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We observe 22 October as the Black Day. It would be apposite to revisit that day in 1947 when invaders who were being led, armed and supported by the Pakistan army strolled into the territory of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. I say ‘strolled’ because they were being aided by their co-religionists who formed half of the strength of a renowned infantry battalion, 4 JAK Infantry, of the state forces. 

Had 4 JAK Infantry not disintegrated due to the treason by its own, Jinnah’s Operation Gulmarg (the code name given to the conspiracy by the British and Pakistan hierarchy in Pakistan) to annex Kashmir by force would have fallen flat on its ugly face that day itself. A battle-hardened battalion, fresh from World War II, would have made mincemeat of those unruly, frenzied men in the carefully selected killing area sandwiched between Lohara Gali and Ramkot to the West of Muzaffarabad.

But for the ‘last man-last round’ stand taken by a handful of brave men under the leadership of Brigadier Rajinder Singh who kept the invaders at bay for four days and nights, Kashmir’s history would have been different. 

History, however, needs to be read in the correct perspective. There is no doubt that Kashmir was invaded on 22 October 1947 (and freed of any unholy presence on 13 November). But the invasion by no stretch of imagination was the first. 

While many tend to brush aside the cross-border raids in the Jammu region, acts of raiding, looting, abduction of women and theft of livestock had commenced much before even the fateful date of 15 August. Certainly, raids typically are more like intrusions and may not fit the classical description of an invasion where the intruder intends to come in, capture territory and expand. 

The first instance of a conventional invasion had happened in the Jammu region when the monsoons were giving way to autumn. A platoon (24 men) of Gorkha soldiers under Subedar Dhan Bahadur Singh (2 JAK Infantry) at Owen Pattan was the first to face a brutal enemy assault on the night of 8-9 October 1947. Based on intelligence inputs of a huge build-up across the international boundary between J&K and Pakistan’s Punjab, orders for the platoon to withdraw to the company headquarter base at Sensa were issued on 8 October. But before the withdrawal could commence, a large number of the enemy encircled the post. The Gorkhas fought back bravely but were heavily outnumbered. The post itself was designed to police the border and didn’t have much defence potential.  

By the morning of 9 October, it had been captured by the enemy with most of the Gorkha warriors killed or taken prisoner.  

The Sensa company base under Lieutenant Raghubir Singh had only the elements of the company headquarter and one platoon (total 32 men). The enemy attacked Sensa on the morning of 9 October itself. At that time, one relief platoon (25 men) led by Captain Mohd.  Hussain from Kotli was on its way to Sensa. The force on approaching Sensa found the base surrounded by hundreds of enemy personnel. Captain Hussain fought his way in and entered the camp. Now reinforced, the garrison fought on for a few hours but soon the tide started to turn against them. Before the ammunition finished and strength fell below critical levels, a decision was taken to abandon the post. Fighting their way out, the troops vacated the post by late evening on 10 October. 

Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Hamid Khan, Commanding Officer (CO), 2 JAK Infantry, having learnt about the enemy action, gathered two companies and marched to Sensa to recapture it and then push forward to reclaim Owen Pattan.   The column, having brushed aside opposition at a few places, reached Sensa on 12 October. 

A Pakistani flag was seen fluttering on top of the government building, confirming that the enemy was occupying our territory. Without allowing it any reaction time, the CO ordered an attack and forced the enemy to flee, leaving behind Gorkha soldiers who had been taken captive in Owen Pattan.  

The worst seemed to have been prevented through timely intervention.  However, to the dismay of Lieutenant Colonel Khan, a huge contingent of the enemy, including fresh reinforcements from the Pakistani army, was waiting for them between Sensa and Owen Pattan. In a classical progression of an invasion, the Pakistani planners had not only occupied the state’s territory, but were now also expanding. The next two days saw repeated attempts by the column to push back the enemy that was trying to encircle it. 

With ammunition and supplies now running low, even the defence of Sensa became unviable and the CO ordered the column to pull back to Tharochi on 14 October. 

What followed—another treachery at Tharochi or siege of Kotli—is well-known. 

Having established the date of the first invasion as the night of 8-9 October, let’s try and see why 22 October and not 7-8 October is considered as the date of invasion of the state.  

The first reason is the Kashmir centricity that continues even today.  

The second reason given by many was the comparative volume of thrust, especially the number of lorries (between 300 and 1000 as per various accounts) that moved along the Muzaffarabad- Uri-Srinagar road as against foot-based operations in the Poonch region.  

Such arguments ignore two facts. The first relates to the terrain and infrastructure. Poonch had no road that could match the dimensions and reach of the main Muzaffarabad-Uri-Srinagar road. Had a similar axis been available, there would have been a similar concentration by the enemy even along that non-existent road. Second, a mere glance at the sketch of Operation Gulmarg (now in public domain) would throw up a fact or two. As against six lashkars (6,000 men) sent into the valley, 10 lashkars (10,000 men) had been sent into the Poonch-Mirpur area. In addition, the 7th Division of the Pakistan army had moved up opposite Poonch while another brigade was posturing around Sialkot opposite Jammu. 

Many commentators also feel comfortable calling 22 October as the day of invasion because they see the request to India for help by Maharaja Hari Singh and the signing of the Instrument of Accession a bit later as consequences of the invasion. Here again, we tend to ignore that Maharaja Hari Singh had toured Poonch-Mirpur after the loss of Owen Pattan and Sensa and had requested the Indian government to help. A battalion from Patiala Forces did arrive in Jammu around 15 October and an artillery battery too reached Srinagar on 17 October. Unfortunately, it was because of an unwarranted hard stand taken by Jawaharlal Nehru that the signing of the instrument got delayed till 26 October. The state’s Deputy PM R.L. Batra had been sent by Maharaja Hari Singh to Delhi to open talks for accession well before 22 October and soon after the invasion on 8 October. Had there not been the delays because of Nehru insisting on obtaining the concurrence of Sheikh Abdullah, the state would have possibly acceded to the Union much before 22 October.  

Another reason for considering 22 October over 8 October was the narrative that was convenient to certain quarters in literary circles. 

The expected question then is why so much against Poonch and not Kashmir? WhileKashmir had its own significance, Poonch had far-reaching implications when it came to the survival of Pakistan.   Their new capital lay less than 50 miles from Jhelum along which ran the international boundary. Further, their connectivity to the North was via the road that ran just across Jhelum. And, of course, Mangla Headworks (later converted into a dam) was central to Pakistan’s insecurity regarding water.  

Let’s, therefore, do our bit and observe 22 October as the Black Day in the history of our state. 

Col. (Retd.) Ajay K. Raina is a military historian and a founding member of Military History Research Society of India

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