Somewhere in October 1947, my mother, Najma, who was then four, was part of a refugee caravan in between Jammu and Sialkot. She was in the lap of her grandmother, Ameena, when the Akalis and RSS gangs attacked them.
Years later, my grandmother, Zubedia, would always turn ashen white whenever she remembered the horror of those dark moments “Sky was red, mist of blood flying in thick air turned into clouds, shouts had turned into shrieks, no one could hear anything, they kept attacking with their swords, machetes, axes and kirpans, we kept falling, we kept running, for how long we did not know, at some point there were some uniformed men that appeared and started firing, it was then that the Akalis turned back”.
And it was only then that Zubedia realized that she had lost Ismat, her eldest daughter, and Najma who was in her mother’s lap. Someone insisted that they had seen Ameena being attacked and falling to ground with little Najma.
Later, sitting in a refugee camp, in the outskirts of Sialkot, Zubedia realized that almost everyone in the family – her mother, father, uncles, aunts, cousins everyone had perished except her two brothers and one daughter – and her husband, who was in Srinagar. Most who reached Sialkot in that season of killing had similar stories to tell.
There was the genocide of Muslims in and around Jammu city. Dogra troops of Maharaja Hari Singh lead the charge. Fearsome Aakalis and RSS goons had joined them. The state officials provided arms and ammunition to the rioters. Maharaja’s administration had demobilized a large number of Muslim soldiers in the state army and had disarmed Muslim police officers.
Mountbatten and Edwina had developed a relationship of mutual liking with Pundit Nehru long before former’s arrival in India as its last British Viceroy.
Maharaja who in the fiction of history was supposed to be the custodian of his population was instead killing them. His imperial majesty was reacting to the rebellion of “Sudhans” in Poonch. So in imperial rage he had a “final solution” for the Muslims of Jammu: Ethnic Cleansing.
Mountbatten, Nehru & Tragedy of Kashmir
This purification of Jammu was taking place in the second week of October 1947; few days before the now-infamous tribal lashkar crossed over from near Abbottabad into the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Hari Singh, ruthless ruler of Kashmir and butcher of Jammu, now presented himself as a victim of aggression.
He who had signed a “Stand Still Agreement” with Pakistan now signed an instrument of accession with India. What exactly happened in those 48 hours remains murky to this day. History will perhaps remember last English Viceroy, Mountbatten, for his scheming wicked mind and corrupt soul.
Maharaja’s administration had demobilized a large number of Muslim soldiers in the state army and had disarmed Muslim police officers.
Mountbatten and Edwina had developed a relationship of mutual liking with Pundit Nehru long before former’s arrival in India as its last British Viceroy. Was his appointment by Labor Prime Minister, Atlee, influenced by Congress supporters in London is not clear.
However, irrespective of his initial liking for Nehru, by October of 1947, Mountbatten was seething in rage against the new state of Pakistan – and its founder. His egoistical desire to be the combined Governor-General of both new dominions – India & Pakistan – was turned down by Jinnah.
Denying Kashmir to Pakistan; which Jinnah thought was in “his pocket” was thus now Mountbatten’s mission. Mountbatten may have his reasons; perhaps Jinnah should have treated him more carefully. But Jinnah died in 1948, with his unique place in history as founder of a nation.
It is the poor Kashmiris whose generations have paid the price and will continue to suffer this British Viceroy’s demons of ego. Today all across the world, governments, media and academia discuss Kashmir as a border issue, a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan.
Most Pakistani protesters shout, “Kashmir banega ka Pakistan” and Indians, very innocently and perhaps truly, believe that Kashmir was always India. Can we blame them when this is what they have been taught? Height of information is reflected when western diplomats, UN officials and columnists say it was “a princely state, and Maharaja wanted to stay independent”.
Kashmir: Was it ever in India?
But you have to be a Kashmiri to know that Kashmir never had a physical relationship with areas that now constitute India. This statement may sound confusing, because on map, Kashmir appears a territory between India and Pakistan. But maps are two dimensional, with lines on paper.
Kashmir’s ancient history, its civilization, its unique Sufi culture were all shaped by its mountainous geography. For all practical purposes people, over the past two thousand years, could only enter or leave Kashmir from the areas that now constitute Pakistani Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Denying Kashmir to Pakistan; which Jinnah thought was in “his pocket” was thus now Mountbatten’s mission. Mountbatten may have his reasons; perhaps Jinnah should have treated him more carefully.
Sufi preachers, Mughal armies, Pathan invaders, Sikh conquerors, British officers, and Pundit Nehru all either used the Rawalpindi-Srinagar Highway or used the Wazirabad-Sialkot corridor for access into Kashmir. After the 1947 conquest, India invested heavily to create complex tunnels, like Banihal and others, to develop land access.
All historic human relationship of Kashmir – good, bad or ugly – its cultural and civilizational links thus only existed with the areas and populations that constitute Punjab.
It was the treaty of Lahore in 1846, that ceded control of Hazara, Jalandhar Doab and Kashmir to British and it was the treaty of Amritsar through which a bankrupt East Indian Company sold Kashmir to Jammu’s Dogra ruler, Ghulab Singh. True, that pre-Islamic Kashmir, before 13th century had a distinct Hindu history, but that is true for Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and all of Pakistan.
If Kashmir was a princely state in the geography of British India, it was because Punjab was considered to be in India – though was there an India or distinct Indian identity or an Indian nation before the British rule remains a subject of rich debate.
Irrespective of that debate, Kashmir for all practical purposes was a unique place with its own isolated culture and human existence with little or no geographic and human relationship with areas that now constitute India after 1947. Indian claims on Kashmir, around the partition, thus operated in a historical vacuum that was defined through an ideological definition of India.
India: an ideological definition?
Even today we hear this ahistorical, ideological religiously derived definition of India. According to this definition: one country or nation of India existed between Khyber Pass and Kanyakumari that was tragically divided in the partition of 1947 – in reality, no Indian state or nation could exist before the arrival of British East India Company.
The advent of railways, telegraph, radio, district administrations, Indian army garrisons and a common judicature all played a role in creating a nascent sense of a country – but it was a loosely arranged imperial order. With all its trappings of power, British India ruled over limited geography – with more than 580 independent princely states between Khyber and KanyaKumari.
Indian claims on Kashmir, around partition, thus operated in a historical vacuum that was defined through an ideological definition of India.
And these states were told to opt for the new dominions of India and Pakistan keeping in view their geography and population. Media worldwide continues to regurgitate this definition of “India” and its partition without understanding its malevolent meaning.
This cruel definition of India was cleverly used by the leaders of Congress and Mountbatten for the disastrous division of two largest states of Punjab and Bengal that lead to migrations and genocide. The pathetic argument was if India can be divided then Punjab and Bengal should be divided.
But India was an entity that existed for only 90 years between 1858 and 1947 –and Punjab and Bengal were centuries old. This bizarre propaganda-driven definition of India has been used to dehumanize Kashmiris who have become a colony of people they had no real relationship over past two thousand years.
Actions of a Hindutva driven fascist regime in August of 2019 have now set the stage for genocide and ethnic cleansing of a whole population – while a world that derives its insensitivity from its ignorance continues to watch listlessly as a tragedy unfolds.
Killing fields of Jammu
How many Muslims were killed in Jammu in those few days of October 1947? Historians continue to disagree. Figures from 100,000 to 500,000 have been estimated as killed, several hundred thousand were driven of their homes and landed in Pakistan as refugees – my mother’s family was one of them.
Hari Singh, ruthless ruler of Kashmir and butcher of Jammu, now presented himself as a victim of aggression.
Indian historians and teams created, perhaps by the deep state, to influence Wikipedia history continue to downplay this massacre or try painting it as part of larger Hindu-Muslim killings in Punjab and elsewhere. But what happened in Jammu had all elements of a preconceived state-sponsored genocide and ethnic cleansing – its goal was to purify Jammu of Muslims.
Before partition Muslims had a slim majority in and around Jammu, immediately after October-November 1947, Muslims became a distinct minority. Returning back to my mother who was presumed dead on a killing field between Jammu and Sialkot. Human spirit prevails in the worst of times.
A Hindu shopkeeper who arrived on the scene of death as a scavenger, looking to kill the survivors and loot precious leftovers of gold and silver found an injured girl child with extremely fair complexion and dark hair. He had no child; he fell in love with that daughter of a Kashmiri civil servant and Jammu’s high bred Muslim woman.
Najma my mother, was nursed, treated and raised affectionately by this Hindu shopkeeper for next few months, till his wife compelled him that he must return and unite this crying child to her mother.
He came to Sialkot and dropped her in the refugee camp providing all details – this is how my mother who was hit with a sword and left for being dead on a killing field lived on for several decades with a long scar on her abdomen. But if a Hindu shopkeeper who came to loot the dead corpses saved her from a killing field, she – several decades later – was murdered by a Muslim servant for her gold jewelry. Life is strange and cruel.
Kashmir: An Identity of Eternal Pain
While, in October of 1947, most India burnt with sectarian fires, Muslim majority Kashmir (93% Muslim) was one distinctive area in that sea of mayhem that remained calm. British Indian troops started to arrive in Srinagar from 26th October – as if Mountbatten was only waiting for the instrument of accession. My father, a college student, helplessly watched Kashmiri people’s mental lethargy and slumber.
Tribals were fighting around Srinagar, every day one or two arrested Pathans would be paraded and dragged on the streets of Srinagar as trophies of Indian victory. Sheikh Abdullah’s goons will always be there to beat them and tell public that they are looters and came for gold.
Sheikh Abdullah, an eloquent speaker, a Hafiz Quran, an intelligent manipulator of human minds, had emerged as a key Kashmiri leader from 1930’s onwards. Nehru relied upon his loyalty and with Pundit’s support he was the real force on streets of Srinagar.
It was Abdullah who provided Nehru with the narrative and injected morphine into the Kashmiri minds painting a picture of a wonderful future. My father, as a young Kashmiri man, identified Sheikh as the real devil who had sold Kashmiris for his personal interests. Few months later, he managed to cross the mountains and found his “azadi” in Rawalpindi.
Tribals were fighting around Srinagar, every day one or two arrested Pathans would be paraded and dragged on the streets of Srinagar as trophies of Indian victory.
His contempt for Sheikh continued till last breath. He never visited Srinagar till his death; he did not let his children – of Kashmiri descent from both mother and father – learn Kashmiri language. He once told me “I didn’t want to give you an identity of eternal pain”. He always said, “Kashmiris will forever regret their love of Abdullah, one day will come their children will all hate him”.
My maternal grandfather, the forest officer in Srinagar, and an admirer of both Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru also migrated to Pakistan and became a civil servant. All their lives these two men kept clashing with their rival worldviews and at times it was ugly. I grew up learning from both.
In September of 1988, my grandfather took me to Srinagar. It was immediately after Gen. Zia’s death. I was surprised to find that many Kashmiris died in protests that broke out over Zia’s death. Most Pakistanis were rather happy or relieved. There was definitely something strange about Kashmir that was difficult to fathom.
We went to Sheikh Abdullah’s grave; many policemen were guarding it. My grandfather asked the reason for such security around a grave; policemen told us: “All young men come here to urinate; stink had become intolerable so the government has maintained security to keep them off”.
My grandfather had visited Srinagar many times before but this trip opened up his eyes; as he listened to his nephews and nieces explaining that why Kashmiris have no real place and future inside India, his world view from 1940’s started to collapse. When we were returning he told me that maybe he was wrong all along.
Few years later, Hindutva fanatics demolished Babri mosque. My grandfather wept, apologized to his wife and my father for believing in a delusional world that had perhaps never existed.
Nehru relied upon his loyalty and with Pundit’s support he was the real force on streets of Srinagar.
Fast forward: August 2019. An extremist Hindutva regime, led by Narendra Modi, has consolidated the colonial status of Kashmir. The legal chicanery of autonomous status, Art.370, internal issue, union territory and so on is all pure gibberish. The real thing was Article 35-A that stopped outsiders from buying property in Kashmir and was the only thing left that prevented Hindutva’s plans of “Anschluss” for Kashmir.
In reality, what is happening is far crueller than Nazi unification with Austria. While the constitutionally Nazi plan was a violation of treaties and an abject power grab but most Austrians were ethnic Germans, had much to share with Germany and welcomed Anschluss.
Situation in Kashmir is far more sinister- the constitutional mumbo jumbo of “integration” into one country artfully hides the real plan, the “final solution”, of crushing Kashmiri identity, of diluting the Kashmiri Muslims through influx from India in a way that colonized Kashmiris will now become an ineffective minority without a voice like the Jammu Muslims.
This diabolical plan means that as and when Kashmiris resist this rape of their identity, they will be muzzled with the power of Indian army. Modi’s “Anschluss” is not against the state identity (that was gone long time ago); it’s essentially against the people and who they are.
Genocide in Jammu, in October of 1947, was Maharaja’s “final solution” for Jammu Muslims; Modi, in 2019, is now implementing his “final solution” for Kashmiri Muslims. Who is Narendra Modi? Since he is now the prime minister of a country, which once produced the likes of Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru and Ambedkar, so the world is compelled to show some deference to his title.
But he is the man who played a significant role in organizing the mobs of hate that demolished Babri mosque. He later presided over the pogroms of Muslims in Gujarat. There is massive evidence to believe that he was responsible for orchestrating that tragedy.
The real thing was Article 35-A that stopped outsiders from buying property in Kashmir and was the only thing left that prevented Hindutva’s plans of “Anschluss” for Kashmir.
It was not without a reason that several countries including UK and the US had banned him for Visa. This international pariah became acceptable to the world, in 2013, when it became obvious that he will lead extremist Hindutva party of BJP into power.
On a personal level, there is much similar between Modi and Adolf Hitler. Both have remained single, without marriage, family and effective human relationship. Modi sells his insensitivity towards his mother and relatives as part of his honesty and defines his life through ideas of Hindutva.
Adolf Hitler was for German racial supremacy; Modi is for Hindu supremacy – an India for Hindus as full citizens – through the vehicle of BJP politics. But rise of Hindutva politics represents continuous regression of Indian social order, a closing of Indian mind and psyche.
From 1980’s onwards, Hindutva brigades – be it BJP, or RSS or Jan Sanghis of all sorts – have used religious iconography and invented grisly events on ground to expand their hold on politics.
Ram Rath Yatra, demolition of Babri mosque, riots in Bombay and across India, nuclear explosions of 1998, military standoffs with Pakistan, incidents like Uri, Pulwama, Surgical Strikes, and videotapes of mob lynchings have all been used to whip up a new identity of India based on Hindu Rashtra. Arguably germs of this demon were always there, once Gandhi started using religious iconography to advance his politics from 1920 onwards.
Schism inside Congress leading to departure of Jinnah and rise of Muslim league was in reaction to that narrow religious definition of India – but now the genie is out of bottle and dancing naked in front of the whole world. What all this means for Kashmiri Muslims does not need much imagination to foresee. My father refused giving me his language to stop me from becoming part of “eternal pain”. I think he failed in the end – Such is life!
Moeed Pirzada is Editor Global Village Space; he is also a prominent TV Anchor and a known columnist. He previously served with the Central Superior Services in Pakistan. Pirzada studied international relations at Columbia University, New York and Law at London School of Economics, UK as a Britannia Chevening Scholar. He has been a participant in Chaophraya Dialogue and Salzburg Forum and has lectured and given talks at universities and think tanks including Harvard, Georgetown, Urbana Champaign, National Defense University, FCCU, LUMS, USIP, Middle East Institute and many others. Twitter: MoeedNj.