The Untold Story of Jammu Massacre

Date:

Sankara Narayanan

Both the Congress and the RSS have one common trait: Indifference towards the Indian Muslims.

The Kashmir Files

In Jan 19, 1990, the Azaadi uprising in the Kashmir Valley led to the ethnic cleansing of an estimated 1,00,000 Kashmir Pandits. For some, this day heralded the rejection of Indian rule by protesting Kashmiris, followed by the bloody suppression of Kashmiri human rights by Indian forces (portrayed in the film ‘Haider’). For the Pandits, it heralded a reign of Muslim terror.

Official figures say 219 Pandits were killed in the valley. But the threat of violence was so great, and the chances of curbing it so remote, that Pandits fled. Most are still rotting in refugee camps in Jammu.

In 2015, an ex-general — also a Pandit — told journalist Swaminathan Aiyar that the Indian media had underplayed the tragedy of his tribe. Aiyar agreed, but added that the media has also ignored the earlier mass expulsion of Muslims from Jammu. This surprised the ex-general: I’ve never heard of that, he declared.

He is not alone. Although our media pride themselves on free and bold speech, they maintain a conspiracy of silence on some issues relating to the supposed “national interest.” This includes the mass killing and expulsion of lakhs of Muslims from Jammu in 1947.

The Jammu Files

Today, Jammu is a Hindu-majority area. But in 1947, it had a Muslim majority. The communal riots of 1947 fell most heavily on Jammu’s Muslims; lakhs fled into what became Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. That turned Jammu’s Muslim majority into a Hindu majority. In sheer scale, this far exceeded the ethnic cleansing of Pandits five decades later.

What was the death toll in the killing fields of Jammu? There are no official figures, so one has to go by the reports in the British press of that period. Horace Alexander’s article on Jan 16, 1948 in The Spectator put the number killed at 2,00,000.

According to a report published in The Times, London on Aug 10, 1948: “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 Hindus and Sikhs. This happened in October 1947, five days before the Pathan invasion and nine days before the Maharaja’s accession to india.” Reportedly, as a result of the massacre/migration, Muslims who were a majority (61 per cent) in the Jammu region became a minority.

Official records have tried their utmost to suppress the details of a Muslim massacre.

The lid on these massacres was lifted by Ved Bhasin and a few journalists of that time. But like the collective silence over the pogrom in Hyderabad, the holocaust in Jammu has been a story hidden from public view by the machinations of the very people who covertly allowed the massacres to take place. These included many in the national leadership of the Congress party at the time. The events of Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir reveal the emergence in New Delhi of an establishment which was indifferent to Indian Muslims.

The testimony of journalist Ved Bhasin quoting from his paper presented at the Jammu University in 2003: Communal tension was building up in Jammu soon after the announcement of the Mountbatten plan with the Hindu Sabha, RSS and the Muslim Conference trying to incite communal passions. Tension increased with a large number of Hindus and Sikhs migrating to the State from Punjab and NWFP and even from areas now under Pakistan’s control.

The Maharaja’s administration had not only asked all Muslims to surrender their arms but also demobilised a large number of Muslim soldiers in the Dogra army and the Muslim police officers, whose loyalty it suspected. The Maharaja’s visit to Bhimber was followed by large-scale killings.

Bhasin reports the large-scale killing of Muslims in Udhampur district, particularly in Udhampur proper, Chenani, Ramnagar and Reasi areas. Even in Bhaderwah (about 150 kilometres from Udhampur), a number of Muslims were victims of communal marauders. According to Bhasin, the RSS played a key role in these killings, aided by armed Sikh refugees “who even paraded the Jammu streets with their naked swords”.

Some of those who led the riots in Udhampur and Bhaderwah later joined the National Conference and some even served as ministers. There were reports of Muslims massacred in Chhamb, Deva Batala, Manawsar and other parts of Akhnoor, with several of them fleeing to the other side or moving to Jammu. In Kathua district too there was the large-scale killing of Muslims and reports of women being raped and abducted.

As for the attitude of the state, Bhasin alleges that instead of preventing these communal killings and fostering an atmosphere of peace, “the Maharaja’s administration helped and even armed the communal marauders”. He goes on to say that many Muslims living outside Muslim-dominated areas were brutally killed by the rioters who moved freely in vehicles with arms and ammunition even when the city was officially under curfew. “The curfew it appeared was meant only to check the movement of Muslims,” he says.

Terrible carnage took place later when the Muslims in Talab Khatikan area were asked to surrender.

They were shifted to the police lines at Jogi gate, where now Delhi Public School is situated. Instead of providing them security, the administration encouraged them to go to Pakistan for safety. The first batch of several thousands of these Muslims were loaded in about sixty lorries to take them to Sialkot. Unaware of what is going to happen to them these families boarded the vehicles. They were escorted by troops. But when they reached near Chattha on Jammu-Sialkot road, in the outskirts of the city, a large number of armed RSS men and Sikh refugees were positioned there.

They were pulled out of the vehicles and killed mercilessly with the soldiers either joining [in] or looking [on] as idle spectators. The news about the massacre was kept a closely guarded secret. Next day another batch of these Muslim families were similarly boarded in the vehicles and met the same fate. Those who somehow managed to escape the wrath of killers reached Sialkot to narrate their tale of woe.

The state administration denied it had any role in the massacres. It even feigned ignorance of any plans to change the demography of the Jammu region. But Bhasin differs:

Though polite, an official warned me of dire consequences…he first warned me by saying that “I could have put you behind bars for your nefarious activities. But since you also happen to be a Khatri like me and also related to me, I am simply giving you advice. It is not the time to form peace committees and work for peace but to defend Hindus and Sikhs from the Muslim communalists who are planning to kill them and destabilise the situation. We have already formed a Hindu Sikh Defence Committee. You and your colleagues better support it.”

Then he added, “We are imparting armed training to Hindu and Sikh boys in Rehari area. You and your colleagues should better join such training.” When I sent a colleague to the training camp the next day he found that some RSS youths and others were being given training in the use of .303 rifles by soldiers.

Another incident that I recall is about Mr Mehr Chand Mahajan (the then prime minister) who told a delegation of Hindus who met him in the palace when he arrived in Jammu that now when the power is being transferred to the people they should demand parity. [One] of them associated with National Conference asked how can they demand parity when there is so much difference in population ratio. Pointing to the Ramnagarrakh below, where some bodies of Muslims were still lying he said “the population ratio too can change”.

Mahatma Gandhi did comment on the situation in Jammu on 25 December 1947 and his remarks have found mention in volume 90 of his Collected Works: “The Hindus and Sikhs of Jammu and those who had gone there from outside killed Muslims. The Maharaja of Kashmir is responsible for what is happening there…Muslim women have been dishonoured.”

Will an Agnihotri make a film ‘The Jammu Files’ to let the Hindu majority know how insignificant was the film ‘The Kashmir Files’?

Ref: 1. ‘A tale of two ethnic cleansings in Kashmir’ – By Swaminathan Aiyar / Times of India/ January 18, 2015.
2. ‘The killing fields of Jammu – How Muslims become a minority in the region’ by Saeed Naqvi, Scroll.in / 10-07-2016.

Sankara Narayanan is a political commentator

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