Indians owe the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the heroic defensive stand made by the outnumbered and ill-equipped, but highly motivated, J&K State Force in safeguarding the state in 1947. They paid a steep price in blood and sacrificed over 76 officers, 31 JCOs and 1085 Other Ranks while driving away the invaders.
Though accession of Jammu & Kashmir by Maharaja Hari Singh to India was full and final yet it remains shrouded with many myths and many facts remain unknown or are suppressed due to the counter narratives being presented forcefully. The accession took place on 26th October and the Indian Army landed in Srinagar on the morning of 27th October. The heroic acts of 1SIKH under their dynamic Commanding Officer Lt Col Rai and events thereafter are well recorded by military historians, political analysts and the official records of Indian Army and are also well known to the majority.
By mid-September, the Maharaja had made up his mind to join India. He accordingly dismissed Prime Minister Kak, who had displayed a pro-Pak leaning. He also sent on leave cum retirement his British commander of the state’s armed forces and had sought an Indian Army officer on secondment to replace him from the Government of India. The state was woefully short of arms and ammunition. Maharaja’s government requested arms and ammunition from India, which the defence ministry was keen to supply but was thwarted by British officers staffed Services Headquarters.
The outgoing British Chief of Staff, General Scott, finally proceeded on leave on 22 September but before leaving he deployed the state forces in penny pockets dispersed over the entire frontage of the state which was approximately 600 miles extending from Kathua to Karakoram with varying types of difficult and tortuous terrain. The dispersal of the force which comprised mainly of nine infantry battalions ensured that the force was incapable of fighting any battle to defend the state against any form of attack. It is likely that this was done deliberately by Gen Scott in order to facilitate the success of Operation Gulmarg, an operational plan prepared by the British army officers of Pakistan for capture of the State as early as August 1947. The readers may not be aware that even after the partition the posts of Supreme Military Commander, Cs-in-C Army, Airforce and Navy of Indian Army were held by British Officers. Similar, was the situation on the other side except that Jinnah was the Supreme Commander of the Pakistan Armed Forces. They were in regular telephonic touch. More about Operation Gulmarg later.
J&K State Forces were organised in four brigades namely Jammu Brigade, Jhangar Brigade, Poonch Brigade and Srinagar Brigade. Apart from the Nine Infantry battalions, it comprised of approximately a company strength of troops for ceremonial and palace duties and a contingent of police. The troops consisted the Dogras, Gorkhas and Muslims. Just to illustrate the fact of dispersion, 5th Bn looked after the entire Jammu Border, Jhangar Brigade had two battalions, Poonch Brigade had 3 battalions plus, Muzaffarabad had one battalion and the entire Frontier region had one battalion. Apart from Ceremonial troops, Srinagar had two infantry platoons as reserve.
The main invasion was planned by the British officers posted in Pakistan Army General Headquarters a few days after Pakistan was born in August 1947. The Operation order was issued under a DO letter marked TOP SECRET and signed personally by the British C in C of Pakistan Army. It was dated 20 August 1947. This fact though included in the official history of “Operations in Jammu and Kashmir, 1947-48” published by Ministry of Defence, Government of India in 1987, yet very few people know about it and very less has been written about it. The Pakistani plan for Operation Gulmarg, which un folded on 22 October exactly as given in the Operation Order, was disclosed to the acting Chief of General Staff of Indian Army, acting Director of Military Operations and Sardar Baldev Singh, Defence Minister of India on 19 October 1947 by Major Onkar Singh Kalkat, who after a daring escape from a virtual house arrest by Pakistan Army managed to reach New Delhi on that day. Thus, Indian Army knew about the invasion of Kashmir plan of Pakistan and the contingency plans were prepared well before 26th October when the Maharaja finally signed the Instrument of Accession and the Government of India decided to fly the Indian troops next day to save Kashmir. Thus, it was a tribal attack without the support of Pakistan Army is a big lie.
Immediately after the tribal invasion on 22nd October and betrayal by the Muslim troops who either joined the raiders after killing their Hindu colleagues or deserted, Maharaja sent his Deputy Prime Minister RL Batra to Delhi on 24th October to plead for military help. He also carried a letter of accession signed by the Maharaja which stated that he was ready to accede to India on the same terms as was settled with the Nizam of Hyderabad. Nehru under the influence and advice of Mountbatten who was made the Chairman of the Defence Committee by Nehru refused to accept the Maharaja’s offer on the technical ground that the Maharaja did not sign the formal Instrument of Accession. Mountbatten wanted to delay the despatch of Indian troops till as late as possible since as per the plan of Operation Gulmarg, the Pakis had planned to capture Srinagar by 26th October. It was the lust of tribals for loot and plunder and the valiant defensive and rear guard fight of the J&K State Forces that prevented the raiders to reach Srinagar by 26th October. Had Indian Forces landed in Srinagar by 25th October, the story of Kashmir operations would have been different because each day was not only crucial but critical.
Immediately after the tribal invasion on 22nd October and betrayal by the Muslim troops who either joined the raiders after killing their Hindu colleagues or deserted, Maharaja sent his Deputy Prime Minister RL Batra to Delhi on 24th October to plead for military help.
The invasion finally began on night 22 October along Road Abbottabad-Manshera-Muzaffarabad-Domail-Uri- Srinagar. Similar incursions were made towards the North and South all along the border towards Kupwara, Gilgit and Poonch and Mirpur. Two companies and battalion Headquarters of 4th Battalion (mixed) was guarding this axis with other two companies deployed on the flanks to the North & South at Keran and Kohala respectively. The battalion was commanded by a brilliant officer of the State Forces, Colonel Narain Singh who had qualified the Staff College from Quetta and performed exceedingly well in the Second World War. Thus his troops were battle-hardened but the revolt by Muslim troops of the battalion made the job of the invaders easy. The company at the border could not give adequate fight due to the Company Commander joining the invaders. In no time, the invaders reached Muzaffarabad, where Col Narain Singh with a company at Domail, offered some resistance but were again let down by their Muslim colleagues. Much against the belief that Colonel Narain Singh was killed by his Muslim troops, according to his son, Lt Col Kulwant Singh Samyal, “My father was not killed at Domail. He accompanied by a few men started to move to join the company at Kohala. What happened enroute nobody knows and he was declared missing in action.”
Despite odds, the soldiers of state forces numbering approximately 200 who were gathered hurriedly from garrison in Srinagar under the daring leadership of Brigadier Rajinder Singh, Officiating Chief of Staff, rushed to stop the invaders. Brigadier Rajinder Singh, led a valiant rear guard operation to delay the invaders. The master stroke of his brilliance was the destruction of Uri Bridge which delayed the advance of the invaders because they had to shed the motor vehicles. He occupied a rear position at Mahura near Uri with the available men and gave a gallant fight. He finally attained supreme martyrdom in early hours of 27th October just a few hours before the first Indian troops landed at Srinagar. He was the first recipient of Mahavir Chakra (MVC) of Indian Army. The Dogras of Jammu feel that in recognition of the valour displayed by him and for leading from the front he deserved a Param Vir Chakra (PVC).
It is the grit and determination of the Dogra soldiers who held the enemy between 22-26 October which saved Kashmir from falling in the hands of the Pakistani backed invaders and upset their plan of capturing Srinagar by 26th October.
It may not be out of place to mention that the Indian people largely owe the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the heroic defensive stand made by the outnumbered and ill-equipped, but highly motivated, J&K State Force. They paid a steep price in blood and sacrificed over 76 officers, 31 JCOs and 1085 Other Ranks. For their gallant stand they earned three Maha Vir Chakra, 20 Vir Chakras and 52 Mentioned in Despatches. This in no way is meant to undermine the role and contribution of Indian Army which fought many battles later till the ceasefire on 01 January 1949 which ultimately threw out the invaders from the Valley and recaptured parts of Ladakh, Poonch , Nowshera and Rajouri sectors. Indian Army regained approximately two-thirds of the erstwhile princely state. In the process, Indian losses were 1,104 killed and 3,154 wounded, whereas Pakistani losses were 6,000 killed and 14,000 wounded.
Apprehending that Nehru may not agree to provide military assistance, Maharaja had instructed his ADC on 26 October before he went to sleep after reaching Jammu to shoot him while in sleep if the request for military assistance was not agreed to by the Government of India. However, the need for the same did not arise because the Maharaja was conveyed the decision of Government of India taken during the meeting of Defence Committee by VP Menon by the evening of 26th October.
(The author is a Jammu based veteran, political commentator, security and strategic analyst.)