How Jawaharlal Nehru’s blunder cost India almost thirty-five percent of Kashmir

Maharaja Hari Singh, last ruler of J&K, had decided to stay neutral & not accede to either India or Pakistan after the partition.

This is another tale of betrayal & foolishness of Jawaharlal Nehru amongst the many others credited to his name. The Indus Water Treaty, deserting Indian soldiers during the Indo-China war, gifting the UNSC seat to China…there must be more but unfortunately, I can’t recall all.

Here’s recollecting the story of the 1947 Indo-Pak war. To realize the gravity of the idiocy of Nehru’s move, one needs to go back & know about the sheer brilliance &valour of our soldiers which was outdone by Nehru.

Division of Military!!!

When India gained independence, the British Indian Army had to be divided between India & Pakistan. Before the partition, the British Indian Army had 11,800 officers & 5,00,000 enlisted personnel. The division was done in the following manner –

Prioritizing the territorial origin of personnel over geographic dimension, 64% of the total strength was allocated to India whereas Pakistan got the remaining 36% of the armed forces. Regiment division – India: Artillery 40, armoured 40, squadron 7, infantry 21. Pakistan: Artillery 8, armoured 6, squadron 3, infantry 8.

At partition, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck was appointed as the Supreme Commander of both India & Pakistan to administer the issue of military division with a duty to remain neutral. Also, General Rob Lockhart was selected to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army with General Frank Messervy as his Pakistani counterpart.

Lead up to the War!!!

Maharaja Hari Singh, last ruler of J&K, had decided to stay neutral & not accede to either India or Pakistan after the partition.

‘Operation Gulmarg’ was planned by Major General Akbar Khan aka Jebel Tariq. The plot was hatched in the Northern Command Headquarters in Rawalpindi, the building which housed the Pakistan Army Headquarters. General Messervy, C-in-C of Pakistani Army, deliberately failed to notify Supreme Commander Auchinleck of the operation.

Pakistan avoided direct involvement in attacking J & K, & hence deployed tribesmen from the North-West Frontier Province & trained them to make advancement into the Valley. As per plan, the Pakistani government imposed sanctions on vital supplies like food, cotton, petrol, salt etc. to J&K, including communication lines, thus crippling the state to their benefit.

Add to this the fact that all the three major roads connecting J&K were provided to Pakistan as per the division whereas India had to satisfy itself with a mind-numbing route from Punjab’s Madhopur to Jammu via Kathua. This route was cut at many places by rivers without bridges &other hindrances. The mobility of Indian soldiers was a huge concern due to this reason.

J&K’s Accession to India!!!

The Mujahideen that had been trained by Major General Akbar Khan invaded J&K. The State Forces under Brigadier Rajinder Singh put up a valiant display in Uri, but as the invaders were much more in number with higher amount of weaponry, they managed to cross the Jhelum river.

Fearing a defeat, Maharaja Hari Singh left Srinagar & sent a communiqué to Indian government asking for State’s accession. Next day, on October 26, J&K officially became a state of India with the ratification of Instrument of Accession. The same day, the Indian Military was given a go to launch its operation to defend the newly formed state of India.

The First Maha Vir Chakra!!!

The Indian Army began landing in Srinagar, & felt the immediate need to defend the airfield as it was the only option that would support the prompt arrival of Armed Forces from the Safdarjung airport in Delhi.

Lt. Col Ranjit Rai of 1 Sikh, whose battalion was the first to arrive, was briefed in Srinagar by the State Forces & he kicked things off by deploying a part of his Command to protect the airfield before moving ahead to Baramula with the C Company of his battalion. Upon reaching Baramula, 34 miles away from Srinagar, he found himself trapped in a paddy field with enemy bullets raining death from vantage positions. Unable to retreat, he charged into battle & fought till the last drop of his blood before immortalizing himself as the first recipient of Mahavir Chakra (posthumous).

Battle of Shalateng!!!

The invaders were making headway in the Valley. They’d even formed the Azad Kashmir Government in captured areas & had declared Muzaffarabad as its capital.

Brigadier (later Lt. Gen.) L.P. ‘Bogey’ Sen, commander of the 161 Infantry Brigade, charged particularly notable fighting units of Indian Army to fend off the enemy, which came to be famously known as the Battle of Shalateng, & is considered one of the most crucial battles in defending J&K.

Reinforcement for the 161 Infantry Brigade was expected to arrive by the evening of November 7, & November 10 was decided as the day when they will make a move on enemy troops. But the enemy charged battle in the morning of November 7 outnumbering Indian soldiers by five to one.

Prior to the battle plan 1 Sikh was deployed at Patan, 17 miles from Srinagar. They were involved in miniature encounters with the enemy on the route connecting Baramula to Srinagar, but these hit-and-run raids were ineffective in dealing a big jolt.

They were pulled back to Srinagar. Though disastrous, this decision was made by Brigadier L.P. Sen to give enemy a crippling knock who would surely advance towards Srinagar after finding an open road. With remarkable brilliance, he planned to encircle the invaders & destroy them. He then deployed 1 Sikh & 1 Kumaon in Rifle Range area near Srinagar. Furthermore, 4 Kumaon was placed in reserve to provide assistance if needed.

Lieutenant Noel David of 7 Cavalry, who was on a reconnaissance to Ganderbal-Bandipura with two armoured cars, was commanded to attack the enemy from rear upon reaching Shalateng village. This required crossing bridges at Jhelum River some of which were too weak to bear the load of an armoured car.

The main hurdle laying in Lt. David’s path was a fragile wooden bridge between Krahom & Sumbal, crossing which was an invitation to death. With railings leaning slightly inwards on an already narrow bridge, his advancement was out of the question, though he had to do it at any cost to protect Srinagar from falling into the hands of invaders.

The life-threatening feat was achieved by knocking down railings & then carefully driving the armoured cars with only two inches of space left on either side of the vehicle. After crossing the bridge, Lt. David radioed his position while adding that he’d never like to try doing it again.

Meanwhile, 1 Kumaon was ordered to move surreptitiously & entangle the moving invaders from the right side.

After arriving on Sumbal-Shadipur road which went all the way to Shalateng, Lt. David joined the enemy pretending to be a fellow comrade. The invaders thought that Lt. David’s team was a part of reinforcements from the Pakistan Army, &euphorically started air-firing to celebrate the arrival of armoured cars without knowing the truth.

The code word for attack ‘go’ was sent to all fighting units by Brigadier Sen. Indian troops launched the daring attack & the battle was won in mere 20 minutes!The invaders had no clue what hit them.

Highly panicky, the invaders rolled backwards to Srinagar-Baramula route in a disorganized manner only to be strafed by the Indian Air Force. In this awe-inspiring showdown of battle tactics & daredevilry, 618 invaders were sent to hell among which 472 were downed in frontal combat whereas 146 were killed by aircrafts while fleeing back.

Indian Army’s Heroics!!!

From late October 1947 to early 1949, the armed forces relentlessly fought against the invading forces to liberate Kashmir.

There was no dearth of incidents where Indian soldiers displayed their indomitable spirit. Lt. Col. Pritam Singh of 1 Kumaon, defended Poonch for nearly one year with limited number of troops in a 360-degree fire-field; Major Prithi Chand, picked 40 men to protect Leh by scaling the 16,427 feet high Zoji La pass covered by upto 30 feet of snow in the bone-chilling winter; despite being heavily outnumbered, Lt. Col. Sher Jung Thapa& his few men of the 6 J & K Infantry resisted until their last breath.

Low ammunition, unending combats, hellish conditions – nothing stopped the Indian forces from gaining victories in the crucial battles of Rajouri, Naushera&Jhangar. This only goes to show that neither numerical advantage with the opponents nor technological superiority deters Indian soldiers from thrashing opponents when they lay greedy eyes on Indian soil.

Nehru’s Betrayal!!!

Indian soldiers were battling hard to push back the invaders were attaining considerable success, & were finally getting acclimatized to the conditions against all sorts of overwhelming odds. They were recovering land & were about to seize further victories in regaining lost lands. And then Jawaharlal Nehru intervened.

He called in the United Nations to resolve the conflict. He refused the Army’s plea to extend their operation for two days in order to kick out all invaders from Kashmir!

United Nations, being primarily dominated by Americans & Britons, responded diplomatically to the appeal for war’s termination & eventually on January 1, 1949, declared a ceasefire line with nearly 35% of Kashmir’s land going under the control of Pakistan.

It is of no doubt that entire Kashmir would have been ours (& rightly so) if not for Jawaharlal Nehru. It isn’t an abomination when it’s said that the Kashmir problem is a result of Nehru’s mindless actions!

Vinayak Jain