Tribal Raid: They Knew in Advance?

A careful study of the fateful days of September-October 1947 would show that Jawaharlal Nehru, Hari Singh and the Sher-e-Kashmir were expecting a tribal raid on Kashmir.

After Sheikh Abdullah’s release on September 29, 1947, Nehru sent him a letter through Dawrka Nath Kachru, the general secretary of the All India States People’s Conference, who attended a meeting of the National Conference working committee on October 2.

Kachru wrote to Nehru on October 4, 1947: “Sheikh Sahib and his close associates have decided for the Indian Union. But this decision has not been announced yet, and the impression is being given that so far the National Conference has taken no decision.” (Kashmir: Article 370 by Mohan KishenTeng).

 In a speech at Huzuri Bagh (now Iqbal Park), the Sher-e-Kashmir said that no decision concerning the future of Kashmir would be taken without consulting the people. He opposed the Two Nation Theory and praised Indian secularism and democracy.

 A budding author, Ashiq Husain Bhat, has written a book, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah: Personality and Achievements. According to him, Sheikh Abdullah took his family out of Kashmir and left it with a relative in Indore on October 14. This means that Sheikh Abdullah knew of the coming danger. The author believes that Nehru must have informed him of how events were shaping up.

 Sheikh Abdullah returned to Kashmir and stayed at a hotel where he had set up headquarters. Army commanders at Badami Bagh warned him of a possible raid on his headquarters.

 “I had to leave for Delhi the next morning. I left my headquarters. AK Watal’s house was on way to the airport. We hid in the house. After a while, we heard a deafening explosion. I expected the raiders any moment, but they did not come.  In the morning I left for Delhi by a plane.” (Aatish-e-Chinar, page 425, 426)

 Commenting on this excerpt, Bhat says that the Sheikh had some truck with Maharaja Hari Singh as it was the latter’s army headquarters that informed him of the possibility of a raid on his office. The writer also says that like Nehru, Sheikh Abdullah too knew about the raid in advance, and should not, therefore, have left Kashmir to the mercy of the raiders.

How did Nehru know about the raid in advance? The author says a number of `Red Shirts’ (Congress workers) accompanied the tribesmen. It was these elements who resorted to loot and arson in Muzaffarabad and Baramulla.

 And contrary to common belief, Indian troops entered Kashmir on October 17, ten days before October 27! The troops were later taken by Lt General LP Sen, then a Brigadier in the Indian Army, under his command somewhere in the Budgam district.

 They took positions around the Srinagar airfield and reinforced the Maharaja’s garrison in Jammu. The positioning of the troops points to a conspiracy. How did the Maharaja and Mahajan know that the Srinagar airfield would be of vital importance in coming days?  Why did the Maharaja feel the necessity of reinforcing his Jammu garrison?  Did he know in advance that he would have to run away from Kashmir shortly?

It can now be safely presumed that on October 16, Hari Singh knew that the Srinagar airport was going to be used by the Indian troops in the coming days and needed to be guarded.

The Indian leadership, Hari Singh and others knew that the Sher-e-Kashmir, who had already taken a decision to join India on October 3 during a Working Committee meeting of the National Conference, would tame the people of Kashmir and that there would be no resistance to his decision of joining India. That is exactly what happened. The Sher-e-Kashmir exiled the political leadership, or put them in jail.  Activists and workers were terrorized by his goons. Kashmir remained silent.

But the situation in Jammu was different. The Jammu people never accepted the Sher-e-Kashmir as their leader. He (Sher-e-Kashmir) admitted this on a number of occasions.  A violent response like the one witnessed in Poonch was expected. At the behest of Patel, arms meant for government forces were distributed among Hindus and RSS men from the neighboring Punjab. Nehru has made a mention of this in his letter to Patel on October 7. The massacre of Muslims on a large scale had already commenced across the region. This was done with a design – to break the Jammu Muslims and to change the demographic complexion of the region. They succeeded in both. The Sher-e-Kashmir, who was the emergency administrator, did not take measures to prevent the massacre. He could have done so, but that was not in the plan.