As independence drew nearer, attempts by both India and Pakistan to convince the yet undecided Kashmir maharaja grew more rapid. The last column mentioned one such drastic attempt made by Quaid-e-Azam. Before the declaration of ‘war’ though, the Indian leaders had already tried their chance at wooing the Mahraja diplomatically. For example, a few months before independence, May 1947, the president of congress, Acharya Kirpalani visited the Mahraja to convince him on joining the Indian Constituent Assembly of India. The Mahraja was as yet undecided. He refused to commit. Later the Mahrajas of Faridkot, Kapurthala, Patiala and leaders of the Punjab hill states tried to convince the Mahraja but to no avail. Lord Mountbatten visited Kashmir on June 1946 and was followed by Gandhi. Certain political events followed which, as it is argued by Pakistani academics, paved way to Kashmir’s accession to India. The most important of these political events was as follows: The state Prime minister, Ram Chandra Kak was not in favour of accession either in favour of India or Pakistan. He had insisted that the state of Kashmir, with its rich heritage, could survive as an independent nation. It was his influence and indeed political pressure that stopped the Mahraja from signing of the accession document. After Gandhi’s visit, Kak was replaced by a Dogra, Janak Singh. Singh, within a few months, secured Sheikh Abdullah’s release from prison. This, as it is argued, brought the two leaders together and the choice of India became a lot more favourable. Eventually Singh was replaced by a Congress Nominee, a certain Meh Chand Mahajan, who was promised complete military assistance if and when required.
The Mahraja too was working towards the inevitable accession. He understood that the choice of India would cause much furour. In order to avoid chaos when the decision was finally made, he ordered his Muslim subjects beforehand to submit their arms by end of July. Simultaneously he asked for the disarmament of the Muslim proportion of his army. Some books account an almost blatant ethnic cleansing within the valley in these days. Gangs rooting for the likes of Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Singh, poured into Poonch and caused much casualties. These attempts at ethnic cleansing can be taken as a reflection of what had already happened in Faridkot. Some books blame the Mahraja’s visit to Kashmir as the basis of the idea of such a movement.
The Times of London is quoted reporting about this ethnic cleansing by International Court of Justice reports saying: “… 237,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated, unless they escaped to Pakistan along the border, by the forces of the Dogra State, headed by (the) Mahraja in person.”
Ian Stephan, the former editor of the Statesman has been quoted in the same reports as saying: “… these half a million or so, had almost totally disintegrated in the Autumn of 1947. About 200,000 simply vanished, being presumably butchered or killed by epidemics and exposure while seeking to get away; the rest had fled into Pakistani Punjab.”
The Kashmiri Muslim population was infuriated. A ‘people’s movement’, as worded by Sheikh Abdullah in his speech of 21st October 1947, was started to redress their grievances. The state however termed this as terrorism and sent in troops. What followed was a confrontation. The people of Poonch crossed into what is Pakistan today, and given how they were mostly ex-servicemen and hence had connections with the Indian army stationed in Jhelum and Rawalpindi, secured weaponry and returned to the valley. The eventual struggle was long-standing and indeed bloody.
It was these conditions when the tribesmen of today’s Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and FATA area entered into Kashmir. They were motivated out of their religious duty for their fellow persecuted Muslims in the valley. The Daily Telegraph too understood the ‘Jehad’ in the somewhat the same way. The 12th January 1948 issue of the Daily Telegraph of London reads as: “It was undoubtedly tales of horrible cruelties against their co-religionists in Jammu, coupled with heartening news of insurrection, which first set them on their course of invasion.”
It was these adventures by the tribesmen, which are termed by the Indian academics as the turning point of the whole Kashmir contention. It is claimed that Pakistani army men disguised as tribal men entered into Kashmir and tried to usurp it. There are no proofs of any such involvement, but, then again, in such historical events, there hardly are. The fact is that the Pakistani army could not use this as a justification to an advent. While the authors from across the border are right for criticising this adventure by the tribesmen, it is their duty to also focus onto the conditions that sought such an emotional outburst in the first place.

The author is a freelance writer based in Islamabad.

kureshiwrites@gmail.com

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