By Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza
Oct 6: Each year the month of October brings back memories of the Hindu and Sikh genocide that took place in Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) after Pakistan attacked the state of Jammu and Kashmir on October 22, 1947.
At least 1 lakh Hindus and Sikhs lost their lives as they were rounded up and shot in execution style, beheaded and their skulls crushed with stones in the district of Mirpur alone. Their crime was that they did not belong to the religion of Islam.
An autobiography written by Bal K. Gupta gives a glimpse of the atrocities that were committed against the Hindu and Sikh communities from November 25, 1947 onwards when Pakistan and the tribal Lashkar entered and later captured western parts of Jammu starting with Mirpur.
Gupta was only 6 at the time but the horror of the genocide was such that it could not be erased from his memory for the rest of his life. Gupta writes that after the Timurlane massacre of Delhi in 1358, the massacre of Mirpur...on November 25, 1947 was the worst massacre in Indian history.
At the time of the capture, the total Hindu and Sikh population of Mirpur city was nearly 25,000. Before the capture of the city by Pakistan army and tribal Pathans, around 2,500 escaped to Jammu with the retreating army of Jammu and Kashmir.
Another 2,500 were killed or burned alive by the Pakistani artillery fire as their homes became engulfed in flames. The remaining 20,000 were forced on a death march to Ali Beig where the Gurdwara built by Sant Sunder Singh was turned into a prison camp.
On the way to Ali Beig at least 10,000 Hindus and Sikh men were executed by Pakistani troops and the tribal Pathans. 5,000 women were kidnapped. Only 5,000 Hindu and Sikh survivors along with Bal K Gupta arrived at the Ali Beig prison after a horrific 20 mile walk.
In March 1948 when the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived at Ali Beig only 1,600 had survived who were transferred to Rawalpindi and then to Jammu where they and their children languished for 75 years in refugee camps until August 5, 2019 when the articles 370 and 35A were abrogated giving them equal rights as Indian citizens with J&K domiciles.
Several attempts and efforts were made by the Hindu and Sikh leaders to raise alarm of the approaching Pakistani troops in November 1947 with the Indian government led by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru but to not avail.
Gupta recalls that on November 13, Ramlal Chaudhry along with a delegation of MLAs and M.C. Mahajan, the then Prime Minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, travelled to meet Pandit Nehru in New Delhi. Pandit Nehru refused to give the delegation an audience except for M.C. Mahajan who Gupta writes 'pleaded' with Nehru and asked him to help him to rescue approximately 100,000 Hindus and Sikhs trapped in areas of PoJK.
'On November 15, thousands of people gathered at Jammu airport to meet Pandit Nehru who refused to see them and flew straight into the Kashmir Valley'. (Gupta 2011).
On November 23, Prem Nath Dogra and Professor Balraj Madhok met with the brigade commander of the Indian army in Jammu, Brigadier Paranjpe, and requested him to send troops to Mirpur. Gupta writes, "brigadier Paranjpe told them that consultation with Sheikh Abdullah was mandatory in order to deploy Indian troops anywhere in Jammu Kashmir." (Gupta 2011).
On November 24, one day before the genocide was to commence, Gupta informs us "Pandit Dogra and Professor Madhok met Pandit Nehru at the Jammu airport and told him about the critical situation in Mirpur." At this point, Nehru lost his temper and "flew into a rage and yelled that they should talk to Sheikh Abdullah." (Gupta 2011).
As the helpless Hindu and Sikh families awaited the Indian troops, Mirpur fell on November 25, 1947.
The genocide of Hindus and Sikhs that took place in Mirpur was a direct result of the communal rage that had engulfed the northern parts of India as well as Bihar and Bengal. The actual Hindu and Sikh population of Mirpur was no more than 15,000. It had swelled to 25,000 as Hindu and Sikh populations from the Punjab had arrived in Mirpur for safety. Little did they know that the demon of communalism would consume them.
The month of October is a dark reminder of how Indian sub-continent fell victim to communal violence and Partition. The wounds of yesteryears become fresh again and remind us that those who perish in Mirpur in 1947 and were martyred only the 'fault' for believing in Sanatan dharma. Their sacrifice will not go in vain because we remember what they died for.