Friday, 7 November 2014

Some facts about Jammu riots, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Some facts about Jammu riots
Dr Shabir Choudhry    7 November 2014 
Much has been said and written about Jammu riots, which some like to call, Jammu massacres of Muslims. There is more than one narrative on Jammu riots, which, at times, contradict each other. Indeed riots took place in 1947 and unaccounted innocent people lost their lives, property and honour. 

These riots were a direct result of Partition of the British India in name of religion which unleashed communal hatred and people killed each other, either because of revenge or hatred. This madness continued for many weeks; and according to reliable estimates 500,000 to 600,000 people were killed in various parts of India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. 1

Over the past decades some Azad Kashmiri and Pakistani writers claim that in Jammu alone more than half million Muslims were killed. Many years ago I read 200,000 and 250,000 Muslims were killed in Jammu, and we, from the platform of JKLF, in 1970s and 1980s, used to claim that in Jammu riots more than 200,000 Muslims were killed. Jammu Kashmir Plebiscite Front leaders also quoted similar figures. 2

After mid 1990s, some people started distorting facts, and different and contradictory claims began to emerge. I don’t know for what reason, some people each year add to the number of people killed in Jammu riots in 1947; and now the figures quoted are totally unrealistic and are above 600,000 Muslims killed. 

If this number is correct, then does it mean no one else was killed anywhere in India, Pakistan and other parts of Jammu and Kashmir; because serious researchers, scholars and writers of that era put the total killings of Muslims and non Muslims after the partition of India between 500,000 and 600,000. I may add that no research can exactly tell how many people were killed after 14 August 1947 in riots. 

However, the following quotes and references may help some to understand what happened and how many Muslims were killed in Jammu. Special correspondent in India for a famous British daily, The London Times claimed that 237,000 Muslims were killed in Jammu (Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Sir Zafarullah Khan also quoted The Times report when referring to Jammu Massacres); the editor of Statesman, Ian Stephen, in his book Horned Moon puts the figure at 200,000. 3 Horace Alexander asserted that the killings had “the tacit consent of State authority” and he also gave the figure of 200,000 Muslims killed in Jammu. 4

A Pakistani author Illyas Chata wrote:
‘The inter-religious violence that occurred in Jammu and Kashmir against the backdrop of the 1947 Partition of India and its aftermaths included a possible ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Jammu’s Muslims. One million Kashmiri Muslim refugees were uprooted and an estimated 250, 000 - 300,000 were massacred in the Jammu region alone.’ 5
Why riots started in Jammu

One can call Maharaja Hari Singh an autocrat and oppressive; but when we compare his rule and administration with other Princely States of that time he was much better than others; and one can even call him a progressive ruler. I agree some communities were treated better than others, for example, Dogras and Kashmiri Pundits had more privileges and Muslims were treated less favourably. 
That apart, all writers and historians agree that there was peace and harmony among believers of different faiths and there were no religious riots. Tolerance and policy of live and let live was hallmark of Jammu and Kashmir society. Then question arises why all of sudden people of Jammu and Kashmir started killing each other.

The genie of hatred and violence unleashed as a direct of Partition of the British India, and subsequent very serious riots in various regions of India and Pakistan also affected peace and tranquillity of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan and India became independent on 14th and 15th August 1947, but announcement of the Radcliff Award was deliberately delayed. So people in some areas of Punjab Province and Bengal Province celebrated independence without knowing if the area they lived in will become part of India or Pakistan. From areas of Western Punjab, which became part of Pakistan, millions of Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India with horror stories. Of course same happened to Muslims who migrated to Pakistan from Eastern Punjab.

When these dislocated and suffering Hindus and Sikhs entered Jammu from areas of Sialkot, Gujrat, Jhelum etc and told them what Muslims in Western Punjab did to them, it ignited the communal fire and shattered peace and harmony of Jammu, in which unaccounted people from both communities were killed.

Sialkot and Jammu were like twin cities; and north-eastern part of Sialkot was largely inhabited by the Dogras, who had close cultural and linguistic ties with Dogras of Jammu. After the partition of Punjab around 100.000 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Sialkot migrated to Jammu. 6

These refugees carried with them ‘harrowing stories of Muslim atrocity’, which were amplified by media and communalists; and that brought the communal tension to ‘the breaking point’. 7 The result was obvious; the irritated Dogra refugees from Sialkot, backed by their friends and relatives from Jammu started a campaign against Muslim population. Killings, rapes and kidnapping were worst in the Jammu city where Muslims were in minority, especially in the areas of Ustad da Mohalla, Pathanan da Mohalla and Khalka Mohalla. 

Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, who was appointed “Chief Emergency Administrator” on 30 October 1947, was very critical of the State officials and the negative role played by Union Home Minster Sardar Patel, Union Defence Minister Baldev Singh along with the Maharaja of Patiala. It is claimed that these three met various extremist groups and encouraged them to take revenge by killing Muslims.8

The riots in Jammu started in 3rd week of August 1947. These riots continued and spirit of Jihad of ‘tribesmen’ and Pakistanis remained in a cold storage because, at that time, rulers of Pakistan believed that the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir will join Pakistan. When their dream of getting Jammu and Kashmir peacefully was shattered they, on 22 October 1947, launched a tribal attack, which was fully supported by Pakistani army officers, to punish the Maharaja and to capture Kashmir.

This unprovoked attack killed tens of thousands of Muslims and non Muslim Kashmiris men, women and children. Women were raped and kidnapped and sold in bazaars of Pakistan. This left the Maharaja with no choice but to seek help from India, which was only provided after Provisional accession.

Frightened Maharaja left Srinagar with his relatives, senior officials, close friends, some troops and personal belongings. His entourage reached Jammu with horror stories of killings of non Muslims in Baramula and Muzaffarabad; and this fuelled the anger and resentment of non Muslims and they charged on the Muslims to take revenge.

Exactly what the tribesmen did in Muzaffarabad and Baramula, non Muslims did that to the Muslims of Jammu; and tens of thousands of Jammu Muslims were killed and women dishonoured. However, unaccounted number of Jammu Muslims fled to safer areas in nearby Pakistan, or to western areas of Jammu where Muslims were in majority, for example, Mirpur, Kotli, Bhimber and areas of Poonch. Christopher Snedden, who is perceived as a pro Pakistan writer, claims, ‘there were about half million such refugees’. 9 It should be noted that a Pakistani writer Illyas Chatta, quoted above, thinks around a million Kashmiris were uprooted.

In this highly charged and frantic environment, human beings became savages, they killed each other. Some killed others to take revenge, others killed because of religious reasons or just to loot and plunder. Even Christopher Snedden accepts that Muslims also killed non Muslims, he says: ‘conversely Muslims killed many Hindus and Sikhs in other parts of Jammu Province and in the Muzaffarabad district of Kashmir Province’.10 

I have many horror stories from Mirpur and Bhimber where Muslims butchered non Muslims, and many were burnt alive; and this tragic incident happened about two miles away from my village in District Bhimber. Frightened non Muslims from various villages took shelter in a big Kothi (house) of an influential Hindu in a village called Naka Gura, about four miles towards north from Jatlan. Exact number is not known, but I was told that there must have been more than 100 people, which included men, women and children. All of them were deliberately burnt alive, not because they posed any threat to the majority population – Muslims or committed any crime against Islam, but because they were non Muslims.

While trying to explain the Jammu riots, Christopher Snedden confirms that ‘they (non Muslims of Jammu) were seeking revenge for Hindus and Sikhs ‘cleared’ from Muslim – majority areas in West Punjab. Thousands of Hindus and Sikh refugees were pouring over the State borders daily....Some of these non Muslim refugee arrivals were ‘victims of frenzied savagery’. Equally frenzied, they took revenge, or inspired others to take revenge on Jammu Muslims, particularly those more vulnerable because they lived in Hindu majority areas in eastern Jammu Province’ 11
Demographic position in Jammu Province

Let us look at some more facts, which may help us to understand how many Muslims were killed in Jammu. According to 1941 census, Jammu Province which included areas of Azad Kashmir (minus Muzaffarabad) had total Muslim population of 1, 212, 405, 61.19% and 736,862 Hindus 37.19%. People of Jammu and Kashmir classified themselves in the Census as, Dogras, Rajputs, Brahmins, Jats, Thakkars, Gujjars, Bakarwals, Untouchables, Poonchis, Syeds, Afghans, Punjabis, Maliks, Mians, Sikhs, Kashmiris, Pundits, Budhs, Baltis, Shias, and Yashkins. So apart from the religious loyalty, people had tribal and ethnic loyalty too. 12

Within the Jammu Province there were Districts and Sub Districts which had a clear Muslim majority, for example:
Mirpur – 80.41% Muslims; 
Poonch - 90% Muslims; 
Riasi - 68.06% Muslims. So, in other words there was very little chance that the Hindu minority would attack and ‘butcher’ the Muslim majority. However, situation was different in districts where Muslims were in minority:
Jammu had 170,789 Muslims - 39.60%; 
Khathua had 45,000 Muslims – 25.33% and 
Udhampur had 128,327 – 43.62% Muslims. 

The total figure of Muslims in these three Hindu majority districts was: 344,116. Generally, in riots people from both communities get killed; and no ethnic community could be completely eliminated, even Hitler with all his might could not do that. It is understandable that where Muslims were in minority, more of them got killed. Even if we accept that all Muslims of these areas were killed, still the figure would be 344,116, and not 600,000 as claimed made by some people. 

I hope this information will help some people to understand facts about the Jammu riots. I understand no innocent person should be killed, as every life has its value; and according to Islamic beliefs, if one innocent person is killed that is as if the entire humanity is killed. In that sense killing of more than 200,000 innocent Muslims in Jammu was a great tragedy, and we must condemn all the killings.

1. Indian student of the massacres, Judge G.D.Khosla, set the figure at 500,000. Stern Reckoning, Gopa Das Khosla, quoted in ‘Freedom at Midnight’, Larry Collins and Domnique Lapierre, page 396
2. I was elected Secretary General of JKLF in 1985, and remember the slogans we used. Also I discussed this issue with Zubair Ansari who is a known political activist, and a former Secretary General of JKLF. Zubair Ansari also confirms that we used to quote figures between 200,000 and 250,000 Muslims killed in Jammu.
4. Spectator, 16 January 1948
5. Terrible Fate: ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ of Jammu’ Muslims in 1947. By Illays Chatta, page 117 
7. Ibid
8. Atish-e-Chinar, his autobiography (Flames of Fire), page 312) 
9. Kashmir The Unwritten History, Christopher Snedden, Page 48
10. Ibid, page 48
11. Ibid,  Page 48
12. Census of India, Volume XX11, Jammu and Kashmir State, Part 111.
13. 1941 Census
14. Ibid
Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir

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