The autumn leaves in October turn fiery gold and red, ushering in the autumn season but it also brings back memories of the tribal invasion that took place in the last weeks of October in 1947.
The inavsion traumatised Kashmiris for generations and left a legacy of violence, brutality, confused identity, and a fragile social fabric vulnerable to communal forces.
With the recent barbaric 7 October medieval style Hamas raid in Israeli kibbutzim and settlements, the historic wounds of the 'Kabaili' raid by Pakistani rangers and tribesmen once again opened, as videos and news flashes brought the savagery to the living rooms.
As peace returns permanently to the Kashmir Valley, the unsung and heroic Jammu, Kashmiri, Ladakhi resistance fighters and the brave armed forces will be remembered in tributes and events showcasing the geopolitical upheaval that partitioned India, but also paved the way for Kashmir's accession to India on 26 October 1947.
Pakistani lobbies in the West have been spreading the canard that the conflict was indigenous, which has been repeatedly debunked by none other than the Pakistani establishment with their published memoirs and the declassified reports of British Officers from the frontlines in the war of 1947.
It was a planned proxy war against the newly established dominion of India by Pakistan, in the early days of the partition. The Pakistani establishment's intelligence agency had the "only strategy" — to forcibly annex Kashmir despite the negotiations going back and forth between the Maharaja, the then Pakistan prime minister and Nehru's Cabinet.
That it was also a geopolitical strategy to secure Kashmir overlooking the important artery into the heart of Central Asia and not the liberation of "Muslims" is clear from Major-General (then Colonel) Akbar Khan's own account of the planning and execution of the tribal invasion on Kashmir in his 'Raiders in Kashmir'.
Those who survived the raid and tribal invasion, the still alive octogenarian, and nonagenarian survivors today, specifically describe the looting, pillage, and kidnapping of women to be sold in the markets of Mirpur, which the panicked Kashmiri Muslim leaders also spoke about in their hastily coordinated meetings to discuss the future of Kashmir.
That the invasion was purely territorial without the people's welfare at heart is evident from the anecdote recorded by Kashmir's towering leader Sheikh Mohd Abdullah, in his autobiography Flames of the Chinar:
"Jinnah having been asked if the will of the people would be taken into consideration, promptly asked the people to go to hell, which obviously was not taken well by the Kashmiri people." (paraphrased)
That it was not an indigenous uprising has not only been reiterated by the presence of Pakistani officers in charge of the Mahsud and Afridi clans of the battalions sent into the Valley, but also by accounts of British Officers who were busy acting on behalf of the newly-formed Pakistan Army and ensuring Gilgit would be given to Pakistan.
The role of the Gilgit Scouts in the 'Great Game' ensuring that India did not have control over the important arterial roads and regions important for Britain to ward off Soviet interests, has been brought into question in countless books, articles, and research papers.
Come October, the memories of the tribal invasion with increasing documentation of the oral histories we all grew up with and the widespread distribution of hastily published accounts through lesser-known publication houses are finally being preserved for future generations.
Be it Krishna Mehta's autobiographical account of her ordeal in Kashmir 1947- A Survivor's Story or Andrew Whitehead's A Mission in Kashmir available for online reading freely on his website.
Krishna Mehta's harrowing account also makes it clear that the raiders had more than the territory in mind, leaving behind them a trail of destruction as they advanced to capture Srinagar, the summer capital.
Her husband was one of the first repellent of the attack in Muzaffarabad (now in Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir-PoJK) being District Commissioner.
She narrates how several women, terrified of the tribals, preferred death to protect their honour — a repeat of the horrendous tales of the Partition that divided the subcontinent of India into West and East Pakistan: the violence on both sides creating permanent generational trauma and fault lines.
Yet these accounts show how much resilience and fortitude was shown by all sections of the erstwhile princely kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir, on the verge of a new history being created, while defending their homes and ensuring the marauders didn't achieve their objective.
Be it Maqbool Sherwani, the social activist, diverging and confusing the tribal troops in the lanes and by-lanes of Baramulla when they stopped to ask for directions to Srinagar.
He was literally crucified in the process when caught; the tribals nailed a paper to his forehead, labelled "Traitor" after torturing him for a few hours.
Or the unyielding, spirited, dignified Krishna Mehta, wife of the District Commissioner of Muzaffarabad, escaping the carnage with six children in tow, hungry and thirsty while making their way towards the refugee camps in the Valley.
Or Zuni Gujjari, the vibrant daughter of a conservative milkman from downtown Srinagar, attired in traditional pheran and poosch (dupatta), shouldering a gun — immortalised in a poster for the Kashmiri Women's Self Defence Corps (WSDC).
Then there is the heroism of the meagre Kashmir State forces under the command of Brigadier Rajinder Singh who put up a tough resistance at Uri and Rampur, delaying the advancement of the looting tribals towards Srinagar, a key strategic region that would have meant defeat.
Brigadier Rajinder Singh immortalised himself in the battle for Kashmir, along with the valour of the Mukta Battalion, the first battalion of women volunteers.
Another hero of Kashmir was Major Somnath Sharma, a brave Indian Army officer who is often remembered and immortalised for his valour and sacrifice during the tribal raid by Pakistan.
He was the first recipient of the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military decoration for gallantry.
Major Sharma's actions in the Battle of Budgam are well-documented. He and his company were tasked with defending the strategic Srinagar airfield from tribal invaders comprising of Pakistani regulars too during the invasion/raid.
Despite being outnumbered and facing heavy enemy fire, Major Sharma displayed exceptional leadership and courage, by holding the enemy at bay, allowing crucial time for reinforcements to arrive.
Tragically, he lost his life during the battle, but his bravery and selfless sacrifice saved the Budgam airfield and had a significant impact on the course of the First Kashmir War in 1947.
The gradual alienation of Kashmir through subsequent misgovernance and corrupt democracy, by the successive governments and politicians of the Indian National Congress and the National Conference, as well as the insidious perseverance of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Pakistan resulted in the Islamisation of Kashmir throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
The armed insurgency of the 90s, supported by Pakistan again which saw the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits, and secular Kashmiri Muslims devastated the Valley for three decades and reinforced the intergenerational trauma of the 1947 tribal raid.
Now that Pakistan has been legally and diplomatically defeated in 2019, with a military defeat imminent in 2024, the Pakistani lobby abroad, and the domestic one in mainland India, or whatever is left of it in the Valley, does not like to be reminded of the time when in October and November of 1947 Kashmiris mustered courage and rallied together to repel the invasion of Pakistani Rangers and Pakhtun tribals.
This daring and coordination of Kashmiris of all hues, ethnic or linguistic saved Kashmir whereupon it immediately acceding to India, having had a glimpse of how things would transpire if it did join the Dominion of Pakistan.
Arshia Malik is a columnist and commentator on social issues with particular emphasis on Islam in the Indian subcontinent.
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