Documenting the Forgotten History of Jammu’s Massacred Muslims
Biased and facile narratives loom large in conversations involving Jammu and Kashmir. Sometimes, the tellers of these tales don’t shy away from committing grave historical omissions in order to enforce a convenient, self-indulgent portrayal of events in the Valley.
One example of a monumental omission is documented in the book, Being The Other: The Muslim in India, written by Saeed Naqvi. The book reminds audiences of not one, but two ethnic cleansings that took place in the state: one of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, and the second, of Muslims from the Jammu region.
A chapter on Kashmir in the book – written largely from the point of view of Ian Stephens, editor of the British paper, The Statesman, from 1942-1952, so as to avoid nationalistic biases – talks of the large scale and carefully orchestrated massacre of Muslims from the once-Muslim majority Jammu region.
Stephens suggesting that all this happened with the approval of Maharaja Hari Singh.
What was the death toll in the killing fields of Jammu? There are no official figures, so one has to go by reports in the British press of that period. Horace Alexander’s article on 16 January 1948 in The Spectator is much quoted; he put the number killed at 2,00,000. To quote a 10 August 1948 report published in The Times, London: ‘2,37,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated — unless they escaped to Pakistan along the border — by the forces of the Dogra state headed by the Maharaja in person and aided by the Sikhs. This happened in October 1947, five days before the Pathan invasion and nine days before the Maharaja’s accession to India.’Being the Other, Saeed Naqvi
The communal riots of 1947 weighed heavily on Jammu’s Muslims; lakhs were killed, and many had no option but to flee to what became Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The zonal plebiscite in Jammu that Maharaja Hari Singh was pushing for and revenge for what was happening in East Punjab to Hindus and Sikhs, were cited as possible reasons for the large scale massacre.
Naqvi’s book even goes on to suggest that Lord Mountbatten, the first Governor General of India, knew about the genocide but tried to filter it from the news, attempting to sink it into a black hole forever.
One thing is true, that post 1947-48, Jammu – that had had a Muslim majority (61 percent Muslims) – housed the community only as a minority.
Gandhi’s comment on the situation is also presented in the book. The book quotes from Volume 90 of Mahatma Gandhi’s Collected Works:
Naqvi isn’t the only one to suggest this. Last year, on the 25th anniversary of the Azaadi uprising, Swaminathan S Aiyar too had written about Jammu’s buried history in his piece, A Tale of Two Ethnic Cleansings in Kashmir.
Another book, Revisiting India’s Partition, says Hindu and Sikh refugees from Azad Kashmir and West Punjab, along with Sikh deserters of the Sialkot unit, massacred Muslims, and calls the “mad orgy of Dogra violence against unarmed Muslims” as one that ought to put any self-respecting human to shame.
In an interview with Reuters, which is published in the book, the erstwhile Prime Minister of Pakistan General Liaquat Ali Khan, accuses the RSS of orchestrating the violence with the Maharaja.
After the massacre of Moslems in East Punjab and the Punjab states, the forces of annihilation turned to Jammu and Kashmir...Towards the end of September the Indian National Army and the RSS shifted their headquarters from Amritsar to Jammu.. they were provided modern weapons by the state authorities. They set about the formal business in Jammu and Poonch of repeating the horrible drama they had enacted in East Punjab.General Liaquat Ali Khan
In the aftermath of the violence, many Muslims from the border areas of Bishnah, RS Pura, Akhnoor etc fled to Sialkot in Pakistan. Besides the Jammu region, there were large scale killings in Udhampur, Chenani, Ramnagar, Reasi, and even far away Bhaderwah.
For someone who is a descendant of the Dogra rulers, and stakes a claim in the future of the state, I can only hope that all of us forget each other’s sins, and move forward to a less violent Jammu and Kashmir.