Even 73 years after it first attempted to seize Jammu and Kashmir from India through ‘Operation Gulmarg’, Pakistan still believes in the same policy and adopts the same methods, no matter how acutely detrimental those may be to the interests and the well-being of the people in the region.
In a gripping commentary, the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) has listed the events that unfolded on, before and after October 22, 1947 — the darkest day in the history of Jammu and Kashmir—for those in the international community, and also in India, who buy into the Pakistani propaganda of it being genuinely concerned about the welfare of its ‘Muslim brethren’ in the erstwhile state.
“It is important to realize that the Pakistani policy first adopted in October 1947 of attempting to grab J&K by force has dealt the greatest blow possible to the existence of a unified state of J&K, to the essence of what it means to be a Kashmiri, and to the prospects for the economic progress and prosperity of the people of J&K. The planners and perpetrators of the tribal invasion were, and remain, without doubt the foremost enemies of the Kashmiri people. The day the invasion began on 22 October 1947, similarly, has to be the darkest day in the history of J&K,” commented EFSAS.
Estimates of the total number of residents of J&K killed in the invasion range between 35,000 to 40,000 and the think-tank noted that no single event has shaped the “uncertainty of the future that the people of Jammu & Kashmir uncomfortably and hesitantly peek out towards” than those that unfolded on the fateful day even though it may have long ceased to be a matter of interest to a vast majority.
“On that very day the seeds were sown for the physical tearing apart of J&K, for what we see today as the blurring of the identity of J&K and its people, for the destruction of the peaceful and inclusive way of life in the region and the crumbling of the long-held social values in J&K, and for the induction of the ugly head of terrorism into J&K by Pakistan. In essence, the roots of the hydra-headed predicament that J&K confronts today can indubitably be traced back to that one single event that commenced on that fateful autumn day.”
It says that Operation Gulmarg had been conceived and put into action as early as on August 20, 1947, just six days after Pakistan was carved out from British India and the entire force was commanded by Major General Akbar Khan, code named General Tariq, who was assisted by Brigadier Sher Khan.
“Among those who planned, led, and financed Operation Gulmarg, the most prominent was Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan, a close confidant of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and a top leader of the Muslim League. In his book ‘The Nation that Lost its Soul’, Shaukat Hayat Khan acknowledged that he had been appointed supervisor of the Kashmir operation (P.278), and that Major Khurshid Anwar was given the responsibility of contacting the chiefs of the Pathan tribes to enlist the tribal militants. He added that he himself did not physically cross over into J&K, instead opting to stay on the Pakistani side of the border near Muzaffarabad, as exposure of his presence in J&K would nullify Pakistan’s efforts to project the invasion of the Pathan tribals as a peoples’ rebellion against the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir. He also disclosed that three hundred thousand rupees were given from the Pakistan treasury by Finance Minister Ghulam Muhammad for this operation.”
EFSAS then narrates the detailed account of bloodbath which took place after ‘Operation Gulmarg’ was launched on the intervening night of October 21-22, 1947.
Over 2,000 Pathan tribesmen first captured the bridge spanning the Kishanganga (Neelam) River on the Hazara Trunk Road linking Muzaffarabad with Abbottabad without a fight. “The horrors that then unfolded in Muzaffarabad were chronicled by Pakistani journalist Zahid Chaudhry in his 12-volume work ‘Pakistan ki siyasi tarikh’ (Political History of Pakistan). Chaudhry wrote that for three days the invaders indulged in killing non-Muslims, looting, plundering and burning their houses. A large number of women were raped and kidnapped. As the officer in-charge of the attack, Major Khurshid Anwar encouraged the killing, loot, arson, rape and kidnapping of non-Muslims that took place. Writers and commentators have estimated the number of the Hindus and Sikhs massacred during these three days in Muzaffarabad to be 4,500 to 5,000, and the number of kidnapped women to be more than 1,600.”
The Pakistan Army then directed the Lashkars to Mirpur, Uri and Baramulla which fell on the morning of October 27.
“The mayhem of killings, rapes and plunder was repeated at every stop along the route. Women were raped and abducted, and many were carried away to Rawalpindi, Peshawar and other towns of Pakistan. For several days and nights the loot and plunder of Hindus and Sikhs continued in the entire Baramulla district. On October 26 alone, the intruders massacred about 11,000 residents of Baramulla.”
With the then ruler of the Princely State, Maharaja Hari Singh, acceding to India, the Indian troops landed in Srinagar on October 27 and defended the summer capital in the decisive battle of Shalteng on the outskirts of Srinagar on November 7-8, 1947. The Indian forces drove out Pakistani intruders from most parts barring what remains Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) right now.
“The invasion of J&K by Pakistan and its proxy tribal Lashkars in 1947 has left a deep, lasting, and grim mark on the fate of J&K, and indeed of the entire South Asian region. The horrors of the violence left deep scars that impacted the psyche of the people of J&K, and it marked the first and most critical step in the erosion of the Kashmiri identity with the state and its people being torn apart by a UN-drawn LoC that divides the erstwhile Princely State and its inhabitants. The invasion also delivered the first big blow to the Sufi-inspired way of life commonly referred to as Kashmiriyat (Kashmiri-ness) that had prevailed for centuries in J&K, and a hallmark of which was religious inclusiveness and bonding. Kashmiriyat was associated with non-violence, deep emotions, hospitality, mutual accommodation, good will and the general empathy that the people of Kashmir had for each other,” EFSAS said.
Further, as BBC’s M. Ilyas Khan points out, “The invasion not only traumatized a previously well-settled and peaceful Kashmiri society, it also set a disastrous pattern for India-Pakistan relations. Major-General Akbar Khan, an army officer who is widely believed to have played a pivotal role in starting the invasion, emerged as ‘the architect of the philosophy of armed insurrection by aiding non-State actors as State proxies,’ writes a military historian, Major (Retd) Agha Humayun Amin, in his book, The 1947-48 Kashmir War: The War of Lost Opportunities. Pakistan repeated this strategy in Kashmir in 1965, during the Kashmir insurgency of 1988-2003, as well as in the Kargil War of 1999. It also used non-State actors in Afghanistan. But instead of liberating Kashmir or taming Afghanistan, it has led to the weakening of political processes, and has militarized society not only in Kashmir and Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan.”
No wonder then that the commentary concludes by naming the planners and perpetrators of the tribal invasion as the foremost enemies of the Kashmiri people and the day—October 22, 1947—the darkest day in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.