Kashmir win: Recounting J&K’s accession to India in 1947


By Avinash Mohananey

We have lost Kashmir,” was all that Maharaja Hari Singh could gather strength to say on reaching Jammu on October 26, 1947, after slowly and silently driving his car throughout that dreadful night amid rumours that raiders were swarming in from across the border and the convoy was likely to be ambushed.

Earlier, the maharaja had been rudely shaken in the morning of October 22, when his forces in Muzaffarabad were overrun and slaughtered by rampaging tribal hordes from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP – now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan who were marching ahead to capture Srinagar. His dream to keep his kingdom – bought by his forefathers from Britishers in 1846 for `(Nanakshahee) 75 lakh – lay shattered.

Apprehending that raiders would soon be knocking at the doors of Srinagar, a dejected and demoralised maharaja finally requested the Government of India to send forces. In the meeting of the defence committee on October 26, it was decided to accept the accession offer, airlift the troops and advise the maharaja to set up an emergency administration under Sheikh Abdullah. At the crack of dawn on October 27, the first battalion of Sikh Regiment led by Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai emplaned at Safdarjung airport with instructions to hover over Srinagar airport and land only if it was free of raiders. The first flight landed at 0930 hours, with others following at periodic intervals, and by noon the airport was secured.

Based on sketchy intelligence given by National Conference volunteers and using civilian vehicles provided by the emergency administration, Lt Col Ranjit Rai dashed to Baramulla, where the raiders were indulging in killings, rapes and plunder. The raiders were surprised to see Sikh troops and a gun battle ensued. Lt Col Rai had underestimated the strength of the raiders. He lost his life, but succeeded in halting forward march of the raiders. By the end of the day, Srinagar was secured and the raiders were in retreat.

Jinnah’s Plan Foiled
The same day in Lahore, furious at airlifting of Indian troops, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Governor General of Pakistan, ordered his acting army chief, General Sir Douglas Gracey, to send Pakistan Army on Rawalpindi-Srinagar road to capture Srinagar and through it Banihal pass. He had thought of celebrating Eid on October 26 in Srinagar. Field Marshall Auchinleck, supreme commander of both armies, rushed to Lahore from Delhi the next day and persuaded Jinnah to withdraw the order, warning that it would lead to withdrawal of British officers on whom Pakistan Army was heavily dependent.

Jinnah could never develop a relationship with Sheikh Abdullah, as he wanted to be the sole spokesman of Muslims. He always believed that “Kashmir is a ripe fruit which will fall into my lap”, keeping in mind religious affinity, geographical location and economic connectivity. He was upstaged by Nehru, who developed a close bonding with Sheikh Abdullah and other leaders of National Conference over the years, when the latter launched a struggle against the despotic rule of the maharaja. Nehru was very passionate about Kashmir and knew that Sheikh Abdullah was the key to unlocking it for India. Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel played a supportive role as Nehru made his moves.


The maharaja’s hopes to retain his kingdom were dashed when Lord Mountbatten, during his visit to J&K from June 18-23, 1947, advised him to refrain from declaration of independence, ascertain the wishes of the people and announce their intention before August 15. An evasive maharaja did not meet Mountbatten on the last day of the visit pretending he was suffering from colic pain. This was followed by Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Srinagar in the first week of August 1947 despite the maharaja expressing strong reservations. Wherever Gandhi went, people asked for the release of Sheikh Abdullah and removal of Ram Chander Kak as Prime Minister.

Patel Engaged Maharaja
Separately, Sardar Patel was in constant touch with the maharaja and successive PMs of J&K to ensure that the decision remained in India’s favour. As early as on July 3, he wrote to the maharaja that the interests of Kashmir lay in joining the Indian Union. He tried to allay the apprehensions of the maharaja about Congress, particularly because of Nehru’s relationship with Abdullah. On the offer of a ‘Standstill Agreement’ by the maharaja on August 12, Patel requested him to send a representative for a fuller discussion, which did not happen. On the other hand, Pakistan immediately accepted it.

Valour of Indian Forces
Meanwhi le, in Pakistan, on September 12 at 6 pm, a meeting was held in Lahore, by PM Liaquat Ali Khan to discuss the plan for armed intervention in Kashmir using demobilised Indian National Army personnel, willing serving army personnel and tribesmen. Khursheed Anwar, who was heading the private militia of Muslim League, called Muslim League National Guard, was made incharge of operations of the crucial area above Rawalpindi. The original plan for September had to be postponed, as Anwar left for his honeymoon. Anwar roped in Abdul Qayyum Khan, chief minister of NWFP, for mobilising lashkars to invade Kashmir.

It was a self-financing operation, as no remuneration was to be paid, but tribals were free to plunder non-Muslims and retain the loot. An operation launched after snubbing Sheikh Abdullah and without taking into consideration support of Kashmiris was bound to fail. The swift Indian response also amazed Pakistan’s political and military leadership.

After entering Kashmir, the tribesmen were busier in killings, plunder and abducting women than moving forward to capture Srinagar airport. Fights broke out among the lashkars even over the sharing of the booty. Finally, a determined unsuccessful attack was made to capture Srinagar airport on the night of October 30-31. Thereafter, it is a story of valour of Indian Army, Air Force and people of J&K, who snatched Kashmir from the jaws of Pakistan.

(The author is ex-IB official who served in J&K and Pakistan)

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