In the story of Kashmir so far, you learnt about the key players in the story as also the events leading up to Independence. [Click on the following links to go back to Part I, Part II and Part III of the Story.]
A quick recap of the story so far
As the days of August 1947 passed by, Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir had still not made up his mind on whether to join India or Pakistan (he preferred that Kashmir remain an independent state), the fire of communal tension was simmering across northern India and the Pakistanis were seething over the decision of the Boundary Commission to award the district of Gurdaspur in Punjab to India.
Not only did Gurdaspur have a Muslim majority, it was a corridor connecting India with Kashmir. While the Pakistanis were hoping to gain Gurdaspur, which would have cut off the link between India and Kashmir, they realised with horror that India now had a very real chance of gaining Kashmir, given the connection by this land corridor of Gurdaspur. [Part III of the Series has more about this]
Further, some people in the district of Poonch in Kashmir had set up a parallel government and called themselves Azad Kashmir. The Maharaja, angered by their action, had sent in his police to quell the rebellion, leading to violence and resentment. The Muslims of Poonch wrote to the Jinnah and the Pakistani Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, complaining about the harassment and persecution faced by them.
It was in this background that a meeting was held by the Pakistani High Command in Karachi to decide on the further course of action.
In August 1947, the Pakistani government was struggling to stand on its feet, having just taken charge. The Army too was in its initial stage of formation, having split from the Indian Army. Its officers either on their way to take command or busy handling the communal riots across the region.
Given that Kashmir was a Muslim majority state, the Pakistani administration was keen to ensure the State joined Pakistan. However, Kashmir’s ruler Maharaja Hari Singh was a Hindu and its popular leader Sheikh Abdullah was fiercely secular and a great friend of Pandit Nehru.
The situation not looking optimistic, the administration felt compelled to act.
However, the Pakistani government could not afford a war. The manpower was not organised, the resources limited and the Indian Army much stronger.
A midway solution had to be found.
It was in this scenario that the Pakistani Government decided to tap into the potential of the warring tribals of the Frontier Provinces. The Afridis, the Pathans, the Pashtuns who resided on the border with Afghanistan were fierce and battle-hardy. They only needed to be guided and instigated.
Khurshid Anwar, a leader who had been active for the Muslim league in the Frontier was chosen to lead the Mission. The Pakistani Government provided funds, arms and ammunition for the Operation. It also sent some of its Army officers on leave so they could claim the Operation was not authorized by them.
At that time, the Indian and Pakistani Armies had a Joint Supreme Commander (General Auchinleck) and both Armies were headed by British officers. Fearing that word would get across from British Officers in the Pakistani Army to British officers in the Indian Army, it was decided to send away Gen Frank Messervy, Pakistani Army Chief to London to finalize a deal to buy shell and canon.
There is been much speculation about whether the Pakistani Government was involved in the tribal attack on Kashmir that followed. While India claims that there is no doubt at all about the involvement of the Pakistani Government, the Pakistanis have consistently denied that charge.
Several accounts seem to suggest that while Liaqat Ali Khan was an active participant in planning the Operation, Jinnah may not have been involved. Some accounts also narrate how when Jinnah was told about the Operation, he turned his face away and simply said “I don’t want to hear anything about it!”
Turning on the Heat
Khurshid Anwar and his team incited fellow Muslims in the Frontier provinces by citing selected examples of brutalities against Muslims and the violence faced by them during Partition.
He began raising a tribal militia- called lashkar. Hundreds of trucks with thousands of armed tribal warlords and their followers set out towards Kashmir.
In the meantime, the Pakistanis put pressure on Maharaja Hari Singh by an economic blockade. Kashmir was linked by road and rail to Pakistan and depended on imports from Pakistan for salt, petrol, kerosene, sugar and other basic supplies.
Further all trade routes from Kashmir for all its products from its timber to its carpets, its furs to its dry fruits – passed through Pakistan. Pakistan began to deliberately withhold supplies into Kashmir and halted trade. This hit the people hard.
The heat was on and the tribal army had begun its advance.
What happens next?
Find out in Part V where I will (hopefully!) conclude this Series on the Story of Kashmir.
The Dramatic Story of India’s Unification
My Book with Hachette Publishing House, will be narrating for the first time, the saga of Accession by Princely States, for Children. Including the Story of Kashmir.
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