Narratives on Kashmir: Dismantling the Facade

It is the dead of the night. I look out of my favourite bed-side window and find the darkness, illuminated by tiny lights at Takht-e-Sulayman, staring at me. Each dot of luminosity reminding me of the military occupation of my land. This takes me back to my childhood days when I was growing up in my hometown. Every morning, long rifles protruding from the surrounding military camps would inspect me as I walked to the school bus stop, and each night, a blinding beam of search-light from the nearest military camp would invade one of the rooms of our home. As a child, it would startle me and I was left petrified. I would navigate around that torturous foreign beam, scared of being mowed down by the long rifles if I got into the crosshairs of the searchlight. As I grew up, my mind started questioning these search-lights and long rifles, crackdowns and curfews, killings and rapes, and the causative agent of these monstrous manifestations in Kashmir:– the occupation.

By changing the political status of Occupied Kashmir on August 5, 2019, in flagrant violation of Article 47 of Geneva Convention IV, the UN resolutions, International Humanitarian Law and various bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan and India and Kashmir (Article 370) to boot, India has annexed Kashmir. The colonists sitting in Delhi have set into motion the sinister project of settler colonialism with the imposition of “domicile rules” that allow Indians to buy land and settle in Kashmir. Irrespective of the horrifying and devastating nature of these illegal doings of India in Kashmir, this is exactly what an occupying and colonizing power with a genocidal populace drunk on ultra-nationalism is expected to do. So, what is surprising? It is the reluctance of the world powers, the UN, various HR organizations and almost all the countries to call out India on its brazen military occupation of Kashmir. The abject failure of the world in asking India to roll back its August 5 decisions has left me flabbergasted.

Thus, it becomes imperative to understand that India has got the world handcuffed in its false and concocted narratives on Kashmir. Add to that the economic interests of countries like the US and Australia that find in India not only a huge market but also a bulwark against China. It will be convenient for such governments, in the process of maintaining smooth economic relations with India, to overlook the military occupation that India has unleashed upon Kashmiris, as long as the truth remains buried. We must not allow that. It is long overdue that we assert ourselves and expose, again and again, the hollowness of these manufactured narratives which have managed to push the world opinion away from our just, legal and moral struggle for self-determination.

It is of pivotal importance to re visit the genesis of what is today known as the Kashmir dispute–scrutinize the events related to the “Instrument of Accession”, question the manoeuvres by the Indian officialdom to erase the indigenous resistance (particularly in Poonch) in the build up to the “accession”, to put the Jammu massacres of that time in perspective and to debunk and dissect the fictitious “tribal-invasion” narrative touted by India, which was not merely an act of “external aggression”, but an event directly prompted and triggered by the internal political developments in the state of Jammu and Kashmir at that point in time, viz. the Poonch Revolt and the Jammu massacres.

India uses the “tribal invasion” argument to justify its military invasion of Kashmir. It tells the world that it had to do so to save the people of Kashmir from the “external enemy”. In order to hide its expansionist and belligerent Kashmir policy, India has employed unimaginable Machiavellian scheming to make the world believe an absolute charade. According to the official Indian accounts, Maharaja Hari Singh fled from Srinagar on October 26, 1947, reaching Jammu later the same day, where he met V. P. Menon, representative of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and signed the Instrument of Accession. And India militarily intervened in Kashmir at 9:00 AM on October 27, 1947.

But this argument falls flat when confronted with facts and corroborative evidence. “The absence of a completed Instrument of Accession that evening of 26 October was pointed to”, says Alistair Lamb in his book Birth of a Tragedy: Kashmir 1947, “by Mountbatten himself when Ian Stephens of The Statesman (Calcutta) newspaper came to dine with the Governor- General and Lady Mountbatten.  Mountbatten said, “The Maharaja’s formal accession to India was being finalised”, in other words that it was still an incomplete process. The Indian troops, however, were going in to Kashmir come what may.” Lamb further adds, “Menon related that he did indeed go up to Jammu that afternoon (26 October), accompanied by Mahajan (then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir), and that he persuaded to Maharaja to sign what was needed. Mahajan has denied that part of this story in which it is claimed that he went to Jammu with Menon that day. It is now clear beyond a shadow of a doubt, on the basis of a wide range of sources including Nehru’s own correspondence and the records of the British High Commission in New Delhi, that Menon, too, did not go to Jammu on 26 October.” The research in this regard explicitly dismantles the Indian version and proves that India sent its troops to Kashmir without any legitimacy to intervene in the internal matters of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Not that it matters to Kashmiris whether the Maharaja did sign the document—if it ever was signed at all—as they had already rebelled against the despot and rejected his oppressive rule, and he had no legitimacy to represent the peoples of Kashmir or make any decision regarding their political future. But the critical point to be highlighted here is that India invaded Kashmir not because it wanted to protect Kashmiris from the “tribal invasion”—as it has made the world believe—but with the sole malicious objective of occupying Kashmir against the political aspirations of the natives. This is further reinforced by the fact that Indian forces were present in Kashmir well before October 27, 1947  in the form of the Patiala Regiment that had become an official part of the Army of the Indian Union after the State of Patiala’s accession to India on May 5, 1947. These Indian forces were sent to Kashmir in the first two weeks of October and they had occupied the Srinagar Airfield by October 17, at least five days before the arrival of tribal men from the North West Frontier Province. Alistair Lamb, in his other book Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy mentions that “the Indian troops arriving at Srinagar airport on 27 October 1947 found other Indian troops, in the shape of the Patiala men, already established there and elsewhere in the State. The Patiala forces had arrived, it seems, on about 17 October 1947, that is to say before the tribal crossing of the bridge at Domel on 22 October.” These important developments, which have been deliberately extracted from the chain of events, knock down the fairy-tale chronology surrounding the accession that is presented by India. Hence, it can be said with certainty that India didn’t come to Kashmir to quell “external aggression”. It came as the aggressor.

Two important events happening in Jammu in 1947—Poonch Uprising and Jammu massacres—have been unfortunately underreported for many reasons, including the partition of Punjab and the ensuing violence. Taking advantage, Indian official accounts, negate this crucial part of Kashmir’s history, and state that all violence started in Kashmir on October 22, 1947, with the arrival of tribal men. There is evidence, however, of Indians knowing otherwise. “Nehru and Patel also knew”, says Christopher Snedden in his book The Untold Story Of The People Of Azad Kashmir, “through other sources what had been happening in J & K before Pukhtoon invasion. On October 2, 1947, Patel wrote to Maharaja that he was ‘expediting’ wireless, telegraph, telephone and road links as ‘we fully realize the need for despatch and urgency and … we shall do our best’ to fulfil these.” If all was well in Kashmir before the arrival of tribal men on October 22, then what was the reason behind India’s “expedition” and “urgency” on October 2? India was probably laying ground work for the intended invasion for which the survival of Dogra rule was important. But the Dogra yoke over Kashmir was fast losing its hold.

An indigenous and popular anti-Maharaja revolt, that morphed into an anti-India and pro-Pakistan uprising, had brought to fore the question of the political future of Jammu and Kashmir. It started in western Jammu’s Poonch sector and went beyond into Kotli, Mirpur, Bhimber and to the borders of Jammu City in 1947. This revolt of the natives was a result of the tyrannical Dogra military rule since 1830s characterized by slaughter, flaying alive, discrimination in terms of land reforms and proprietary rights, and heavy taxation. In her book, Kashmir in Conflict, Victoria Schofield notes that “the transfer of power by the British to the new Dominions of Pakistan and India on 14-15 August brought no respite to the troubled situation which the maharaja now faced as an independent ruler. Unrest in Poonch had turned into an organised revolt against the Dogras.” It gained confidence and momentum in 1947, given the menacing advances of India towards Kashmir as is evident by the presence of Patiala forces in Kashmir since early October and the subsequent bloodbath in Jammu. This made the Kashmiris of Poonch realize that their future would not be secure with Hindu India. History has proven them right.

Around this time, Jammu was embroiled in macabre inter-religious violence, with Hindus and Sikhs killing Muslims on one side and Muslims killing Hindus and Sikhs on the other. An important event that has been further swept under the carpet is the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in eastern Jammu by Maharaja’s army and rabid right-wing extremist Indian organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). Christopher Snedden, citing many reports and newspapers including The Times, puts the number of Muslims killed and displaced between 70,000 and 237,000. In November 1947, The New York Times reported that Jammu had been “the scene of massacres against Mohammedans”. United Nations Commission for Indian and Pakistan’s (UNCIP) 1949 Report of the Sub-Committee on Western Kashmir  mentions a revenue collector who informed the UNCIP that “on 20th of October 1947, he heard the Maharajah, while visiting [Bhimber] tehsil, give orders that the Muslims were to be exterminated and had seen His Highness shooting two or three”. The surviving Muslims from eastern Jammu moved into the liberated areas of Kashmir controlled by the Poonchis and Mirpuris in western Jammu and into nearby areas in Pakistan. These massacres further inspired Kashmiris to fight for their liberation from the Dogra rule, and then India. It is important to note that this gory systematic and state-sponsored extermination of Muslims occurred before the arrival of tribal men and was, probably, a catalyst for the “tribal invasion”.

There is credible evidence that proves that the “tribal invasion” was brought about by the indigenous political situation in Kashmir:
1) Peoples of Western Jammu had geographic, cultural, ethnic, economic and familial relations with the peoples of Punjab and North West Frontier Province. Snedden says that Khurshid Anwar, one of the resistance commanders in Poonch, had been in touch with various tribal leaders in the North West Frontier since at least the middle of September as a part of his quest for arms supplies and perhaps for possible recruitment of tribal fighters in the Poonchi ranks. This recruitment was in response to the Indian threat posed by the Patiala forces.
2) The survivors of massacres in Jammu who were moving to nearby areas in Pakistan had been narrating the gruesome details of the massacres that had transpired, instigating the tribal men.
3) Alistair Lamb explains that on October 22, 1947, the 4thJammu and Kashmir Infantry Battalion was stationed at the key Domel position in the Muzaffarabad-Domel area, tasked with stopping the entry of the advancing military column (which included tribal men alongside Poonchi rebels and the deserters of the 4th Jammu and Kashmir Rifles). Half the Battalion men were Muslims. In coordination with the Poonchi rebels, the Muslim half of the Battalion eliminated the other half and cleared the road leading to the heart of the Kashmir valley. Lamb describes this as an internal coup of some kind within the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and an act of rebellion against the Maharaja by some of his Muslim subjects rather than any external “aggression”.

Maharaja Hari Singh

Thus, the contextualization of the “tribal invasion” with the Jammu massacres, Poonch Uprising and the subsequent formation of Azad Kashmir irradiates the fact that the entry of tribal men into the Kashmir equation was directly triggered by the indigenous Kashmiri struggle against the despotic Dogras followed by their fight against the Indian occupation. Indian presence in Kashmir, since day one, is based on distortion of history and obfuscation of facts and, remains in blatant contravention of all international norms. It is obligatory to unroll the pages that have been relegated to the margins and to unravel the facts that have been twisted by India in order to shatter the cunningly crafted facade that India uses to justify its unjustifiable presence in Kashmir.

The UN charter reads that the people of the United Nations are “determined to establish conditions” under which justice and respect for the international obligations can be maintained, to “ensure that armed force shall not be used”, and have “resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.” There are 18 UN resolutions concerning Kashmir, granting Kashmiris the right to self-determination through a “free and impartial plebiscite”. India denies Kashmiris this inherent right and Indian forces perpetrate grave war crimes in Kashmir. Nearly 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed, particularly since 1989, by at least 700,000 Indian troops stationed in Kashmir. Thousands have been subjected to enforced disappearance. Rape and torture are used as weapons of war. How can the torchbearers of freedom and liberty, and the champions of peace and security allow these violations under their watch? As India embarks on its settler colonial mission in Kashmir, the world needs to jolt itself out of its deep slumber, act beyond rhetoric, hold India accountable, prioritize Kashmiri voices, and side with Kashmiris in their struggle for self-determination, in their fight against this blood-thirsty occupation. That is, if it believes in “Never Again”. But if it has become yet another hackneyed and hollow slogan, then the world has no right to question the means that Kashmiris might be forced to use to free their land from the harness of the forcible Indian rule.


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Burhan Gilani Written by:

Burhan Gilani is a medical student, interested in the political history of Kashmir

One Comment

  1. Shafiq
    July 26, 2020

    Excellent writeup, precise and factual.

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