In all my extensive experience as Allied Commander in South-East Asia and Pacific during the Second World War, I have never seen an airlift of this magnitude with such slender resources and at such short notice”

Lord Louis Mountbatten, last Governor-General of India

In October l947, when the state of Jammu And Kashmir was attacked by Pakistani Army – taking the garb of a camouflaged tribal invasion, I was the choice of my Editor to go to Srinagar right away to report on the happenings in the Kashmir Valley after India accepted the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir – and it became a part of the Indian Union. Indian Army had arrived and had taken charge of the Srinagar city, its airport and areas around it.

I was in Srinagar city on November l5, l947 or around that date, and watched the enthusiasm of the Kashmiri people welcoming the Indian Army which had saved them from the barbaric atrocities that the Baramula residents had suffered earlier. They shouted slogans in favour of India and warned the raiders that Kashmiris were ready to fight them and throw them out of the Kashmir. The volunteers of the National Congress were united and were performing the police duties in the city. I followed them.

My Kashmir story is based on reports I sent for my paper as well as political developments in Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar – supported by recent documents declassified by the British after 50 years.

Well before the establishment of Pakistan, Qaaid-a-Azam Jinnah had expressed his desire to the Maharaja that he will like to take rest in Srinagar after the establishment of Pakistan. The Maharaja suspected his motives and Jinnah’s dream holiday never materialised. The Maharaja in his wisdom denied him the privilege. Since then, Jinnah had started planning to grab Kashmir by persuading Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir State to accede to Pakistan, or alternatively securing Kashmir by force. Under the British decision to quit India, the rulers of Indian states alone could decide whether to join India or Pakistan. To take over Jammu and Kashmir state forcibly, Jinnah's plans, as unfolded later, was to recruit the Pathan and other tribals from the tribal belt of Pakistan through Pakistan's political agents who were British officials and through the armed Frontier Scouts on the payroll of the new Pakistan Government, get them trained by the Pakistan Army Officers and send them into the Kashmir Valley from Domel on the border of Pakistan. Domel road ran along the Jhelum river – a distance of only 300 kms from Srinagar – the capital.

However, events did not go the way Jinnah and his British Commander-in-Chief General Messervy had planned. Planning for this invasion code named 'Gulmarg Operation', was started immediately after August 14, 1947 at the highest level in Pakistan Army Headquarters. A top secret letter addressed by name to formation commanders and signed by the British Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army General Messervy himself conveyed orders for the invasions. The letter addressed to Brigadier C. P. Murray, an English Officer attached to Bannu Frontier Brigade in Pakistan – was inadvertently opened by Maj. Onkar Singh Kalkat (later Major General). Maj. Onkar Singh managed to escape to India despite Pakistan intelligence getting wind of leak of their secret letter with the help of his well-wishers. On reaching Delhi, he conveyed this information to superior officers including the Defence Minister of India, Sardar Baldev Singh.

Although the new Labour Government in London had voluntarily decided to free India, the policy planners in London were not unaware of their strategic interests in post-World War II scenario. The British and Americans were still worried about the expansionist plans of the Soviet Union towards warm waters of the Indian Ocean and for this purpose they knew that Pakistan will play a compliant role in 'future' as against India – “where leadership had forced them to quit India.” The British bureaucracy including the Army Officers were also favourably inclined towards the new Pakistan Dominion and wanted it to survive and succeed. In fact, the British bureaucracy - both civil and military – were never reconciled to quitting India and losing the lucrative and cushy assignment in the vast Indian sub-continent. Their anger was usually towards Congress leaders specially 'Gandhi Baba' as they called him and they expressed their dislike of him in no uncertain terms. Some of them expressed it openly ... and threatened that “we will create conditions that there will be mass massacres and total turmoil in the length and breadth of this land and you will be forced to call us back.”

For the British rulers including Lord Mountbatten who was specially chosen by the Prime Minister Atlee to “take Britain out of India before June 1948”, it was not easy to ignore the British strategic interests.

Lord Mountbatten arrived in Delhi only on March 22, 1947 with his wife Edwina. He was expected to finish his entire job including discussions with Congress and Muslim League leaders to end the British rule in India by August 15, 1947. On the face of it, he was more friendly to India as he had met Jawaharlal Nehru some years back in Singapore and they liked each other. But, to Lord Mountbatten, Britain's strategic interest came first and he wanted to be on the right side of the Muslim League leaders of Pakistan. This was evident from his statement to his biographer where he told him, “I wanted Pakistan to work, I wanted it to be viable. After all, I was responsible for it. I did not want to muck up my own creation.”

Although one cannot doubt the patriotism and resolve of Indian leaders like Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru - both were men of steel who steered India through crises after crises and let democracy take deep root in the country, their hands were full in those crucial days and they could not devote total attention to the Kashmir issue. In the matter of Jammu and Kashmir State, they did not seem to take a long term view of India's strategic interests. Perhaps as V. P. Menon, author of Integration of States published in 1956 confesses, “we were too busy with other pressing matters.” Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir – Hari Singh – may not have been a great administrator or a statesman but he understood that his future lay with accession to India and twice he offered to accede to India well before the raiders attacked his state, but his offer was turned down as Jawaharlal Nehru insisted on setting up a popular government in the state headed by his friend Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, as a pre-condition to the acceptance of accession by India. Initially Maharaja was not agreeable to this condition. His Prime Minister Ram Chander Kak who was married to a British lady wanted Maharaja to declare independence – but the wise Maharaja objected and sacked him. Then, he appointed Mehar Chand Mahajan as the new Prime Minister who advised him to accede to India on the terms and conditions of Pandit Jawaharlal which he did only on October 26, 1947. India could not legally send any forces to the Jammu and Kashmir state in the absence of legal accession of the State to India.

Besides, Nehru who had his roots in Kashmir, had assigned Kashmiri affairs to himself due to his close relations with the popular Kashmiri leader, Sheikh Abdullah, leaving Sardar Patel to deal with the rest of the States of India.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, a former school teacher, was a popular Muslim leader of Kashmir Valley who pioneered a movement against the autocratic rule of the Maharaja as far back as in 1932 as the head of an outfit called All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim National Conference. In his autobiography, Sheikh Abdullah has revealed that his grandfather was a Kashmiri Pandit- a Sapru. To make his Muslim National Conference more broad-based, he changed its name to Jammu and Kashmir National Conference so that all communities could become its members and got it affiliated to All India States' Peoples' Conference – which had the support of the Indian National Congress. He came in touch with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as Panditji was the President of States Peoples Congress and he invariably supported Sheikh Abdullah's efforts to introduce democratic rule in Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah later started a 'Quit Kashmir' movement against Maharaja Hari Singh in 1946. Naturally, the Maharaja was not favourably inclined towards him. But, by this time Sheikh Abdullah had become an undisputed leader of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and had now secular credentials.

For readers, not familiar with the history of those eventful years, I will like to add that on June 2, 1947, Indian National Congress and Muslim League leaders agreed to the partition of the country and the Viceroy announced the intended creation of the two Dominions of India and Pakistan. Upon the lapse of the British paramountcy over 550 Indian states which were autonomous within their borders, the rulers of the princely states were given the option by the British Government to accede to either of the two dominions. Mountbatten assured Maharaja Hari Singh, on the authority of Sardar Patel that India will not object if the Maharaja decided to accede to Pakistan on his own free will.

In the aftermath of partition, most of the Indian states which were located within the new boundaries of India, were persuaded by the Home Minister Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel to opt for the union with India – except for an odd state like the tiny Junagarh in Gujarat which opted for Pakistan with no contiguity or accessibility to Pakistan - creating a new area of conflict.

The State of Jammu and Kashmir had different dimensions – its ruler was a Hindu while majority of population was Muslims. It was physically accessible from both India and Pakistan though better access was available through Pakistan territory specially to its Kashmir Valley. The Indian National Congress, had in the past, supported the struggle of the Kashmiri people against the autocratic Maharaja's rule. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had courted arrest at the hands of the Maharaja's police in support of the movement of the Kashmiri people.

After the establishment of Pakistan, its Government tried to coerce the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir to accede to Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir State depended on Pakistan for food supply and petrol. Its currency was also printed in Lahore. And to put pressure on the ruler, Pakistan suspended petrol supplies and refused to print its currency.

Having failed to convince the Maharaja to accede, Pakistan authorities launched an invasion of the state on October 22, 1947 using Pakhtoon tribals under the direction of Pakistani Army Officers. The Army Officer who was chosen to lead the raiders was one Brigadier Akbar Khan - who later became a General – code named General Tariq. Tariq was the name of a General who first led the Arab forces in the seventh century against the Hindu Raja Dahir of Sind.

These tribal groups are called “Lashkars”. Each Lashkar has as many as one thousand or more men.

Apart from cash, the tribals were lured by the idea of unlimited loot, plunder and rape of the Kashmiri women especially Infidel Hindus. An atmosphere of 'Jehad' against the Hindu Maharaja was created among them. They were provided buses and trucks for transport and arms and ammunition to carry out their 'progrom' of plunder and rape. Although the raiders could have covered the distance to Srinagar easily in three to four days – they were delayed by the opportunity to loot, plunder and rape en-route which slowed their advance. Meantime, Indian troops entered Jammu and Kashmir on October 27 – after Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession and the State legally became a part of the Indian Union.

However, before explaining how India halted their advance, let me tell the reader about the the size and area and the geography of the Jammu and Kashmir State. It was the largest princely state of India with an area of 222,870 square kilometres. It was almost double the size of Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg all four put together. To its north lies the Wakhan corridor that connects Afghanistan with China's Sinkiang region. Further north is Tajikstan the former Asian Republic of the U.S.S.R. and now an oil rich sovereign country. To its east and north is Tibet. To its south is India (Punjab and Himachal). The supply and trade routes usually followed through Pakistan territory before the attack by tribals.

Mighty Himalayan ranges divide the state into three distinct regions – Jammu Province, Kashmir Valley and the high mountainous region of the north comprising Ladakh, Baltistan and Gilgit. The average height of Ladakh plateau is about 3810 metres.

To the north of Ladakh are the lofty Korakorams, height ranging from 7620 to 8610 metres. The Saichen Glacier is part of it and flows over a distance of an area of 80 kms – which till today is the highest battleground in the world between India and Pakistan. The desolate high altitude plateau of Aksai chin is not far from here. This plateau was traditionally a part of Ladakh – till Pakistan which forcibly occupied it and gifted it to China.

The Kashmir Valley is a fairly level stretch of land – 135 kms in length and 22 kms in width. There is geological evidence to show that the present Kashmir Valley was once a huge lake and when the Jhelum river broke through the mountains, the lake was drained.

Kashmir Valley, at present, is predominantly Muslim - over ninety percent. Jammu had Hindus majority while Ladakh was predominantly Budhist. Gilgit was leased to the British on their request – but the British restored it to the Maharaja , a year before leaving India. Maharaja was very happy to get it back.

By early September 1947, reports of mobilisation of Pakistani tribals in the North West Frontier Province were trickling in and it could be logically inferred that these forces were recruited to launch an offensive into Jammu and Kashmir State. General Carriappa who was Deputy Chief of General Staff at the Indian Military headquarters formally reported this matter to the British Commander-in-Chief of Indian Army, General Lockhart. General Lockhart and his staff officers played down the matter so that the Indian political leadership did not take pre-emptive action. It seemed Indian leadership remained blissfully unaware of Pakistani designs over Kashmir for many days – till October.

The broad outline of invasion plan on the state of Jammu and Kashmir was that a force of six 'Lashkars' (6000 men) with regular Pakistani troops 'on leave' – will advance in the main axis Muzzaffarabad – Domel – Uri – Baramula – Srinagar to capture the Srinagar airfield and the capital Srinagar. This force will then secure Banihal pass to block the road from Jammu. Regular Pakistan Army brigades will await in the border areas to move forward after the Lashkars had achieved their initial objectives. On the face of it, the plan looked fool-proof.

Brigadier Akbar Khan of Pakistan who headed this Lashkar force was a close associate of General Gracey – Pakistan G.O.C. and had fought under him in Burma. Gracey had also recommended him for a Victoria Cross for bravery which did not materialise. He was obviously chosen by General Gracey, for invasion on the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

The British had their interest in keeping the state of Jammu and Kashmir within Pakistan as was evident from subsequent role of the British representatives at the United Nations. U.S. Government too followed the British lead – at the United Nations. They blatantly favoured Pakistan and succeeded in making Pakistan a party to the dispute while from all legal angles the state of Jammu and Kashmir had become a part of India after the signing of the Instrument of Accession by the Maharaja Hari Singh which was never questioned.

The Maharaja had a disciplined State force of about 40,000 – 30% of them Muslims, others Dogras and Sikhs – which was thinly scattered all over his vast territories controlling the civil strife. When news came that raiders had entered Baramula, Maharaja told his ADC to shoot him in his sleep if the raiders managed to enter Srinagar.

The all-out invasion of Kashmir by Pakistan started on October 22, 1947. The raiders main columns had over 300 lorries and trucks – and an estimated 6000 tribal men consisting of Afridis, Mahsoodes, Swatis led by the soldiers and officers of the Pakistan Army who knew Kashmir well and were on 'leave' from the Pakistan Army. They advanced from Abbotabad in North Western Frontier Province on the Jhelum Valley Road. They occupied Garhi and Domel first and moved towards Muzafferabad which was a part of Maharajah's Kashmir Province.

Muzzaffarabad had a battalion of the State Army under the command of Colonel Narain Singh – the battalion had sizeable number of Muslim soldiers. A few days earlier, Maharaja had asked Narain Singh whether he could depend on the 'loyalty' of his Muslim soldiers – Narain Singh told the Maharaja unhesitatingly – “More than my Dogra soldiers”. However, these 'loyal’ soldiers deserted him immediately on facing the raiders and killed their Commander as well as his adjutant and joined the raiders. Muslim soldiers in other formations of the State forces also deserted and joined the attackers.

Apparently, the Muslim soldiers had been contacted already by the Pakistani spies to desert the Maharaja's forces.

When Brigadier Rajendra Singh, Chief of Staff of the State Forces heard of the entry of raiders, and desertion of his Muslim soldiers he gathered some 150 loyal soldiers and marched towards Uri. In Uri, he engaged thousands of raiders for two days in a rearguard action and destroyed the Uri bridge. The Brigadier and all his men were cut to pieces and created one of the greatest examples of bravery in the world history. No wonder, the Government of India decided to institute bravery awards in the Indian Army. Rajendra Singh was posthumously given the first Mahavir Chakra. This way, the gallant Brigadier was able to slow the advance of raiders for two days while at the other end the accession was being signed in Jammu and Delhi.

The Brigadier’s act of bravery changed the course of history in Kashmir.

On October 24, the raiders captured Mahura – the Power House and switched off the power supply to Srinagar – which was plunged in darkness.

The same day, Government of India received desperate appeals for help from Maharaja Hari Singh – and also the information from Supreme Commander regarding the entry of the Pakistani raiders in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and their plans to capture Srinagar city and the Airport. Raiders also announced that they would reach Srinagar on October 26 – to celebrate the Id festival in the capital of Kashmir.

On the morning of October 25, a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Indian cabinet was called under the chairmanship of Lord Louis Mountbatten. Mountbatten, as usual, advised caution and Mr V. P. Menon, Secretary of the Ministry of States was ordered to fly immediately to Srinagar with Civil and Military officers to study the situation on the ground and report back. Maharaja had requested for arms, ammunitions and the Indian armed forces. He had voluntarily and unconditionally offered to accede to the Indian Dominion.

On reaching Srinagar in a chartered BOAC plane, Secretary Menon and his advisers straight away drove to the home of the Prime Minister Mehr Chand Mahajan. Menon describes the deserted and panic ridden city of Srinagar with no police around except stray National Conference volunteers – with lathis – who were trying to bring about some order. Mahajan and Menon – together proceeded to Maharaja's palace who was completely unnerved by the turn of events. He was lonely and helpless as there were no state forces around him. His Muslim police too had deserted. The raiders were around Baramula and it was not going to take them long to reach Srinagar. Maharaja had not anticipated the desertion of his Muslim soldiers and policemen. He had little contact with the world outside Srinagar. Only hope was Brigadier Rajender Singh who had promised to hold on as long as it was possible for him, which he did. He took them on and fought till death.

Menon advised the Maharaja to move immediately with his prized possessions to Jammu to which the ruler agreed.

While Maharaja rested in the Guest House, Menon received a phone call from Mehr Chand Mahajan that there were rumours that some of the raiders had infiltrated into the city. On his advice, Menon and his fellow officers took the only jeep available to move to the airport. Maharaja had already taken all the cars available in the Palace and was on his way to Jammu.

At the Airport, an old Hindu lady with two young daughters pleaded with Menon to take her two daughters to Delhi as her daughters will suffer the same fate as hundreds of young girls in Baramula and other places where raiders had already reached. Menon obliged her as he could not stand the sobs of the young ladies.

Menon's chartered plane left at dawn for Delhi where Sardar Patel was anxiously waiting at Safdarjang aerodrome for him. From there, they drove straight to the Defence Committee meeting which was already in session. Menon reported the ground realities and need for saving Kashmir from the raiders – and the pillage that may to follow. Lord Mountbatten had his reservations again - Jammu and Kashmir, he pointed out, was at present an independent country and the Indian Forces could not legally be sent there till Maharaja signed the instrument of Accession to India when it could become part of India. Menon told him about Maharaja's readiness to sign. Mountbatten added another condition – He would sign the acceptance of the Instrument of Accession subject to the condition that in view of the peculiar composition of the people in the State accession should be conditional on ascertaining the will of the people by a plebiscite after law and order had been restored. Nehru, Patel and other Ministers had no objection.

Menon was asked to fly back immediately and get the Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharaja. He was accompanied by Mehr Chand Mahajan. Returning to Jammu, Menon found Maharaja still sleeping after night-long drive from Srinagar. He woke him up and briefed him about what had happened in the Defence Committee. Maharaja signed on the dotted lines and wrote a letter to the Governor General of India that on acceptance of the Accession he will ask Sheikh Mohammad Abdulla to form an interim government. While Menon was leaving, the Maharaja told him that he had told his ADC that if Menon returned from Delhi, this meant that Government of India would come to his rescue. And, if Menon did not turn up, it meant everything was lost and he should be shot in his sleep.

As Menon returned from Jammu to Delhi, with the Instrument of Accession duly signed in his pocket, Sardar Patel was waiting at the airport again and they both walked into the Defence Committee meeting. Sheikh Abdullah was already in Delhi and was pleading with the Government of India on behalf of his National Conference to come to Kashmir's rescue. Committee decided to accept the Accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India.

Even at this stage, the three British Chiefs of staff of Indian forces warned of the risks involved in sending Indian troops. Nehru responded with some anger that the only alternative to sending the troops will be to allow the massacre and loot in Srinagar which will be followed by equally ferocious response in other parts of India. Besides, the raiders will show no mercy to hundreds of British residents in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Chiefs were silenced.

The same evening a message was sent to the Army headquarters for airlifting some forces to Srinagar early on October 27. The first inkling of impending operation was received by the staff at the Military Command on the night of 26/27 October at 10 pm.

Never in the history of Warfare such an operation airlift was undertaken with so little notice and with even less planning. Immediately, only four Dakotas were available with the Air Force. But Army and Air Forces rose to the challenge by rising to the occasion in the defence of the country. About hundred civilian and Air Force planes were mobilised during the night. The RIAF and civilian pilots and ground crew worked heroically at night to launch the operation. Several pilots undertook many sorties during the day to make it a success. The civilian airline companies went out of the way to help the army in airlifting men, material and ammunition to stop the invasion.

Lord Mountbatten who once was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Asia-Pacific was so impressed with the success of the effort that he said, “In all his extensive experience as Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia during second World War, he had not seen an airlift of this magnitude with such slender resources, and at such short notice!”

The immediately available unit was a Sikh battalion which was looking after internal security duties in the Gurgaon District in the vicinity of Delhi – commanded by Lt. Colonel Dewan Ranjit Rai. He was assigned the task of securing the Srinagar airport – and assist the Jammu and Kashmir Government in maintaining law and order in Srinagar. The Government was not even sure whether the airport was still in friendly hands. He was advised to circle around the airport and to turn back to Jammu if the airport had fallen into enemy hands. However, Airport was in safe hands and the first plane landed soon after 10 AM. By 10.30 AM. Delhi was informed on wireless that Lt. Colonel Ranjit Rai and his men had landed safely and airport was in India's hands. The entire Indian leadership heaved a sigh of relief!

On arrival at the Srinagar Airport, the Acting Chief of Staff of the state Forces and some civil officers briefed Lt. Col. Ranjit Rai. He was informed that raiders had not yet entered Baramula – which was not a fact – they were busy pillaging in Baramula neighbourhood. Their estimated strength was 6000 or more. Ranjit Rai was a dare-devil officer who did not remain confined to the airport. He apprehended that if he confined himself to the Airport, the raiders with their large numbers could encircle the airport and enter the Srinagar city. Leaving a few soldiers to protect the Airport, Ranjit Rai moved towards Baramula – mere 51 kms from Srinagar.

At Pattan. halfway to Baramula he encountered a stream of refugees who told him that the raiders had entered Baramula. Lt. Col. Ranjit Rai decided to dig in at Pattan expecting to stop them here. The raiders were busy in pillage and did not show up at night – and Ranjit Rai was able to consolidate his defences.

Later, he intended to attack the raiders in Baramula itself establishing roadblock west of town. About this time, the first group of raiders was seen reaching the Sikh defences. Indian forces beat their frontal attack which was supported by intense mortar and machine gun fire indicating the presence of Pakistan regular army soldiers with the raiders. Another attack on southern plank by the raiders followed which too was beaten back with many casualties to the enemy. This was the first battle of Independent India against a determined enemy.

Rai decided not to move forward to Baramula and planned to withdraw to Shalateng. He commenced his withdrawal on foot at about 4 PM – enemy followed him. The Indians fought it out and the raiders fled back. Rai unmindful of the safety was constantly exposing himself to ensure the safe withdrawal of his men. While he was marching through open paddy fields, the enemy specially targeted him – and the valiant Diwan Ranjit Rai became the first commanding officer of the nation to fall in the defence of the new Indian nation and became one of the first recipient of Mahavir Chakra. The men of the Sikh battalion, true to their tradition hid the body of their commander, which was recovered later and cremated with Military honours.

And, Major Harwant Singh, MC with only 6 years of service became the officiating Commanding Officer of the battalion in place of Ranjit Rai. Just post midnight, the battalion was again on the move and the Sikhs spent three hectic and sleepless nights to push them back again and again. On October 30, some raiders were seen approaching the airport from the direction of Badgam, they were beaten back with the help of hastily assembled mountain howitzers. The hostiles withdrew into the hills.

So, the Srinagar and its airport was saved from the rapacious raiders. Although they were still around, but any immediate threat to Srinagar was averted. By November 2, a favourable operational situation was created. In this collective saga of courage, it is not easy to single out individuals. Nevertheless, Lt. Col. Ranjit Rai and Major Harwant Singh will never be forgotten. Ranjit Rai, on landing at the airport on the morning of October 27 had taken the bold decision to move out of the airport to fight the raiders closer to Baramula to stem their advance. Had he stuck to the letter of the orders given to him and dug around the airport, his vastly outnumbered soldiers would have been overwhelmed. Equally bold was the decision of Major Harwant Singh who retraced his steps to hold defences at Pattan. The move gained over a week of crucial time for Indian forces to arrive in strength to fight the decisive battle of Shataleng on November 6-7, 1947.

A Pakistani historian later commented on the success of Indian Army, “Two tricks of fortune conspired to cheat the Quaid-l-Azam (Jinnah) of Kashmir Gaddi : the loss of a day and a half in pillaging at Baramulla, and reckless bravery of an Indian officer, who with no reserve of men or ammunition made an attack on the invading forces as if he had the whole Army Division at his support : Col. Rai, with the small detachment at his disposal, dashed down the Baramula Road. He seized the airfield, delayed the raiders advance by 36 hours and enabled reinforcements sent by air to reach Srinagar to be firmly in place. He saved Kashmir though he gave his life in this effort.”

Meanwhile, at Lahore, Jinnah was getting impatient and agitated. He had already despatched his Secretary Khurshid to Srinagar, but Khurshid was arrested after the arrival of Indian troops in Srinagar and was sent back to Pakistan. The moment Jinnah heard that India had accepted the Accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, he was furious and gave orders to General Gracey, the Acting Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army to rush his regular forces into Kashmir. Gracey expressed his inability to do so without the approval of the Supreme Commander. Field Marshall Auckinleck. The Supreme Commander, flew in Lahore on October 28 to explain to angry Jinnah that in the event of Pakistani troops entering Kashmir which was now legally a part of the Indian Dominion, every British officer now serving the Pakistan Army will be immediately withdrawn. There were more than 500 such officers in Pakistan Army. If they withdrew, Pakistan Army would not remain a fighting force, he warned. Jinnah had, therefore, no alternative but to cancel his order. He then sent a message through Auckinleck to Mountbatten and Nehru for a discussion in Lahore. While Nehru had no real objection, Sardar Patel put his foot down saying that since Pakistan was an aggressor, there was no point in running after Jinnah trying to placate him. Matter was referred to Mahatma Gandhi, whom both Nehru and Patel met. However, Nehru had developed high fever and he was in no position to make the trip anyway. And, meeting did not materialise.

As Mountbatten – alone - was about to go to Lahore, Pakistan Government issued a statement on October 30, 1947 characterising the Kashmir accession as based on “fraud and violence and as such cannot be recognised.”

The statement alleged that the State troops were first to attack – the state provoking the Muslim villages and Pathans in neighbouring Pakistan to raid Kashmir.

Meantime, Maharaja had already invited Sheikh Abdulla to form an interim emergency Government which started functioning. It may be placed on record that civilian transport to Lt. Col. Ranjit Rai for moving his troops to Baramula was provided by Bakshi Gulam Mohammad, Sheikh Abdullah's deputy and they were all volunteers. Srinagar was excited by the arrival of Indian forces. Every day, more forces were flown into Kashmir establishing a Brigade headquarters. Forces also started moving on the rugged, unpaved roads from Pathankot to Jammu to rush more men to save other parts of the State.

Before Jinnah and Mountbatten could meet in Lahore, Pakistan was enacting another drama in Gilgit. Gilgit, as I have earlier mentioned in the chapter, was returned to Maharaja by the British in July 1947. Till then it was administered by the British Government directly on lease from the Maharaja. Maharaja appointed a Governor. However, when the Governor arrived in Gilgit, all the British officers serving in Gilgit opted for Pakistan. The strategic Force of Gilgit scouts consisting of Muslims joined Pakistan. Maharaja had only one battalion – half Muslims and half Sikhs. On October 31, midnight the rebel Gilgit scouts had surrounded the Governor's residence and arrested him – set up a provisional rebel government. Muslims in the Maharaja's Infantry Battalion also deserted and joined the rebels. Hindus and Sikh men were liquidated – those who survived escaped to the hills and later joined the garrison in Skardu.

On November 4, Major Brown the British commandant of the Gilgit scouts ceremoniously unfurled the Pakistan flag in Gilgit. Soon, Pakistan Government appointed its Political Agent in Gilgit – formally taking over the Gilgit Administration in their hands.

When Mountbatten met Jinnah in Lahore, Jinnah blamed India for getting accession through violence while Mountbatten retorted that the violence had come from the tribals. Jinnah proposed that both sides withdrew at once and simultaneously.

When Mountbatten asked how the tribals, who were not under the control of Pakistan Army, could be made to withdraw under orders from him. His answer was, “If you do this, I will call the whole thing off.”

This exposed the Pakistan Government's defence that they did not have any hand in the raid by tribals in Kashmir. It was a clear admission of the fact that the invasion was planned by Pakistan. The meeting of Lord Mountbatten with Jinnah failed as they could not agree how the plebiscite could be organised.

On November 2, Nehru broadcast to the nation reiterating his resolve to hold plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir under international auspices after law and order was established.

Liaqat Ali Khan responded two days later in a similar broadcast from Lahore by calling Kashmir accession immoral and illegal ownership of Kashmir resulting from 'infamous' Amritsar treaty of 1846.

On November 3, Sardar Patel accompanied by Defence Minister, Sardar Baldev Singh visited Srinagar to take stock of the political and military situation. They both had discussion with Brigadier L. P. Sen who commanded the Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir. They reported back to the Defence Committee which in turn decided to strengthen Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir and a Divisional Head-quarter under the charge of Major General Kulwant Singh was established in Srinagar.

Major General Kulwant Singh was ordered to retake Baramula to block the entry of tribals into the Valley of Kashmir – which was accomplished on November 8. On the recapture of Baramula, they discovered how pillage had devastated the city and only 1000 residents out of 14,000 original residents had been left to sulk and cry. The devastation was ghastly – Kashmiri women were raped and auctioned, killed and taken away. A number of foreign correspondents who visited Baramula after Indian troops cleared Baramula of raiders, described arson and devastation of the town by tribals in gory details – earning bad name for Pakistan. A Kashmiri, named Maqbool Sherwani, a patriotic supporter of the National Conference who opposed the rapacious behaviour of raiders was publicly hanged in Baramula. Now, his statue stands on the spot where he was hanged.

By November 11, Indian forces had retaken Uri and the raiders were in disarray and hurriedly vacated Gulmarg and Tanmarg also without a fight.

On return to Pakistan, Liaqat Ali Khan made another provocative statement urging more raiders to enter Jammu and Kashmir.

To avoid a direct confrontation between the two Dominions, Lord Mountbatten continued his efforts at reconciliation and Liaqat Ali Khan sent a telegram to Nehru urging continuation of talks. Nehru responded positively and on December 8, a meeting of the Joint Defence Committee was held again in Lahore attended by both Lord Mountbatten and Nehru. Kashmir issue was discussed in a meeting which started at 3 in the afternoon and continued till midnight. Nehru insisted that the Pakistan Government issue an appeal to the raiders to return home. Allowing raiders to use Pakistan territory to attack India, he alleged, amounted to an act of war and Pakistan press was already treating it as a war and calling Indian forces as 'enemy'.

Liaqat on the other hand, apprehended that such an appeal by him would lead to the fall of his government resulting in the establishment of an extremist government in Pakistan.

Nothing came out of the discussions.

Lord Mountbatten then suggested that the United Nations may be called upon to fill the role of third party to mediate between India and Pakistan. Ultimately, Nehru accepted Mountbatten's suggestion to refer the matter to the United Nation though some of his colleagues including Sardar Patel had misgivings about the wisdom of this reference to the United Nation.

The declassified British records in recent years reveal that the British officers with the Indian and Pakistan Army ensured that Indian case was lost in the behind the scene intrigues at the United Nation. They exercised tremendous restraint on India – not allowing it to retake one-third territory of the state of Jammu and Kashmir which was still under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. Indian Commanders had requested only two days delay in ceasefire to recover the entire area under occupation of Pakistan.

On December 31, l948, Indian Government, on Mountbatten’s insistence formally appealed to the United Nations Organisation to take action to force Pakistan end its aggression into the Indian territory. And, since then – the two nations are at logger-heads- the Kashmir issue was embroiled in international intrigues of the world powers as anticipated by Sardar Patel.

A Cease Fire was ordered from January l, l949 which ended direct confrontation between the two nations.

The rest of the Kashmir story is well-known to most of Kashmir watchers.

For India, 1947-48, Kashmir War was the first challenge the country faced as an independent nation. The country came out on top in the face of a national crisis.

I can record three great achievements of the Indian Armed forces in the Kashmir War.

      1. The way they mobilised an Armada of civil and military aircraft to move forces into Srinagar – within 12 hours and with scanty resources.

      2. Remarkable ingenuity of the four men of the Maharaja's army to cross the Zozila Pass during raging blizzards to carry four hundred rifles to the Buddhist people in Ladakh and to raise a volunteer force which ultimately took on the raiders valiantly.

      3. The young Indian Air Force played a vital role in Jammu and Kashmir under the able command of Air Vice Marshal S. Mukerji.

Ladakh remained with India due to an outstanding hero of the War – Air Commodore Mehr Singh. His daring exploits in flying over unchartered mountains – more than 23,000 feet above sea level in a non-pressurised plane – are written in golden words in the history of the mountain warfare. It was an unthinkable feat in the forties of the last century with the type of planes India had. He landed safely with Major General Thimmayya at an improvised airstrip – constructed by a Ladakhi engineer at the height of 11,554 feet.