By Tilak Devasher
Pakistan had entered into a Standstill Agreement with the Maharaja of Kashmir on August 12, 1947. On October 22, 1947, Pakistan unilaterally broke the Agreement and launched an invasion to forcibly capture Jammu and Kashmir using tribal raiders. The raiders, as is well known, looted and pillaged the state with a ferocity that shocked the people till the Indian army came to the rescue and decisively threw them back.
However, despite its direct responsibility, Pakistan has managed to spin a narrative that concealed its role in the 1947 invasion calling it a ‘spontaneous’ attack by the tribals in response to the communal killings in J&K. In addition, it has sought to throw doubts about the genuineness of the accession of J&K to India, labelling the entry of Indian troops on October 27, 1947, in Kashmir as illegal. Pakistan has observed this day as a ‘Black Day’ for decades in Pakistan, in its administered Kashmir and in the diaspora in order to bolster its narrative.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, there is documentary evidence in terms of eyewitness accounts of the tribal invasion that demolishes its case. One such is of Akbar Khan (later a Maj. General and involved in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case) whose book ‘Raiders in Kashmir’ leaves no doubt about how Pakistan planned the invasion and was directly involved in it.
Akbar Khan was then Director, Weapons, and Equipment at GHQ. He devised a plan to use a previous government sanction for the issue of 4,000 military rifles to the Punjab Police and have the rifles transferred from the police to the raiders. Likewise, old ammunition was secretly diverted for use in Kashmir. He even devised a plan titled ‘Armed Revolt inside Kashmir’ to strengthen Kashmiris internally and at the same time taking steps to prevent the arrival of armed civilians or military assistance from India into Kashmir, either by road or air.
The plan was discussed, first at a preliminary conference at the Provincial government secretariat in the office of Shaukat Hayat Khan, then a minister in the Punjab government. However, there was also another plan devised by the latter based on using the officers and other ranks of the former Indian National Army (INA). Zaman Kiani was to lead operations across the Punjab border and Khurshid Anwar of the Muslim League guards north of Rawalpindi. Both sectors were under the overall command of Shaukat Hayat Khan.
Later, Akbar Khan attended a meeting chaired by prime minister former Liaquat Ali. Others who attended were Finance Minister Ghulam Mohd., Mian Iftikharuddin, a Muslim League leader, Zaman Kiani, Khurshid Anwar, Shaukat Hayat. According to his book, several army and air force officers as also the Commissioner Rawalpindi were involved.
Another book is of Kashmir author Mohammad Saeed Asad titled ‘Yaadon Ke Zakhm’ (Wounded Memories). Asad has managed to collect a series of first-hand accounts that graphically reveal the brutalities inflicted by the raiders on the people.
What Saeed’s account emphasizes is the tolerant and peaceful nature of society that existed in Kashmir before the tribal invasion. All the three communities- the majority of Muslims and the minority Hindus and Sikhs – lived in peace and harmony. The friendship between the communities extended to all aspects of social interaction- festivals, marriages, and funerals.
Let alone coming to the aid of their religious brethren, Saeed’s book makes clear that the raiders did not distinguish between Muslims and non-Muslims. Shops and homes of all communities were equally plundered. No home was spared the tribal carnage just because it belonged to a Muslim. In Baramulla, for example, only 3,000 survived out of a population of 14,000. In places, even the holy Quran was desecrated. No village en-route escaped plunder and devastation. Many Muslim women read the kalma and pleaded for their lives but the raiders took no heed. A large number of them were taken back to the Frontier and sold.
A third book is of Humayun Mirza who revealed in ‘From Plassey to Pakistan’ that his father Iskander Mirza (later Governor-General of Pakistan) was tasked by Jinnah to raise a tribal Lashkar in February 1947 to wage a jihad against the British if they did not concede Pakistan. Mirza identified the tribesmen from Waziristan, Tirah, and the Mohmand country for this purpose. He asked for a sum of Rs one crore (or Pounds 750,000 at the then exchange rate) to achieve this objective. Jinnah gave him Rs 20,000 for immediate expenses and told him that the Nawab of Bhopal would provide the rest.
In the event, the British conceded Pakistan and so the plan did not have to be put into action. However, by October 1947, Iskandar Mirza was Defence Secretary and his earlier experience with the tribesmen would have come in use to organize the invasion. The book also reveals that Jinnah was very much in the know about the events in Kashmir.
That is why 22 October matters because for too long has Pakistan got away with a false narrative, hiding its culpability in the tribal invasion. That’s why it is so necessary to sensitize people, especially the youth in Kashmir who may otherwise not be aware of the history of the event. They need to be reminded of the brutalities that Pakistan had subjected their forefathers to and what Pakistan’s real intentions were then and are even today.
Thus, if there is a ‘Black Day’ in Kashmir it has to be October 22 when its history was permanently distorted. This was the day when the princely state became an ‘issue’ and a ‘question’, this was the day when the truth was masked to further the Pakistani agenda, this was the day when Pakistan deliberately destroyed the unity, integrity, and civilizational ethos of Kashmir and this was the day when a deceitful and conniving Pakistan betrayed the people of Kashmir but projected itself as the champion of their rights.
(The author of this opinion is the author of three widely acclaimed books on Pakistan and a Member of the National Security Advisory Board, New Delhi. The contents are his personal and may not necessarily be agreed by the newspaper. Editor)