Right Word | The Forgotten Genocide in Jammu & Kashmir: When more than 18,000 Hindus and Sikhs perished in a single day

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In the backdrop of the release of the film The Kashmir Files, the issue of Kashmiri Hindus’ genocide around three decades ago has come to the fore again. But this wasn’t the first genocide of Kashmiri Hindus. We, as a country, have conveniently forgotten another Hindu genocide in Jammu and Kashmir which was no less horrific and tragical than what happened around three decades ago.

During 1947-48, the Pakistani army and the Muslim tribesmen had invaded Jammu and Kashmir. Thousands of Hindus and Sikhs were indiscriminately killed, raped, maimed and brutalised. According to various estimates, more than 50,000 Hindus and Sikhs lost their lives. The tales of brutalisation where victims were innocent Hindu and Sikh civilians are unparalleled in modern human history.

One of the biggest massacres during that period took place in Mirpur (which is now in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) which has a Hindu and Sikh population of around 40,000. There are some memoirs which throw revealing light on the atrocities committed there with shocking first person accounts.

Dharam Mitter, a resident of Mirpur during 1947-48, self-published a memoir in 2004 titled My Jammu and Kashmir: The Forgotten History where he gave details of what happened on 25 November 1947. In a single day, 13,000 Hindus and Sikhs were killed while 5,000 girls and women were taken away by the Muslim invaders — tribals (also known as ‘Kabaylis’) and the Pakistani army. Some estimates put these numbers at more than 22,000.

On this fateful day when the Kabaylis and Pakistani army entered the city of Mirpur they immediately started killing men and raping the women and girls of Hindus and Sikhs who were trying to get out of the city together in a caravan. Mitter recalled, “(They) grasped the young girls and started plundering the city. During that time, the Muslims, who had fled away, returned to Mirpur and kept on plundering the city till evening. They knew all about the houses which possessed a lot of wealth and gold. None of them had tried to chase the caravan for two hours. The caravan reached the mountains ahead. There were three ways in which the caravan was divided. Everyone kept on running wherever he found his way.

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The first part of the caravan moved on the front path which led to Jhangar. The second one moved towards Kasguma. The first caravan had reached the next hill but the other one behind it was besieged by the Kabaylis. The miscreants made the young girls stand on one side and started killing others. On the one hand there was Mohan Singh, son of Sardar Sarda Singh, who had a Tommy gun with him. He was going on killing the girls because they themselves had been making a request to him to do so. The Kabaylis were killing the young men as well as the old ones… The Kabaylis and the Pakistanis marched towards the caravan ahead, killing all the persons who were found there on that hill. More than 13,000 persons were killed…. and more than 5,000 young women and girls were carried by the Pakistanis with them. The caravan of Kasguma and Thathyal also met the same fate.”

Mitter recounted several incidents that happened in Mirpur itself before this caravan had moved out. Recalling one such incident in which his own family was involved, he wrote, “Shrimati Diwan Devi ji, who was my grand aunt and teacher in the Arya Samaj High School had nearly 100 girls with her. Instruction was given to all that rolling their scarves like a turban on the head and taking the name of God they should jump into the well... afterwards she herself jumped (into the well). The well was so deep that even the water was invisible. In this way hundreds of other women also saved their modesty (by sacrificing their lives).”

Bal K Gupta, another survivor of the Mirpur massacre, also self-published a memoir later titled, Forgotten Atrocities: Memoirs of a Survivor of the 1947 Partition of India. Gupta recalled, “As we traversed the bridges into the Jhelum, hundreds of captured Hindu women and young girls jumped and committed suicide to avoid abduction and rape by the Pakistanis. I could see dead bodies floating in the frigid waters of the canal. Some women still stood on the edge of the bridge with forlorn looks on their faces and others were standing near the banks of the canal. They threw their children first into the fast flowing waters and seemed impervious to the shrieks and yelling of their own infants. As the children floated down the stream their heads came up once or twice before the canal gobbled them up. The mothers looked on helplessly. The fear of abduction and torture by Muslims had wiped out all the colour and emotions from their faces. Then they jumped in the canal and it was all over in the blink of an eye. Meanwhile other children on the bridge saw what was coming. They ran to their mothers’ sides and clasped them around the knees with despair. The Pakistani soldiers tried hard not to let these women die. They cajoled, threatened and even pointed their guns at these women…(but) they all went to their death with pride and dignity rather than leading a life of rape and torture by Muslims.”

Professor Balraj Madhok, who later became president of Bharatiya Jana Sangh(BJS) and who was working on the ground to save Hindus and Sikhs of Jammu-Kashmir during this genocide, in 1947-48 said in his seminal work, Kashmir: The Storm Center of the World, “Hardly two thousand people out of about 25 thousand living at that time in the ill-fated town (of Mirpur) managed to reach Jhangar (in India) in safety. The rest were ruthlessly butchered. The number of women abducted from there ran into thousands. Most of them were paraded and then sold in the bazaars of Jhelum, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. The barbarities of the Pakistan troops and civilians on these hapless women who were kept for some time in Alibeg camp before their dispersal to different towns put to shame the worst orgies of rape and violence associated with the hordes of Ghengiz Khan and Nadir Shah. The loot obtained by the Pakistanis from these towns, especially from Mirpur, went into crores. The floor of every house in Mirpur was dug by raiders in search of hoarded treasures.”

Madhok aptly sums up how this colossal tragedy of Hindu genocide not only in Mirpur but in various parts of the state during 1947-48 have been forgotten, “A more painful aspect of this unmitigated tragedy of Jammu is that very little about it is known in India or the outside world... Not a word of sympathy about them was said in India or at the UNO. If the ruthless killings in Jammu area could be called genocide, it was a genocide of the Hindus and not of the Muslims. While most of the Muslims in the Hindu majority parts of Jammu province migrated to Pakistan, only a few thousands out of over a lakh of Hindus including refugees from adjoining districts of West Punjab could escape to safety from Mirpur-Poonch- Muzaffarabad region.”

It is unfortunate that while the international community is busy talking about Islamophobia, it has perpetually failed in its duty to recognise this and many similar Hindu genocides. We, as a society, have also forgotten them conveniently. Probably the truth is too inconvenient and challenges the textbook narrative of so-called ‘composite culture’ (commonly phrased as ‘Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb)’. It also challenges our conscience and shows us the mirror that how as a society we have failed those became the victims of Hindu genocides by forgetting what happened to them altogether. In fact, we haven’t even documented properly most of these pogroms.

As we celebrate the 75th year of Independence, the least we can do as a society is to face these truths, however, inconvenient they might be and tell the world how Hindus have suffered immensely facing genocides and pogroms in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere for the last 1,200 years. This would also help us to learn from the past to ensure that History doesn’t repeat itself.

The writer, an author and columnist, has written several books. Views expressed are personal.

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Right Word | The Forgotten Genocide in Jammu & Kashmir: When more than 18,000 Hindus and Sikhs perished in a single day
Right Word | The Forgotten Genocide in Jammu & Kashmir: When more than 18,000 Hindus and Sikhs perished in a single day
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