“At stroke of midnight hours when the whole world sleeps, India would awake in life and freedom."
With these fine lines, India breathed in its fresh air of freedom but as the fate would have it, India had to pay a high price for it. The implementation was no less hasty than the method of drawing the border. The Indian and Pakistani representatives got two hours to review copies, before the Radcliffe award was published.
On 26 October 1947, the ruler of the erstwhile princely state of J&K Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with Government of India. Despite the official accession, the situation on the ground was in the real state of flux. There was an invasion by Pakistan-sponsored tribal and Pakistani regulars in pathani suits from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The Indian armed forces prepared hard but still days away from getting troops on the ground. At the same time, the Pakistan-sponsored raiders had already intruded to Baramulla, they were mere 54 km away from Srinagar.
If Srinagar had fallen in to the hands of tribal raiders, many thinkers believe that the outcome of the 1947 war would have been quite different. Many factors prevented capture of Srinagar by the raiders. One of the reasons is believed to be the sacrifice of this 19 year-old dynamic boy from Baramulla, Maqbool Sherwani, who ensured that the Indian armed forces had enough time to thwart the throats of raiders.
There are a few popular versions of how he ensured that the raiders do not proceed to Srinagar. According to one version, Maqbool misguided the raiders by telling that, he would show them the route to Srinagar however he led them astray. This gave the Indian Army the cushion time to land at Srinagar airport on 27 October 1947.Other version depicts that on 22 October, when the Pakistan sponsored raiders stormed into Baramulla, Maqbool thought of a ruse to put them off track. He told them that the Indian Armed forces had already landed in Srinagar. This reportedly stalled their advance towards Srinagar. Eventually, the raiders were trapped by the Indian Army at town of Shalteng, a few kilometers outside Srinagar on 7 November and annihilated. Raiders, on realizing that Maqbool is misleading them brutally executed him.
According to report filed by a correspondent, who visited Baramulla on 9 November, the day after the Indian Army captured the town, “the most popular local leader of the National Conference, Meer Maqbool Sherwani, went through torture for his politics and finally bound to wooden bars and shot dead—14 bullet holes were found in his body.” Other reports spoke of about how the raiders had even posted a note on his forehead in Urdu stating, ‘He was a traitor, his punishment is death’ before nailing his body to a wooden plank in the town. Many Indian thinkers believe he's a hero who turned the tide absolutely of 1947 war. After the raiders were driven out from Baramulla, his body was buried with full military honours and rituals.
Mulk Raj Anand, the author wrote a novel in his honour called ‘Death of a Hero’.
If we look at the background of Maqbool, he use to work as a political worker in Baramulla in the party established by Sheikh Abdullah, Maqbool idolized Sheikh Abdullah and did the bidding in Baramulla for the party. Though many people didn’t agree with his political aspirations but what people agreed on was that he was “something of a hell raiser, a swashbuckling character who could easily impress the crowds”. In fact, “He didn't have skills to ride a motorcycle, he learnt in three days just to steer the raiders astray.
Similarly, there are stories of how he disrupted a public address of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who had arrived in Baramulla in July 1944. A reporter for Life magazine, who visited the town of Baramulla in December 1947, described Maqbool as an “a sort of Robin Hood character, from the stories of towns people told him” and portrayed janab as a staunch believer of spiritual tolerance who sought to frustrate the raiders with their advance towards Srinagar. In fact, according to some accounts, a few moments before the raiders executed him, Maqbool believed to have shouted “Victory for the unity of Sikh, Hindus and Muslims”. In a prayer service later, Gandhi recalled how Maqbool’s act “was a martyrdom of which anyone, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or the other, would be proud of”. However leaders acknowledged both Sherwani’s devotion to the nation and the courage with which he sought to impede the kabailis advance and approached his own death. Need exists to highlight the contribution of Maqbool Sherwani, a true nationalist at the national forum and inspire the youth of the country.