The Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, had signed a stand-alone agreement with Pakistan on 12 Aug 1947, under which Pakistan had agreed not to unilaterally disturb the status quo and continue to treat J and K as an independent state. Conveniently it broke the agreement and launched Operation Gulmarg on 22 Oct to capture the state employing tribal militias, ex-army personnel and regular soldiers.
They indulged in an orgy of looting and violence. The raiders hardly distinguished between religions and ransacked property, murdering, raping and plundering. They loaded their loot in trucks and sent it back. Women were kidnapped and taken back to be sold. Hindu’s and Sikhs were slaughtered and thrown into the river. Muslim women pleaded for their lives but to no avail. The initial onslaught was borne by the state forces but shortly they began losing ground.
Almost nothing stood between Pakistan and its objective of Srinagar except a few companies of the J&K State Army under Brigadier Rajinder Singh, Chief of Staff of the state forces. The state army was outnumbered, but by bold and determined delaying actions between Uri and Baramulla, they managed to slow the advance of the Pakistan invaders along the Jhelum Valley road. They also succeeded in destroying a vital bridge at Uri, upsetting the timetable of Pakistan’s tribal force. Consequently, the raiders could only reach the vicinity of Baramulla by 25th October, instead of the outskirts of Srinagar.
Brigadier Rajinder Singh was ambushed on the night of 26/27 Oct. He is known as ‘Saviour of Kashmir’ and was awarded Independent India’s first gallantry award, the ‘Mahavir Chakra’ (MVC) for his bravery.It was in this dire strait that the Maharaja of Kashmir requested for Indian help and signed the Instrument of Accession with India on 26th Oct 1947.
On 27th Oct, Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar to begin the counterstrike. The fist contingent to land at Badgam airfield was a company of 1st Sikh under the command of their CO, Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai. While the battalion was being built up, the raiders were busy looting Baramulla. The Indian army celebrates Iinfantry Day on 27th Oct in memory of the valiant landing and launch of operations by 1st Sikh, the first operation by the Indian army, post-independence. The battalion lost its CO, Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai, on the outskirts of Baramulla. He too was awarded the MVC.
By then 161 Infantry Brigade built up in Srinagar and began deployment. A company of 4 KUMAON,under Major Som Nath Sharma, deployed in Budgam, came under attack from the tribal militia lead by Pak army officers on 03 Nov. Though heavily outnumbered the troops fought back. The company was finally overrun and Major Som Nath Sharma, who delayed the tribal advance, permitting redeployment of the force, saving Srinagar from the raiders,was awarded India’s first Param Vir Chakra (PVC). The raiders began closing in on Srinagar. They were stonewalled and blocked from advancing into the city. Then, on 07 Nov, they were counter attacked from multiple directions by 1 KUMAON and a squadron of armour of 7 CAV on the outskirts of Srinagar. They panicked and ran and were then targeted by the air force. At Shalateng, Pak forces faced their worst defeat. Hundreds were killed or wounded; the balance ran towards Baramulla. On 08 Nov, when 4 KUMAON entered Baramulla, they found only a few stragglers of Pak raiders. Nehru visited Baramulla on 11 Nov to be warmly received by the local populace. By 13 Nov, there were no raiders in the valley. Battles continued to clear them off the Uri heights. Operations now shifted to the Jammu sector. By end November, the raiders had secured Mirpur and penetrated into Naushera, Rajouri, Mendhar and Poonch.
They had to be driven out because if they held on to these regions, theycould threaten the Jammu sector and sever routes connecting Srinagar and Jammu.50 Parachute Brigade was given this task. The battle of Naushera was amongst the fiercest. Naik Jadunath Singh of 1 Rajput was awarded the PVC and his company commander Lt KS Rathore the MVC in this battle.
Jhangar was captured after changing hands multiple times in Feb 1948. Brig M Usman, the commander of 50 Parachute Brigade, also the hero of Naushera and Jhangar, was killed in Jhangar by Pak artillery shelling. He was awarded the MVC. The Parachute Brigade were aptly supported by 7 CAV, whose CO, Lt Col Rajinder Singh, was also awarded the MVC.
The battle for Poonch commenced in Nov 1947, when Pak troops comprising of three brigades laid siege to the city and subjected it to heavy mortar and machine gun fire. It had within it the 1st and 8th Battalion of state forces reinforced by 1 KUMAON and subsequently also by 3/9 Gorkha Rifles. It was commanded by Lt Col (promoted to Brig during the battle) Pritam Singh, Military Cross from the second world war, and CO of 1 KUMAON. By Sept 1948, with the additional employment of 19 Infantry Brigade, the siege was cleared and with it 5000 sq kms of territory in the region regained.
With equal tenacity Indian forces launched operations in the Leh sector,Zojila and Drass were captured by mid-Nov 1948 and Kargil a week later. Finally, the link between Srinagar and Leh was secured. It was with this status that the UN brokered ceasefire was enforced.
The signing of the accession document was the commencement of a bloody war, where Pak’s first misadventure into Kashmir was thwarted. It broke its own accord with the Maharaja of Kashmir and attempted to capture it by force. It failed. Had Pak played by the rules, demanded from the British a desire to implement of the wishes of the population, things may have been different. It has never learnt and repeated the same blunder on multiple occasions. It broke its accord with the Khan of Kalat in Mar 1948 and invaded Baluchistan, a battle it continues to fight with massive casualties. It attempted the same misadventures in Kashmir in 1965 and 1999in Kargil and failed each time. It continues playing the game by employing terrorists and would never succeed, losing each time. The faster it learns, the faster the nation would move towards development and peace. If it continues down this stage, there will only be defeat written before its name.
The author is Major General (Retd)