Part 1 : Liberation of Tithwal of Saga of Victory
The stories of the Razakar brutality of 1947-48 along the western borders of Jammu and Kashmir are spine chilling. One such event in the timeline of their brutality is recorded at Tithwal Tehsil of erstwhile Muzaffarabad district of Jammu and Kashmir which was a key business centre for trade across the Kishanganga River.
To start with, the Razakars were hired by the Pakistan Army in the beginning of war with the aim to capture Jammu and Kashmir in the ‘Combatant Outsourced’ Model. It’s ironic that Pak Army continues to follow the same model even today, in spite of it having failed and led to its rout in all the four wars waged against India in addition to bifurcation of the country.
In October, 1947 having spread their rape and plunder right upto Baramulla and Pattan in the early days of war, the Razakars led by Pakistan Army Regulars were pushed back till Uri by December. Come the following summers, they planned the same onslaught towards Kupwara by infiltrating through the floor of Neelam Valley and further across Shamshabari Ridges. But, the occasion was destined to be different wherein the Razakars led by Pakistan masters were to be thrown across Kishanganga by the reconstituted ‘Zulu’ Brigade commanded by Brig Harbaksh Singh.
On 23 May 1948, the incoming Razakars were intercepted by the Brigade on the banks of Kishanganga River and forced to retreat, avoiding a major massacre of Kashmiri Awam as planned by the Pak Army.
But what led then newly formed state, Pakistan to launch such aggression on State of Jammu & Kashmir ? The Jihad Movement is unjustified because Pakistan irregulars slaughtered Kashmiris of all religion - Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, not sparing British Nuns! The answers are cleverly camouflaged by adversary to manoeuvre Kashmiri youth and the world into fabricated stories and manipulations for political gains.
A King and his idea of Sovereignty
The Indian Independence Act 1947, which was responsible for carving the British Indian Empire into India and Pakistan, also stipulated the exemption of total 565 official princely states from the confinement of the British Crown. These states were given two options – to either enjoy an independent status or to accede to any of the newly formed countries by ratifying the Instrument of Accession.
A member of the league of Dogras, Maharaja Hari Singh was enjoying the kingship of Jammu and Kashmir when the event of hazardous partition took place. While India and Pakistan were busy in building things from scratch, Maharaja Hari Singh took a neutral stand and decided to stay independent while dreaming to turn his picturesque state into another Switzerland.
Meanwhile on Pakistani soil
Though General Messervy was snappy in keeping everything crystal clear with the Supreme Commander sitting in Delhi, he deliberately failed to notify the plot of ‘Operation Gulmarg’ leading up to the attack on Jammu and Kashmir.
Contrived by one of his subordinates 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.
Taking preventative measures against any attempt of hostile takeover in future, Pakistan entered into a Standstill Agreement with Jammu and Kashmir – a fraudulent indication of its sensibility in managing the relationship with neighbors.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who once ranted that “Kashmir is a blank cheque in my pocket”, was cocksure that Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir, predominating the entire population with 77.11% can’t accept a Hindu king in their state. Little did he realize that his target area was also a matter of concern to Sheikh Abdullah, a Kashmiri of indomitable spirit who never gave a damn about people like Jinnah and their nonsensical ideologies.
In the name of Jihad
With this act of brutal massacre in the fighting unit of 4 JAK Infantry, which opened all the gates for enemy’s militia to enter into Jammu and Kashmir, the predatory tribesmen wreaked havoc by looting, raping and pillaging their way through the town of Muzaffarabad.
The West Pakistan-Kashmir border areas of Muzaffarabad and Domel, despite having no security threat from the enemies, was guarded by the 4 JAK Infantry, one of the trusted battalions of the Jammu and Kashmir State Forces which comprised 50% Dogras and 50% Poonchie Muslims.
The Mujahideens trained under the adequate supervision of Major General Akbar Khan had by the time initiated low-intensity engagements near bordering outposts other than brainwashing Kashmiris in critical areas.
Concerned by the latest development, intelligence sources in the state advised Lt Col Narain Singh, then Commanding Officer of the unit, to pull Poonchie Muslims back from the border areas and have them replaced by the Dogras. But Lt Col Singh who had a gripping trust on the commitment and potential of his Muslim comrades, vouched for them and downrightly rejected the valuable intelligence reports.
His leniency for brainwashed Poonchie Muslims was proven wrong when in the wee hours of October 22, 1947, Muslim soldiers mounted up sharply and hijacked the armory before assassinating their sleeping Dogra brothers-in-arms along with Lt Col Narain Singh. With this act of brutal massacre in the fighting unit of 4 JAK Infantry, which opened all the gates for enemy’s militia to enter into Jammu and Kashmir, the predatory tribesmen wreaked havoc by looting, raping and pillaging their way through the town of Muzaffarabad.
Jammu and Kashmir Joins India
Maharaja Hari Singh, fearing a certain defeat, left Srinagar in despondency on October 25th and sent a communiqué to Indian government asking for State’s accession.
While the barrack was gaining corpses, some of the Dogra soldiers managed to escape the hellfire and hurriedly telephoned the Headquarters at Srinagar. To subdue the advancement of tribal forces towards Srinagar, Brigadier Rajinder Singh, then Chief of Staff of the State Forces, manned up nearly 200 soldiers to form a cohesive fighting force and rushed down the route leading in the direction of the enemy with whatever weapons and ammunition he could accumulate.
Provided with a friendly road ahead, enemies could have reached Srinagar from Muzaffarabad in a couple of hours but true to their barbaric nature, they relished in raping Kashmiri women and looking to take booty back home rather than focusing on an onward motion. The undisciplined enemy gave plenty of time to Brigadier Rajinder Singh and his boys to settle themselves in Uri, a strategically important place which was only 62 miles away from Srinagar.
The valiant officer and his team demolished a bridge at Jhelum River to cut the advance of invaders’ motor transport. Had he not exploded the bridge and compelled the enemy to stay on the other side for a reasonably long time, the story of Jammu and Kashmir would have been different today. The enemy which was far superior in numbers and had a comparatively high amount of weaponry finally managed to cross the river and started pouring bullets from well-fortified positions.
Meanwhile, Maharaja Hari Singh, fearing a certain defeat, left Srinagar in despondency on October 25th and sent a communiqué to Indian government asking for State’s accession. Next day, on October 26, Jammu and Kashmir officially became a state of India with the ratification of Instrument of Accession. The same day, Indian Military was given a go to launch its operation to defend the newly formed state of India.
Back in Kashmir, Brigadier Rajinder Singh continued fighting with hardcore tenacity and attained martyrdom on October 27 with enemy’s bullets raining seemingly all over in the ultra-intense battlefield.
Indian Army marches in to salvage the Kashmir Valley
When Indian Army began landing in Srinagar it immediately felt that other than moving inland every effort should be made 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 and he immediately 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 Baramulla, 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 and fought till the last drop of his blood before immortalizing himself as the recipient of Maha Vir Chakra (posthumous).
Over the next few days, it was a do or die situation for the Indian Army to thwart invaders who were making headway in the Valley after forming the Azad Kashmir Government in captured areas and declaring Muzaffarabad as its capital.
In the initial days of invasion when tribesmen were relentlessly hammering the peace of Valley, 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. His sheer intelligence and bravery despite being heavily outnumbered could be spotted in the Battle of Shalateng. Considered as one of the most critical battles ever fought to defend Kashmir, Shalateng wouldn’t have been won had Brigadier Sen not inspired courage in his boys to turn into face-crushing daredevils.
A Sneak Peek into Tithwal War Zone of 1947-48
Tithwal, Jammu and Kashmir,
Operations in 1947-48,
The 1st Sikh (4 Mechanised Infantry Regiment), Indian Army
"The fire was so devastating that nearly all bunkers in the platoon area were damaged. In this action 1 SIKH played a very important role in beating back the enemy onslaught. Lance Naik Karam Singh was commanding a forward outpost when the enemy launched the attack. His post was attacked by the enemy in vastly superior strength. The outpost was attacked eight times and the Sikhs repulsed the enemy every time. When ammunition ran short, Lance Naik Karam Singh joined the main company position, knowing fully well that due to the heavy enemy shelling no help would be forthcoming.
Ringed by enemy fire, it was almost impossible for them to break out. Ignoring all dangers, he crawled from place to place encouraging his men to keep up the fight. Often he beat back the enemy with grenades. Twice wounded, he refused evacuation and continued to hold on to the first-line trenches. The fifth enemy attack was very intense. Two enemy soldiers came so close to his position that he could not engage them without hitting his men. Lance Naik Karam Singh, jumped out of his trench and bayoneted the two intruders to death. This bold action so demoralised the enemy that they broke off the attack. Three more enemy attacks which followed were also repulsed by Lance Naik Karam Singh and his men. Lance Naik Karam Singh was an inspiration to his comrades and a threat to the enemy. He was honoured with the highest wartime gallantry medal, Param Vir Chakra,for his outstanding role in the battle of Tithwal"
Maj Gen KS Thimaya with the 1st Sikh Regiment during 1947-48 Indo-Pak war
Continue to watch this space as we unfold the battle with interesting anecdotes in times to come. The Part 2 of the series of Tithwal Diaries unfolds next.
Tithwal Diaries 1947-48 : Part 2