available.NWFP Governor Sir George Cunnigham admits that Jinnah knew everything about the Kashmir invasion. Shaukat Hayat Khan corroborates that Jinnah okayed the plan. In fact, Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan fully endorsed Khan Abdul Qayoom Khan’s plan to recruit Pashtun tribesmen. It was Jinnah who arranged condemned ammunition for two fronts at the instance of Shaukat Hayat Khan.
Pakistan made another attempt to annex Kashmir valley through Tithwal in February 1948.The last remnants of the raiders were flushed out from Kashmir valley by early June 1948.
Ethnic cleansing of Non-Muslims:
Unlike the communal violence witnessed during the partition killings of Hindus and Sikhs in the wake of Pakistani attack on J&K in 1947 was state-sponsored ethnic cleansing. The objectives of Pakistan’s invasion went beyond conquest of the land. It aimed at destroying non-Muslim populations too.
There is a continuity between Pakistan’s attack on J&K in 1947 and cross border terrorism unleashed by it in 1989-90.The pattern of ideological campaign informed by jihad and use of terror as an instrument for ethnic cleansing of minority groups remains the same.
In Muzaffarabad,Mirpur,Bhimber-Deva-Vatala and Rajouri towns, which had substantial non-Muslim population, Pakistani invaders had been directed to destroy non-Muslim habitats wholesale through killings,arson,rape and abduction of women.
Soon after the Pakistani invaders entered Muzaffarabad town on 22 October 1947 they indulged in large-scale killing and arson. Most of the properties belonging to the non-Muslims was torched.The killings and loot continued unabated for two days. The tribesmen had orders to search for non-Muslims and kill them.Whereever they found non-Muslims the male members would be lined-up and shot dead. Three days after the attack some prominent citizens of the town were brought to the bank of Kishen Ganga and shot dead. In the district hospital over sixty patients were locked up in a room and then killed in cold blood. Non-Muslim prisoners in Central Jail were segregated and shot dead.
The raiders were asked not to kill Hindu doctors because they were needed to treat sick and injured Pakistani soldiers. The doctors were given immunity but their family members were taken captive.
Many Sikhs, including their women and children, who were hiding behind the trees near a nullah, were spotted by the tribesmen. Their male members were taken to the nullah and gunned down one by one.
Members of the Sikh community gave tough resistance to the Pakistani invaders at Nalochi Gurudwara and held them back for two days. After their ammunition was exhausted the tribesmen entered the gurudwara and massacred all those who had taken refuge there. Members of Sikh community were also massacred at Gojra and Tarnaawa Makri.
Women were raped on the streets at different places in full public view. Most of the women could not flee. Hundreds of ladies took poison to protect their honour,while many drowned themselves in Kishenganga. Some immolated themselves. Many women fell into the hands of the raiders and were taken to the tribal belt of NWFP.The kidnapped ladies were forcibly converted to Islam and many married off to local men.
During the day the raiders would seek out men and kill them.At night they would turn to the women and rape them.The non-Muslim families saved their women by seeking refuge with Muslim families in and around Muzaffarabad town. Many Muslims married these refugee seeking ladies. The deserters of State army from Jammu and Mirpur were quite brutal and carried away many women. Sardar Khazan Singh of Kotli gives the location of abducted girls—Tehsil Manshera 300,Garhi Habibullah 50,Garhi Tehsil Muzaffarabad 100,Muzaffarabad 500. The whole operation of loot,killings,arson and rapine,etc.was being supervised by organizers of invasion from their Headquarters at Balapeer.
The death dance was repeated at Bhimber where over 5000 non-Muslims had taken shelter in the tehsil building. Majority of them were killed. Only a small section was able to escape. Hundreds of women took poison to save their honour. Many were abducted. In the Deva-Vatala region over a thousand people were killed by Pakistanis in 30 villages.
On the day of Diwali in Rajouri more than 7000 Hindus and Sikhs were killed by Pakistani invaders, their collaborators in local population and state army deserters. Most of the women here saved their honour by swallowing poison. The Hindus of Rajouri do not celebrate Diwali to keep alive the memory of their loving ones killed in 1947.
Mirpur witnessed one of the horrendous religious cleansing campaigns in human history.Alibeg camp became Auschwitz from where every day the people were taken out and killed. Hundreds of women were kidnapped, dishonoured repeatedly and then sold in towns of Western Punjab and NWFP.As per one estimate only two thousand out of 25000 people in Mirpur managed to reach Jammu safely and some were repatriated later by International Red Cross.
In Askardu an ex- INA officer Col.Mataul Mulk was posted as commander of the Pakistan army. The surrender of Indian garrison in August 1948 was followed by mass murder and rape. In his report to the Headquarters he shamlessly bragged, “All Sikhs shot, all women raped.’’ The Sikhs were tied with ropes and taken to the river.After releasing the ropes they were asked to jump into the river. While they moved towards the river they were shot dead. Only the Sikh women and children below ten were left alive. Even Sikh boys ,who had barely attained adolescence, were hacked to death.Forty Sikhs were killed.The Sikh ladies were served with a warning that if their male child kept long hair he would be done to death immediately. Adolescent Hardev Singh,who had seen Pakistanis killing his father,brother and uncles,abused and pelted stones at Pakistanis.Stones were tied to his body with turban and then he was drowned in the Indus.A Balti tailor ,who had some humanity left in him,saved him and hid him even from his mother.
The three members of a Kashmiri Hindu family were attacked with swords. First the head of the family was hacked to death.Then his wife , who was pregnant, was assaulted when she rushed to protect her husband. Her abdomen was thumped with feet leading to miscarriage.She collapsed on the spot. Then the mob lynched his daughter. His another daughter ,who sustained mutiple injuries, lay unconscious in a pool of blood and was presumed to be dead.
The Pakistani soldiers made an attempt to strangulate Niranjan Nath Nadir and push him in to the nearby well. His two pet dogs fought with the Pak soldiers and saved him from being drowned.
Shigar had 7 Sikh families— all traders- dealing in dry fruit and cloth.These Sikhs had been living here for decades.The Sikh shopkeepers were tied to the trees and then shot at. One person named Preetam Singh survived even after receiving three bullets.With hands joined he begged the attackers to spare his life.The attackers slapped him hard.Fourth bullet claimed his life. The family members of the shopkeepers were collected in the evening and stabbed to death. Among the attackers were two Pakistani soldiers. When their eyes fell on two grown up Sikh girls they told their colleagues that they would themselves deal with the Sikhs. They forcibly married the two women survivors. One of the soldiers had killed the mother, sister and brother of the woman he married.Another girl committed suicide.
In Khaplu two Kashmiri Pandits, the doctor and his pharmacist, were killed. The doctor’s wife was abducted and tortured before she was released.
At Astore Major Hassan Jarral,a deserter of the State army, resorted to extortions, abductions and forcible conversions. He collected Rs. six to seven thousand and coerced the non-Muslims to convert to Islam. He made the life of the Hindus and the Sikhs hell.He shot them on flimsy pretexts and subjected them to loot. One Sikh named Karan Singh, who refused to accept Islam, was shot dead. He was working as a help in the family of Sardhul Singh,a business family from Bhoond Chakwal. The non-Muslims also had nightmarish experiences during the six months under Colonel Mohammad Aslam.
After the International Red Cross finalized the arrangements for repatriation the non-Muslims at Chilas were asked to move to Gilgat.They were provided horses and donkeys to cover the journey of four days.During night halts the tents were erected.At night the non-Muslims had to face another humiliation and agony when the soldiers barged into their tents, flashed torches and picked up any good looking woman .
In the Kashmir valley the Pakistani invaders ransacked village after village and town after town that came in their way. The same process of loot, arson, rape, abductions and killings was repeated against Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs. In Baramulla town Kashmiri Hindus were dragged to concentration camps and women raped.36 Kashmiri Hindus were killed in the town.
In almost all villages, where Kashmiri Hindus escaped killing, they were forced to become Muslims and at some places coerced to take beef. At many places the Pandit couples were asked to perform marriage anew as per the Shariat.
Over 135 Kashmiri Hindus were killed. There were nine major massacres. Seven baraatis were killed at Biner,Baramulla .In Aijar village of Bandipora 13 members of the Pandit community were massacred, while in Chandrahama village of Pattan 17 Kashmiri Pandits were killed. The victims included women as well.
There was targeted violence against the Sikhs. The latter gave tough resistance to Pakistanis at Shalakot,Choora,Ichama and Atna. The massacre of the Sikhs took place at ten places in Kashmir. In village Yaarbug the Sikhs were taken to Gurudwara and burnt alive. Many Sikh women,particularly in Hamal region, were abducted and taken across to Pakistan.Some of them were repatriated later by International Red Cross.The Sikhs resorted to honour killings at some places to save their women from falling in to the hands of Pakistanis.
(The author worked on oral history of Pakistani invasion on Kashmir in 1947-48.Based on this research work his two books are scheduled for publication early next year. The views expressed are personal)