With independence came the tragedy of partition. Many found themselves on the wrong side of the border. Even more unfortunate were those whose fate was still not decided. Among those hapless people who had to go through uncertainty of nationality and tragedy of choice between India and Pakistan were the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
At the time of independence J&K was an independent princely state which was given a choice, as was given to every princely state, between acceding to the dominion of India or Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh the then ruler of J&K decided to join India and signed the Instrument of Accession on 26th October 1947. At that time situations like civil war and cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs in majority pockets of the Jammu and Kashmir adjacent to India and Pakistan as was seen in Punjab after the announcement of partition. But the situation was deteriorating in western districts of his kingdom which are today’s Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir. All this while Pakistan under the leadership of Jinnah was preparing for invasion of the kingdom if Maharaja did not accede to Pakistan. When Jinnah saw his persuasion and allurement were not working to pressurise Maharaja to his favour he started preparing other plans. Jinnah started working on plans for armed invasion of the kingdom also known as operation Gulmarg. First, he started with economic blockade. As most of the essential supplies and communication lines of the kingdom passed through Pakistan the blockade was damaging and raised alarms for the Maharaja of the coming belligerence from Pakistan. On the other side India under the leadership of Nehru refused to indulge in any confrontation with Pakistan on this matter if Maharaja did not first sign on the instrument of accession. Situation was fast deteriorating in the kingdom and was going out of hand for the Maharaja. Soon small skirmishes started in the bordering areas like Poonch, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Sialkot and many other areas. Reports of loot massacre and rape of bordering villages by aggressive hordes from across the borders started coming.
Finally on 22nd October 1947 Pakistan invaded the state of J&K. The campaign was led by Major General Akbar Khan who described the gory details of the brutalities and atrocities done on Hindus and Sikhs during those campaigns in his book Raiders in Kashmir. According to many estimates almost 50,000 Hindus and Sikhs lost their lives in these gruesome raids and invasions. That’s why 22nd October is observed as Black day by the POJK displaced persons community and India every year. Many first-person accounts of these heart wrenching tragedies were written like My Jammu and Kashmir: The Forgotten History by Dharam Mitter, a resident of Mirpur during 1947-48, Forgotten Atrocities: Memoirs of a Survivor of the 1947 Partition of India by Bal K. Gupta, another survivor of the Mirpur massacre and Kashmir: The Storm Center of the World by Professor Balraj Madhok. Thousands were unmercifully killed, raped, maimed and brutalised in most horrible manner. “….raid destroyed not only the life and property of lakhs of people but also the very fabric of human society and relationships. Thousands of innocent people were mercilessly and brutally slaughtered, property worth millions of rupees was looted or destroyed, women of all ages were kidnapped, abducted and ravished, and unspeakable atrocities were perpetrated” informed by the survivors who had witnessed all these incidents. Many tried to migrate to a safer place under such a situation and became displaced in their own state. But many women and girls lost their lives while saving their honour and many men were butchered on the way to a safer place. 31,619 families were displaced that took shelter in Jammu soon after Sikhs and Hindus were either cleansed or driven out of Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Bhimber, Kotli, Bagh and Rawalakot, areas that constitute today’s Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir. 26,319 families were settled in Jammu and Kashmir and 5300 families were settled in other parts of India like Punjab, Rajasthan and UP and around 9500 families claim they were not registered.
But the POJK displaced persons were never permanently rehabilitated by any state or central government. These people were named by the state government as Displaced Persons from Pakistan Occupied Area of J&K instead of Refugee as POJK is an Indian Territory. In the year 2015, Prime Minister Package of Rs 2000 crore was also announced in their favour. Majority of the registered families have received Rs 5.5 lakh out of the PM package. Also, the delimitation commission has recommended that “the Central Government may consider giving the Displaced Persons from Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir some representation in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, by way of nomination of representatives of the Displaced Persons from Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir ”. Several ministers of the Modi government including Modi and Amit Shah himself have given assurances to the displaced people of POJK for justice to their right.
Still there are many unmet demands of POJK displaced persons. They are demanding reservation for their children in educational institutions, government jobs and request to be included as Paharis in ST category. They are also demanding one time full and final settlement of their claims under Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Act, 1954. Regularization of their colonies and speedy registration and transfer of ownership of land. Also, they request the government to raise the issue of poor maintenance and destruction of archaeological heritage of POJK Hindus and Sikhs.
A constant complain by POJK displaced persons is negligence and disaffection to the history of Hindu and Sikh genocide in POJK by successive government, media, academicians, filmmakers, politicians and Indian elites. There are no Hindus and Sikhs left in POJK. They are the real victims of genocide. But their story of exodus and discrimination thereafter by governments because they were non-Muslims and non-Kashmiris was distasteful to the Ganga-Jamuni tahzeeb of the seculars, and their voice never reached to capitals of international organizations as well. To the dismay of survivors of the ethnic cleansing there were no takers of pain, sorrow and agony of these people. They were never given attention by human right groups nationally or internationally. There was no global fraternity to hear their miseries nor were there any forces of international politics who could benefit from the misfortunes of POJK displaced persons and could offer help in return even in selfishness.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this opinion are the writer’s own.
Leave a Reply