Webinar sheds light on Kashmir's raiders saga; developmental story

October 25, 2021

NEW DELHI — Two of India’s greatest sons, Ambassador (retd) Deepak Vohra and Maj. Gen. (retd.) Ashwini Siwach, former Head of the Territorial Army, were on hand to provide an historical perspective to the Jammu and Kashmir issue in a webinar organized by Indo-Arab Helping Hands.

Both Vohra, former IFS, who has been special advisor to prime ministers in Africa and to Autonomous Hill Councils in Ladakh, and Gen. Siwach, a recipient of the Vashist Seva Medal, and a member of the Global Counter-Terrorism Council thanked the Indo-Arab Helping Hands for this opportunity to share the Kashmir saga.

The experts believe that Jammu and Kashmir has come a long way from the tragic incident that triggered the Kashmir mess on Oct. 22, 1947. India marks this day as 'Black Day' to protest against Pakistan’s role in instigating violence and terrorism in the valley that began with the invasion on this day by tribal raiders.

Both, told the attendees of the webinar, that today after the abrogation of the special status Article 370, there is a new drive in the Union Territory with development being the linchpin on which Jammu and Kashmir is progressing with people optimistic of a bright future.

To a question on the recent spate of investment coming into Jammu and Kashmir, especially the recent move by the Dubai, one of the UAE's seven emirates, signing a MoU to invest in Kashmir, Ambassador Vohra said, “It is just the beginning. The world has begun to recognize the developmental pace in Jammu and Kashmir.”

The MoU is the first investment agreement by a foreign government in the region. The New Delhi government said the agreement will see Dubai building infrastructure including industrial parks, IT towers, multi-purpose towers, logistics centers, a medical college and a specialty hospital.

“In recent years we have renovated our relations with the Arab world. This growing ties is reflected by the Saudi, UAE leadership coming as chief guest on our Republic Day celebrations. Also Bahrain and Omani leaders too visited India, setting the tone of rejuvenated ties with the region.

“India is a 3 trillion economy and after the first 20 years after independence, the nation has transformed itself. And it is this change that has led to the Gulf and Arab countries develop deeper ties,” said Ambassador Vohra.

In his presentation The Journey Resumes Oct, 22, 2021, Ambassador Vohra relived the scenes of 1947 before taking the attendees through a historical journey that culminated in Jammu and Kashmir shaking its shackles and proceeding on a developmental path in the future.

Ambassador Vohra began by stressing on the Great Game of the 19th Century when British and Russian empires kept a wary eye on each other in Asia, and how Kashmir became a strategic part of that game.

It all began with the strategic territory of Kashmir being purchased in 1846 by the Raja of Jammu for Rs. 75 lakhs from the East India Company that acquired it as a war indemnity from the defeated Sikh Empire.

Then in June 1947, Lord Mountbatten announced the plan to divide India, which the Ambassador called it quite interestingly — the first Brexit. It was also one of the most shocking events of the 20th century that saw insensate violence searing the souls on both sides.

He continued by calling out the British connivance that mobilized tribal groups from Northwest Frontier to seize Kashmir by force (Operation Gulmarg).

He stressed that the Indian independence Act July 1947 divided British India into two dominions, with the Princely States getting the option to either join India or Pakistan. Sardar Patel and VP Menon got 550 of 565 these states to accede to India before Aug. 15, 1947.

“But the maharaja of J&K toyed with independence, encouraged by USA. The British too pressure him to join Pakistan. But the maharaja does not relent. Pakistan then uses pressure and stops supply of essential goods to Kashmir.

“They then induce the tribal lashkars to raid Kashmir in order to take the state by force. The lashkars crossed into Kashmir on Oct. 22, 1947, and messed up Indian-Pakistan relations for decades,” the Ambassador told the audience.

“60,000 raiders, which included some regulars from Pakistani Army on leave, ex-Indian National Army demobilized veterans and some British officers, entered Kashmir and were told they can loot and pillage all they want,” he added.

“On Oct. 26, 1947, the raiders are near Srinagar. People, including Sheikh Abdullah, flee Kashmir. On that same day Maharaja Hari Singh signs the Instrument of Accession as all other Princely States and begs India for immediate assistance.

“While accepting the instrument of Accession, Louis Mountbatten, creates a trap to give Pakistan some locus standi in Kashmir: ‘As soon as law and order is restored in J&K and her soil cleared of the invader the question of the state’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people.’

“No one asked Mountbatten to write that, and no other state had that condition attached. On 27th Oct. India responds so quickly to maharaja’s request the world is surprised. A magnificent airlift of India troops takes place and the raiders quickly falter and flee,” Ambassador Vohra said.

“Nehru, meanwhile, is under immense pressure to place the issue in UN, and on Jan. 1 1948, the issue is taken to the UN and our complaint of Pakistani aggression makes it a party to the issue (earlier it had no locus standi) and we commit to plebiscite once the raiders withdraw.

“Then on April 21,1948 UNSC resolution recommends: 1. Pakistan withdraw all its fighters; 2. India progressively reduce its forces to minimum level required for law and order; 3. India appoint UN-approved plebiscite administrator, who would conduct a free and impartial plebiscite.

“Then Sheikh Abdullah exploits Nehru’s friendship, gratitude and gullibility, and as member of the Constituent Assembly (established 1946) Abdullah writes Article 370 for special status for Jammu and Kashmir, gets it inserted in the draft constitution and gives J&K all trappings of independence.

“When B.S. Ambedkar and Dr. Shyamaprasad Mukherjee protested, Nehru belatedly realizes the trap he had walked into and salvages the situation by inserting Kashmir status in the constitution as temporary, transitional and special provisions. The rule also stated that the president may revoke the article when he chooses to. And in 1954 the state of J&K irrevocably access to India,” Ambassador Vohra recounted.

Ambassador Vohra reiterated that Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir, and not caring for the Kashmiris, has cost it hard. It has been grey listed by FATF and a Pakistani study says that this has cost it $39 billion. It now laments the world does not care about Kashmir owing to India’s growing economy.

He then asked a rhetorical question and goes on to answer it. What has the special status achieved? An unfortunate mess.

“The status provided some Kashmiir leaders to extort more and more from New Delhi by periodically raising the specter of Independence. Terrorism claimed more lives in Kashmir than rest of India put together. Tourism died.

“Kashmiris were looked upon with suspicion in other parts of India — loss of dignity and self-respect, and other citizens of India were unhappy with the special privileges for people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Finally in August 2019, India revoked special status of Jammu and Kashmir through presidential order and a resolution in the Parliament. The state is reconstituted into two Union Territories,” Ambassador Vohra stated.

He also asserted that the advantages with no more special status are plentiful. No more gender discrimination, more effective curbs on terror, legal right to avail various welfare schemes for education, girl child, sanitary workers, minority welfare. And above all revival of tourism and economy.

“Today, Dubai is going to invest in Kashmir, Saudi Arabia is interested, Sweden wants to give money for developmental projects and UK is all set to invest and benefit from the growing development in the Union Territory,” Ambassador Vohra said.

Gen. Siwach then took centerstage and said he concurred with what Ambassador Vohra, has said. “Ambassador Vohra has spoken so beautifully and explained history of the region and how situations unfolded. I would like to add the military perspective of the time,

“But history is witness to the fact that with the rulers of Princely States in India deciding for their subjects where their future lay, Maharaja Hari Singh’s vacillation in not deciding where to accede has led to this messy situation today,” he said.

“I would like to point out that before he could decide, he had signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan that the parties will stand still till the maharaja decided, and India did not comment on this treaty,” Gen. Siwach said.

On Aug. 15, 1947 India became independent, and pressure on the maharaja began till the unfortunate Oct. 22 incident of the raiders crossing into Kashmir.

“They entered Kashmir from two directions — via the Poonch-Rajouri side and the other from the Muzaffarabd area. As they advanced they raped and looted without any goals. They stayed in Baramulla for three days looting, because according to historians, they encountered so much wealth that they were busy stealing and sending the loot back to Pakistan.

“History also tells us that if they had not wasted those three days and continued on to Srinagar they would have taken Kashmir. Despite the immense pressure on Maharaja Hari Singh, the state forces were doing its best to hold back the raiders. But as the situation worsened, the maharaja had to seek India’s help, and the maharaja got it when he signed the instrument of accession on Oct. 26, 1947, and on that day Jammu and Kashmir became the integral part of India,” he said.

“We moved quickly and took control of the Srinagar airport. It is a fact that if action had been delayed by even three or four hours, the airport could have fallen to the raiders and things could have gotten more ugly and difficult for the Indian army, and history could have written a different scenario.

“From the time Article 370 and 35A has been abrogated, the Kashmir developmental story has gained traction. In addition grass root democracy has taken roots with panchayats and district council elections and terror acts and money laundering too have been curbed,” he added.

The best part, however, like the ambassador was stating, is the key industrial policies the Indian government has brought into Jammu and Kashmir along with major investments thus providing jobs and opportunities to the Kashmiri youth.

Asif Rameez Daudi, founder of Indo-Arab Helping Hands and KAU faculty, welcomed and introduced the two special guests to the attendees. He also highlighted the positive role played by the group during the pandemic 2nd wave in India. Daudi also provided the vote of thanks.

Naila Saeed, from Canada, moderated. Ferozuddin from India Forum, Ayoob from IPWF, Siraj from Jeddah Tamil Sangham, Ghazanfar Zaki and Vijay Soni from SIBN, K.T. Munir from OICC and S.P. Singh from NIFF attended the webinar.

Indo Arab Helping Hands was created to provide a connect to the large Indian Diaspora in the Gulf region to the Indians back home. Its purpose is to serve the Indo-Arab community during pandemic they actively provided an ongoing community help. — SG

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