India’s freedom may have been a hard-won battle, but in the latter half of 1947, there was much left to do. Partition had forged two new nations, with migration taking place on both sides of India, and there remained small territories with independent administrations. The princely states had differing stances on integration. While some, such as Maharaja Sadul Singh of Bikaner were quick to accede to India, others had expressed their intention of remaining independent. Amongst the latter was the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Maharaja Hari Singh had not wanted to join either country, despite insistence from both sides. While the state had a Hindu ruler, a large number of its citizens were Muslim. And with Partition being essentially a religious separation, many were of the opinion that the state should join Pakistan. Months after Independence, however, in spite of a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir was facing a shortage of supplies, thanks to infiltration of “Afridis, soldiers in plain clothes, and desperadoes, with modern weapons”.
On this day, Lashkars armed with axes, swords & guns backed by #Pakistan Army attacked Jammu & Kashmir. Unleashed atrocities on men, women and children. (2/n)#PakAtrocities #JammuKashmir1947#ThisDayThatYear pic.twitter.com/F2pF7MeVWw
— ADG PI – INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) October 22, 2020
“The mass infiltration of tribesmen drawn from distant areas of the N.W.F. Province coming regularly in motor trucks using Mansehra-Muzaffarbad road and fully armed with up-to-date weapons cannot possibly be done without the knowledge of the Provincial Government of the N.W.F. Province of the Government of Pakistan,” noted an excerpt from a letter sent by the Maharaja to Lord Mountbatten, the former Governor General of India.
He had said that they had begun with the Poonch area, then infiltrated Sialkot and finally in mass in the area adjoining Hazara district on the Ramkote side. “The result has been that the limited number of troops at the disposal of the State had to be dispersed and thus had to face the enemy at several points simultaneously, so that it has become difficult to stop the wanton destruction of life and property and looting. The number of women who have been kidnapped and raped makes my heart bleed,” he had written.
As the situation worsened, the people of Kashmir took up a stance, preparing to defend themselves. But the violent, horrifying onslaught would eventually become far too much to cope with.
“Pakistan Armed Desperadoes Raid Kashmir,” read the front page headline of the Free Press Journal on October 27, 1947. As the first paragraph of the article explained, “A contingent of Afridis, soldiers of the pakistan Army who are on leave and “desperadoes” fully armed with modern weapons entered the Kashmir State on October 23 from Manshera-Ramkot side in about 100 trucks, according to Mr. RN Batra, Deputy Prime Minister of Kashmir, who is now in Delhi. Mr. Batra says these “invaders” have resorted to arson, murder and loot of non-Muslims.”
As the situation grew increasingly grimmer, the princely state appealed to India for help.
“With the condition obtaining at present in my State and the great emergency of the situation as it exists, I have no option but to ask for help from the Indian Dominion. Naturally they cannot send the help asked for by me without my State acceding to the Dominion of India. I have accordingly decided to do so and I attach the Instrument of Accession for acceptance by your Government. The other alternative is to leave my State and my people to freebooters,” the Maharaja wrote in his letter to Mountbatten. Executed on October 26, 1947, the Instrument of Accession was sealed the next day, and the state of Jammu and Kashmir became a part of India.
But while Kashmir may have become a part of India, the issue of infiltration was yet to be resolved. Soon, the two newly formed nations would find themselves locked in what became the first Indo-Pakistan war, or the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948.
“Kashmir Situation Explosive. Marauders within 30 miles of Srinagar. Great confusion in State. Premier Mahajan asks for India’s help” read the Free Press Journal’s front page headline on October 28.
Another part of the article quoted Mahatma Gandhi as stating that the situation was “certainly bad”, even as he noted that “people must decide issue without coercion”.
“The Prime Minister of Kashmir, Mr. Meherchand Mahajan, who arrived here today to discuss the situation with the Government of India, attended a high-level conference at which, it is believed, he asked for aid from the Indian Dominion to meet the threat to law and order in Kashmir,” the FPJ report adds.
Source: Free Press Journal