Nagpur: 1947 – India and Pakistan gain independence and first ‘Kashmir war’ is fought:
Pakistan gained independence from British on 14th August 1947 and India on 15th August – the next day. While there was wise spread happiness in the new ‘India’ ( tainted only by the horrific Hindu-Muslim riots at border states) Pakistan was a disillusioned country.
It’s ‘Founder’ Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a Karachi born Muslim who had made Bombay his home and his only child daughter, Dina, was educated in England and India. Jinnah later became estranged from Dina after she decided to marry a Christian, Neville Wadia from a prominent Parsi business family. When Jinnah urged Dina to marry a Muslim, she reminded him that he had married a woman not raised in his faith. Jinnah continued to correspond cordially with his daughter, but their personal relationship was strained, and she did not come to Pakistan in his lifetime, but only for his funeral an year later. Thus the ‘Father’ of Pakistan has no descendants living in that country – only in India! (One of the great ironies of Indo-Pak history).
Jinnah was disgruntled with the ‘Pakistan’ he had received after partition since the grand vision had been –
Pakistan, “a land of the pure” . But It was coined in 1933 as Pakstan by Choudhry Rahmat Ali, a Pakistan Movement activist, who published it in his pamphlet Now or Never. using it as an acronym referring to the names of the five northern regions of the British Raj: Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan The letter i was incorporated to ease pronunciation and form the linguistically correct and meaningful name. The grand design had been getting the whole of Punjab, Bengal, Kashmir, Sindh and even Hyderabad and Junagadh ( in Gujarat). Instead, what they got was a truncated little country, divided into two, lying on two sides of India!
Kashmir – Swtizerland of Asia, was envisaged as an independent nation by its King
According to the Indian Independence Act 1947, on gaining independence from the British, The authority of the British Crown over the princely states ceased and they were free to join either India or Pakistan or remain independent.
Hari Singh, the then ‘King’ of Kashmir, whose family had ‘bought’ Kashmir from the British for 7.5 million Rupees, was a Hindu whose people were 70% Muslim. The British expected him to thus go over to Pakistan, but he decided to make ‘Kashmir’ an independent nation, a la Switzerland of Asia which would be neutral between India and Pakistan.
(Not many know this, but Kashmir has had a very chequered history and has been ruled by Budhists, Sikhs, Hindus and British alike.
During ancient and medieval period, Kashmir has been an important centre for the development of a Hindu-Buddhist joint culture and religious beliefs in which Budhist Madhyamaka were blended with Saivism and Advaita Vedanta. The Buddhist Emperor Ashoka is often credited with having founded the old capital of Kashmir, Shrinagari, now lying as ruins on the outskirts of modern Srinagar. Kashmir was long to be a stronghold of Buddhism. It later passed into the hands of Hindu rulers and came under the influence of Adi Shankara.
Queen Kota Rani was medieval Hindu ruler of Kashmir, ruling until 1339. She was a notable ruler who is often credited for saving Srinagar city from frequent floods by getting a canal constructed, named after her “Kutte Kol”. This canal receives water from Jhelum River at the entry point of city and again merges with Jhelum river beyond the city limits.
Muslim rule over Kshmir began with Shah Mir and ended with Ranjit Singh of Punjab. The Sikhs were defeated by the British, who sold the valley state to Gulab Singh, a Hindu ruler.)
Hari Singh, the man who was King in 1947, knew Kashmir was very popular with all Europeans, not just the British, and he had plans of making it into another Switzerland. (Remember this mountain country too was ‘netural’ during both World Wars, aligning neither with Allies nor Germany but being Bankers to all).
The Indian politicians, Nehru, Patel and even Gandhi, did not like this decision but decided to respect it and accept it reluctantly.
But Pakistani rulers had other designs in mind.
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948, sometimes known as the First Kashmir War, was fought between India and Pakistan over the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu from 1947 to 1948. Pakistan precipitated the war a few weeks after independence by launching tribal lashkar (militia) from Waziristan. Thus we see, that the dreaded ‘lashkar’ has been a factor used as cover by Pakistani army right since then. The plan was to take Hari Singh’s army and also India by surprise and annex the whole of Kashmir by force.
Another great ironies of Indo-Pak-Kashmir comes into play here. If the timing of Pakistan had been more accurate and they would have attacked a few weeks later, just before winter set it, they could have had Kashmir on a platter! Because the condition of the Jammu- Srinagar road was pathetic then and with snow and land slides it could be cut off for days. There was just one airport at Srinagar which was the only lifeline to the outside world.
On 22 October 1947, Muslim tribal militias crossed the border of the state, claiming that they were needed to suppress a rebellion in the southeast of the kingdom. These local tribal militias and irregular Pakistani forces moved to take Srinagar, but on reaching Uri they encountered resistance.
Kashmir accedes to India
The armed forces of J&K, being comparatively very less in numbers, Hari Singh made a plea to India – calling Mountbattein- for assistance, and help was offered, but it was subject to his signing an Instrument of accession to India.
Accordingly, J&K would merge in India in return to the military help offered by India. There were some other issues regarding, such as special status to the state of J&K, etc which were agreed upon.
The war was initially fought by the J&K State Forces let by Major-General Scott and by tribal militias from the North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Facing the assault and a Muslim revolution in the Poonch and Mirpur area of Kashmir, the ruler of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu, who was a Hindu, signed an Instrument of Accession to the Union of India. The Indian and Pakistani armies entered the war after this. The fronts solidified gradually along what came to be known as the Line of Control. A formal cease-fire was declared at 23:59 on the night of 1/2 January 1949.
As we can see retrospectively, Pakistani hopes of ‘capturing’ Kashmir for itself ended in deep disappointment for them. They had anticipated that, unable to contain, the ‘attack’ by tribals, Hari Singh would turn to ‘help’ to Pakistani army which was already in place by deceit. They would “quell the uprising” and appear heroes for Kashmir and Hari Singh would sign Acession to Pakistan. It has to be a fact that some British army officers – who had gone to Pakistan after partition – were privy to this planning and in fact, complicit with it.
But sadly for them , just the opposite happened. The ‘incursion’ failed despite having advantage of surprise, speed, timing and a smooth tarmac road to their target as their advantages; Hari Singh turned to India for help and the Indian army, despite many disadvantages managed to ‘save’ Kashmir from Pakistan for Kashmiris!
Indian Army seen as saviours
Thus it was not just Hari Singh, but even the political leadership of Kashmir then which was in favour of acceding to India when the alternative was being ‘ attacked and captured’ by Pakistan.
Not surprising, as the tribals and Pakistan army who had attacked parts of Kashmir were more interested in loot, plunder and rape. That is one of the main reasons they could not achieve their target of gaining Srinagar, though they were miles away from the airport!
The then tallest leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah, grandfather of Farooq Abdullah, present leader of National Conference, had also welcomed intervention by the Indian army. In fact, he later became the first ‘elected’ C.M. of Kashmir.
Kashmir development and Army role
It was the same Farooq Abdullah, who as CM of the state later lauded the role of the Indian army in his home state.
On July 04, 2011, in Srinagar, it was a quite unique gathering and maybe for the first time, that Army brass, Kashmiri craftsmen, political leaders and civil government officials got together, when Chief Minister Abdullah released a coffee table book titled ‘Handicrafts of Kashmir’. GOC 15 Corps Lt. Gen. Syed Atta Hasnain, Army officers, Master Kashmiri artisans and others were present together on this occasion as this book had been published by the Army’s counter-insurgency Rashtriya Rifles’ Kilo Force.
A photo feature of the development of handicrafts of Kashmir, the book showcases the artistic skill of artisans and fantastic creation of designs. Speaking to the gathering the Chief Minister lauded the role of Army in the social activities in the State.
He said that the initiative of the Army to help in publishing of an informative and creative book on Kashmir handicrafts would go a long way in projecting Kashmir’s artisans and their painstaking and very artistic hand-crafting of curios and utility items.
While such praise of the Army from political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) does not come often or easily, it does come quite often and spontaneously by locals, who the Army has been assisting in a number of ways from time to time.
Since 2011, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been projecting the improved security environment in the Valley and has been strongly recommending removal/ revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from at least part of J&K and also been suggesting that the Army be removed from parts of it.
The view that Indian Army’s presence in Jammu and Kashmir is hampering the further normalization and development of the state is quite warped.
In fact after the bus service to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir began, Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC realized the stark difference in development between the two.
Operation Beacon and Kashmir roads
The first Kashmir was of 1947 had underlined the Achilles’ heel of defending Kashmir from future attacks. Good, motorable roads and accessibility was a MUST.
In 1947, there was one state highway connecting Jammu to Srinagar valley which routinely shut down after it snowed.
The Army began by fortifying this road with tunnels, bridges and creating alternate routes in areas which were prone to snow and land slides. It has since many decades now become a marvel of engineering and surface transport. Armed personnel have to work day and night, specially in winter months, in keeping this road running.
So also, the Srinagar – Leh road (The highest road in the world) which has not only connected the regions of Srinagar and Ladakh but brought development and tourism to the beautiful but inaccessible region of Ladakh.
Similarly, the road from Leh to the spectacular Pangong Tso Lake (where the final scene of “3 Idiots” was shot) was originally a foot track which was converted into a motorable road to transport and maintain troops guarding the Sino- Indian border.
And as in the past, habitation has sprung up on the fringes of the places where army units and detachments are located. The area which was a beautiful and isolated part of the country has, thanks to the army, become a popular tourist destination and is enjoying generating revenue with the fledgling tourism industry in the region.
Another major employer of locals is the Border Roads Organization whose Project Beacon constructed high quality roads as major arteries in difficult mountainous terrain spanned by bridges and continuously maintains them as they are prone to damage due to landslides caused during rains and other natural causes.
So, while roads and tracks constructed for military use improves connectivity for the locals, the maintenance of the same provides them ready employment. In an area where there are no major industries close by, this can be seen as virtual home delivery of job opportunities to the locals.
The army also has a culture of extending its basic facilities to the locals on humanitarian grounds.
Thus, emergency medical aid including evacuation of sick and the ailing, advice on local developmental programmes are all part of normal routine for the army in these places. Providing medical care in areas where the state government is yet to make inroads is a major boon to the local population. In fact the bonding between the army units and the locals becomes so strong that it is not unusual to hear of cases of the locals petitioning the civil administration and even ministers to cancel the transfer order of units.
In 2004, as part of Operation Sadbhavana, projects were undertaken to electrify remote rural villages and hamlets with solar panels and windmills and provide job opportunities to the poor people of these back ward areas .
Two such projects by Romeo Force of Rashtriya Rifles were in Barsada and Kulali villages at the mouth of the Hill Kaka Region in Poonch district.
Nine more such micro hydel projects were launched to reach out to remote areas which had not seen a bulb in this space age.
An officer of the Indian Army, recalled an incident during 1980s, when someone spread the rumour that after the Upshi- Manali route to Ladakh would become commercial, the army would discontinue using the Srinagar – Leh route.
This rumour spread like wildfire and it took the Chief Minister’s personal assurance to assuage the fears of the perceived revenue loss by the locals.
Not just surgical strikes, much more!
So we can see that despite some negatives and lack of proper information, the role of the Indian Army in Kashmir is manifold and not just keeping a check on infiltration by Pakistani inspired ‘terrorists’ which has become a habit of people across the border.
It is the one ‘industry’ that keeps Kashmir going, offers local employment to many, and generates business and commerce in the support system it requires.
The presence of the army in any area in India has been a catalyst in its development.
However, this important aspect is usually overlooked, as is being done by the present state government in J&K. Being manpower intensive, the army requires considerable administrative support for its routine functioning. Take for example rations.
While rice, wheat-flour and cereals may be procured from elsewhere, the army has to fully rely on local sources for supply of perishable items like vegetables, milk, meat and poultry products.
This is actually a boon in disguise for people residing in these remote areas. Because the locals who earlier could not market their produce in the hinterland due to the prohibitive transportation and storage costs, now have a buyer at their doorstep.
For example, the army in J&K buys approximately 33,000 liters of milk daily.
Further, since the army guarding frontiers is deployed in inaccessible areas, local means to sustain the troops have to be employed as lack of surface communication network precludes use of vehicles. In J&K, the army spends approximately Rs. 96 crores (1 crore=10 million) hiring porters and ponies every year, which is a major source of employment/earning for locals.
Similarly, the army spends approximately Rs. 120 crores for hiring transport for movement of men and material within the State. This means that by its presence itself, the army is actually a major employer in the state, promoting enterprise in remote areas and ameliorating the lot of locals. The presence of the army in remote areas also promotes the improvement of infrastructure and facilities in them.
This in turn provides ease of movement for the locals ending their isolation. It is not only the locals but outsiders too that benefit from the infrastructure created by the army. If Ladakh today is a popular tourist destination, then the credit for the same goes to Indian Army as the Leh airfield was created in 1948 to facilitate landing of Indian Air Force planes carrying troops to repulse the Pakistani intruders.
Anyone who has been there will vouch for the popular Kashmir saying ” If there is Paradise on Earth, it is here, it is here, it is here…”
This beautiful land is still beset with many problems, but let us appreciate the role our army is playing in safeguarding it – from illegitimate players – and developing it.
—Sunita Mudaliar (Associate Editor)