Jammu massacre: an eyewitness recalls

Bloodbath are not alien to Kashmir’s perturbed past- they are an inseparable part of it.

One such scene of carnage of innocents was witnessed– in the same year when India got independence from British– is the Massacre of Jammu that took place on November 6, 1947.  This day, every year, is observed as a black day in Kashmir for on the fateful day “Muslims in hundreds of thousands were killed with an attempt to change state’s demography”.

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Ved Bhasin, a veteran journalist, who was witness to several turning points in the political history of Jammu and Kashmir, and started Kashmir Times in 1954 and remained its editor for more than four decades.IMG-20161106-WA0015

In one of his interviews to Rising Kashmir before his demise, he narrated that the riots at that time were organised and planned by the rulers with the support of RSS and other organisations.  He said in the interview that during riots, Maharaja’s Prime Minister Mir Chand Mahajan invited minority leaders from communal parties and National Conference. “We met at Maharaja’s palace. I was in the meeting as a representative of students.”

Bhasin says that there were some prominent names like Trilok Chand Dutt, Girdhari Lal Dogra and Om Saraf. Mahajan told us that power was being transferred to the people of J&K and that Hindus and Sikhs should demand parity. Om Saraf replied to him saying how parity could be demanded when there was so much difference in the Hindu and Muslim population. Mahajan pointed at a forest area down the Maharaja palace, where some Gujjars had been killed recently, and said population can also change.IMG-20161106-WA0011

According to him when Jammu city was placed under curfew, Muslims were not allowed to come out of their houses while Hindus were moving freely. Convoys of RSS men used to start from the Praja Parishad chief Prem Nath Dogra’s House in Kacchi Chawni. They were armed and moving freely from lane to lane, massacring people. “The then Governor of Jammu, Chet Ram Chopra called me and told me if I were not his relative, he would have got me arrested. He told me to stop talking of communal amity,” Bhasin said.

However, Bhasin says that there was communal amenity in Kashmir at the time when Muslims in Jammu were being massacred. “Not a single Hindu (Kashmiri Pandit) was touched despite they being a microscopic minority.”

What happened on Nov 6, 1947

Lakhs of Muslims in Jammu on November 06, 1947 while migrating to the newly formed state Pakistan were attacked and the carnage carried by the extremist groups killed around 3 lakh people including women and children.

British daily The London Times quoting its special correspondent in India stated that the Maharaja, under his own supervision, got assassinated 2, 37,000 Muslims, using military forces in the Jammu area. The editor of Statesman, Ian Stephen, in his book Horned Moon writes that till the end of autumn 1947, more than 200,000 Muslims were murdered in one go. Horace Alexander wrote in the Spectator (16 January 1948) that the killings had “the tacit consent of State authority” and he puts the figure at 2, 00,000.

One of the eye witnesses to this incident, Abdul Qayum Qureshi,  recalled that there was a big ground where refugees were camping. Volunteers were guarding them, but everybody lived in a state of fear. The extremists and Dogra soldiers had besieged the area but they did not dare to enter inside. Muslim volunteers led by a former army official Captain Naseer-u-din defended the camp bravely. “Meanwhile a fresh group of refugees arrived but the ground was full so they were accommodated in an empty Haveli (a mansion). But the killers had taken positions in a trench close to the Haveli. And when people entered the Haveli premises, the killers started indiscriminate firing, but the Muslim volunteers fought back. Then a Dogra official, Chetan Chopra, arrived with the message that he wanted to talk to Captain Naseer-ud-din. Around 4 PM Captain Naseer returned saying the administration has announced a ceasefire and assured that the violators will be punished,” Qureshi recalled.

According to him the ceasefire continued for seven days but the situation remained tense. On 5 November Muslims were asked to assemble in the police lines Jammu. “I remember about 26 trucks and buses were present in the police grounds. People were ordered to board the vehicles so that they could be driven to Pakistan via Sialkot border. The Dogra officials circulated a rumor that these vehicles have reached Pakistan. We had absolutely no idea that they were butchered in the Kuthwa and Samba forests.”

Qureshi says that on 6 November a caravan of refuges in buses and trucks was driven towards the border area. “I was also part of this caravan. But after half an hour drive the entire caravan was turned towards Bisna. Around 11 AM all of us, about 6000, were dragged out of the buses. Then they fired at us indiscriminately. The bloodbath continued for nearly three hours; like other people I took refuge in a canal,” he said.

Qureshi recalls that people hid under thorny bushes and wherever they could. At 3 PM the Dogra officials asked the survivors to come out hiding so that they could be driven to safe places. “Having no alternative we came out, and fortunately on the directives of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah we were later shifted to a refugee camp in Jammu. Only 250 had survived. My father was in the Valley and my two brothers were in Mirpur,” he said.