The modern-day Jammu and Kashmir used to be a tributary of the flamboyant kingdom of the erstwhile Sikh Empire established by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. After his death in 1839 and the apparent ineffectiveness of his descendants, the East India Company took down his kingdom with considerable military strength in the Anglo-Sikh War of 1845-46.
The mountainous region of Kashmir, besieged by the Britishers, was sold out under the Treaty of Amritsar (dated March 16, 1846) to Gulab Singh, the founder of Dogra dynasty, who would be the first king of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Though Gulab Singh sealed the deal by paying 7,500,000 Nanakshahi (then currency of Punjab), he never ceased to show his loyalty to the East India Company and even acted on several occasions as if he were merely a marionette under the British suzerainty.
How the Dogra kingdom helped the British to crush the Indian Rebellion of 1857 can be easily found in the pages of history!
Gulab Singh’s posterity continued ruling Jammu and Kashmir till hell broke loose in 1947.
The ideologies of Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah were poles apart and two different states (Hindu and Muslim) were desperately demanded by both of them. The British demarcated Punjab and Bengal to create a new Islamic country, Pakistan.
Declared on August 17, 1947, the demarcation line between India and Pakistan came to be known as the Radcliffe Line, named after a British lawyer Cyril John Radcliffe. This ‘architect’ of geographical schism who was visiting India for the first time and had almost zero knowledge about Indian history, its wonderful culture and even its map, took only 5 weeks to complete his job which divided a subcontinent covering an area of 450,000 sq. km. with a whopping population of 88 million.
The division of the British Indian Army was one of the highly contested issues during the establishment of two new nations. Prioritizing the territorial origin of personnel over geographic dimension, 64% of the total strength was allocated to India whereas incipient Pakistan assuaged itself with remaining one-third of the armed forces.
Since it was clear that division of armed forces could not so easily be put away, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck was appointed as the Supreme Commander of both countries to administer the issue with a duty to remain neutral. Further, General Rob Lockhart was selected to serve as the Commander-in-Chief (C in C) of Indian Army with General Frank Messervy as his Pakistani counterpart.
Having a familiarity with each other since the days of undivided Army, they had their offices linked with Sir Auchinleck’s and shared every bit of information in order to tackle any inauspicious development in either of the territories.
The Indian Independence Act 1947, which was responsible for carving the British Indian Empire into India and Pakistan, also stipulated the exemption of total 565 official princely states from the confinement of the British Crown. These states were given two options – to either enjoy an independent status or to accede to any of the newly formed countries by ratifying the Instrument of Accession.
A member of the league of Dogras, Maharaja Hari Singh was enjoying the kingship of Jammu and Kashmir when the event of hazardous partition took place. While India and Pakistan were busy in building things from scratch, Hari Singh took a neutral stand and decided to stay independent while dreaming to turn his picturesque state into another Switzerland.
Though General Messervy was snappy in keeping everything crystal clear with the Supreme Commander sitting in Delhi, he deliberately failed to notify the plot of ‘Operation Gulmarg’ leading up to the attack on Jammu and Kashmir.
Contrived by one of his subordinates Major General Akbar Khan aka Jebel Tariq, the plot was hatched in the Northern Command Headquarters in Rawalpindi, the building which housed the Pakistan Army Headquarters.
Taking preventative measures against any attempt of hostile takeover in future, Pakistan entered into a Standstill Agreement with Jammu and Kashmir – a fraudulent indication of its sensibility in managing the relationship with neighbors.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who once ranted that “Kashmir is a blank cheque in my pocket”, was cocksure that Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir, predominating the entire population with 77.11% can’t accept a Hindu king in their state. Little did he realize that his target area was also a matter of concern to Sheikh Abdullah, a Kashmiri of indomitable spirit who never gave a damn about people like Jinnah and their nonsensical ideologies.
In order to avoid its direct involvement in attacking J & K, the Pakistani Army deployed tribesmen from the North-West Frontier Province and trained them to make advancement into the Valley. In a tactical move to bring Maharaja Hari Singh under pressure, the Pakistani government imposed the sanction on vital supplies like food, cotton, petrol, salt etc. to the state. Obstruction in the flow of essentials, including communication lines, contributed a great deal in crippling Jammu and Kashmir – a state in a deplorable condition with apparently no connection to the outside world.
The border settlement provided Pakistan with all the three major roads connecting Jammu and Kashmir whereas India had to satisfy itself with a mind-numbing route from Punjab’s Madhopur to Jammu via Kathua. The route, which was a nuisance for travelers, was chopped at many places by rivers without bridges and several other hindrances. It was indeed a high-stake concern for mobility; especially bothering Army’s movement. Practically the fastest available way to reach Jammu and Kashmir from India was to rely on air route for a landing on ill-equipped airstrip of Srinagar.
The West Pakistan-Kashmir border areas of Muzaffarabad and Domel, despite having no security threat from the enemies, was guarded by the 4 J & K Infantry, one of the trusted battalions of the State Forces which comprised 50% Dogras and 50% Poonchie Muslims.
The Mujahideens trained under the adequate supervision of Major General Akbar Khan had by the time initiated low-intensity engagements near bordering outposts other than brainwashing Kashmiris in critical areas.
Concerned by the latest development, intelligence sources in the state advised Lt. Col. Narain Singh, then Commanding Officer of the unit, to pull Poonchie Muslims back from the border area and have them replaced by the Dogras. But Lt. Col. Singh who had a gripping trust on the commitment and potential of his Muslim comrades, vouched for them and downrightly rejected the valuable intelligence reports.
His leniency for brainwashed Poonchie Muslims was proven wrong when in the wee hours of October 22, 1947, Muslim soldiers mounted up sharply and hijacked the armory before assassinating their sleeping Dogra brothers-in-arms along with Lt. Col. Narain Singh. With this act of brutal massacre in the fighting unit of 4 J & K Infantry, which opened all the gates for enemy’s militia to enter into Jammu and Kashmir, the predatory tribesmen wreaked havoc by looting, raping and pillaging their way through the town of Muzaffarabad.
While the barrack was gaining corpses, some of the Dogra soldiers managed to escape the hellfire and hurriedly telephoned the Headquarters at Srinagar. To subdue the advancement of tribal forces towards Srinagar, Brigadier Rajinder Singh, then Chief of Staff of the State Forces, manned up nearly 200 soldiers to form a cohesive fighting force and rushed down the route leading in the direction of the enemy with whatever weapons and ammunition he could accumulate.
Provided with a friendly road ahead, enemies could have reached Srinagar from Muzaffarabad in a couple of hours but true to their barbaric nature, they relished in raping Kashmiri women and looking to take booty back home rather than focusing on an onward motion. The undisciplined enemy gave plenty of time to Brigadier Rajinder Singh and his boys to settle themselves in Uri, a strategically important place which was only 62 miles away from Srinagar.
The valiant officer and his team demolished a bridge at Jhelum River to cut the advance of invaders’ motor transport. Had he not exploded the bridge and compelled the enemy to stay on the other side for a reasonably long time, the story of Jammu and Kashmir would have been different today. The enemy which was far superior in numbers and had a comparatively high amount of weaponry finally managed to cross the river and started pouring bullets from well-fortified positions.
Meanwhile, Maharaja Hari Singh, fearing a certain defeat, left Srinagar in despondency on October 25th and sent a communiqué to Indian government asking for State’s accession. Next day, on October 26, Jammu and Kashmir officially became a state of India with the ratification of Instrument of Accession. The same day, Indian Military was given a go to launch its operation to defend the newly formed state of India.
Back in Kashmir, Brigadier Rajinder Singh continued fighting with hardcore tenacity and attained martyrdom on October 27 with enemy’s bullets raining seemingly all over in the ultra-intense battlefield.
When Indian Army began landing in Srinagar it immediately felt that other than moving inland every effort should be made to defend the airfield as it was the only option that would support the prompt arrival of Armed Forces from the Safdarjung airport in Delhi.
Lt. Col Ranjit Rai of 1 Sikh, whose battalion was the first to arrive, was briefed in Srinagar by the State Forces and he immediately kicked things off by deploying a part of his Command to protect the airfield before moving ahead to Baramula with the C Company of his battalion. Upon reaching Baramulla, 34 miles away from Srinagar, he found himself trapped in a paddy field with enemy bullets raining death from vantage positions. Unable to retreat, he charged into battle and fought till the last drop of his blood before immortalizing himself as the first recipient of Maha Vir Chakra (posthumous).
Over the next few days, it was a do or die situation for the Indian Army to thwart invaders who were making headway in the Valley after forming the Azad Kashmir Government in captured areas and declaring Muzaffarabad as its capital.
In the initial days of invasion when tribesmen were relentlessly hammering the peace of Valley, Brigadier (later Lt. Gen.) L.P. ‘Bogey’ Sen, commander of the 161 Infantry Brigade, charged particularly notable fighting units of Indian Army to fend off the enemy. His sheer intelligence and bravery despite being heavily outnumbered could be spotted in the Battle of Shalateng. Considered as one of the most critical battles ever fought to defend Kashmir, Shalateng wouldn’t have been won had Brigadier Sen not inspired courage in his boys to turn into face-crushing daredevils.
Reinforcement for the 161 Infantry Brigade was expected to arrive by the evening of November 7, and November 10 was decided as the day when they will make a move on enemy troops. Much to the disappointment of the Indian forces, the enemy charged battle in the morning of November 7 outnumbering Indian soldiers by five to one. Events of that morning are stored in pages of history as a deadly cocktail of improvisation and badassery spilt by the Indian Army in the battlefield.
Prior to the battle plan, 1 Sikh was deployed at Patan, 17 miles from Srinagar. They were involved in miniature encounters with the enemy on the route connecting Baramulla to Srinagar, but these hit-and-run raids were ineffective in dealing a big jolt.
They were pulled back to Srinagar. Though disastrous, this decision was made by Brigadier L.P. Sen to give the enemy a crippling knock who would surely advance towards Srinagar after finding an open road. With remarkable brilliance, he had planned to encircle the marching tribals and destroy them in one go.
He then deployed 1 Sikh and 1 Kumaon in Rifle Range area near Srinagar. Furthermore, 4 Kumaon was placed in reserve to provide assistance if needed.
Lieutenant Noel David of 7 Cavalry, who was on a reconnaissance to Ganderbal-Bandipura with two armoured cars, was commanded to attack the enemy from rear upon reaching Shalateng village. This required crossing bridges at Jhelum River some of which were too weak to bear the load of an armoured car.
The main hurdle lying in Lt. David’s path was a fragile wooden bridge between Krahom and Sumbal, crossing which was a fair invitation to death. With railings leaning slightly inwards on an already narrow bridge, his advancement was out of the question though he had to do it at any cost to protect Srinagar from falling in the hands of invaders.
The life-threatening feat, where the slightest stumble was a ticket to certain death, was achieved by knocking down railings and then carefully driving the armoured cars with only two inches of space left on either side of the vehicle. After crossing the seemingly impassable bridge Lt. David radioed his position while adding that he’d never like to try doing it again.
Meanwhile, 1 Kumaon was ordered to move surreptitiously and entangle the moving invaders from the right side.
After arriving on Sumbal-Shadipur road which went all the way to Shalateng, Lt. David joined the enemy pretending to be a fellow comrade of the tribesmen. The poor bastards thought that Lt. David’s team was a part of reinforcement from the Pakistan Army, and euphorically started air-firing to celebrate the arrival of armoured cars without knowing that it was actually a deathtrap moving behind their asses.
The code word for attack “GO” was sent to all fighting units by Brigadier Sen when unaware of impending mayhem, the enemy began firing in Shalateng area. After getting green signal, Indian troops launched their daring attack and won the battlefield in only 20 minutes.
Unable to withstand the frenzied torrent of Indian attack, highly panicked tribesmen rolled backwards to Srinagar-Baramula route in a disorganized way only to be strafed by the Indian Air Force. In the showdown of super-fucking-intensity, total 618 invaders registered their names in the list of hellgoers among which 472 were downed in frontal combat whereas 146 were killed by aircrafts while fleeing back.
From late October 1947 to early 1949, Indian Armed Forces relentlessly launched counter strikes to liberate Kashmir from the Pakistan-supported tribal forces. The war which was fought across a number of fronts witnessed several incidents of blazing gallantry — be it Lt. Col. Pritam Singh of 1 Kumaon, who heroically defended Poonch for nearly one year with limited number of troops in a 360-degree fire-field, or Major Prithi Chand, who picked up 40 dudes to protect Leh by scaling the 16,427 feet high Zoji La pass covered by upto 30 feet of snow in the bone-chilling winter.
Being hopelessly outnumbered by a large enemy force in Skardu, how Lt. Col. Sher Jung Thapa and his handful of men of 6 J & K Infantry resisted until their last breathe, is something which continues to inspire Indian soldiers to fight back despite unbelievable odds.
Considerably low ammunition, exhaustive combats and other overwhelming odds which were ridiculously piling up on the ridges of Valley, weren’t enough to dispirit the Indian Army from gaining victory in the crucial battles of Rajouri, Naushera and Jhangar. The lethality of Indian soldiers in these wars shows how fucking hardcore they can be when inflicted with wrongdoings of predators.
Indian soldiers who carried on fighting in the goddamned battlefield and had acclimatized themselves to the perilous circumstances of mountainous hellholes, were left open-mouthed when Jawaharlal Nehru called in the United Nations to resolve the conflict. Nehru’s disastrous decision came on a time when the Indian Army was about to seize victory against the raiders and regain the captured lands of the state.
What was going on in Nehru’s head is a topic for academicians, but history will always remember our beloved Chacha as a man who refused Army’s plea to extend their operation for two days in order to kick out all invaders from Kashmir. Just two fucking days and the game would have been over!
United Nations, then primarily dominated by the Americans and the Britons, responded diplomatically to the appeal for war’s termination and eventually on January 1, 1949, declared a ceasefire line with nearly 35% of Kashmir’s land going under the control of Pakistan.