Brigadier Rajendra Singh, SM, FRGS
In the nick of time: Saving Kashmir Valley 1947-48
Kashmir was undoubtedly the main target of Pakistan sponsored tribal invasion on 22 October 1947. And yet, Kashmir Valley, encircled by the Pir Panjal Range, Shamsabari Range and a part of the Great Himalayan Range, was not the only target of that invasion. In the series that aims to dissect the big canvas of that conflict into specific geographical segments so as to have a focussed attention on the individual segments, here comes another one by the author whose book on Naushera-Jhangar battles (Against All Odds) was released as recently as in July 2020. The book, aptly titled, leads the readers through the events that preceded the invasion, during the invasion as well as riposte and immediately after the cessation of hostilities in Kashmir.
Written in a flowing, easy to understand language, the work introduces the readers to the sequence of events that led to the creation of the princely State of J&K, the issues that merited shifting of the seat of power to Kashmir, an engineered unrest that allowed space to mix politics with religion, the contextual indecisiveness by the Maharaja, the manoeuvres by Jinnah as well as Pandit Nehru that created a messy situation, attempts by Sardar Patel to do his bit and the British concocted plot leading to the invasion. The focus then narrows down to the area between Domel (Muzaffarabad) and Srinagar city and its airfield. A daily diary of the events is then unrolled for the readers to assimilate the military action and the complications therein in a simplistic manner. As mentioned earlier, Kashmir was not the only target and the narration, therefore, keeps the readers updated with the events happening elsewhere but without losing the focus. To that extent, the book enables one to grasp the macro picture and understand the developments in Kashmir in a larger context while dealing with the nuances of operations inside the Valley.
The book also breaks many a myth. Some unsubstantiated claims by an army officer about the presence of State troops cooling their heels inside Srinagar cantonment while their Chief had been fighting last man, last round battles with the invaders ahead of Baramulla, stands countered with actual facts. Similarly, the role of the State forces in delaying the enemy till 27 October has been explained in fine details. It was on 27 October when the Indian troops began to land at Srinagar and a small force under an inspiring Commanding Officer exchanged fire with the enemy at the outskirts of Baramulla on the same day. The common perception that it was only because of one action in isolation that had saved Kashmir for India, also stands dared. The actual fact that the vital airfield had been secured through a collective effort of the State forces and the Indian Army and Airforce, stands duly amplified in the work.
In addition to the narration about the military operations, there are many small-little bits that add value to the work. Stories that have not been told earlier, interesting trivia and many unfamiliar anecdotes make it a wholesome read. While keeping the focus on the Valley per se, the work takes a peep into many areas that had relevance to the proceedings and also exerted varying amount of influence on the political as well as military developments at different levels during those days. In fact, some of the exhibits are quite rare to find elsewhere. The author has created many detailed sketches that would help readers understand the tactical as well as overall picture at different times of the conflict. Even those who have never been to those parts of Kashmir, would find it easy to comprehend the chronicles.
Tastefully hardbound with a dustcover, the book has a good quality of print. The 330 pages work gives a feel that truly justifies the amount of research that has gone into creating it. Highly recommended for those interested in our history – both military and political- and for those who want to understand the conflict in the context that existed around the time of independence.
Brigadier Rajendra Singh, SM, FRGS