KASHMIR: The Storm Center of the World
by Balraj Madhok
Role of Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (R.S.S.)
Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh played an important role in Kashmir in that crucial period. I had started a branch of R.S.S. in Jammu in 1940. I was then studying at Lahore. By the time I passed M.A. in History and returned to Jammu and Kashmir State, in 1942, the R.S.S. had picked up in Jammu City under the guidance of Pt. Prem Nath Dogra who had been appointed “Sangh Chalak” for Jammu. Within a couple of years of my taking charge, the network of R.S.S. branches was spread all over the Jammu region. In 1944, I moved to Srinagar Where I joined the local D.A.V. college as lecturer in history. This helped me to get in touch with the Kashmiri youth. Hundreds of Kashmiri Hindu youth began to attend R.S.S. branches daily. With the arrival of Hindu refugees from Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Abbotabad and other adjoining districts of west Punjab, the number of R.S.S. workers in Srinagar began to swell because some of them had been active workers of R.S.S. in their home districts.
R.C. Kak, the Kashmiri Prime Minister of the State was, as stated earlier, keen to enlist the support of R.S.S. for his plan for independence for the states. But I made it clear to him that R.S.S. was for accession of the State to India because it was convinced that the best interests of the nation demanded so.
I was conscious of the hurdles in the way of immediate accession of the state to India. I also knew about the growing opinion even in National conference circles in favor of accession of the State to Pakistan. It was, therefore of utmost importance that the Maharaja was given right and objective advice to resolve his dilemma. To that end I submitted him a memorandum giving the pros and cons of the options. Accession to India, accession to Pakistan and staying independent – before him. The memorandum tried to impress upon him, that in spite of personal hostility of Pt. Nehru the wider national interests as also the best interests of the state demanded that he should opt for accession to India.
DevanBadri Das a leading jurist of Punjab, who was also Sangh Chalak of R.S.S. for Punjab, was held in high esteem by Maharaja Hari Singh. R.S.S. leadership requested him to visit Srinagar and meet the Maharaja to persuade him to accede to India at the earliest. On october 5, the R.S.S. supreme, M.S. Golwalkar, himself came to Srinagar and had a long meeting with the Maharaia- He was known to have advised Hari Singh that any further delay in the matter of accession to India could be dangerous for him and the country.
But what really clinched the issues was the unfolding of Pak plan of invasion of Kashmir. Its rumblings had been heard by some observers of the Pak scene. But Maharaia Hari Singh and Hindus of the state were blissfully ignorant about it. R.S.S. played a major role in gathering information about the plan of invasion and forewarning the state Government about it. The first clue regarding the projected invasion came from Dr. S.K. Atri, a medico from U.P., who had been practising at Srinagar for over two decades. His clinic was situated just on the Southern end of Amira Kadal bridge on the Jehlum. As I crossed the bridge on October 8, on my way to my college, Dr. Atri called me into his clinic. He told me that some of his elderly Muslim clients had visited him last night and requested him to leave Srinagar with family at the earliest because Pakistan would be invading Kashmir soon and no Hindu would be safe after that. He had no doubt about the sincerity of the persons who had met him because they had a sense of gratitude toward him. This information was too serious to be ignored. I discussed it with my top workers the same night and deputed some workers from Rawalpindi who could mix with Punjabi Muslims with ease to go to Punjab Muslim Hotel at Pratap Chawk now called Lal Chawk, which was known to be the rendezvous of Pak spies and agents to dig out the truth. They accomplished their mission within two days. The information supplied by a Muslim Officer of the State army was really alarming. The invasion was to be lauched from Abbotabad side on October 21. The Musliln officers and men of the state army were to join the invaders. Srinagar was to be captured by October 25, so that Jinnah might celebrate Id-ul-Zuha at Srinagar. An attempt was also to be made on the life of the Maharaja on October 24, when he was expected to go in procession to Batmalu ground for the Vyaya Dashmi Celebrations. A similar game plan had been prepared for Jammu also.
After getting this information we passed it on to the Maharaja and Brigadier Kashmir Singh, the Chief of the staff of the state army. Later on the night of October 23, when Pak invaders were advancing fast toward Srinagar the Maharaja called me at dead of night to his palace and requested me to defend Srinagar city till Indian troops reached Srinagar. He asked for two hundred volunteers for the purpose. I mobilized the required number of volunteers the same night. They were taken to the Badami Bagh cantonment on the morning of 24th, given preliminary training in using fire arms and were put on duty the same evening.I have the satisfaction that the workers of the R.S.S. and myself did our duty toward our motherland in those difficult days. This factual account should put the record straight about the role of R.S.S. in defense and accession of Jammu & Kashmir state to India.
The Jammu & Kashmir Government had no knowledge until then of this planned massive invasion from Abbotabad side. Its hands were full with Pakistani raids in the Poonch area which had became a major threat to the security of the State. The stoppage of all supplies including gasoline by Pakistan had created a very serious situation in regard to internal mobility of the limited defense forces which were dispersed over a long frontier.
While trying to cope with the situation as best as it could, the State Government tried to persuade Pakistan through diplomatic channels to honor its commitments under the Stand-Still Agreement. Failing to get a positive response to its numerous communications Prime Minister Mahajan sent a rather strongly worded telegram to the Governor General of Pakistan, Mr. Jinnah on October 18, 1947. In the concluding part of this telegram Mr. Mahajan said:
“Finally, the Kashmir Government wishes to make it plain that it is not possible to tolerate this attitude any longer without grave consequences to life and property of the people which it is bound to defend at all costs. The Government even now hopes that you would personally look into the matter and put a stop to all the iniquities which are being perpetrated. If unfortunately this request is not heeded the Government would be justified in asking for friendly assistance and oppose tresspass on its fundamental rights.”
A cable was sent on the same day to the Prime Minister of U.K. apprising him of the situation, created by the influx of armed Pakistanis into Poonch area of the State and stoppage of all supplies. It added: “The policy of the Government has been to afford protection to the Muslim refugees about 100,000 of whom have been given safe conduct to their new abodes in Pakistan. On the other hand, a party of 200 State subjects sent from Rawalpindi at the request of the State has practically been wiped out and no non-Muslim from the State can pass through Pakistan. Railway service from Sialkot to Jammu has been stopped since August 15, without any reason. Protests only elicit promises which are never implemented. As a result of the obvious connivance of Pakistan Government the whole of the border from Gurdaspur side up to Gilgit is threatened with invasion which has actually begun in Poonch. It is requested that the Dominion of Pakistan may be advised to deal fairly with Jammu & Kashmir State and adopt a course of conduct which may be consistent with the good name and prestige of the Commonwealth of which it claims to be a member”.
The Governor General of Pakistan in his reply sent to the Maharaja of Kashmir on October 20, took no notice of the allegations made by Kashmir Government and instead made counter charges of repression by Dogra troops. But to lull the state Government into complacency it repeated an earlier suggestion made by it about a meeting of the representatives of the two governments to settle outstanding questions at an early date. Mr. Khurshid, then private secretary of Mr. Jinnah was sent to Srinagar for the purpose.
While this exchange of telegrams was going on, preparations were afoot at Abbotabad for a large scale invasion of Kashmir. A large number of soldiers and officers of the Pakistan army ‘on leave’ were deputed to organize and assist about five thousand tribals that had been assembled there in the name of Jihad or holy war. The invasion was to be led by Major General Akbar Khan of the Pakistan army who was given the name General Tariq after the name of the Islamic Arab conqueror of Eqypt.
As if to create an excuse of the personnel of regular Pakistan army taking part in the invasion a telegram was sent by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan to the Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir on the October 21, which said, “Serious anxiety regarding the Safety of their families are being felt by Pakistan military personnel whom it is exceedingly difficult to reassure in absence of any clear reports or assurances by you.”
Before a reply to this telegram sent by the Prime Minister of Kashmir on October 22, reached the Pakistan Foreign office, the massive Pakistani invasion of Kashmir had begun.