“I should like to say here that certain events happened near Jammu early in November, which I regret very deeply. The Muslim convoys of evacuees were being taken away from Jammu when they were attacked by non-Muslim refugees and others, and a large number of casualties were inflicted. The troops escorting them did not play a creditable role. I might add that none of our troops were present or had anything to do with this.” (Jawaharlal Nehru, Speeches, VI, Publications Division, Government of India, p 165).
Clearly, a self-contradicting speech by Pandit Nehru after the November 6 massacre of Jammu Muslims in 1947. On the one hand, he concedes the fact of Indian troops escorting Muslim convoys. But on the other, he exonerates them by pleading that they were not present.
The last days of October 1947 and the beginning of November were the most turbulent in Kashmir’s modern history. In this period, various areas of the Jammu province were subjected to large-scale genocide and ethnic cleansing, which reached their climax on November 6. The entire Muslim population of the Jammu city was asked to assemble outside its limits, ostensibly for the state administration to facilitate its migration to Pakistan. Once these unfortunate Muslims entered a specified area, they were subjected to loot, plunder and savage killings.
Two thousand and eight hundred people were left dead on the spot, thousands were injured, while some managed to escape and reach the Pakistani city of Sialkot via Suchetgarh.
The massacre completely transformed the demographic scene of the state in general and of Jammu in particular. The Census of India too attests to the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the state by depicting its decline from 78 per cent (1941) to 60 percent (1961). Jammu, a district with a forty per cent Muslim population according to the 1941 census, reported only seven percent Muslims in the census of 1961.
These events did not get reported adequately. Still, the genocide, in no way less vicious than the holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews, could not escape mention in contemporary discourse.
Ian Stephens, the former editor of The Statesman wrote in his Horned Moon: “Half a million or so had almost totally disintegrated in the autumn of 1947. About 200,000 simply vanished, being presumably butchered or killed by epidemics and exposure while seeking to get away; the rest had fled into Pakistani Punjab.”
Sheikh Abdullah too conceded the massacre and genocide. True to his reputation, he, however, put the blame on the victims themselves. In his speech at Jammu on November 16 that year, he said: “Jammu Muslims are to a large extent themselves responsible for what has happened to them, because though in a minority, they had, by their words and deeds, let their tongues in favour of Pakistan. But you murdered innocent barbers and washer-men who knew nothing about politics. How unjust it was to kill children and women who did not even know Muslim League or Pakistan.” (P N Bazaz, The Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir, Kashmir Publishing Company, New Delhi 1954 p. 332).
In the words of Prem Nath Bazaz, while the liquidation of Muslims was in operation in all its fury, the Sheikh held the victims responsible for their horrible fate. His only regret was that innocent Gujjars, barbers and vegetable vendors were also killed along with supporters of Pakistan.
Being the emergency administrator, Sheikh Abdullah himself should have shared the responsibility for the holocaust. He however organized a week-long freedom celebration (Jashn-e-Azaadi) in May 1948. (Ram Chandra Guha, India After Gandhi, Picador India, 2007, p. 76) While the process of annihilation of the Muslim population was still going on, such a carnival was nothing but a red herring to deflect the attention of the Valley from the ethnic cleansing in Jammu.
Recounting his experience in the disturbed areas of Jammu, G K Reddy, the former editor of the Kashmir Times, says he had seen a “mad orgy of violence against unarmed Muslims that should put any self-respecting human being to shame. This included seeing armed bands of ruffians and soldiers shooting down and hacking to pieces helpless Muslim refugees heading towards Pakistan. Watching officials and military officers directed a huge armed mob against a Muslim refugee convoy which was hacked to pieces in the Jammu city. (Christopher Snedden, Kashmir The Unwritten Story, Harper Collins, Indian reprint 2013 p. 52-53).
After the Jammu genocide, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru rushed to Srinagar on November 12. In order to keep Kashmiris in good humor, he promised them a plebiscite in his speech at Lal Chowk. Sheikh Abdullah was so mesmerized by Nehru’s presence that he lavished on him a famous couplet from Hazrat Ameer Khusro: mann tu shudam, tu mann shudi, mann tann shudam, tu jaan shudi; taakas na goyad baad azeen, mann deegaram tu deegari (I have become you, and you me; I have become the body, you the soul; so that none hereafter may say that “I am someone and you someone else”)
History repeats itself, and at this juncture, it is in process of repeating itself. Members of a community in Jammu are being armed in the name of Village Defense Committees. Most of those who constitute these committees are members of notorious communal organizations.
The security apparatus too remains infected with the communal virus and the fascist ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Killing of innocent civilians in Gool last summer can be a prelude to the repetition of what Jammu experienced in 1947. The Kashmiri leadership has to respond to this situation and make sure that the genocide is not repeated. Negligence or indifference would be nothing but collaboration by omission.