Karan Thapar in his article “We cannot be selective about the past in Jammu & Kashmir” in Hindustan Times dated 15th Sept 2019, gives a call to morality, intellectual honesty and being conscious to multiple peoples and their identities. He further goes on to say that our memory becomes selective, it also becomes one-sided and that could divide us. We could end up a very different country to the one we want to be he adds. Since I agree with this I feel compelled to comment on his article and point out some glaring facts he has both missed and misrepresented.
My ancestral village of Bumnal, in Jammu district, is not too far from what is now the International Border and my father recounts the troubling times of Partition when he had to vacate his village. He distinctly remembers the journey because he as a 7-year-old refused to leave and only after a slap or two, mounted the horse my Grandfather had specially arranged for this forced exodus. In their absence, the village was burnt down along with its primary school. My father and his family relocated to Samba district and it took a few years before they made their way back to our ancestral village. Since this was an anomaly for a secular and pluralistic Jammu, it must be pointed out that ours was a Hindu village and the events an overspill of the bloody partition of India. A fact Mr Thapar missed in his remembrance of Jammu in 1947.
India Office Records Library in London corroborates the fact that at least till the end of September 1947 when communal disturbances gripped the sub-continent and even lead to disquiet amongst the people and administration of Kashmir, there was next to no animosity between the Hindus and Muslims, barring a few stray incidents in the Jammu Region.
The Records mentions and Prem Shankar Jha in his book Kashmir 1947- Rival Versions of History also makes a reference to the fact that though some atrocities were committed by bands of Sikhs and by some of the state troops in the border belts of Jammu Province in the first weeks of October it was an extension of and reaction to the communal carnage occurring along its borders in East and West Punjab and the atrocities committed on the Hindus within Jammu & Kashmir and in the adjoining areas of West Punjab.
Karan Thapar makes an unreasonable comparison of events related to the Partition in 1947 with what happened to the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, effectively doing exactly what he professes of not doing, i.e diminishing the KP exodus. No atrocity can be justified and the atrocities committed in Jammu Kashmir in 1947 because of a bloody partition cannot be justified either.
However false references to Jammu Massacres of 1947 and the suggestion that the atrocities were only committed against Muslims will also not go unchallenged. Karan Thapar’s pitch-perfectly colludes to the Pakistani version of the events of 1947. Pakistan justifies its attack on Jammu Kashmir based upon the propaganda that Hindu Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh wanted to cleanse his state of its 77% Muslim population so that he could accede the state to India. A preposterous lie which does not explain why the Maharaja did not first cleanse his own 8000 strong State Forces which comprised of 3000 Muslims and wait for them to betray and kill the Hindu officers before deserting and joining the enemy ranks on 22nd to 26th October.
Karan Thapar quotes Horace but forgets to mention the fortnightly reports sent from December 1946 to the end of June 1947, where the Crown’s representative to the Secretary of State for India on Kashmir Internal Conditions, Webb writes that there was nothing to report or that the communal situation was uneasy but that there had been no violence. Even Jinnah’ Direct Action Day caused no ripples in the Valley. The only incident occurring in Jammu town on 21st September 1946, when a Hindu youth was stabbed to death. The following day three Muslims were also found killed similarly. There was a crackdown by administration after this incident. Webb refers to this incident and adds that the state government’s response was ‘ prompt and firm’. He even reports that despite the arrival of 2,500 Hindu and Sikh refugees from the tribal agency of Hazara in December 1946, there were no communal reactions. Of course, tragically most of these refugees fell victim to the very tribesmen they had escaped ten months later on October 1947.
Karan Thapar chooses to ignore the well-established fact that the tribal raids were planned and incited a month before the alleged atrocities of the State forces when Kashmir was peaceful. This was not a spontaneous reaction to save Muslim brethren from a fictional Dogra genocide. Major Gen Akbar Khan in his book Raiders in Kashmir details this planned invasion against Jammu and Kashmir, while also regretting a lack of local support. Amiss in Thapar’s references was the dispatch of 30 th March 1947, that Pir of Manki Sharif in the NWFP had sent his agent provocateurs to the frontier districts of the state to prepare the people for ‘holy crusade’. To uncritically accept the accounts of an Alistair Lamb, Snedden or a Richard Symond is where the intellectual dishonesty lies. Multiple accounts and reports like that of General Scott proves that quite contrary to the lies about a genocidal anti-Muslim Dogra Force, the State forces had done an exemplary job of looking after its own population alongside taking care of a quarter-million of refugees that had entered the state
Since Karan Thapar rues selective memory and its dangers, important to point out the massacres of Hindus and Sikhs of Mirpur, Bhimber, Kotli, and the tribal agencies of Hazara where they were completely wiped out. The brutal killings and rapes of Sikh and Hindu men and women are hard to forget. Bal K Gupta in his personal memoir Mirpur Ki Traasdi – Vismrit Atyachar, recounts crossing the bridge over Jhelum, along with a fleeing Hindu and Sikh population and seeing many women jump off the bridge to avoid rape and kidnapping. His bone-chilling account of these mass suicides details how women shocked and robotic in their grief and fear first threw their children into the icy cold river and only after watching them completely drown, threw themselves off the bridge too. Bal K Gupta details how the local Muslim population of Mirpur city and adjoining villages joined this carnage and kidnapped Hindu women and killed their men. The author was one of the 1600 people who were rescued by the ICCR from Alibeg and repatriated to India.
Poonch and Rajouri were no different from Mirpur. Col Rehmatullah Khan sent for Rajouri’s protection by Maharaja Hari Singh defected and joined the tribal raiders. He and Major Nasrullah killed the Gorkha sepoys of their own companies. Rajouri witnessed mass suicides by the Hindus by means of consuming poison, some in full public view. To avoid rape and kidnap of Hindu women, Rajouri witnessed chilling honour killings. Many women and children were abducted and sold in Kotli by raiders.
Important to remember these forgotten Hindus and Sikhs of Jammu and Kashmir or as Karan Thapar rightly points out the memory would be one-sided and one-sided memory can never do justice to the truth. We can neither be selective nor untruthful about the past in Jammu and Kashmir. The census figures quoted by Karan Thapar if not completely untrue are at best projected and contentious. Limitations, inconsistencies and contradictions have marred the available census figures. Jammu city known as the City of Temples has never be known as a Muslim majority city but post-1947 has been known as the Refugee capital, home to POJK, West Pak and KP refugees. The influx of the Hindu and Sikh refugees in 1947 to Jammu city is reflected in the rise of Hindu population in the 1981 census.
It is Karan Thapar who in his hurry to toe the Pakistani version of the events in Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 has resorted to inflated and incorrect census figures, not taken into account the Pakistani invasion of Jammu and Kashmir and effectively murdered and insulted the massacres of Hindus and Sikhs in 1947 and then of the Kashmiri Pandits in 1989. The past must be remembered but remembered in all its entirety and truthfulness otherwise we become a very different country from what we want to be.