Continuing from previous post: Fight For Jammu & Kashmir: The Invasion
On receiving the report from Mr. Menon the Government Of India felt inclined to go to the rescue of the state. But it was felt that formal accession of the State must take place before any help could be sent. So Mr. Menon flew back to Jammu with the Instrument of Accession. He woke up the Maharaja who was fast asleep after a night-long drive from Srinagar. Mr. Menon has recorded in his famous book ‘Integration of States’ that before going to sleep the Maharaja has left instructions with his A.D.C. that “If I (Menon) came back from Delhi, he was not to be disturbed as it would mean that the Government of India had decided to come to his rescue and he should therefore be allowed to sleep in peace, but that if I failed to return, that meant everything was lost, in that case in A.D.C. was to shoot him in his sleep”.
The Maharaja at once signed the Instrument of Accession and also handed over a letter for Lord Mountbatten, the Governor General of India informing him that it was his intention to set up an interim government at once and to ask Sheikh Abdullah to carry the responsibilities in the emergency with Mr. Mehar Chand Mahajan, his Prime Minister. It was out of sheer patriotism and solicitude for the safety of his people that the Maharaja agreed to Submit to this pre-condition of the Indian Prime Minister.
Pakistan thus played a major role in resolving the dilemma of Hari Singh and bringing about accession of Jammu and Kashmir state to India.
Sardar Patel who in his anxiety for the State had been waiting at the aerodrome for Mr. Menon to return, was not prepared to go all out to save the State. But Pt. Nehru and Lord Mountbatten were hesitant. It was not before Mr. Mahajan, who knew that every minute counted if about a lakh of Hindus in Srinagar were to be saved from total annihilation, threatened to proceed to Karachi and surrender Kashmir to Mr. Jinnah to secure safety of its people that Pt. Nehru’s reluctance could be overcome.
While these hurried discussions were going on in Delhi on that fateful Sunday, the people of Srinagar were hanging between life and death. The report of Maharaja’s departure for Jammu and the invader’s occupation of Baramula spread like wild fire in the whole city casting gloom of death on all Hindus and an air of jubilant expectation in pro-Pakistan circles. All ears were turned to the radios and all eyes toward the sky to hear the news of acceptance of accession and see the arrival of aid which could only come by air. But instead of news of help from Delhi reports began to spread that tribal raiders had been seen on the outskirts of the city. That was a signal for pro-Pakistan slogans. Stray looting of Hindu shops began.
Just then news reached that accession had been accepted and that the Indian help will not take long in coming. Mr. G.C. Bali, the Police Chief, immediately made this fact known to the people of Srinagar by the beat of drum and warned the pro-Pakistan elements of dire consequences if they started trouble. It had quite a salutary effect and the 26th of October passed off peacefully.
Had Pakistani invaders marched into the city that Sunday everything would have been lost. Not a single Hindu would have survived. The author himself was in Srinagar that day. But fate conspired otherwise. The tribal hordes which had come more out of lure for loot and women than for anything else found the autumn atmosphere and beautiful landscape of Baramula together with rich prospects of loot and rape too absorbing to remember Mr. Jinnah’s resolve to celebrate Id, which fell on October 25, in Srinagar. They converted every mosque and house in Baramula into a brothel and entertained themselves to their hearts content. Even the European nuns of the local mission hospital could not escape their bestiality.
As a result the Indian airborne troops when they flew into the valley in the morning of October 27 found that the Srinagar aerodrome was still safe. It was not to fall in the hands of the invaders and Kashmir was to be saved. It was saved.
The “Operation Kashmir” and the lightning speed and efficiency with which it was conducted saved Kashmir from the ruthless Pakistan tribal-cum-regular army marauders. It will ever remain a glorious chapter in the annals of the Indian troops. It was in a way unprecedented in the history of warfare. Lord Mountbatten who had been Chief of Combined Operations and Supreme Alied Commander South East Asia in the Second world war testified that in all his war experience he had never heard of an air lift of this nature being put into operation at such a short notice.
But the success of this air lift and the subsequent action in Kashmir was made possible by one basic fact of the failure of the invading hordes to capture the Srinagar aerodrome. This was mainly due to the dogged resistance of the Dogra troops who had been fighting against very heavy odds. Deserted and betrayed by their own Muslim comrades in arms, who acted as vanguard of the invading army, the Dogra troops had to literally fight for every inch to gain time for the expected succor to reach Srinagar before everything was lost. The example set by Brigadier Rajendra Singh who will go down in the history of India as a great military hero, inspired everyone of them. They were still holding the main enemy column at Pattan, seventeen miles from Srinagar, when the first Indian troops landed at Srinagar. They, therefore, in a way played the most decisive role in saving Kashmir and checkmating the Pakistani design of presenting the world with a fait aceompli.
The Dogras thus vindicated themselves and their ruler in the eyes of history. Those who had ruled the valley for one hundred years did not leave it to the vultures as a dead corpse. They defended it with their own blood. But for their dogged resistance, Kashmir valley would have been lost. So the highest honors for saving Kashmir must go to these gallant Dogra troops.
It is, however, equally true that but for the timely arrival of Indian troops on October 27, and the immediate relief they provided to the Dogra troops, the enemy would have entered Srinagar in the course of the day and achieved his objective.
The first Indian troops to land at Srinagar came from Sikh unit commanded by Colonel Ranjit Rai. The people of Srinagar who had been gazing at the sky for hours in expectation of the air lift planes were thrilled by the sight of Dakota after Dakota suddenly emerging from behind the snow covered Panchal range. It was comparable to the thrill created in French hearts by the emergence of Allied planes from the horizon over the French sky on the D-day in 1944.
No sooner did the first Dakota land than the troops jumped into the trucks that were standing by and moved on to the front line. The author wanted to stop these troops near his residence for small refreshments. His request was met by a loud and heart warning cry of ‘Sat Siri Akal’ and the curt reply: “Do not detain us. We will quench our thirst with the blood of the enemy”.
Within hours they went into action and before the day was out Colonel Ranjit Rai lay dead in defense of Kashmir which had by now become an integral part of India, legally and constitutionally, as a result of acceptance of accession sf the State by the Government of India. The next important casualty was Major Sharma who died defending the aerodrome against an enemy column which was approaching it from behind along the foothills of Gulmarg.
Mr. Jinnah who had come down to Lahore to proceed to Srinagar as a victor was terribly upset by the report that India had accepted the accession of Jammu and Kashmir and that Indian troops had landed at Srinagar. He immediately summoned General Gracey, the C-in- C of Pakistan army, and ordered him to rush regular troops to Kashmir. But General Gracey expressed his inability to carry out his instructions without the approval of the supreme commander, Field Marshal Auchinlek, who was supervising the partition of the army and its stores between the two Dominions. Field Marshal Auchinlek who reached Lahore on the 28th of October informed Mr. Jinnah that in view of Jammu & Kashmir state having legally acceded to India the British officers of the Pakistan army will have to withdraw if he ordered a regular invasion of Kashmir. This forced Mr. Jinnah to relent. Thus the immediate danger of a full scale war between India and Pakistan which would not have remained confined to Jammu & Kashmir, was averted.
But short of throwing regular Pakistan Army into action everything possible was done to strengthen and reinforce the invading hordes who were well equipped with arms and stores supplied by the Pakistan Government. Therefore, the Indian troops had quite a tough job to do in the beginning. The enemy was able to get local support wherever it reached. The only notable exception was Maqbool Sherwani of Baramula who refused to line up with the invaders and was therefore shot dead.
But the tide turned with the arrival of more troops and armored cars, Baramula was recaptured on the 8th of November. This removed the threat of further incursions into the valley because Baramula commanded the entrance to it. A few days later Uri was recaptured and a column was sent from there to relieve Poonch which had been besieged by the enemy. But this column could not reach Poonch because of destruction of a strategic bridge by the Dogra troops who thought that the enemy and not friendly troops were advancing from Uri.
The recapture of Baramula and Uri demoralized the stray detachments of the invaders still in the valley. They withdrew from Gulmarg and Tanmarga without firing a shot. Thus by the middle of November, 1947, the Valley proper was cleared of Pakistani invaders.
Baramula, Sopore and the Western fringe of the valley along the Gulmarg sector of Pir Panchal range were the only parts of the valley which came under the effective control of Pakistan for a few days. The rest of the valley, particularly its southern and south eastern part which is directly contiguous to Jammu and Laddakh regions of the State, remained untouched by the invaders- An attempt was later made by them to break into the valley through the old Mughal route which would have brought them to Shupian and enabled them to cut the Banihal road. That would have proved a grievous blow because Banihal road is the only motorable link between Srinagar and Jammu. But they were intercepted and pushed back by the Indian troops after bitter fighting near Nandi-margi, over l0,000 feet above sea level.
Liberation of Kashmir by the Indian army thus supplemented the legal right of India over Kashmir valley attained through the lawful accession of the state. In doing so it had to undergo a lot of suffering and make heavy sacrifices in the blood of Jawans drawn from all over India. This fact needs to be kept in mind when looking at the Kashmir problem which mainly revolves round the valley.