Jammu and Kashmir in and before the turbulent 1947

Suresh Chander
For an understanding of the contemporary scenario it is necessary to take a dispassionate view of the happenings in Jammu and Kashmir in and before the turbulent 1947. Communal unity then proved fragile as political ambitions soared high. It remains under threat even today. If it is to be preserved good sense ought to prevail.
Beginning with New Kashmir or Naya Kashmir, it was a bold document prepared by the National Conference underlining the unity as the theme: “We the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, frontier districts and Poonch and Chenani Illaqas, known as the people of Jammu and Kashmir in common parlance, pledge ourselves to endorse and support this Constitution …” Sheikh Abdullah personally presented the New Kashmir plan to the Maharaja after garlanding him when the royal procession passed by the Mujahid Manzil. Within hours of the formal adoption of the “New Kashmir”, Maharaja Hari Singh significantly chose Gandhi Jayanti in 1944 to launch his historic plan of diarchy “with a view to giving further effect to my policy of associating my subjects – with the administration of the State”
“Describing it as “really a step forward.” M. A. Beg on behalf of National Conference went to the extent of asserting “His Highness Command has come at a time when nobody would deny that any constitutional progress would not have been insisted upon and anybody invested with power to confer constitutional reform, would easily have deferred them if he wished”. Speaking on behalf of the Muslim Conference group in the Praja Sabha, Choudhary Hamid Ullah Khan was no less eloquent: “Our beloved Ruler by taking this definite progressive step, of which any Indian State may well feel proud, has given two representatives of this House an opportunity of participating in his administration, thereby graciously bestowing a great honour to all the other members of the House.” The late veteran journalist and public figure, Om Prakash Saraf, has mentioned this in an article in the Daily Excelsior.
Bitterness against the Maharaja was forgotten at a critical juncture with the greater good of the people and the state in mind.
The July 13, 1931 events marked by the killing of Muslim protesters are pathetic to say the least. The events that followed were equally tragic. G.S.Raghavan, a former editor, has narrated these happenings in Srinagar in his book “THE WARNING OF KASHMIR” .
According to Raghvan, “a section of the recalcitrant crowed proceeded towards a place called Maharaj Ganj which is a business locality and loot over an extensive area followed. From Bohri Kadal to Ail Kadal a long stretch, the Hindu shops were raided. Other localities such as Safa Kadal, Ganji, Khud and Nawa Kadal too formed the centers of loot. Bazar streets were littered with property, books of accounts were burnt: the Hindu shopkeepers were molested, in short, pandemonium prevailed…The Hindu merchants lost lakhs worth of goods. Mr. Wakefield has affirmed that the articles were so strewn about the roads that his car would not pass, it is also his testimony that not a single Mohammedan complained to him about his premises having been invaded by the looters”. (George Wakefield was the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir at that time.)
Raghvan goes on: “The most extraordinary portion of the story is that almost simultaneously with the happenings at Srinagar, there was an uprising at a place named Vichar Nag, some 5 or 6 miles away. It has been stated that untold atrocities were committed there; men owning lakhs were reduced to indigence and women were subjected to the worst possible and the most indecent assaults. A military force was dispatched to the place, but by that time the havoc had been completed.”
Fallout of 1931 in Mirpur, Kotli and other areas..
This communal frenzy then spread to the far flung areas of Mirpur, Kotli, Rajouri and other parts of this area. Properties of Hindus/Sikhs, homes were looted and burnt. Innocent people were mercilessly killed and many were converted to Islam. These happenings known as “88 NA SHAURASH’ (Riots of 1988 Bikram or 1931 Christian Era) are still in the memory of not only survival of that time but also of their subsequent generations. Sukkchainpur and Samwal in Mirpur and Solahn, Seri, Rajoa, Khui Rata, Chawla, Panjeri, Dhana in Kotli were almost completely destroyed. Correspondence exchanged between different official agencies/Officers of the State Government and Indian (British) Government, describing the events of 1931, is preserved in the British Library in London. The incidents in Kotli are documented in Fight for Freedom by Justice Muhammad Yusuf Saraf, ex-Chief Justice of “Azad” Kashmir, as the occupied territory across the Line of Control is locally known.
Jammu – Mirpur Massacre in 1947
Yusuf Saraf estimates the number of Muslims killed in Jammu between 20,000 and 30,000. These killings were senseless and unjustified. It was part of a bigger shameful picture of partition when more than a million people lost their lives. Loss of property was insignificant to loss of lives.
The atrocities and killing of thousands of Hindus in Mirpur and indignities suffered by their women folk doesn’t find a place in most of the narratives. Uprooted from the region in the midst of unprecedented violence this writer is a personal witness as a child to the gory happenings.
The militants had entered Mirpur — the old city is now drowned in the backwaters of the Mangla Dam — on the morning of November 25, 1947 and set several parts of the city on fire, causing chaos and turmoil across the city. Large-scale rioting took place. Of the minority population, only about 2,500 Hindus or Sikhs could hurriedly escape to Jammu.. The others were captured and marched to Alibeg, where a gurdwara was converted into a prison camp, but the raiders killed 10,000 of the captives along the way and abducted 5,000 women. Only about 5,000 made it to Alibeg, but they continued to be killed at a gradual pace by the captors. The modesty of their women was outraged and many women committed mass suicide by jumping in wells, ponds and a canal to avoid rape and abduction. Men also committed suicide. The estimates measure the death toll at over 20,000.
According to Snedden, Christopher ( (2013) (first published as The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir, 2012)” Kashmir: The Unwritten History” HarperCollins), “A ‘greatly shocked’ Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan’, the then president of “Azad” Kashmir, who visited the place during the event, “painfully confirmed that Hindus were ‘disposed of’ in Mirpur in November 1947, though he does not mention any figures.”
The irony was that it was on the explicit orders of Sardar Ibrahim Khan that all educated menfolk, lawyers (they included many of his colleagues at the Bar), teachers and others were slaughtered not just killed.
Tribals in Baramulla
The tragedy of Baramulla was equally grim. Pashtun tribesmen captured Baramulla on October 25, 1947. They looted, raped, killed, burned and vandalized shrines and temples. They raped and killed without descrimination Muslims, Christian Missionary nuns and nurses at St Joseph’s Hospital,. According to Tariq Ali, the local cinema became a “rape centre”, with atrocities continuing for several days.
The defiance by the local people was best represented by Mohammad Maqbool Sherwani’s extreme sacrifice in defence of Baramulla. He was crucified on the cross. It is a pity that a memorial built in his honour has fallen on bad days.
Poonch Rebellion – role of an INA hero During famous INA trial in Lal Qila after VWWII, people used to shout:
“Lal Qile se aaee awaz, Sahgal Dhillon Habib Shah Nawaz, Charoon ki ho umar daraz.”
(There is an echo from the Red Fort. Long Live Sahgal, Dhillon, Habib and Shah Nawaz). Most Indians are familiar with Sehgal, Dhillon and Shah Nawaz. But Habib is not part of our memory.
He was Col. Habib ur Rahman Khan alias Raja Habib ur Rahman Khan from Bhimber a District of POK then a tehsil of Mirpur District.
It was Col. Habib ur Rahman Khan who led the revolt against Maharaja in Poonch and was awarded Sitara-e-Pakistan by Government of Pakistan besides many other awards and honours. It is difficult to explain the transformation of a man who was a trusted lieutenant of Netaji.
lronies are part of our lives. It is important to keep one’s peace and patience in turbulent times. This is the lesson from the past in Jammu and Kashmir. It remains relevant even today even as one of the most unique and controversial states in the country has lost its status and has been split.
(The author is a Professor)