Backdrop and Hostilities

The Constitutional Position

On 15 August 1947 , the independent `dominions' of India and Pakistan were born and the rule of the British Crown over the Princely States in the sub-continent ended. The Government of India soon declared that it considered the States free only to join India or Pakistan and not to remain independent. But Mr. Jinnah, speaking for Pakistan, gave it as his opinion that they were fully empowered to remain independent of both if the rulers so wished.

The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir decided to postpone a decision on the problem of accession, and to have a Standstill Agreement with both India and Pakistan . The Maharaja in telegrams made an offer of a Standstill Agreement in identical terms to both India and Pakistan on 12 August 1947 . However, the State signed a Standstill Agreement only with Pakistan , and no agreement was executed with the Government of India prior to the State's accession to India on 26 October 1947 . The postal and telegraph facilities in the State were placed under the control of the Pakistan Government, which promised to continue the existing arrangements by which the State imported wheat, cloth, ammunition, kerosene oil and petrol from West Punjab .

Trouble in J&K

Very soon however, these amicable relations deteriorated. August saw a hideous wave of communal rioting in the whole of the Punjab . Thousands of Hindus and Sikhs were butchered in West Punjab and the North West Frontier Province and their women abducted; thousands of Muslims suffered the same fate in East Punjab . Millions of refugees poured out from both, traveling in huge columns. The State of Jammu and Kashmir at first remained a heaven for the victims for either side. The people of the State irrespective of religion, maintained their traditional harmony and stuck to the idea of communal brotherhood. The State in fact became a corridor for the passage of Muslim refugees westward and the Hindu and Sikh refugees eastward. But, these refugees did not fail to excite their co- religionists in the State by the stories of their sufferings, and even tried to wreak their vengeance within the State on the co-religionists of those who had wronged them.

Units of the State's army, commanded by Major - General Scott, tried their best to prevent the communal fracas and to punish those responsible for them. But when they took action against some Muslim trouble-makers in the Punch area, newspapers and leaders of the Muslim League in West Punjab declared that the Maharaja's Dogra troops were murdering and terrorising the innocent Muslims of the state. On 29 August, the Maharaja of Kashmir received a telegram from one Raja Yakub Khan on behalf of the people of Hazara, alleging attacks on Muslims in Punch and threatening : "We are ready to enter the State fully equipped to fight with your forces. You are requested to ease the situation soon, otherwise be ready to bear the consequences." About the beginning of September, raids began to take place from Pakistan into the border area of the State. On 03 September, a band of raiders, several hundred strong, attacked the village of Kotha, 27 km south-east of Jammu , and when chased by troops of State army, fled back into Pakistan . At the same time, another band of 500 raiders armed with service rifles of .303 calibre attacked some Hindu refugees and the State petrol reservoir at Chak Haria, 10 km south of Samba. On 4 September, General Scott wired to the State Government at Srinagar, "Reliable reports state that on the 2nd and 3rd September, 1947, a band of up to 400 armed Sattis- Muslim residents mainly in Kahuta Tehsil of Rawalpindi district were infiltrating into the State over the river Jhelum from Pakistan in the area of Owen, eleven miles (18 km) east of kahuta. Their purpose is looting and attacking minority communities in the State". The Prime Minister of the State sent a telegram the same day to the Chief Minister of West Punjab and Deputy Commissioner of Rawalpindi, informing them of these raids and requesting measures to prevent the infiltration of raiders. The Deputy Commissioner of Rawalpindi replied denying the facts. The raids continued, with Pak army patrols intruding into the State on 6 September and 13 September. On 17 September, a band of 400 armed raiders was met about 19 km south-east of Ranbirsinghpura and retreated into Pakistan after exchanging fire with the State's armed police. On 22 September, further raids were reported from a place 10 km south-east of Samba. In the area of Punch also, trouble continued, and the State forces were compelled to deal with it with a heavy hand. The cry then went up that the Maharaja was trying to preserve his despotism by ruthlessly putting down the movement of democratic freedom among his subjects.

Sheikh Abdullah, the leader of the National Conference, which was the biggest political party, was opposed to communalism, and his influence over the masses was undisputed. So, to help in curbing the wave of communal fury, Sheikh Abdullah was released from prison on 29 September 1947 . But instead of improving, the situation took a turn for the worse. On 4 October, an airplane was seen flying back and forth between Kohala and Palandri, obviously engaged in military reconnaissance of the area. The same day about 400 raiders armed with tommy guns and bombs surrounded Chirala. Feverish movement of uniformed men carried in mechanical transport was noticed across the Pakistan border. Concentrations of tribal warriors were reported from Abbotabad. The raiders were now giving battle to the small contingents of the State Force near Chirala and Bagh in Rawalkot area. On 10 October, more raids took place in the Jammu area and during night of 11 / 12 October armed raiders crossed the river Jhelum from Hazara and entered Punch area. The raiders were not only better armed now, but were frequently assisted by batches of men in Pakistan Army's uniform. Light machine guns and communication by wireless had begun to appear in the raider bands, while their probes over a wide arc of the frontier succeeded in splitting up the State Force into penny-packets strung out all along the border. The State's army was being gradually immobilised, and its capacity for coherent strategic action destroyed. The stage was being set for the open invasion of Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan.

The invasion of Kashmir was meticulously planned, carefully timed and executed. An effective economic blockade, orchestrated communal disharmony and preliminary operations set the stage for the launch of 'Operation Gulmarg'. Pakistani raiders attacked small garrisons of the state forces in the beginning of October. The attacks over a wide area succeeded in splitting the state forces into penny packets. The state army was being gradually immobilized and its capacity for a coherent strategic action destroyed. The situation deteriorated rapidly. The stage was thus set for the entry of raiders into the valley, and execution of the final phase of the plan, i.e. capture of Srinagar . This phase commenced in the last week of October, which left the Maharaja with no choice other than to accede with India to get the aid of India.

J&K State Force

The military set up in J&K comprised of a Army HQ at Srinagar and four brigades. Brigadier Rajendra Singh, Chief of Staff of the J&K State Force, headed the Army HQ. The four brigades were the Jammu Brigade, the Kashmir Brigade, the Mirpur Brigade and the Punch Brigade. These four brigades, between them had only eight infantry battalions. The State Force had no artillery or armour. This small force was charged with the responsibility of looking after the 500 kilometer long mountainous border from Gilgit to Suchetgarh. Troops were stretched all along this border in occupying posts in varying strengths.