Thursday, December 2, 2021

Civilian Resistance at Ichhama-A 1947 Pakistan Invasion Story

by Dr. Ramesh Tamiri

Pakistan invasion on J&K in 1947 to grab the state by force was planned at the highest level by Pak army and the government’s false narrative that it was a private invasion by wild Pashtuns of NWFP stands exposed. Pak army officials took active part in the invasion right from the beginning.

Non-Muslims organized resistance at different places in Jammu region-Mirpur, Bhimber, Poonch, Rajouri, Deva Vatala, etc. Muzaffarabad too witnessed civilian resistance at some places. Active involvement of Pak army made outcome of civilian resistance difficult.

Unlike parts of Jammu province and Muzaffarabad Kashmir valley proper saw civilian resistance at three places only–Bulgam, Sopore, Ichhama & Atna, Tangmarg . In all these places it were the Sikhs who organized the defence. Over 300 Sikhs were massacred in the Bulgam encounter. Sikhs fleeing different Baramulla villages began marching towards Ichhama. More than 3000 Sikhs and three families of Kashmiri Hindus assembled at Ichhama.

Contrary to the accounts that say Pakistan invaders after entering Baramulla refused to move ahead evidence available refutes it. This is not to deny that there was no conflict between Major Khurshid Anwar and Pashtun tribesmen over loot on one hand and between Khurshid Anwar and Pakistan Govt.over formation of ‘Provisional Govt.’ on the other.

As per the plan a section of invaders had been already tasked to head towards airfield through a route which passed via Ichhama and Atna. In fact, accounts claim that Khurshid Anwar along with Pir Manki Sharif had done recci of the route on 17 September 1947. So question of the invaders having been diverted by Maqbool Sherwani towards Tangmarg region does not arise. Sherwani was in Sopore between 27 to 29 October1947. He was seen at a few places in vicinity of Sopore town where he misinformed the invaders to save the Pandits of those places. Then on 29 October 1947 he left for Srinagar. He remained there till 2 November 1947 and thereafter he left for Sumbal possibly on way to Baramulla.

After entering Baramulla town on 27 October 1947 Captain Sher Khan,a deserter of State army, along with a force of 40 Pak army regulars left Baramulla later in the day and began march towards airfield. He first attacked Chandoosa and killed around 45 Sikhs there. After targeting Sikh dominated villages enroute he reached Palapora on 30 October 1947.

Second column of invaders led by Major Khurshid Anwar started from Pattan on 29 October 1947 and came via Khor to Aripantan with a force of 500 Mahsud tribesmen. From Pattan he had carried a big mob of locals for loot.

3rd Column of 100 invaders led by Latif Afghani,a communist Muslim Leaguer, reached Gugaldara village on the morning of 31 October 1947.The three columns pitched on outskirts of Ichhama to target the Sikhs.

Ichhama

Latif Afghani’s column soon after arrival attacked Dalwash village.Sikh youth gave resistance to the invaders. Realising that they were up against a stronger force Sikhs vacated Dalwash and moved towards Ichhama and Atna. The village was looted by the invaders and houses of Sikh community set on fire.

Sikhs at Ichhama were well prepared to face the assault.There were three attacks by the invaders on 31 October 1947. All the attacks were successfully repulsed.Capt Sher Khan was reportedly killed. Khurshid Anwar was hit by a bullet in the thigh and was evacuated. No definte figures are available about killings of Sikhs at Ichhama. A conservative estimate puts it at 32.

Serious injury to Khurshid Anwar forced the invaders to retreat. In a wise decision the Sikhs decided to shift to Srinagar. More than 70 percent of their ammunition was exhausted. Next day as expected the invaders came in much bigger numbers and burnt down Sikh villages including Ichhama. The houses of the Pandit families in Larikpora too were burnt.

On 1 November 1947 the invaders targeted village Atna. A lot of Sikhs had assembled there. They fought heroically. An old woman Mata Gangi Kaur picked up a sword in her hand and exhorted her community members to fight -Inko roko. Insay daro nahi. Ladna hai. With this brave call she moved forward and achieved martyrdom.

It was because of the resistance by Sikhs at Ichhama and Atna that arrival of the invaders in Budgam was delayed to 2 November 1947. Had there been no Sikh resistance the invaders would have been at Budgam on 30 October 1947.Ichhama gave breather of crucial 2 days for more reinforcements to arrive from Delhi. GOI needs to raise memorials at Ichhama and Atna to commemorate the heroic sacrifices of Shaheed Ujagar Singh Mistry, Mata Gangi Kaur and many others who fought Pak invaders. Unfortunately, the role of Sikh partisans at Ichhama has neither found space in military accounts nor in civilian narratives on 1947.

About the author: The writer is a keen researcher on Kashmir. His two books on 1947 Pakistan based on oral testimony of eyewitnesses will be published early next year.

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