Jammu massacre: A sordid saga of painful memories, terror & trauma

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November 6 is commemorated by Kashmiris in fond memory of those innocent victims who, on this day in 1947, fell to contrived machinations and evil plans of the despotic Dogra Maharaja and his collaborators. The least reported massacre, which goes down in the region’s contemporary history as the deadliest massacre, had left behind painful memories of terror and trauma, mass murder of men, women and children, rape and abduction of Muslim women by Hindu chauvinists and their harrowing journey to Pakistan.

Nearly 2.3 lakh Muslims were exterminated inside Jammu under a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing. Since the region had already been brewing with tensions in the aftermath of the Indian invasion into Kashmir valley, the Maharaja-backed militias, who were given a free hand to kill Muslims at their will, conducted a calculated campaign of slaughter, rape, loot and plundering that led to large scale killing of Muslims with women raped and abducted by Hindu communalists. The reign of violence and collective punishment against the Muslim community went on unabated for several weeks. Sadly, all this was happening under the nose of the so-called Maharaja and instead of trying to prevent such killings and preserving communal peace, the Maharaja’s administration facilitated the genocide. The communal marauders were not only helped but also provided with arms and ammunition.

Kashmir’s contemporary history is awash with painful memories and tragedies, genocides and forced migrations, mass murders and mass graves, forced disappearances and bloody battles, along with suppression of basic rights and peoples desires for self-determination.

Unfortunately, what happened to Muslim subjects of the state in Jammu during the intervening period of time (27 Oct 1947 to 6 Nov 1947) was not a mere coincidence, but it was a well-planned genocide that continued until a sizable portion of the Muslim population was eliminated. Most of the Muslims outside the Muslim-dominated areas were brutally killed by the communal marauders who moved freely in vehicles with arms and ammunition even when Jammu city was officially put under curfew.

It is estimated that around 200,000 to 237,000 people were killed during the violence with more than half-million forced into displacement across the border into the newly created state of Pakistan. Most of these migrant families are now settled in Lahore, Gujranwala, Sialkot and other parts of Pakistan, including Karachi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Quetta.

According to Australian scholar and historian Ian Copland, the pogrom against Muslim subjects of the princely state was undertaken partly out of revenge for an uprising against the Maharaja Hari Singh that broke out in the Poonch Jagir in spring 1947. The editor of

Statesman, Ian Stephen, in his book Horned Moon writes that till the end of autumn 1947, more than 200,000 Muslims were murdered in one go.

In his widely quoted article, the English author and pacifist Mr. Horace Alexander, while citing the incidents of violence that shook the region, said, “Hindus and Sikhs of the Jammu area, apparently with at least the tacit consent of state authorities, have driven many thousands of their Muslim neighbours from their homes”. Citing Mr. Gandhi, Alexander said “some two hundred thousand are… not accounted for”.

Veteran writer and historian Christopher Snedden estimated the number of Muslims killed by the forces of Maharaja Hari Singh was between 70,000 and 237,000. However, newspapers of the time even reported much higher casualties. The London-based newspaper “The Statesman” while recounting the horrors of the deadly massacre, suggested that 500,000 Muslims were killed.

Veteran Kashmiri journalist and founder of the oldest English newspaper-Kashmir Times- Ved Bhasin, who had extensively written and spoken on the subject, had also put blame on the Maharaja and his administration for the mishandling of the law and order situation and for the large scale communal violence that led to enormous loss of lives and mass exodus of the Kashmiri Muslims from the region. According to Mr. Bhasin, the RSS played a key role in these killings, aided by armed Sikh refugees, who even paraded the Jammu streets with their naked swords. Even Mahatma Gandhi, while commenting on the situation in Jammu, admitted that Hindus and Sikhs of Jammu and those who had gone there from outside killed Muslims.

A lot has been said and written about the RSS activists’ crucial role in planning and executing the riots, but the question is as to whose behest these communal gangs were provided with arms and ammunition on such a big scale. Why do the people at the helm of affairs in New Delhi, in particular the so-called secularists including Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, and others, ignore the news about the genocide of Muslims in Jammu? Not a single statement of condemnation or concern has been issued by the Indian leaders over the bloody incidents of violence that shook the entire region.

By the way, the criminal silence at the slaughter by the influential leaders of the Congress, who were at the forefront in pursuing the Maharaja to sign a treaty of accession with India, raises many questions. It is for sure that a timely intervention by the Indian leaders, especially Mountbatten, could have saved many lives, but their indifference towards the plight of the Kashmiri Muslims still remains a mystery. Why did they, intentionally, ignore the news about genocide and choose to stay silent on such a big tragedy of immense magnitude? Were they part of this well-orchestrated and well-organised genocide that led to a rapid change in the region’s demography? Was the Maharaja in a position to mobilize armed gangs on his own against the Muslim community at a time when he was on the run to save his life?

Despite all these factors, this vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing was executed in such a way that everybody cursed the RSS and the Maharaja, who had virtually lost his grip on the state affairs but little is known about the hidden and hideous characters who played a villainous role behind the scenes.

Nonetheless, the events that followed in the aftermath of this tragic incident clearly indicate that Maharaja was not the sole conspirator but there were many hidden characters involved in this conspiracy to alter the demographics of the region, where Muslims were a large majority until 1947. According to the 1941 census, there were 61% Muslims in Jammu, but after the massacre and forced expulsion of Muslims, the Jammu-region became a Hindu-majority area. Soon after the massacre, large crowds were brought in from other parts of India, mostly Punjab, and then settled in and around Jammu city. Mr Bhasin had recorded how the then Prime Minister Mehr Chand Mahajan wanted to change the demography of the region. Pertinently, the Maharaja appointed Mr. Mahajan as Prime Minister at the behest of the so-called “Iron Man” of India, Sardar Vallab Bhai Patel.

There are a number of contributing factors that led to the wholesale extermination of the Muslims in the region in 1947, but the fact remains that this vicious campaign of de-Muslimisation of Kashmir that started soon after India’s illegal invasion into Kashmir, is still going on unabated even after the passage of 76 years.

During the decades’ long turmoil and intensified war, the Kashmiris have witnessed a series of massacres in which thousands of Kashmiris, including men, women and even children, were brutally killed and butchered by the Indian occupation forces. About 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed since 1990. Tens of thousands of innocent Kashmiris, mostly young boys, have been subjected to forced disappearances.

While the bloodshed and violence continue unabated, international experts have warned of the impending ‘genocide’ of Muslims in the restive region. Sounding alarm over the immense increase in violence against the Kashmiri Muslims, Gregory Stanton, the founder and director of Genocide Watch, warned that there were early signs and processes of genocide in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Sadly, the decades of impunity to India by the international community for its crimes against the Kashmiri people has emboldened New Delhi to launch slow-motion genocide on one hand and settler colonialism on the other, to change the political and religious landscape in the occupied territory.

It is high time that the world should take effective notice of the matter and take decisive measures to resolutely stop India from seriously violating the fundamental human rights of Kashmiris and their right to survival. Indiscriminate and irreparable loss of human lives in the Indian-occupied territory of Jammu & Kashmir is the biggest tragedy of modern times. The world should come forward in a big way and help break this vortex of violence by addressing the root cause.

(The writer is Chairman of Islamabad-based think tank Kashmir Institute of International Relations)

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