Defending Kashmir: Book Review

Author: India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
Publisher: Delhi, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India, 1949
Theme: A book on first Kashmir war of 1947-48
Title of Book: Defending Kashmir
Pages: 192, Price: 5/8
Language English
Reviewer: Javid Ahmad Ahanger

“History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”

This remark made by Napoleon Bonaparte is quite right in the context of India-Pakistan wars. Both the countries since partition defend their respective versions of past and continue to do so until today. Numerous accounts have been written on Kashmir war of 1947-48. However, there is a relevant and compelling book entitled “Defending Kashmir” published by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Government of India, 1949 which demands to be read. The book is about 200 pages; it is divided into thirteen chapters; each chapter provides details of various operations conducted by the Indian forces in the state of Jammu and Kashmir during the year 1947-48. The book has immense importance in the present context of Jammu and Kashmir as it documents the entry of Indian forces; “Disinterested devotion to the cause of the weak and oppressed” in the state and regarded this operation as “Crusade.”

In its first chapter titled “A Dramatic Decision,” the book claims that with due consent of the people of Kashmir and permission of the ruler of time that the security forces were sent to Kashmir. It might be agreed upon that the leaders of time gave their nod but taking the people of the state into confidence is a blatant lie. The book maintains the narrative on Jammu and Kashmir dispute that, “when law and order and peace will restore in Jammu and Kashmir, the people’s verdict would be sought…and India would abide by it.” Later how much people’s verdict was sought and abided by India is a question yet to be answered. Instead of giving more acute information regarding the causes that led to the war, the book seems more devoted to the physical descriptions and climatic conditions of Jammu and Kashmir. According to the book, Indian army had not only to fight against the Raiders (Tribal forces) but also to deal with the highly tricky geographical terrains of the Jammu and Kashmir, with very few available means of communication and harsh weather condition to combat. (p. 9-10)

At one point, the book claims that the raiders were full of modern equipment and ammunition (p. 14) for which India was not adequately prepared but on the other hand narrates a different story, claiming that all of sudden all arrangements were made by both army and air forces to mobilize its troops. (p. 17) Recalling the event, when first troops were sent to Srinagar, under the leadership of Col. Rai, they were hesitant to land in Srinagar because they were afraid of the enemies. “But out of sudden a wireless flash announced in Srinagar that troops have landed” (p. 18). Here an important question arises, if all these things were not well planned, then how was it possible to have a latest and up to date systems like wireless operating in Kashmir at that time, when there was not even proper road connectivity between Delhi and Kashmir? The book remains silent on such important and worth pondering issues. Another exciting aspect about the book is that every chapter discusses how Indian army fought the raiders and talked about liberating Kashmir while simultaneously maintaining the view that it was an unplanned war. Then how it would have been possible for the security forces to use all modern weaponry right from the day one. Almost in every chapter, the book provides numerous details about the kinds of weapon that were used to combat the raiders. The book also talks about the road formation that was done by the army and its allied organizations during the war. It was made a priority that the Pathankot-Srinagar Road, which was a lifeline for Indian troops should never get blocked. Bridges were constructed to facilitate smooth operations within weeks. All these discussions prove how much planning had been done in Delhi to enter Kashmir.

In the second chapter titled The Rape of Baramulla, the emphasis has been laid on political conditions of Gilgit and other parts of Azad Kashmir controlled by Sardar Ibrahim Khan and role of Muslim soldiers who hoisted Pakistani flags and raised pro-Pakistani slogans. Moreover, book hails the discipline, character, and conduct of the Indian army as cooperative, friendly and helpful (p. 12). But, it does not highlight the killings of innocent civilians by the same security forces as Sheikh Abdullah mentions in his autobiography “Aatish-e-Chinar” and other accounts of the time. In the subsequent chapters, the book claims that raiders were marching towards the Jammu city as the region was more strategically important, being closer to Pakistan border which was perceived as a significant threat not only to the state but its neighboring territories as well. In chapter forth titled Joust with General Winter, the book presents an account of numerous tragic deaths caused by the harsh climatic conditions of the state. It portrays Indian soldiers as more afraid of the weather and climate than their real enemies, the tribals. In the same way, the number of deaths claimed in the book, of both the army as well as raiders, for which there is no official record. It reflects upon a high number of causalities of raiders than that of Indian soldiers without providing any concrete reference.

However the book is quite right in terming the whole administration in Kashmir as a complete failure, be it civil or government (p. 149). But still calls Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s emergency government as people’s government (p. 12). But reading this book, it seems the Centre under Emergency declared the whole state rather than governed by Maharaja Hari Singh or Sheikh Abdullah. The book also fails to give an official account of Pakistan viz-a-viz war of 1948 in a real sense providing any official proof of the claim. It claims that those who had left the state of Jammu and Kashmir returned, (p. 99) but is unable to provide the number of people who returned from across the border or those who migrated to Pakistan. Instead, the book opines that the war of 1948 created a market for agricultural products, as local people were engaged in trade with armed forces. (p. 99)

In the last chapter titled The Second Front, the book claims that the army who had been fighting with the raiders and the harsh climate of the state had to fight additionally against the epidemics and diseases prevalent in the state. They had to provide medical treatment not only for their soldiers but to the local people as well. An underground hospital was constructed in Uri, named after General K. M. Cariappa for the treatment of soldiers. (p.146) Although the redundant rhetoric on the harsh climate and rough terrains in the book makes it boring, yet the abundant usage of pictures, maps, lucid and straightforward language and a separate appendix of United Nations documents, letters and resolutions on India and Pakistan regarding the Kashmir question have made the book worth to read. This book serves its purpose when reading in the historical and political context of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. I recommend this book for all those interested in South Asian politics in general and Kashmir politics in particular, especially scholars, working on India-Pakistan relations and Kashmir politics, to read this book to explore new facts and observations.