A dark chapter
His vacillating attitude regarding the future status of his dominions made his subjects restive and skeptical about his intentions.
Srinagar, Publish Date: May 21 2015 12:42AM | Updated Date: May 21 2015 8:40AM
It all started with the infamous unpredictability of Hari Singh, the bigoted Hindu Maharaja of a Muslim majority State. His vacillating attitude regarding the future status of his dominions made his subjects restive and skeptical about his intentions.
In his varying hints they found a lot of fickleness which failed them to make out what actually he wished-for: independence, accession to Pakistan or merger with India. They were, thus, caught in a sticky situation.
For Hindus Pakistan was no choice; they perceived it as a hellhole with no guarantee of life. Likewise Muslims were increasingly indisposed towards India, ‘a country of infidels’. Both were in a quandary about what to do in the event of Maharaja’s going for any of the three options. Only alternative available to them was to mount pressure on vacuous ruler to desist from doing what was against their avowed objectives and communal interests. Thus, followed what was awfully nasty double pressure, from two formidable contrasting communities, that turned the State into a quagmire of unprecedented communal frenzy.
Poonchi Muslims were the foremost to avert their impending obliteration by carving out a separate State through an unmatched heroic fight. They erected the first doctrine of armed resistance to: avenge slaughter of thousands of their predecessors by Maharaja Gulab Singh; get rid of spiteful dual taxation which his racist successors had introduced; and challenge all that was obsolete, dogmatic and felonious. Giving a big jolt to feudal coercion they created Azad Kashmir; an entity that valiantly displayed Poonchi Muslim’s avowed aim to join Pakistan; an intent they kept harping on to make it the most distinguishing feature of their rebellion.
The situation was too panicky to compel India avoid fishing in Poonch troubled waters and instead concentrate on the Valley where she had struck a chord with leaders to cultivate a constituency of backers to accomplish her dream. With these collaborators India maximized her efforts to expedite the process of Kashmir’s occupation to thwart the possibility of unfolding of similar events in the Valley.
Despite generating any commotion in the Valley Poonch’s infernal unrest caught the Maharaja in its tentacles unawares; disconcerting him immensely especially when his troops failed him miserably to contain it; disturbing his sleep; worrying him a lot about the possibility of a similar conflagration engulfing Jammu and inciting its Muslims to disintegrate his rajpat.
To prevent such eventuality the edgy Maharaja immediately disarmed his Muslim policemen; ordering them to flee to Pakistan to make easy for him to purge Jammu of their brethren perceived to be hostile and anti-Hindu. It was a sinister design intended for changing demographics of Jammu through exterminating Muslims, and by settling in their place non-Muslim emigrants from Muzzafarabad and Pakistan.
What followed were the heinous genocidal crimes that killed about half a million unarmed Muslims between August and December 1947, besides enforcing exodus of an incalculable number that had escaped jaws of barbaric death. Twenty seven thousand Muslim women including little girls were abducted. The daughter of a veteran leader, Choudhary Abbas was recovered after three days of her abduction. With no parallel in State’s history, it was a huge massacre of innocent Muslims; nay a systematic genocide; a holocaust of humanity comparable to wiping out of people by Changaz and Timore and more monstrous than carried during American-Indian Wars and second World War.
In this mad orgy of death and destruction the Maharaja was personally engaged, watching helpless Muslims being chopped up ruthlessly by his men. He ordered his troops to open fire without having any regard for age, sex and sickness of victims. Eyewitnesses’ reports indicate that at Bhimber he put humanity to shame by deriving a sadistic pleasure from shooting down with his own gun a few of them.
Although these excesses hurt Gandhi Ji immensely he did not undertake any padyatra–to calm down brutal tempers of Hindu rioters and RSS terrorists– he was used to kick off on such malevolent junctures. Nor did likeminded persons or organizations show any concern to assuage the pang and pain of victims. Instead attempts were initiated to foil diffusion of information about the whole episode of savagery and conceal the identity of perpetrators like Sardar Patel. Pakistan too didn’t look or feel melancholy; her complacency and unresponsiveness further aggravated the situation; encouraging miscreants to accelerate the bloodbath.
The reaction of Kashmiri Muslims was equally discouraging; it was tepidly as meek as it was during Poonch rebellion. Barring a few Muslim Conference leaders nobody came forward to pay even lip service or empathize with victims of barbarity. Standing on the edge as mute spectators Kashmiri’s response was too cool to provoke any retaliation or retributive genocide. Not a single incident of inter-communal violence occurred in Kashmir. Owing to conflagration’s failure to percolate down its vales and dales Kashmir continued bubbling with usual vim and vigor when its winter capital was burning with the inferno of communal frenzy and violence.
Why did Poonch uprising and Jammu genocide evoke zero response from Kashmir? Was it the growing divergence of cultures, customs and social behaviors or racial incongruities or uncompromising political differences that barred Kashmiri Muslims to move towards greater political and communal convergence with non-Kashmir Muslims?
It was, indisputably, a mishmash of all these factors that set Kashmiri’s too far apart to have any compassion for non-Kashmiri Muslims. The collaborators exploited these differences to the advantage of their masters; preventing Kashmiri’s to extend support to non-Kashmiri Muslims; widening gulf between the two; discouraging them to form a formidable united front against their common enemy and work together for their mutual benefit. Kashmiri’s were manipulated by selfish politicians to chant: Sheri Kashmir ka kiya irshad Hindu, Muslim, Sikh itihad; a slogan in a hollow of a dying elm of ‘Kashmiriat.’
[Dr. Ahad is the author of Kashmir to Frankfurt; Kashmir Rediscovered; Kashmir: Triumphs &Tragedies and his forthcoming book is Legends of Unsung Heroes]