Kashmir needs to be written about, and what better place to start than the year of partition of the Indian sub-continent. A lot of misinformation surrounds the history of Kashmir in the mainstream networks and information hubs. We all know Jammu as a Hindu dominated region of J&K, and the part where most of the vote bank exists by the accord of those who actually go out to vote. But this wasn’t always the case, Jammu was divided into Hindu and Muslim majority, different from now where its mostly Hindu dominated. The way this shift took place, as you can probably tell by the title, was through a massacre. Now this massacre, unlike most massacres in Kashmir after ’47 was not directly done by the Indian government because the annexation wasn’t fulfilled yet, but you’ll realize that they were fully aware of the massacre and consciously brushed it away to annex Kashmir.
Unlike the Kashmir valley which remained mostly calm during this transition period, the Jammu province which was contiguous to Punjab, experienced mass migration that led to violent inter-religious activity. Large numbers of Hindus and Sikhs from Rawalpindi and Sialkot started arriving since March 1947, bringing “harrowing stories of Muslim atrocities in West Punjab”. According to scholar Ilyas Chattha, this provoked counter-violence on Jammu Muslims, which had “many parallels with that in Sialkot”. He writes, “the Kashmiri Muslims were to pay a heavy price in September–October 1947 for the earlier violence of West Punjab.” According to scholar Ian Copland, the administration’s pogrom against its Muslim subjects in Jammu was undertaken partly out of revenge for the Poonch rebellion that started earlier. Observers state that a main aim of Hari Singh and his administration was to alter the demographics of the region by eliminating the Muslim population, in order to ensure a Hindu majority in the region.
But what led to the massacre?
As the news of partition spread across J&K, communal tensions began rising on the note of a partition being religiously grounded. Maharaja started questioning the loyalty of the Muslims in his army and he instantly ordered them to surrender their arms. The rising tensions led to a mass-migration of Hindus and Sikhs from Punjab and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to the State. There was another boiling pot, Poonch, a non-communal agitation was launched after the Maharaja imposed heavy taxes. The pressure of choosing between the two nations or staying an autonomous one and the disturbances had the Maharaja in panic and to suppress the protests, he sent the Dogra army, massive atrocities where hailed upon the people, the massacre forced the people to move out to Pakistan, soon they returned with arms and this sparked an organized rebellion that killed over 60,000 Hindus and Sikhs. This Poonch rebellion led to the “Azad Kashmir” we know now. The mishandling of the situation by the ruler let to the transformation of a non-communal struggle to a communal strife. The ruler feared for his position, the Muslim majority state ruled by an anarchy of a Dogra, the high possibility of a state plebiscite; he knew that the people would vote for the annexation to Pakistan. He perhaps even feared for his life. In a letter sent by Nehru to Patel on the report of the situation in Jammu it is clearly mentioned that there were Hindu agitations going on, on the belief that if the plebiscite occurs for the entire region then, “the whole of Kashmir is bound to be lost and, therefore, let us save Jammu at least (by having a zonal plebiscite).” What’s really striking in his report is that he makes it clear that Jammu is in their favour and if they “present” the Kashmir valley to Pakistan, the situation will be solved in a few days, but what they want is the Kashmir valley. This crux for the desire of the land of Kashmir encapsulates the dispute that has caused an unimaginable bloodbath over the years.
The communal essence was at a rapid pace; confusion because of Mountbatten’s incompetence perhaps, fear of death because of yet another paradigm of a battle between religions, catastrophic administrator and self-inflicted sense of urgency. As the Maharaja laid his foot on Bhimber (presently in POK) what followed was extermination. The tensions were at peak along the Pak-Kashmir border and Kashmiri forces penetrated the border, on some occasion to even 6 miles and virtually depopulated two Muslim villages. In Jammu however, Hindus and Sikhs slightly outnumbered Muslims and there started the extermination of the Muslim population, amounting to 5 lakh people and around 2 lakh just disappeared, remaining untraceable. This overpour of violence was also added to by the situation of Hindus and Sikhs – of the areas that were going to become Pakistan – that were hoarding into Jammu. They had with them the woes and stories of violence and atrocities they faced by Muslims. The stories were retold by media, a Jammu based Hindu paper boasted that ‘a Dogra can kill 200 Muslims’, this displays the insane communal levels the media had sunk to. The annihilation of trust took place at Talab Khatikan area in Jammu. Muslims were asked to surrender, they were shifted to a police line and instead of providing them security they were told to go to Pakistan for safety. Several thousands of them were loaded in vehicles and when they reached Chattha on Jammu-Sialkot road a large number of armed RSS and Sikh men were positioned there. The people were pulled out and killed mercilessly with the police either joining in or invisible. It was followed by many of such events, such as the one in which the entire city of Jammu was asked to gather outside its limits, ostensibly to facilitate a migration to Pakistan, but they were subjected to loot and savage killings.
In The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (vol 90, page 115 and 298) he reflects on the situation, “The Hindus and Sikhs of Jammu and those who had gone there from outside (referring to RSS from Gurdaspur and surrounding areas) killed Muslims there. Their women have been dishonoured. This has not been fully reported in the newspapers. The Maharaja of Kashmir is responsible for what has happened there.” These are the words of the Father of the Nation of India, respected all around the world for his notion of reciprocity and means of achieving the ever-desired goal of freedom. Now, Sheikh Abdullah said the following on the matter, “Jammu Muslims are to a large extent themselves responsible for what has happened to them, because though in a minority, they had, by their words and deeds, let their tongues in favour of Pakistan.” So much for the ‘Sher-e-Kashmir’; a person demeaning the carnage and so much for the freedom of speech and choice.
Entire excerpt taken from here.
According to Ved Bhasin and scholar Ilyas Chattha, the Jammu riots were executed by members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) who were joined by the refugees from West Pakistan, and were supported strongly by Hari Singh and his administration with a main aim to change the demographic composition of Jammu region and ensure a non-Muslim majority. Bhasin states, the riots were “clearly” planned by the activists of RSS. Observers have noted that the Akali Sikhs and some former members of the Indian National Army (INA) also participated in this violence along with the RSS and state forces.
It was after this incident and thus the invasion of Pathan tribesmen which is known to be fueled by the massacre carried out on their relatives and brethren in Jammu and other areas, that the Maharaja signed the instrument of accession with India.