The Story of Kashmir’s integration with India

Jammu and Kashmir, as we know it today, came into existence after the First Anglo-Sikh war (1845-46) that ended with the Treaty of Lahore. After they ended the Khalsa Raj, the British took Punjab under their direct control and in 1846 sold Kashmir, till then part of the Khalsa empire, to Gulab Singh, Ranjit Singh’s Dogra general, as their vassal.

Till October 26, 1947, J&K remained an independent princely state, its ruler Hari Singh Dogra dreamt of turning it into Switzerland of the sub-continent. But, trouble started brewing on its borders in August-September, leading to clashes between Hindus and Muslims, and mass desertions by Muslims in the state’s army.

Sensing an opportunity, Pakistan organised ‘Operation Gulmarg’-- a tribal invasion of Kashmir that began on the intervening night of October 21-22, 1947. This was led by a Pakistani colonel and monitored closely by the nation’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and the chief minister of west Punjab (in Pakistan) Nawab Iftikhar Hussein Khan Mamdot.

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Finding the tribals within a few miles of Srinagar, the Dogra ruler Hari Singh sought Indian intervention. After VP Menon, the secretary to Home Minister Sardar Patel, got the ruler’s signature on the instrument of accession (October 26), India flew in the 1st Battalion of the Sikh Regiment led by Col Diwan Ranjit Rai in a Dakota flown by Biju Patnaik. After a brave, almost unbelievable, counter strike, Indian forces were able to drive the invaders out of Baramulla, Gulmarg and Poonch. The turning point was the Battle of Shalateng, fought on the outskirts of Srinagar, where a small group of Indian soldiers enveloped the invaders from three sides and annihilated them.

Starting today, The Federal revisits the story of ‘Operation Gulmarg’, Pakistan’s attempt to invade Jammu and Kashmir. We begin the weekly series with Jinnah’s dreams of celebrating the Eid of 1947 in Srinagar.

(Note: Some of the events and dialogue have been fictionalised).

Part 1

In autumn of life, 1947, Jinnah’s Eid dreams

Uploaded 22 October, 2020

Sandipan Sharma

'Major’ Khurshid Anwar was watching Lahore’s Shah Alami Gate burn in the fires of India’s partition fury when someone tapped his shoulder from behind.

In the summer of 1947, people in Lahore were scared even of their own shadows. Death lurked in every corner, raiders prowled its narrow lanes in search of wealthy victims to loot and murder, women and girls to rape. In the months preceding the Partition of Punjab, ‘Major’ had played a stellar role in organising militias to guard Lahore’s Muslims and terrorise its wealthy Sikhs and Hindus. He was always scared that someday a group of Sikhs would get back at him with devastating violence.

Instinctively he reached for the hunting knife in his trousers and flashed it open with a click. But, when he turned around, his grip on the hilt loosened on seeing a familiar face.

“Major, I’ve been looking for you since morning. Khan Sahab wants to see you immediately.”

Anwar realised the message was from his mentor Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan. And if he had taken the pain of sending someone to track him in Jaure Mori area of the walled city, it must be really urgent.

“One minute,” he said to his mentor’s personal assistant and walked towards a haveli that had been burnt to the ground the previous night. The house belonged to a Hindu who worked for a local newspaper. But, after the family left for Haridwar in India, it was looted by a group of raiders from the Roshnai Gate area. After stripping it off everything that was of any value, the group had set it ablaze.

“Serves them right for butchering Muslims in Amritsar,” Anwar kicked the smouldering remains with his sandals and walked up to his bicycle.

With the messenger in the lead, the duo cycled through the ancient city believed to have been founded by Luv, son of the Hindu deity Rama. They rode through the narrow lanes with rows of houses stacked so close together that neighbours could have easily peeped into each other’s bedrooms. Anwar groaned as his progress was slowed down by the goats and cows tethered outside almost every house. But, once he took a left from the Roshnai Gate to emerge on a slightly wider road, he started pedalling faster.

**

Liaqat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan

In a conference hall of the Pakistani army’s west Punjab headquarters in Lahore, Liaqat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, was poring over a stack of maps spread on a large mahogany table. When he had scanned every bit of Kashmir’s territory laid out in front of him, the Prime Minister drew the attention of his cabinet colleague Mian Iftikhar ud Din by clearing his throat with an exaggerated noise.

“Mian Sahab, we can’t turn our eyes away from Kashmir. Thousands of our Muslim brothers are at the mercy of a Hindu ruler. His army is butchering them. We have to intervene.”

“Liaqat Sahab, I agree with you. We need a jihad to liberate Kashmiris. We can’t turn run away from our responsibility towards the Ummah.”

“Qaid-e-Azam was of the opinion that Kashmir will fall in our basket like a ripe apple. But, the Hindu Maharaja has frustrated him. A few days ago, Qaid-e-Azam had asked his staff to arrange for him to visit to Kashmir. But that kafir Maharaja refused to entertain the request. Imagine his audacity!”

“Wazier-e-Azam, I heard about that unfortunate incident. Jinnah Sahab must be seething with anger. The wily Maharaja is playing with fire.”

“Mian, you know the Qaid-e-Azam. He was always a very obstinate and headstrong person. But now, with the wretched illness creeping up his lungs, he has become extremely impatient.”

Mian Iftikhar replied he was aware of the Qaid-e-Azam’s vow to celebrate the next Eid in Srinagar.

“The other day Jinnah Sahab told me he was itching to teach that upstart Dogra leader a lesson by sending in our army to take over his kingdom. But, General Messervey has put his foot down. He is of the opinion that our army can’t be sent to Kashmir till the British are commanding it.”

“These British are playing a double-game. They are letting India use its military might to force Junagarh to sign the instrument of accession with Patel. But, when we talk about sending our troops to Kashmir, Messervey starts threatening dire consequences. He is nothing but an Auchinlek stooge,” lamented the Prime Minister.

Mian Iftikhar said Pakistan’s hands were tied also because of the stand-still agreement with Kashmir. “We can’t do anything other than waiting for that foolish Maharaja to make up his mind—the dolt believes he can keep his state independent, turn it into a little paradise of his own. May the wrath of Allah fall on him?”

“I don’t know about Allah, but the wrath of Jinnah will certainly fall upon us if he is not in Srinagar before Eid.”

Mian Iftikhar turned towards a man sitting in the far corner of the room where Kashmir’s fate was being debated. “Brigadier Mohammad Akbar Khan has a plan that could help us seize Kashmir. He even has a nice name for it.”

Brigadier Akbar Khan, the architect of Operation Gulmarg

“I am ready for anything that makes Kashmir accede to us. But, only if it is done surreptitiously. Pakistan can’t do anything in the open,” frustration had crept into the PM’s voice.

“Sir, I have a strategy that gives us the luxury of plausible deniability,” the Brigadier replied.

The 35-year-old Brigadier was considered a formidable leader and a great strategist with the Pakistan establishment. In World War II, he had fought under the command of General Frank Messervey, the current commander-on-chief of the Pakistani army, and distinguished himself in the Burma theatre. He was currently serving in the army GHQ and was known to have a keen personal interest in Kashmir.

The Brigadier, whose tongue was even sharper than his bristling moustache, was known to be extremely ambitious and impatient. But, his philosophy of fighting a war through proxies had fascinated many top ranking officials and politicians of the era. Mian Iftikhar ud Din had personally recommended his name to the Prime Minister for finding an answer to the “Kashmir problem.”

Liaqat Ali Khan adjusted his glasses on the nose of his bridge, straightened the Jinnah-cap he wore even in peak summer and leaned towards the Brigadier. “Plausible deniability, I like that phrase Brigadier.”

The Brigadier continued: “Our men will enter Kashmir. But they will not be wearing their uniforms. We will not call it war, but jihad against Hindu repression.”

Mian Iftikhar beamed as Akbar Khan gave details of what he called ‘Operation Gulmarg’—a brief blitz in response to the popular slogan of “Kashmir banega Pakistan” heard regularly in the fledgling country.

As part of the operation, Muslim clerics led by the Pir of Manki Sharif were to enlist tribals from Pakistan’s northwest borders for a holy war against Kashmir’s Dogra ruler. They were to be assisted by Sardar Ibrahim Khan, the leader of pro-Pakistan movement in Kashmir by spreading stories of atrocities on Muslims by Dogra forces among tribals.

The Pir of Manki Sharif, a roly-poly man jocularly called ‘Plebiscite Priest’ for his role in keeping the frontier province with Pakistan during a referendum, had already agreed to be the lead recruiter. He was of the opinion the Pathans could be easily incited through rhetoric and emotional manipulation. “They have been raiding India for several centuries with considerable success. They believe the land belongs rightfully to Muslims. We can enlist them by appealing to their sense of glory, Islamic zeal and lust for loot and blood,” the Pir had told Mian Iftikhar a few days ago.

Once the seeds of jihad are sown in the minds of the Pathans, the Brigadier continued, each one of the major tribes—Mahsuds, Afridis and Swatis—would be encouraged to enlist at least one Lashkar of 1000 men, who would then be trained by officers of the Pakistan army. Once they are ready, we will push them into Jammu and Kashmir.

“And how do you plan to pay the recruits?” asked the Prime Minister.

“Oh, we won’t,” replied the Brigadier. “They are old-fashioned fighters. We will promise them a share in the spoils of the war—the freedom to loot the wealth of the Sikhs and Hindus, ravage their wives and daughters. The Pathans would be very happy with the offer.”

The Prime Minister was thoroughly impressed by Akbar Khan’s plan. He opined that since it was conceived by the Brigadier, it would be best if he himself lead ‘Operation Gulmarg.’

“Since you advocate ‘plausible deniability’, Brigadier,” the PM smiled, “you will lead the attack under a pseudonym. We will call you ‘General Tariq’ till the operation is in progress.”

Akbar Khan was find out later that his new moniker was inspired by a famous 8th-century slave who had risen to become one of the most formidable generals of the Islamic Caliphate. But, unlike the slave who rose to dizzying heights, the Brigadier was destined to suffer for several decades because of his decision to launch an attack in Kashmir on the pretext of a Jihad.*

“We would need 4000 rifles for the initial training,” the Brigadier said. Pakistan’s finance minister Ghulam Mohammad, who was listening in silence, nodded his assent immediately.

“The attack will come from three directions targeted at Srinagar, Jammu and Kargil. I would need three bright officers from our army to lead the tribal militias.”

“This is not possible,” the Prime Minister interjected. The army can’t be seen participating in the real fighting. But, I have a solution to this problem. We will ask Major Khurshid Anwar to lead the attack on Srinagar.”

Akbar Khan had heard of Anwar. Before India was partitioned, he had been cashiered from the army on charges of embezzlement of funds. Since then, he had become part of the Muslim League National Guard, a private militia inspired by Mussolini’s Black Caps. A few months before Partition, he had been appointed the chief of the militia. This promotion allowed him to claim the rank of a ‘Major.’

“But he has no real experience of fighting a war. His skills as a leader are untested,” the Brigadier protested.

“The party is impressed with his handling of our armed volunteers. We feel he is a capable leader and a fearless fighter,” the Prime Minister said.

Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan, a prominent Muslim league leader with a military background, echoed the Prime Minister’s opinion. “I have groomed Anwar. Insha’Allah, he will reach Srinagar within 24 hours. He would be there to welcome Jinnah Sahab when he lands at Hari Mahal to celebrate Eid.”

The four men in the room for the ‘top secret’ meeting said Insha’Allah to that and proceeded to discuss the other details. It was decided that Shaukat Hayat Khan would be the overall in-charge of the operation. Major Aslam Khan—an army regular on leave—was to lead the push towards Gulmarg. Major Zaman Kiani, who had retired from the Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, was to attack Jammu. And ‘Major’ Khurshid Anwar Khan was to lead lashkars of trained tribals towards Srinagar.

A few hours later Akbar Khan was sitting in front of the ‘Major’ entrusted with the task of redrawing the boundaries of the sub-continent.

Akbar Khan would rue the decision. For, instead of taking command of the Lashkars, Major Khurshid Anwar was to soon set off for a honeymoon with a Kashmiri Pathan girl, a decision that was to push Kashmir away from Pakistan’s eager grasp for ever.

Next: A bridge too far

End of

Part 1