The history of Kashmir would have been different if Muhammad Ali Jinnah had not planned a vacation in Srinagar in the winter of 1947.
Image credit source: AFP
The history of Kashmir would have been different if Muhammad Ali Jinnah had not planned a vacation in Srinagar in the winter of 1947. Jinnah was ill in 1947. Tuberculosis progressed in his lungs, debilitating him. According to Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, authors of Freedom at Midnight, in 1947 Jinnah sent a request to Maharaja Hari Singh to celebrate Eid as his guest, believing that the Dogra ruler would welcome him. But, the Maharaja had no intention of allowing Jinnah to enter the valley and refused the request. After this, Jinnah began to take revenge and due to this the then state was forced to join India.
Jinnah’s Revenge: Operation Gulmarg
It is believed that Jinnah grew impatient and asked his Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to do something about Kashmir. Then detailed plans are made in this regard. This plan was Operation Gulmarg. It included plans to invade Kashmir by tribals and Pakistani troops in plain clothes. Opinions are divided on Jinnah’s role in Operation Gulmarg. But, there is ample evidence about the role of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, his ministers and the army led by Brigadier Akbar Khan.
Operation Gulmarg was the first known example of Pakistan’s strategy of launching a proxy war. This included the assimilation of Pakistani tribes from the North-West Frontier and placing them under the regular Pakistani army. These men reported to Brigadier Akbar Khan in Rawalpindi.
Eid in Srinagar
Armed with rifles and loaded into pickup trucks provided by the Pakistani government, the tribesmen were ready to enter Kashmir in September. But unfortunately for the Pakistanis, ‘Major’ Anwar, who was entrusted with their leadership, disappeared for a few weeks before the wedding. Operation Gulmarg will be conducted in three phases. Anwar, the Muslim League leader inspired by Benito Mussolini’s Black Caps, led the northern army from Muzaffarabad and then advanced rapidly through Uri and Baramulla to reach Srinagar.
Once they reached Srinagar, they had to assimilate the Maharaja into Pakistan and open Jinnah’s access to the valley. Anwar’s vacation delayed the attack. On October 21, Anwar was given strict orders to reach Srinagar on Eid day. Finally after a month the attack started. Shortly after midnight on October 22, 1947, about 5,000 tribesmen led by Anwar crossed the Neelum River bridge and entered Indian territory at Muzaffarabad. At this time he did not face any resistance.
Maharaja was unaware of the danger
The Maharaja knew nothing of this danger. Some of his army joined this Lashkar. Because of this, Srinagar, about 100 miles away, was open to attack. After the initial invasion, the tribes were stuck for three reasons. One, they wanted to take the loot back to their villages in Pakistan before moving on. Secondly, they wanted to rape the village women and kill the men. Thirdly, he had differences with Anwar over money.
Meanwhile, the Maharaja learned of the attack and sent some of his loyal soldiers to prevent the Lashkar attack. A fight by a handful of Dogra rulers led by Brigadier Rajendra Singh Jamwal near Uri succeeded in keeping the tribals away from Srinagar for a few crucial hours. When the Dogra army was fighting the invaders, Maharaja Harisingh sent a request for help to the Indian government. On 25 October, India sent VP Menon to Srinagar, appointed Secretary in-charge of the Integration Department.
When Menon said – now Kashmir is with us
According to Collins and Lapierre, Menon returned to New Delhi on 26 October 1947 with plans for unification. In the evening the then British Deputy High Commissioner met him at his residence in Delhi. At that time Menon said, “Now Kashmir is with us. King signed the merger agreement. And now that we’ve got it, we’ll never let it go.”
Meanwhile, the Indian Army has started landing at Srinagar Airport. After they took control of the airport, the Indian army started chasing the tribals. On 7 November, after a decisive battle on the road between Srinagar and Gulmarg, the tribesmen were forced to retreat deep into north-west Kashmir. Jinnah’s dream of celebrating Eid in Srinagar was shattered forever.
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