Challenging the Indian narrative on Kashmir

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The truth is finally coming out

 

 

Since 1947, India has crafted and successfully marketed a peculiar narrative on Kashmir to the world. This narrative revolves around certain assertions, whose primary objective is to project Pakistan as the villain and India as the victim. The central idea of this carefully manufactured Indian narrative is based on the accusation that the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) became a disputed territory after the military invasion of the state by the Pukhtoon tribesmen from the Pakistani north-western areas on 22 October 1947. Moreover, they propagate that there was peace and tranquillity in Kashmir under the princely Hindu ruler Maharaja Sir Hari Singh before and after partition in August 1947 which was disturbed by the Pukhtoon incursion. In addition, they contend that the Hindu Maharaja was a benevolent ruler and his Muslim subjects that constituted an overwhelming majority of over 77 per cent according to the 1941 census lived happily under him. In other words, as the Muslim majority in the state had neither any serious grievance nor was it oppressed, therefore, there was no indigenous Kashmiri Muslim liberation struggle against the Hindu ruler till the time the Pukhtoon ‘raiders’ attacked Kashmir on 22 October. The Indian argument continues that it was due to tribesmen’s terror and violence in the next four days that forced the Maharaja to accede to India, leaving the Indian government no option but to send her armed forces in Kashmir on 27 October 1947 to kick out the ‘invaders.’

The Indians should have known that truth never retires. And finally the truth about the Kashmir issue, challenging the Indian construction is beginning to come out. One effort in this regard is the research entitled “The untold story of the people of Azad Kashmir” by Christopher Snedden, who is an Australian politico-strategic analyst specialising in South Asia.

Let it be clear that the Dogra rulers of Kashmir were not benevolent autocrats and were particularly harsh towards their Muslim subjects. In the 1830s and ‘40s, Gulab Singh not only killed the Muslim ruler of Poonch, his son and nephew, but also displayed their bodies in an iron cage to terrorise the Muslims. Those who dared to resist him, particularly the Muslims of Sudhan tribe; about five thousand of them were butchered and another five thousand women and children were either enslaved or left to die of starvation. This policy of persecution of the Muslims remained a prominent feature of the Dogra rule for a century.

The Hindu minority was preferred over the Muslim majority in police, army and other key administrative departments to the extent that the ruling Hindu Dogra clan occupied 46 per cent of the civil service positions in J&K in 1945.

The Hindu minority was preferred over the Muslim majority in police, army and other key administrative departments to the extent that the ruling Hindu Dogra clan occupied 46 per cent of the civil service positions in J&K in 1945. Similarly, in the ‘Jammu Army’, 63 per cent of the soldiers were from the Dogra community in 1939. Furthermore, the Jammu and Kashmir Arms Act of 1940 only allowed the Rajput Dogras to own and use fire arms. As if all this was not enough, the Muslims of Poonch were exclusively made to pay several outrageous taxes such as rupees 1.4 on every cow, rupee one on every buffalo, 10 annas per sheep, four annas per goat, eight annas on every hearth (Chula), eight annas on every wife over and above the first, four annas per widow, etc. In addition, to discourage non-Muslims from converting to Islam, the converts were compelled to forfeit all of their ancestral property.

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As a result of such repressive policies, there was a popular anti-Maharaja uprising in 1931, which was considered to be the most serious between the Moplah revolt of 1921 and the Calcutta riots of 1946. So, the Indian claim that the Dogra rule was benevolent and the Muslims were not suppressed is just not true, historically.

The second Indian claim that there was no ‘internal’ liberation struggle by the Muslims of the state before, during and after partition in August 1947 and that the troubles started in Kashmir only after the Pukhtoon ‘outsiders’ raided the state on 22 October is also false. The Indian spin doctors have been telling the world that the ‘insiders’ i.e the residents of Jammu and Kashmir did not wage any movement for liberation on their own rather the ‘outsiders’ i.e the Pukhtoon tribesmen and their Pakistani ‘sponsors’ were responsible for instigating all violence and mayhem in Kashmir. Christopher Snedden’s research has shredded this lie.

Kashmiris, like the rest of the Indians, were well aware of the Indian independence movement being waged throughout the subcontinent against the colonial British Raj for several years. A political party by the name of All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference had been formed to protect Muslim interests in Kashmir in 1932. As the partition of India began to crystallise into a reality, the Muslims of Kashmir, particularly of the Jammu province started a violent liberation struggle with a “No Tax” civil disobedience campaign in February 1947 — almost eight months before the Pukhtoon invasion, which the Dogra forces tried to quell with military means. Hundreds were killed when the Muslims of Bagh, a district in Poonch, hoisted the Pakistani flag to celebrate the Independence Day in mid-August. An additional five hundred protesting Kashmiris lost their lives at the hands of the state’s security forces on 24 August 1947. There are conservative and liberal estimates of killings of Muslims in Kashmir at the hands of the non-Muslims depending on the bias of each source, however, a document entitled “Kashmir before accession” while highlighting the anti-Muslim incidents between 8 August and 12 December 1947 states that about 118,459 Muslims were killed and another 13,360 were abducted. The most important point to question the Indian narrative is that at least 80,000 of these Muslim deaths occurred well before the much trumpeted Pukhtoon invasion of 22 October. And if a 26 September 1947 report of the daily “Civil and Military Gazette” is to be taken into account; approximately 50,000 Muslim Kashmiris had already been forced to flee to the Pakistani West Punjab. The slaughtering of the Muslims was comparatively much more in the Jammu province, the figure being given by the Special Correspondent of London’s daily “The Times” about the ‘systematically exterminated’ Muslims at least five days before the Pukhtoon invasion was 237,000.

Who indulged in these massacres of Muslims? Not one but several perpetrators had blood on their hands. These included the members of the state’s armed forces, local Hindus, displaced Sikhs and the members of the right-wing RSS to which the incumbent Indian Premier Narendra Modi belongs to. It was they who turned the Kashmir paradise into hell.

Above all, Maharaja Hari Singh was himself responsible for the massacres of his Muslim subjects. A relatively more objective source in this regard is the UNCIP’s “Report of the Sub-committee on Western Kashmir” which quotes an eye-witness stating that “on 20th of October 1947, he heard the Maharaja while visiting [Bhimber] tehsil, give orders that the Muslims were to be exterminated and had seen His Highness shooting two or three”. That is why even Gandhi on 25 December 1947 held Hari Singh “responsible for the happenings in his state” including the “murders of numberless Muslims and abduction of Muslim girls in Jammu”. This shows that there was an indigenous movement for the liberation of Kashmir by the Kashmiri Muslims much before the Pukhtoon invasion on 22 October.

Kashmiris, like the rest of the Indians, were well aware of the Indian independence movement being waged throughout the subcontinent against the colonial British Raj for several years

Now, the question arises whether the Muslim Kashmiris were capable enough to wage a liberation struggle on their own? Snedden has gathered adequate evidence in this connection. There were tens of thousands of Poonchis and Mirpuris who had military capabilities by virtue of their service in the British army and by one estimate in just two tehsils — Bagh and Sudhnutti — there were 40,000 ex-servicemen. It was such people who became the ‘soldiers’ of the freedom struggle, which by late August 1947 had turned into an armed revolt against the Maharaja.

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By September 1947, almost a month before the Pukhtoon invasion, about 50,000 Kashmiris had organised themselves into a people’s militia variously called ‘Azad Army’, ‘Azad Forces’, etc. 90 per cent of this militia consisted of Kashmiri ex-servicemen while the rest were Kashmiri volunteers as well as a very small percentage of volunteers from Pakistan. This ‘Azad Army’ suffered from a lack of arms as some fought with axes, spears and swords whereas most fought with weapons and ammunition captured either from the Dogra forces in military confrontations or from Muslim deserters of the Maharaja’s army.

How courageously the Muslim Kashmiris fought can be understood from the 22 September 1947 statement of Major-General Scott, the Chief of Staff of the Jammu and Kashmir state forces in which he admitted that his forces were losing control over large areas. Scott’s apprehensions turned true because the Kashmiri freedom fighters successfully set up a “Provisional Azad Government” under Sardar Ibrahim of the Muslim Conference at Poonch on 17 October 1947, precisely five days before the Pukhtoon invasion. The source of this information is none other than the 28 October 1947 issue of the widely read Indian daily “The Times of India”, whose news report dated 27 October 1947 stated: “About ten days ago…[Poonch] insurgents succeeded in overwhelming the Government forces and thereafter the rebels established a ‘Provisional Government’ with its seat in Poonch”. Thus, the Kashmiri Muslims had established a provisional government as a result of their freedom movement which was ‘indigenous’ and by ‘insiders’ i.e the people of Kashmir well before the ‘outsiders’ i.e Pukhtoon tribesmen intervened on 27 October 1947. These are the historical findings of neither a Pakistani nor an Indian but an independent Australian scholar, who has no conflict of interest in the Kashmir dispute.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you. Very informative and truthful as i have listened stories of Kashmir
    struggle from my grandparents. Liked it very much.

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