October 22, 1947: Black Day in Kashmir’s history

Pakistan invaded Jammu & Kashmir on October 22, 1947.
Pakistan invaded Jammu & Kashmir on October 22, 1947.

The time span from October 22 to October 26, 1947 is remembered as the blackest chapter in the history of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir that now stands re-designated as the Union Territory of Jammu Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh. This period marks the illegal invasion of the state by Pakistan-sponsored mercenaries, who resorted to merciless and wanton destruction with the intention of annexing the territory into the newly formed Dominion of Pakistan. Succour came on October 27, 1947 when the Indian Army landed at Srinagar airport and heralded the beginning of Indo-Pakistan War of 1947-48. The evil mercenaries and their masters were pushed back over two long drawn campaigning seasons.

Post independence, the Dominion of India gave an option to the princely states to become an integral part of the Union of India with a Constitution based on pillars of democracy, freedom and equality. All princely states joined the Indian Union by signing the Instrument of Accession. Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir however sought time to decide since his state had a diverse demography and geography.

While the Dominion of India was quite content in providing this time to the Maharaja, the Dominion of Pakistan sought to impose itself on the state by the use of force. On October 22, Pakistan invaded Kashmir with mercenaries, mostly from the North West Frontier Provinces and popularly called Kabailies. This mercenary army was raised by directing every Pathan tribe to enlist at least on Lashkar (military contingent) and was provided arms, ammunition and equipment by the Pakistan Army. It was commanded by officers of the Pakistan Army under the overall command of Major General Akbar Khan.

As the mercenaries moved in from the Baramulla axis, the J&K state forces put up a valiant resistance with the Chief of Army Staff of the state forces, Brigadier Rajinder Singh in personal command. The state forces were able to impose crucial delay but were ultimately overwhelmed after the last man, last round resistance. Brigadier Rajinder Singh fell in the battle and was awarded the first Maha Vir Chakra in the Indian Army.

The horde of mercenaries indulged in large scale massacre, rape, loot and arson with impunity. They lay waste everything that came their way. In Baramulla, they surpassed all tenets of inhumanity with pillage that lasted for four days. Men and children were tortured and killed while the women were raped and carried back as sex slaves. Even the nuns of the convent were not spared; they were raped and killed ruthlessly.

The Kashmiri Pandit community was identified for special treatment involving the most depraved form of torture and cruelty possible. Whole families committed mass suicide in the face of this brutal and merciless onslaught by jumping from roof tops or throwing themselves into the running waters of the River Jhelum.

Even under such terrible conditions, the human spirit prevailed. A 19-year old boy, Maqbool Sherwani, went about on a cycle spreading a message that the Indian Army was on the doors of Baramulla. This information restrained the mercenaries and saved thousands of lives. It also stalled the march to Srinagar and literally saved the city from a fate even worse than that of Baramulla. When the Pakistanis realised that young Maqbool Sherwani had misled them, they shot and crucified him. The young boy, with his courage and presence of mind, etched a place for himself in the history for all times.

Pakistan’s perfidy was proof enough for Maharaja Hari Singh to realise that the security of his people lay only with India. It was with this conviction in mind that he signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947 and legally acceded to India under the provisions of the Indian Independence Act 1947. The Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh was no different in content and spirit than what had been signed by other princely states.

The very next day on October 27, 1947 the Indian Army landed at Srinagar airport and, against great odds, saved the people. The Indian troops did not know or care about how politics would play out in the long run. Their only concern was to ensure that the barbarians were thrown out in the shortest possible time and security of the people ensured.

In this, they were singularly successful, but not without paying a heavy price including loss of many soldiers. If the Indian Army had not reacted the way it did, Srinagar would have been a huge, desolate graveyard and the history of the Kashmir Valley would have changed forever. The people at that time were full of praise for the Indian forces as they are even today. They recollect the courage and sacrifice of the Indian forces in 1947 with utmost respect and admiration.

Every year, starting from October 22, the Indian victory is remembered across the state and the country by holding memorials and other functions. The bravery of those who fought to save Kashmir, both civilian and military, is honoured with utmost reverence. From this year onwards, the government of India has declared observance of “Black Day” on October 22 to highlight Pakistan’s perfidy in attempting to illegally annex Jammu and Kashmir and the brutality of the mercenary hordes sent for the purpose.

A similar Black Day is also observed, since long, across Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and by its active diaspora, especially the Brussels-based United Kashmir Peoples National Party (UKPNP). Invariably, the demand is for immediate withdrawal of Pakistani forces from the territory.

A global seminar was also organised at Jammu to mark the Black Day; it was addressed, among others, by Jamil Maqsood of the UKPNP. The seminar raised a demand upon the government of India to approach the International Court of Justice to ensure censure of Pakistan for its atrocities against the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is no longer possible for Pakistan to mislead the people of Kashmir with fallacies and outright lies. The people of the state are well aware of their past and quite sure about what they want in the future. It is hoped that Pakistan will also get the message.

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