Kashmir: October 17 or 27?

Zahir-Ud-DinOrigins Comments

October 1947 witnessed hectic diplomatic activity in New Delhi and Karachi (then capital of Pakistan) and military movement in Jammu and Kashmir which was still silent on the issue of accession. Contrary to common belief Indian troops entered Kashmir on 17 October, that is, 10 days before October 27.

It all started on October 12. Pakistan government sent a telegram to the Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Meher Chand Mahajan, to inform him about “large number of villages (in Poonch) that can be seen burning from Murree Hills”, pointing out that as “Pakistan army obtains large number of recruits from Poonch” situation is “fraught with danger” to “friendly relations that Pakistan wishes to retain with Kashmir”. The message also seeks restoring order and discipline of Maharaja’s troops. Mahajan, in his reply of October 15 complains of infiltration from Pakistan and stating that his government is “prepared to have an impartial inquiry into the whole affair to remove misunderstandings and restore cordial relations”.

Mahajan followed his message with a telegram to Quaid-e-Azam on October 18 stating that if Pakistan’s “extremely unfriendly acts” don’t stop, Maharaja’s government “will be justified in asking for friendly assistance”. Reply of Foreign Minister of Pakistan categorically denies Mahajan’s allegations; points out “exodus of Muslims” from border areas of the State, and adds: “We are astonished to hear your threat to ask for assistance from an outside power” with the object of completing “the process of suppressing the Muslims to enable you to join India as coup d’état against the declared will of 85 percent of population of your State”. The message warned of “gravest consequences” if measures toward that end are not “stopped”. Finally, the message states that Pakistan government appreciates the suggestion of an impartial inquiry and asks Mahajan “immediately to nominate your representative on the Enquiry Committee” whereupon “Pakistan government will nominate its representatives without delay so that the Committee can proceed at once with a thorough inquiry into the whole matter.”

Mahajan hinted at seeking “friendly assistance” which had actually already arrived a day earlier on October 17. A battalion of Patiala State Forces reached Srinagar on October 17. It took positions around Srinagar airfield and reinforced Maharaja’s garrison in Jammu.

“I saw GM Sadiq talking to Nehru, Patel and Hari Singh. Patel told Nehru he was not doing the right thing. Nehru told him Sheikh Abdullah was secular and we must help him. Sadiq told me that ‘we had signed an agreement and Sheikh will take over’”.

The Batallion was sighted by Lt General LP Sen a few days after the Indian troops landed in Srinagar on October 27 in Budgam district. Sen was delighted to sight the soldiers and took them under his control immediately (“Slender was the thread” by Lt General LP Sen).

The positioning of the troops unveils a conspiracy. How did Maharaja and Mahajan know that Srinagar airfield would be of vital importance in the coming days? Surprisingly Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah had an exclusive meeting with the Maharaja on October 16, a day before the troops entered Kashmir. What transpired between the two is also not known. Some people say Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah spent most of October 1947 in New Delhi as Nehru’s guest. But facts about those eventful days have started coming to surface now. Who knew about Nehru’s secret (nocturnal) visit to Kashmir a few days before Indian army landed in Kashmir? It was Late Jagat Mohini, originally from Lahore and popularly known as “Mummy” in Srinagar, who disclosed it in an interview in 2007.

Communal clashes broke out in the whole of sub-continent following the partition of India. Massive migrations took place on both sides of the Radcliff Line. Mohini’s parents also had to migrate from Lahore. They entered the state of Jammu Kashmir via Kohala and stayed for a few days with their daughter, who was married here to one Dr. Umkar Nath. The government of India arranged special aircrafts for lifting the refugees to various parts of India. Dr. Umkar Nath went to see off his mother-in-law to the airfield. In the wee hours next morning, a jeep came to a screeching halt outside their Mandir Bagh residence. Umkar Nath entered and what he narrated to his wife unveils an unexplored chapter of Kashmir history.

He told his wife: “After seeing off your mother, I saw GM Sadiq talking to a group of persons. As you know Sadiq is a good friend of mine, I approached him and was surprised to see Jawahar Lal Nehru, VB Patel and Maharaja Hari Singh involved in a serious discussion with him. Neither Sadiq nor anybody else objected to my presence. Patel told Nehru he was not doing the right thing. Nehru told him Sheikh Abdullah was secular and we must help him. The meeting ended. It was 4:00 AM, I requested Sadiq to drop me at my place. On the way to Srinagar, Sadiq told me that ‘we had signed an agreement and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah will take over the government’”.

The Maharaja also anticipated danger to his garrison at Jammu. Did he know he would have to run away from Kashmir in the coming days? These questions still remain unanswered.

About the Author
Zahir-Ud-Din

Zahir-Ud-Din

Zahir-Ud-Din is a founding member of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. He's also a senior journalist and an author of numerous publications.