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Home Political History of India October 22, 1947: The day when Pakistan-backed tribal Lashkars invaded Jammu and Kashmir to...

October 22, 1947: The day when Pakistan-backed tribal Lashkars invaded Jammu and Kashmir to plunder, rape and destroy

In the wee hours of October 22, 1947, scores of Pakistani Pashtun tribal militias, in connivance with the Pakistani state and army surreptitiously crossed the border from Garhi Habibullah into Jammu and Kashmir and attacked the town of Muzaffarabad.

A two-day national symposium on ‘Memories of 22 October 1947’ is being organised in Kashmir by the National Museum Institute in collaboration with the Union Territory Government of Jammu and Kashmir on October 22 and October 23, 2020, to mark the violence and atrocity faced by residents following the invasion of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan’s Pashtun tribal militias, aided by the Pakistani military.

Ahead of the national symposium, billboards have been put up at several places in Srinagar to inform people about the exhibition and create awareness among them about the horrors meted upon their ancestors by the invading Pakistani intruders on October 22, 1947(Black Day).

Billboard informing J&K residents about invasion of Kashmir by Pakistani militias on October 22, 1947(Black Day)

“A museum or an exhibition will become one of the platforms to document, reconstruct and to bring alive the historic narrative of October 22, 1947. Remembering the violence and atrocity of the invaders and the valour displayed in overcoming this challenge will be a tribute to the people who laid down their lives in the first battle of independent India. The said exhibition or memorial will be the first of its kind in this direction,” the official statement by the organisers as quoted by ANI said.

The official statement also added that it is important to present such a historic narrative to the people in order to have a dialogue with them. It sought to clear hazy sense of history some people in Kashmir had, especially with regards to Pakistan’s claim on the territory. The statement said that people should be aware of the challenges faced by the nation just months after securing independence.

Billboard informing J&K residents about invasion of Kashmir by Pakistani militias on October 22, 1947(Black Day)

“Pakistan invaded Jammu and Kashmir on October 22, 1947, and brought in its wake horrifying mass plunder and vandalism. Thousands of men, women and children were mercilessly slaughtered by the intruders. Four days later, on October 26, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession, merging his state with India. Following the accession of the state to India, Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar, the state capital to repel the tribal invasion,” the statement noted.

Pakistan Army launched ‘Operation Gulmarg’ to snatch Jammu and Kashmir

Soon after the partition, the Pakistani leadership, both civilian and military, was desperate and determined to expand its territorial area. Several attempts were made by Pakistani leaders, including Mohammad Ali Jinnah to convince Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir to accede to Pakistan. However, Singh had remained adamant on his demand to have an independent princely state.

Soon after the independence, the Pakistani Army prepared a plan called ‘Operation Gulmarg‘ and put it into action. According to the plan, 20 Lashkars (tribal militias), each consisting of 1000 Pashtun tribals, were to recruited from various Pashtun tribes, and armed at the brigade headquarters at Bannu, Wanna, Peshawar, Kohat, Thall and Nowshera by the first week of September. The armed Lashkars were expected to reach their launching point in Abbottabad on October 18, and subsequently cross into Jammu and Kashmir on October 22, 1947. The primary objective of the Operation was to capture Srinagar by October 26, 1947.

The 20 Lashkars were to be divided into a group of 2—10 militia tribes were expected to attack the Kashmir Valley through Muzaffarabad and the remaining ten were expected to join the rebels in Poonch, Rawalkot and Bhimber from where they were to advance to Jammu.

Simultaneously, Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan, who was entrusted with the operation, devised a plan to make the Kashmir rebellion appear like a revolt waged by the people of Jammu and Kashmir against their non-Muslim rulers. The aim here was to take the cover of civilian unrest for the impending military action. Through a concerted attempt, rebellion against Maharaja Hari Singh was ginned up and rebels were encouraged to take up arms against the Hindu ruler.

As a prelude to this plan, Pakistan stopped the supply of essential goods like petrol, oil, food, sugar, salt etc. to Jammu and Kashmir, effectively blockading the state and thereby actively stoking rebellion against Maharaja Hari Singh.

Pakistani Pashtun tribal militias and Pakistani Army regulars invade Jammu and Kashmir

The weeks of planning and illicit manoeuvrings under Operation Gulmarg culminated into the invasion of Jammu and Kashmir which marked the commencement of the events that led to the first Indo-Pak war. In the wee hours of October 22, 1947, scores of Pakistani Pashtun tribal militias, in connivance with the Pakistani state and army surreptitiously crossed the border from Garhi Habibullah into Jammu and Kashmir and attacked the town of Muzaffarabad.

Several accounts claim that the tribal raiders, raised by the Pakistani Army, were aided by the traitors of the 4 KI guarding the outposts at Lohar Gali and Ramkot. Many Muslim forces tasked with protecting the sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir mutinied and colluded with the rampaging Pashtun tribesmen to defeat the forces deployed by Maharaja Hari Singh.

These rebels provided crucial information to the armed raiders about the troop deployment and position and helped them prevail over them. Even before the sleeping residents of Muzaffarabad could realise, the town was already under the control of invading Pashtun militias. Documented accounts state that hundreds of women were raped and abducted, houses looted and men slaughtered on the streets.

After wreaking havoc in Muzaffarabad, the Pashtuns marched towards the prosperous town of Baramulla, even though the path to Srinagar was clear. Here too, the Pashtuns killed innumerable men and women, looted houses and then set them on fire. Out of 14,000 population at the time, less than two thousand had remained. Most of them were either killed in the Pashtun onslaught or fled the village for safer places.

The ‘Lashkars’ wreaked havoc, killed, raped and looted Hindus and Muslims alike

The invading tribal groups had no regard for anyone. They ran riot, leaving chaos, destruction and killings in their wake. They even raped nuns, who were performing their duties at St. Joseph Hospital and schools in Baramulla. Even doctors, paramedics, and nurses tending to the sick and incapacitated were not spared. They were, too, subjected to a brutal assault by the invading tribesmen.

As Pashtun tribesmen and Pakistani regular army soldiers were busy looting Kashmiris in Baramulla, defiling their women and vandalising the properties, Maharaja Hari Singh sought an intervention from India to stop the devastation, which was contingent upon his signing of Instrument of Accession.

After Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to India on October 26, 1947, the Indian Armed forces were airlifted to the Kashmir Valley the next day. The Army launched an aggressive offence against the rampaging Pashtuns and stopped their march towards Srinagar. In the subsequent months, the Indian Army purged the state of the Pashtun tribesmen and Pakistani regulars and forced them to retreat to what is present-day Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

For years, Pakistan perpetuated the myth that tribal raiders were liberators who had come to Kashmir to fulfil their religious obligation of jihad and avenge the deaths of Muslims killed in the communal riots in Jammu. However, in reality, the tribesmen were not carrying out any religious war or jihad. They were there to brazenly trample upon the sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir, rape and dishonour the women, plunder and pillage Kashmiri, regardless of their religion.

They were aided, provided and instigated by the regulars in the Pakistani army. Whose motive, to this day, remains to add the region of Jammu and Kashmir to the territory of Pakistan and push India’s northern border further down.

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Jinit Jain
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