The incident of 22nd October, 1947 is a controversial chapter in the history of Kashmir. India and her friends in Kashmir quote this incident to justify the state’s accession to India by Maharaja Hari Singh whereas the Pakistani stance is that it was a natural response by the people of the Tribal Areas to the oppression on Kashmiri Muslims by the Dogra rulers. That they had come to liberate their Kashmiri Muslims from the tyrannical rule of the Dogras. In this connection, the viewpoint of Kashmiri historians and researchers like Syed Mehmood Azad and Ghulam Ahmad Pandit can be considered closer to the truth because Ghulam Ahmad Pandit was an eye witness to these incidents while Syed Mehmood Azad has spent most of his life in Muzaffarabad and as a historian and a researcher, he collected all the written material and took the statements of eyewitnesses in this regard.
Before we go any further let us first look at some unique features of Muzzafrabad. Although the number of Hindus and Sikhs in Muzaffarabad was lower than that of Muslims but according to the official Gazetteer of 1873, the ratio of Muslims and Hindus was 7:5. It is likely that this ratio has remained the same until 1947. This proportion is only for urban areas, in the countryside the Muslim population was more than ninety percent, but most of them were oppressed and were under the extreme debt of Hindu moneylenders. Despite the fact that Muslims had a slight majority over Hindus in the urban areas but their living status was of mere second-class citizens. The reason being that most of the business owners were Hindus while Muslims were mostly associated with small occupations like shawl weavers, blacksmiths, potters, carpenters, etc. Some Muslim families were rich and well off, but they were fewer in numbers when compared to Hindus. The Hindus were mostly businessmen and money lenders, who not only had economic supremacy over the Muslims but at the same time they were also enjoying the government’s patronage. Meanwhile, the Muslims of Muzaffarabad were not as politically motivated as were the Muslims in Jammu, Poonch and other areas. The politics of this area was also divided into Muslim Conference and National Conference like Valley. Even though the overwhelming majority of the people and a part of the leadership were supportive of the Muslim Conference ideology but at the same time an influential class was also associated with the National Conference and this divide led to the weakening of the Muslim political system. While the Hindus and Sikhs were in absolute unity in their loyalty to the Dogra government.
Another interesting thing to note is that the organizations like RSS, Mahavir Dal, and the Hindu Mahasabha had great influence over the Hindus here. The influence of Hindu extremists on this small city can be seen from the fact that in 1945, Hindu Rajya Sabha selected Muzaffarabad for their annual session. This session was attended by prominent Hindu leaders from all over India like Dr. Monje, Dr. Dev, and Vaishnu Gupta and in their speeches, they made violent provocations against Islam and Muslims. This kind of provocative activity was a daily routine.
Muzaffarabad was of great importance for its location as it was located on the main road from Rawalpindi to Srinagar on the Pakistan border. At that time it was the top priority of the Dogra government to secure this city for themselves for which the evacuation of the Muslim population was an important part of their strategy. A leading journalist, author, and researcher from Srinagar, Mr. P.G Rasool, in his book “Masla-e-Kashmir ki Tarikhi Asliyat” (Historical Reality of the Kashmir Dispute), has disclosed this strategy in the light of the official record of the state government. According to him the state army, police, administration and militant Hindu and Sikh organization were to be used to get rid of the Muslims in that protective strip so that any kind of invasion from the Pakistani side could be stopped. The strategy involved; disarming Muslims of the cities, towns, and villages adjacent to Pakistan’s border, forcing them to relocate to Pakistan by creating an atmosphere of terror and vast scale killing of those who were not ready to leave. Under this strategy, the state army was increased in the adjoining border areas of Pakistan and the armed men, belonging to Hindu and Sikh extremist groups, migrating from West Pakistan had come to these areas. Muzaffarabad was their special target. Weapons of all kinds were confiscated from the Muslims, while trained Hindu and Sikh youths, both local and non-local, were armed. These armed men used to march daily while displaying their weapons and threatening to exterminate the Muslims. Meanwhile, the Muslims, who were confined to their homes due to the fear, were waiting for their fate.
After the massacres and forced migration of the Muslims in East Punjab and other areas, it had become very clear that the next turn was to be of the Kashmiri Muslims. The state sponsored genocide of Muslims in Jammu had already been started. Also, the Boundary Commission had conspired with Indian National Congress and handed over Gurdaspur to India which gave India a land route to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. From this point onward, it became clear that India wanted to occupy Kashmir at all costs. India had the backing of Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah. Abdul Qayoom, a Muslim League leader of the North West Frontier Province of Kashmiri origin, had been keeping a sharp eye on the situation of Kashmir. He played a key role in persuading the tribesmen to help the Muslims of Kashmir. In the beginning, the tribesmen had decided to attack after the Eid-ul-Azha on 25th October but when the Muslim leaders of Muzaffarabad got the news that Hindus had planned to attack the gatherings for Eid prayers to murder all the Muslims once and for all, a delegate was sent to the planners of the tribal attack to request the tribesmen to change their schedule. The delegation told them that it would be disastrous if the tribesmen came after the Eid, the Muslims would be massacred before their arrival. Therefore, the attack was rescheduled and the date 22 October was set for it.
The plan of the Muslim massacre by Hindus and Sikhs under the Dogra patronage in Muzaffarabad was no secret. There are elders still alive who are eyewitnesses to that situation, today’s generation cannot comprehend the moments of agony that those people have gone through. Syed Mahmood Azad, who has spent most of his life in Muzaffarabad, states in his book “Tareekh-e-Kashmir” (History of Kashmir):
“Eyewitnesses say that as soon as the firing started (on the morning of October 22) all the Hindus and Sikhs of Muzaffarabad came out on streets fully armed. They thought that perhaps the Sikhs of Naluchi Gurdwara had attacked on 22nd instead of 25th Oct. It was decided between Hindus and Sikhs in Naluchi Gurdwara that on the 25th of October, all Muslims would be attacked and killed in the city of Muzaffarabad. For this very purpose, they acquired guns and swords from nearby places and distributed amongst themselves. At the same time rumors reached Muslims of what Hindus and Sikhs were planning.”
Mr. Ghulam Ahmad Pandit, former additional chief secretary Azad Jammu and Kashmir, who was a local of Muzaffarabad and eye witness of these incidents, writes in his book “Kashmir : Azadi ki Dehleez Pr” (Kashmir on the brink of Freedom):
“Tribal Mujahids wanted to help the Kashmiri Muslims and had decided to depart after Eid but according to Haji Lassajo Mir (an eyewitness), the committee of the elders of Muzaffarabad pleaded that departure must take place before Eid because they anticipated that according to plan Sikhs and Hindus, with the help of Dogra government, would begin the large scale massacre of Muslims and if they succeeded in their aim then the objective of help would be lost. So after discussing the matter in great detail, they sent Kashmiri delegation along with some tribal leaders to Jamrud and nearby areas so that they request the Tribal heads directly and inform them about the reasons due to which a change in departure date was required. Fortunately, they succeeded and 22 October was the date decided to depart for Muzaffarabad.”
This anticipation of citizens of Muzaffarabad was not without reason. The plan of Hindus to massacre Muslims is supported by various pieces of evidence out of which two would be enough to state.
First evidence, is found in the book of Krishna Mehta, the wife of Duni Chand Mehta, who was appointed as Dogra Wazir-e-Wazarat in Muzaffarabad, in today’s terms as Deputy Commissioner, but before that let’s have a brief introduction of Duni Chand Mehta and his wife Krishna Mehta. Indian press portrayed Duni Chand Mehta and his wife as national heroes just like the way they did to IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman who lost his fighter jet in a dogfight with PAF. Indians have a right to do that, but unfortunately, some quarters in J&K are also trying to present this husband and wife duo as the ambassadors of liberty. Duni Chand Mehta was a representative of the tyrannical Dogra rule which had been imposed on the people of Jammu and Kashmir for a century. He was amongst the very first who were killed in the attack. His wife Krishna Mehta was a direct descendant of Col. Basti Ram who helped annex Ladakh and later became its governor.
Krishna Mehta wrote her autobiography in Hindi which was later translated into English as “Kashmir 1947: A Survivor’s Story” and published in 1954 and 2005 from Calcutta and Delhi respectively. It is true that Krishna faced a tragedy at her own personal level so the bitter emotional outburst in her writings is acceptable. However, between the lines, some facts were unveiled in that book which Hindus and their collaborators try to hide. As per the book, after the death of her husband, Krishna along with her children took refuge in different villages adjacent to Muzaffarabad which include Khashker, Ranjata, Bhotha, and Khila. It depicts the kind gesture of the Muslim community otherwise no such refuge was ever witnessed by any Muslim woman at the hands of the Hindu community in Jammu. Though she faced much difficulty and trouble because she had to adjust to the people who were poor and were not up to her standard of living. However, later on, she shifted to Domail where a refugee camp of Hindus was established. She was then moved to a government accommodation which was earlier under her family’s utilization during Maharaja’s rule. The tribesmen provided her all sorts of amenities that she and her family enjoyed during the earlier rule.
Being a woman without her husband, she might not have felt herself safe in that house alone so she was shifted to the house of the imam of Sultani Mosque, Maulvi Abdul Rehman. In spite of the fact that her husband was involved in the war, the tribal administrators and the Azad Kashmir government tried all everything possible to protect her. It is interesting to note that she had declared the administrator of Muzaffarabad, a tribal commander, as her brother. When the commander was returning to his home, Krishna tied a “raakhi” on his hand and gifted an expensive shawl to him. The president of Azad Government, Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan went to meet her by himself and enquired whether she needed anything. Later, when she was returning back to India during the exchange of prisoners, an offer was made on behalf of the Government of Pakistan to her that the state would provide her an expensive residence in Abbottabad if she wanted to stay. The state of Pakistan also offered that her son would be given the post of his deceased father upon reaching adulthood. She confessed all this in her book between the lines. On the other hand, even the daughter of Rayees al Ahrar Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas was not spared by the Hindus in Jammu. Raja Muzaffar Khan of Muzaffarabad, who was serving as a judge in Reasi, was martyred in the court by his own mate deputy commissioner Gawaran Singh but the collaborators of India do not bother to mention any of these incidents.
Now let’s come to that statement of Krishna Mehta which is evidence of the nefarious designs of the Dogra regime to exterminate the Muslims in Muzaffarabad. She writes that on the night of 21st October, local army commanders, district head of the police, and other government officers were invited at the residence of the deputy commissioner, Duni Chand Mehta for dinner. The meeting ran till late at night, the people were exchanging their thoughts on different subjects. The next morning, Krishna Mehta woke up with the noise of gunshots. She tried to wake her husband, told him about the firing and asked him to inquire about the situation. Duni Chand Mehta told her not to worry about them, those were his own people. Krishna writes that when the firing had become more intense, she woke his husband again and asked him whether his army commander told him that his men would take any military action or have an exercise of such kind. Further, she said that perhaps the enemy had attacked and insisted that he must go and check. On her insistence, Duni Mehta took his pistol in hand and went out to assess the situation and became the target of the bullets fired by the tribal Mujahideen. The satisfaction on his face at the time when the bullets were being fired outside and his words that “there is nothing to worry about, these people, who are firing, are our own men” are enough evidence of this fact that the Dogra administration had fully planned to eliminate the Muslims. Even this deputy commissioner had assumed that the plan was being executed but “they plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners.” (Al Anfal).
The second evidence that comes into account is from the immediate reaction of Hindus and Sikhs of Muzaffarabad. As soon as the voice of fired bullets echoed in the air, the Hindus and Sikhs, armed with guns, swords, lances, and harpoons, etc, came out on roads of Muzaffarabad and started celebrating, as they were assuming and intending that ethnic cleansing of Muslims have been started. The same was assumed by the deputy commissioner, Duni Chand Mehta. Their perception led them to think that Hindus and Sikhs of Naluchi and Domail have started killing Muslims. But soon after a while, Mujahideen from Tribal Areas reached there as a destination decreed. Their planning engulfed them in apathy as a spoilsport. The incident indicates that under the supervision of Dogra government, Hindus and Sikhs had planned to massacre Muslims. But the divine decision was decreed.
Flashback 22 October 1947: It was the time of fajr prayer when Mujahideen (tribesmen) approached Muzaffarabad as rescuers. It was drizzling from the sky as it was a mercy from the Creator of heavens and earth. The air was echoing with the sound of Takbir. The operation was completed until the afternoon. The second day the Mujahideen advanced on Jehlum Valley road towards Srinagar. The whole Indian press proliferated the fallacious propaganda against Mujahideen alleging them for plundering and murdering. They spread lie to such an extent that even the people having a soft corner for Muslim cause couldn’t remain unaffected due to this propaganda. The tribesmen were not the Mujahideen of Nabvi (S.A.W.W.) era, nor were they any disciplined army, therefore it is not surprising or out of the possibility of any such rare incident regarding them in the atmosphere of war. But that were only a few cases. It is surprising to note that the Indian lobby behind this propaganda, has on her own hand blood of thousands of Muslims. These few incidents alleging the tribesmen is nothing as compared to the way the Indian Army, armed groups of RSS, Bajrang Dal, Akali Dal, etc. had massacred Muslims which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Muslims of Jammu turning their majority into a minority. Those who are bred by India, always distorted the facts. For instance, India spread a false allegation that the tribesmen plundered and indiscriminately cut the nose or ears of women to snatch their jewelry. This is such a nonsensical lie that no proof has been presented for this plunder or attack, by any woman ever. The facilitators of India are busy spreading lies without any proof.
Like every human being, they might not have been perfect, but, Mujahideen from Tribal Areas, in reality, are benefactors of people of Kashmir. As said by Gazi-e-Millat Sardar Ibrahim Khan, that “people of Kashmir are beholden to their brothers from the Tribal Areas.”
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the editor of the Kashmir Discourse.
Syed Saleem Gardezi is an educationist and research scholar from Muzaffarabad, AJ&K and has authored several Urdu books on multiple topics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org