Kashmir Black Day – The ordeal of Indian illegal occupation in Kashmir

by: Ambassador Babar Amin (R):
The 27th of October is marked as the Black Day every year by Kashmiris and Pakistanis around the world to condemn the forcible occupation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir by Indian Armed Forces and its diabolical accession to India by a defunct Maharaja on this day in 1947.
While writing about Kashmir makes one drained by the enormity of historic tragedy, injustice, misery, grief, denial of basic human rights, deceit, betrayal, and treachery meted upon its people over the centuries.
The overwhelmingly Muslim majority Kashmir region had come under Sikh rule in 1819. After losing to the British East India Company in the First Anglo – Sikh War in 1846, the Sikh Darbar Lahore was forced, among other things, to cede Kashmir as a war indemnity. Rewarding the Dogra usurper of Jammu, Gulab Singh, who had helped the British against the Sikh Darbar, the Company handed over the territory of Kashmir to him for an amount of Nanak Shahi Rupees 7.5 million. This led to the establishment of his Dogra reign in a vast territory eastward of river Indus and westward of river Ravi, under the British suzerainty in 1846.
Maharaja Gulab Singh and his successors ruled Kashmir in a tyrannical and repressive manner, denying the people of all rights and liberties. The people of Jammu and Kashmir never accepted this domineering Dogra rule, and three major uprisings by the people, against this oppressive regime, occurred in 1865, 1924 and 1931, which were ruthlessly crushed.
In the continuing heartbreaking tragedy, on 27 October 1947, after the departure of the British, the Indian Armed Forces forcibly occupied Jammu and Kashmir and coerced the Maharaja Hari Singh to illegally sign ‘Instruments of Accession’, despite his having a standstill Agreement with Pakistan reached on 15 August 1947.
The so-called accession was also in violation of the 1947 Indian Independence Act, which, mandated that rulers of Princely States should decide the question of accession in accordance with the wishes of their people. Besides, the Maharaja had lost the authority to sign the accession owing to the popular uprising against him.
India has long been falsely claiming that Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession on 26th October 1947. In fact, the Indian Armed Forces had invaded the State of Jammu and Kashmir on 26th October and called Maharaja to Jammu from Srinagar to discuss the situation with the intruding occupation forces. Consequently, the Maharaja flew to Jammu from Srinagar on 27th October, as he could not take the flight on 26 October due to bad weather.
Upon reaching Srinagar Maharaja was forced to sign the Instrument of Accession and the backdate was put on the document to justify the false narrative that Maharaja had signed the accession on 26th October and simultaneously invited India to bring in its Armed Forces to quell the so-called Pashtun ‘tribal invasion’ in the State from the Northwest of Pakistan.
The emphasis on the ‘tribal invasion’ is yet another part of the false narrative by India, trying to convey the impression that the rebellion against the Maharaja in the State of Jammu and Kashmir was sponsored by Pakistan and instigated by the incursion of the Tribal Pashtuns. The reality was that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had already risen in revolt against the cruel Maharaja rule as a backlash of his discriminatory and exterminatory policies against the Muslims of the state.
The well-known Australian historian and politico-strategic analyst, Christopher Snedden, in his book ‘The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir’ has established through interviews with the primary sources and empirical study of historic data that the disgruntled Muslims in the Poonch district of Jammu had started a civil disobedience, including the ‘No-tax’ and ‘no rent’ campaign against the Maharaja rule much earlier than the tribal incursion.
The Maharaja had resorted to brutal violence including indiscriminate killings, disarming the Muslims, and distributing the arms and ammunition collected from them to non-Muslims under the pretext of the latter’s self-defense.
Maharaja’s discriminatory and communal actions targeting Muslims resulted in a backlash. The Muslim leaders of Poonch and Bagh sent two telegrams to the first Governor General of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, on 29th August drawing his attention to anti-Muslims brutalities of Maharaja’s forces, including the killing of 500 people on a single day of 24th August 1947.
In the meanwhile, a pro-Pakistan and anti-Maharaja indigenous uprising by Muslims of Poonch in Western Jammu had liberated large parts of this region from Maharaja’s control and established a Provisional Azad or Free Kashmir Government.
Earlier, a major massacre of Muslims was started in Jammu by the Maharaja’s troops, supported by RSS and Sikh militants coming from outside the Jammu and Kashmir state. The massacre received momentum after the announcement of the independence and partition plan of 3rd June 1947. The Maharaja’s objective was to push the Muslims to the Pakistani side of Punjab reducing their 61 percent majority in Jammu region to minority.
According to a report of ‘The Times’ London, published on 10 August 1948 “2,37,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated” in Jammu during the massacre, which was being monitored and controlled by the Maharaja himself. Another article by Alexander Horase published on 16 January 1948 in ‘The Spectator’, a reputed British journal since 1828, put the number of those killed at 200,000.
Snedden’s research has established that the civil disobedience in Poonch, the Jammu massacre aided by the out of state RSS and Sikh militants, the rebellion of Muslims against the Maharaja and formation of the Provisional Azad Kashmir Government in the large areas liberated by Muslim World War II veterans from Jammu & Kashmir had already taken place before the Pashtun invasion.
Similarly, Richard Symonds, who authored the book ‘The Making of Pakistan’, wrote that a substantial number of men joined the anti-Maharaja alliance after his Forces started burning whole villages from where even a single family was involved in the revolt against him.
According to Snedden, it was unlikely that Pakistanis were creating troubles for the Maharaja in Jammu and Kashmir as they were themselves overwhelmed by physical, administrative, and emotional ramifications of the independence and partition. He mentioned the tribal lineage of ‘Sudhans’ from Poonch who were related to the ‘Sadozai Pathans’, to be an important contributing factor in the Pashtuns coming to the rescue of Kashmiri Muslims in the wake of their massacre by the Maharaja.
This cannot, however, be regarded as a starting point of the Kashmiris rebellion. The Civil and Military Gazette in its editorial of 28 October 1947, also wrote that it is an established fact that killing and burnings in Poonch started long before the invasion of Kashmir by tribesmen from Northwest.
Knowing the illegality of India’s occupation, its Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru ostensibly pledged to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and to Pakistan as well as in the Indian Parliament and at the United Nations Security Council that the fate of the State would be decided by its people themselves. He also committed to the holding of a plebiscite for the Kashmiris to decide accession to India or Pakistan.
Writing to Pakistani Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan on 30th October 1947, the Indian Prime Minister had stated that “it is our assurance that the decision about the future of the State would be left to the people of the State, adding that this is not merely our pledge to your Government (Pakistan) but also to the people of Kashmir and to the world. (Indian White Paper, page 51)
Similarly, in his telegrams to the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and the United Kingdom, Mr. Nehru pledged that “the people of Kashmir would decide the question of accession, adding it was for them to accede to either dominion: India or Pakistan. (27th October and 31st October 1947)
In his statement to the Indian Constituent Assembly on 5th March 1948, Mr. Nehru stated that India would abide by the will of the people of Kashmir as declared in a plebiscite or referendum.  There are several such statements, pledges and commitments made by Mr. Nehru, however, unfortunately earnest effort remained lacking to fulfill them. Even, the then Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten had remarked that the final settlement of “the question of the accession of the State (J&K) should be settled by a reference to the people of Kashmir”.
The issue of Jammu and Kashmir is the longest standing issue on the agenda of the United Nations. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has also pledged through its many resolutions that “the final disposition in Jammu and Kashmir will be decided in accordance with the will of people through democratic, free and impartial plebiscite”. These resolutions bar both India and Pakistan from taking any unilateral action to alter situation until the plebiscite is held for the purpose. Similarly, the bilateral agreements between the two countries also forbid the unilateral alteration of the situation pending final settlement of problems between them.
The illegitimate actions on 5 August 2019 that changed the status of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) along with the demographic changes are, therefore, in violation of the UNSC Resolutions, bilateral agreements and international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention. The enforced military siege has unleashed another dark and draconian era in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. Despite the continued ordeal, the resolve of Kashmiris to decide their own destiny remains undeterred.
Ironically, a significant copycat pattern is apparent in India’s handling of Kashmir and the Israeli dealing with the Palestine issue. Both the Kashmiris and Palestinians are being denied their fundamental right to self-determination under foreign occupation, while suffering settler colonialism and demographic apartheid. The oppressive tactics of both occupation forces are similar, such as the denial of human rights, imposing collective punishments, demolition of shelters, houses, and businesses of the people under occupation.
The illegality of Indian occupation of Jammu & Kashmir, its human rights abuses and the danger posed by its belligerence to the regional and global peace is now increasingly coming to the world’s attention. International leaders, peace and security organizations, UN and non-governmental human rights bodies have been calling for a negotiated pacific settlement of the issue of Kashmir. There is an increasing realization that a just settlement of Kashmir is mandatory for lasting peace in South Asia.
The author remained High Commissioner for Pakistan to Australia, Ambassador to Norway and Deputy High Commissioner to India.