Author: Saadut
•10:52 PM

Early morning peeping half open eyes, rubbing the night vapor of the window pane with my palms, creating wide path like lines on the moist glass; that wide, gleeful expression would overtake watching snowflakes, like fairies dancing in their fall and spreading out on the ground. In the far distance strange images of masked aliens, fighting heroes, fleeing damsels would be created in running patterns of this snow fall, which seemed to have invaded and overtaken from the end of that infinite horizon till my very window still. Arching branches overburdened by laden snow, dropping over each other were bending in humility, like prostrating for a prayer with a burden of a lifetime on their backs.

By the far right corner of the garden, a pomegranate tree, bound by father in autumn strings to save it from winter burdens, rose into a white snowy dome perching far above its size, like extending to call the sleeping for an early morning assembly. But in freeze dead garden there were no souls heeding its call. Most of those who lived in this garden had fled the autumn fall, leaving behind withering crisp leaves that would give themselves to earth. The remaining, who had not fled, were hibernating in winter fright, barricaded in the same autumn strings, that held portions of venous branches in skin peeling tight packs. It was tough to figure out what hurt most; the skin peeling strings that attempted to save them from winter blizzards or the inevitable frost that was sweeping across the garden.

Packed cosmonaut’esque in cold ready, frost defying gear, mother would ensure that no part of us was left to the mercy of winter. Neck closing pherans cloaking overweighing woolens that often made our figures look far larger than our tiny bodies, warm caps that ran over our red blowing ears only exposing the earlobes those hung as corner receivers to be centered by redder pointing noses, which often dripped as moist at the windowpane vapor.

In spite of instructions that we were not to venture out from our carefully warmed rooms, we would seek the first opportunity to dash out, unheeding the shouts that followed.
Tiny footsteps would race over white spreads of snow, creating fleeting patterns in chasing voices of mother, who would be worried of the winter demons running faster than we could and catching up on us. I stopped by the evergreens that bordered our garden and shook them to rid them off their white robes, to bring out patches of green, drooping, wet and bathed leaves in this endless white. Behind us, the edges of our wide and tall green gate were laced in white linings, like some straight sketches over a huge canvas. My brother and I tried footprint sketching on snow, creating random images on crisp white sheets; some circles here those were punctured with two dots resembling eyes, drawing lines on uneven sides to make arms, pathetic attempts at drawings that were soon overwritten by celestial erasers in falling white, that overrode all our attempts. Covered on my shoulders and head by moist snow that created white patches I shrugged off and jumped to drop fall on the ground, wanting to have the snow fall directly on my face. In extended arms my open face tried to look up towards a silent heaving sky, feeling like a child who looked up his mother, extending, opening and holding to feed her kid from the bosom. I closed my eyes to feel an astounding silence all over, there was no chirp, no voice in the garden where everything, every word had fled to this winter moment. Every window that over looked this garden had been securely latched to deny the winter birds any hope of a morsel; these birds sometimes came calling, bearing heavy armory of fatigue, but left disheartened when their calls went unheeded. These birds from across the borders.

Finding myself lonely in the middle of a cold damp desolation, I opened my eyes again, only to find that my brother was stealthily walking up to our wide and tall green gate, wanting to open the narrow door within it, without any noise. But the narrow door creaked, like the moan of an unclothed man being dragged in winter against his will. And I ran up to my brother.

On watching me approach he stopped, withdrawing his hands from the narrow door knob. I, attempting bravery over my younger sibling, ended my hands over the knob and slowly fought my fears over the creaking sighs of the narrow door. Outside, the wide road running parallel to our gate, on our right, was all white till the eye could see. There were no tracks, no footprints, no markers on this wintry seemingly unending white road, but for the almost invisible bend far ahead that turned slightly left as it merged into a four way, often leaving the traveler in a destination dilemma.

Our keenness to try a few more footprint patterns outside the gate and a pitch silence was broken by a loud thud ; accumulated snow banks over heaved roofs were slipping with all their force on the ground, close to where these extended roofs would mark their aim. We froze, as if those winter demons had finally outpaced and caught with with us.  Then realizing that these were rooftops shrugging off some white burden from their shoulders, my brother grabbed a snowball and flung it across, aiming towards these roof edges, as if in revenge for breaking this silence. Soon I had joined him in the ‘free snow ball aim contest’, aiming across the road. Between the long pauses of the few snow thuds and our frequent gleeful shrieks, a white armed jeep suddenly broke the lull of this road, drawing ugly traces over virgin whites, while some of our snow balls hit its windowpane. Screeching of brakes, our benumbed freeze and that scary dash we made, realizing that some people had disembarked in our pursuit. We heard some cries, loud shouts; could not comprehend in fear what they were. As we ran back inside and pushed shut the narrow gate, a commotion grew behind it; the gate shook violently, some kicks were forcing on the gate, and soon it gave up. By the time we were inside and mother scurried outside, huge boots of armed men were running crazy inside a stunned garden, trampling all the patterns that tiny feet had created earlier. The decent white of our path had been invaded by a dirty, grayish slush that was punctured at odd places by huge jackboot prints; very obnoxious and threatening. The dome by the pomegranate tree had collapsed in fright. The window pane, on which by the morning I had created wide path lines with my palms on overnight vapor glass, had been smashed with rifle butts. And with it had been smashed our winter dreams.

Those of our garden who had left the winter to its ordeal never knew of the glass splinters and the hurt they caused; those who hibernated to seclusions of fright never knew the freedom of fresh snow, even if this freedom was momentary.

Author: Saadut
•7:37 PM

For India 27th October in Kashmir is a day of conquest, for Kashmiris it remains a day of military occupation that never seems to end. 

By early 1947 an internal revolt against the Dogra rule had started in the Poonch region. This revolt was driven by unending Dogra oppression and backbreaking taxation primarily forced on the majority Muslim population. Many of Poonchies were known to have served under the British army; of the 71,667 J&K citizens having served in the WWII under the British Indian forces, 60,402 were Muslims. (Josef Korbel ‘Danger in Kashmir’). Understanding well that such oppression could lead to a rebellion by these ex soldiers against his tyrannical rule, Maharaja Hari Singh in July 1947 ordered them to surrender whatever firearms they had. But soon after these arms had been confiscated, some by order dictum and most by force, Muslims found that the collected weapons had been distributed to non Muslims in their region, who hardly constituted 10% of the population, thereby pointing to political foul play by Dogra rulers. Later in August 1947, Dogra forces fired on processions in Poonch, killing scores and forcing many more to flee across towards Pakistan.

In August 1947, a limited ‘Standstill Agreement’ between the Dogra Maharaja of Kashmir and Pakistan was put in place. The Dogra Maharaja sought a similar agreement with India, which was declined, India instead asking for a discussion in New Delhi with the Maharaja’s representative. India’s refusal to sign a ‘Standstill Agreement’ created further doubts about the intentions of India vis-à-vis this princely state. 

From September 1947 (to October), one of the worst massacres in the history of Jammu & Kashmir was executed under the auspices of the Dogra Maharaja, against Muslims in Jammu. Horace Alexander wrote in ‘The Spectator’ (January 16, 1948), that the killings had "the tacit consent of State authority" and put the figure of this massacre at 200,000. The Times (London) in its report (‘Elimination of Muslims from Jammu’, Part II, 10th August 1948, p. 5) wrote "2,37,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated…… by all the forces of the Dogra State, headed by the Maharaja in person and aided by Hindus and Sikhs.” As hundreds of Muslims forced by the Dogra forces, fled Jammu and Poonch regions, on 12th October 1947 Pakistan dispatched a telegram to Dogra rulers detailing these atrocities and demanding an impartial inquiry. The Dogra rulers promised an inquiry, but did nothing to stop this orgy. Incidentally Kashmir valley did not record any communal violence even after these massacres had been reported. In spite of having been appointed as the ‘Chief Emergency Administrator’ on 30th October 1947, Sheikh Abdullah admitted to having known, but exerted nothing to prevent this carnage or punish the culprits. (‘Atishe Chinar’ page 312, 331).

“Unlike every part of the (Princely) State(Jammu & Kashmir) , Hindu and Sikhs slightly out-numbered Muslims (in Jammu) and within a period of about 11 weeks, starting in August, systematic savageries ……practically eliminated the entire Muslim element in the population, amounting to 5,00,000 people. About 2, 00,000 just disappeared, remaining untraceable, having presumably been butchered.” (Ian Stephens, then editor of The Statesman (Calcutta) in his book ‘Pakistan’ P-200).

The Poonch rebels angered by news of these horrific massacres, many of whom had already fled to Pakistan, started organizing an armed mutiny against the Dogra Maharaja.  Along with the Mirpur rebels, they sought active help from Pashtun Afridis, who were known to manufacture weapons in the ‘Illaqa-i- Ghair’ North-West Frontier tribal areas. On 22nd October 1947 these rebels with active support of tribesmen (and some Pakistani military officers) invaded the Dogra forces in Kashmir. The Dogra Maharaja looked towards India for military help, yet still nurturing his wish of an Independent Jammu & Kashmir.

This military help, to save the Maharaja, came at the cost of accession talks. But not only does the document of accession have its own shades of doubts, even the military help extended by Indian has its unanswered questions. Indian claims on Jammu and Kashmir hang by the “Instrument of Accession” reported to have been signed between Maharaja Hari Singh and the then Governor General of India Lord Mountbatten. Alastair Lamb claims that it would have been impossible for V.P Menon to get the signatures of Maharaja on October 26th, since Menon would have to shuffle then between Delhi, Jammu, and Srinagar in a single day, while the Maharaja was in transit. Another puzzling fact is the overwriting of dates on the copies of ‘the accession document’ where ‘August’ has been overwritten with ‘October’,  clearly pointing to either such a document draft existing before the tribal invasion or doubting the veracity of the document itself (Alastair Lambs argument of the impossibility of the Maharaja signing it).

Even though India has been claiming that its troops landed in Kashmir on 27th October (overnight) after the “Instrument of Accession” had been signed the previous day, there are inconsistencies to this version.  Indian troops in reality had reached Kashmir even before 27th October (even before the signing of the instrument of accession). Soldiers of the Maharaja of Patiala, who was already a part of the Indian Union, were dispatched and reached Srinagar on October 17th 1947. These troops, who represented not the Maharaja of Patiala but the India Union now, were already at the Srinagar airfield by then, camouflaged in civilian trucks and taken control of the Airport there.  (Alastair Lamb, Kashmir, a Disputed Legacy 1846-1990). Clearly the October 27th operation by the Indian army was not prompted just by the tribal invasion, given the scale of such operations for a country who has just won her Independence would have not been easy. The logistics and planning required for such military operations could not have been drafted and executed overnight between 26th and 27th October 1947. 

The Dogra rulers of Kashmir were not any hereditary kings nor did they have any claim on being descendants of Kashmir. They had been handed over the rule of Kashmir by the British for a price, after the latter defeated Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who had occupied and ruled Kashmir before that. Hence the right of Dogra Maharajas to Kashmir was as good as of any other invading and occupying ruler, having no right whatsoever to decide the accession of Kashmir without involving the aspirations of its people.

Meanwhile up north, for some unknown reasons, the invading tribesmen got held up for two days in Baramulla, giving the Indian forces the advantage to land and proceed from Srinagar. In their retreat the tribesmen were reported to have indulged in looting and killing there, so did the Indian forces while invading Kashmir. While the tribesmen left, Indian military stayed back, consolidated, expanded and turned Kashmir into the world’s largest prison. 

27th October continues to be a dark phase for Kashmir, when military might trampled over civilian rights. A symbol of political treachery sold by India as military help, not to secure the commoners in Kashmir, but to secure a despotic king who in the following years was to be replaced by proxy rulers in democratic packing. Who landed the first Dakota with Indian soldiers in Kashmir is immaterial, what is important that India used the Srinagar airstrip on 27th October to force a silent invasion into Kashmir, that continues to a hold a grip only by military force. 

All promises of India that preceded or followed the October 27th invasion were trampled over time.  

"I should like to make it clear that [the] question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the State to accede to India. Our view, which we have repeatedly made public is that [the] question of accession in any disputed territory or State must be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people and we adhere to this view" (25th October 1947 telegram from New Delhi (Nehru) to PM of UK C.R. Attlee. Govt. of India, White Paper on Jammu & KashmirDelhi 1948, p.46).

Indian P.M Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister, in his November 2nd, 1947 broadcast to India from New Delhi "We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given, and the Maharaja has supported it, not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not, and cannot back out of it. We are prepared when peace and law and order have been established to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations. We want it to be a fair and just reference to the people, and we shall accept their verdict. I can imagine no fairer and juster offer." (Govt. of India, White Paper on Jammu & Kashmir, New Delhi 1948, p.55)

October 27th stands as a dark day in remembrance of these promises by India that were sold to political deceit, unleashing its military machine with impunity against Kashmir. October 27th is the start of India’s war against Kashmiri civilians.