The Second Round In Kashmir

The debacle in Kutch disappointed the Indian Warlords. They had great hopes on this seemingly innocent border incident. It did not escalate as expected. The visits of reverted pundits like Shastri, the Prime Minister, and Chavan, the Defence Minister did not succeed in infusing life into the demoralized Indian soldier. Commanders like Major Karnail Singh believed that they were doomed to be taken prisoners whenever and wherever they went to war. A high powered conference was called. All the brass and all the excellencies attended. The adversaries were in the lobbies but near enough to influence decisions. After a little mud slinging between the politicians and the soldiers the conference settled down to sober deliberations. The blame for that defeat was thrown on the Pakistanis. They had not played the game expected of them as a small weak neighbor. They should have agreed to loose but instead they had stood up and had managed to attack with superior forces at the desired time and place whenever they decided to adopt offensive defense.

The decision arrived at by this high powered conference was to try again. The mighty Indian white elephant, its army, was to be geared into motion once again but this time it was considered best to roll it down the hills of Kashmir. As soon as it had gained momentum it was to be supplemented by an energetic push from all directions and across all fronts. It must be noted here that the principle of diversifying the points of attack had not yet been given up. In the plan to initiate the move from Kashmir the beginning was to be made once again from disputed territory. A certain amount of ingenuity and the dovetailing of political and military strategy was to be in greater prominence than in the case of Rann of Kutch. The Indians realized that Pakistan had relied too long on the promises of UNO. The question of Kashmir and Pak-Bharat problems had become in the meantime a matter of the so called global strategy of big powers. As a result Kashmiris had become so frustrated that since 1964 any aggressive move by India in Kashmir had brought about retaliation by AK Forces. Chaknot and other places had shown the changed attitude of the government of Azad Kashmir. The Indian shrewd mind was quick to come to conclusion. If Indian heightened her aggressive attitude in Kashmir through increased breaches of Cease Fire Agreement and raids into territory controlled by Azad Kashmir were stepped up, it was more than likely, in fact certain, as the Indian Prime Minister put it to the meeting-that Pakistan and the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir would reply in the same coin-1. It was even possible, said the pupil of Chanakya smilingly, that Pakistan may join hands with the revolutionaries in the valley and other parts of held Kashmir who would certainly rise if in addition to the use of agents provocateurs, the control was relaxed a little. If this happened, as he was mistakenly certain it would happen, then the next step for India was to march into Pakistan from all directions. “After all, all roads lead to Islamabad. What fun could you not have, General”. The reply was very military like, “Yes Sir. You know the brave jawans of the Sena2 are itching to march westwards at your command”. With a “Well done” and “I have faith in you and your brave jawans. Give them all my Ashir Bad3″, and the meeting ended.

As a last reminded the Prime Minister turning to Mr. Nanda the Home Minister, had said, “Are the plans regarding dispatch of Jan Sangh volunteers complete”. When the Home Minister nodded with “Yes” in an undertone, the Prime Minister smiled and left the room. The plan, they all thought was so simple that it could not fail to achieve the desired result. The Army of Occupation in Indian held Kashmir was ordered to set up raids across the Cease Fire Line and the puppet Government of Srinagar was instructed to provide agents provocateurs who could light the fuse and blow up the smoldering heap of explosives, that Kashmir had become. The security troops had to be moved nearer to the FDLs in any case. The relaxing of control, the presence of agents provocateurs and increased persecutions were expected to create conditions which, the Indians thought, would force Pakistan to listen to Kashmiri leaders’ requests of marching into Indian held Kashmir.

The record of Indians in Kashmir was fairly black even before this eventful decision but immediately after this meeting the activities across the Cease Fire Line were stepped up out of all proprtions. The cease fire violations are reported to the U.N. observers by Pakistan during the past had been as follows:

1962 538
1963 283
1964 1464

They now produced a different picture in 1965.

January 189
February 224
March 325
April 335
May 438
June 480

With the figures of raids across CFL mounting up week after week it was only natural for India to expect Pakistan to retaliate. It can be said that the dovetailing of political with military strategy by India had succeeded to the extent that it drew out the Kashmiris exactly as the Indian Pandits had anticipated. They, however, had miscalculated the results in more than one manner, and particularly the action which they thought Pakistan would take. The error of judgement referred to by Lieut. General Kaul, in his book, cost the Indians heavily4.

The first mistake which the Indians made was that they had not weighed up the Kashmir situation inside the Indian held Kashmir itself. The repression which had been planned to be simultaneous with increased activities across CFL and to precede the final push had reached a crescendo by the time the level of junior executives was reached. These officials had been supported by thousands of armed Jan Sanghis imported from India after intensive training and careful screening. The plan boomeranged as a result. Persecutions and cruelty have a limit in every case. Even the most willing sufferer will not be able to bear patiently beyond a certain point. The same happened in Kashmir as it had happened in 1930. A countrywide tumult arose, a lot more than the Indians had expected. That part of the Indian Army which had been hitherto utilized for local protection and to frighten the Kashmiris was not there to stifle the voices. The troops had been moved forward to carry out raids through the FDLs into Azad Kashmir (AK) territory. The absence of these troops helped the revolutionaries to organize better that the Indian authorities felt they would be able to do.

The second miscalculation was regarding the exact reaction of Pakistan. Indian commanders had visualized that with the threat of AK, Pakistan High Command would move at least two divisions into AK to thicken up the defenses in addition to retaliation. This would have weakened the defenses in Lahore and Sialkot. Nothing of the sort happened. No units, much less formations were moved into AK. The Azad Kashmir leaders had been pressing Pakistan Government that if Pakistan was not in a position to act, the kashmiris should be left free, but so far Pakistan had been able to hold them back.

It must be borne in mind that as far as Kashmiris are concerned the CFL is an arbitrary arrangement between the UNO, Pakistan and India separating the two armies, as they stood on Jan. 1, 1949. The civilian population is not affected by it. The Kashmiris consider themselves both morally and legally justified to cross and recross it in either directions at will. This is their birth right which not even the UNO can take away from them.

To say that even seven thousand Kashmiris infiltrated back into Indian held Kashmir through a thickly held CFL, maintained themselves for weeks after weeks in Indian held territory, moved bout, disrupted the Indian L of C, ran a government in certain areas without the active and planned cooperation of the local population , would seem highly improbable if not completely impossible. If however, they did all that and traversed the valley of Kashmir day in and day out under the very nose of the Indian Army then it would mean that they had been invited by the local revolutionaries and that the Indian Army was as inefficient as the revolutionaries were brave and resourceful. There can be no doubt that these revolutionaries were all Kashmiris. It appears that Indians were certain of a number of Pakistani formations having been brought into AK by Pakistan. At least this is what appears from the faked interrogation reports of the supposed Pakistani troops that India alleged to have taken prisoner. Banking on this they moved forward to liquidate Azad Kashmir. The Indian XV Corps Commander, who is responsible for the Indian held Kashmir, was given the task of capturing the whole of AK as his objective. All that he managed to accomplish was the capture of a few posts.

If Indian High Command was not prepared for the complete break down of its L of C in Kashmir, it was much less prepared for an offensive in Chhamb and Jurian. They may have felt that Pakistan could take to offensive in this sector and that may be the reason for the unusually strong defenses in this sector. But when it happened, it came like a bolt from the blue and completely put the Indians off balance. Their concrete defenses seem to have crumbled under the impact of this attack. They saw its implications rather belatedly, not until Akhnoor was really threatened. To stop it they had to do two things, both unpalatable to them, but most important. First they had to rush at least two divisions to halt this whirlwind advance of determined Pakistani and AK troops under seasoned commanders. Two of the most brilliant Pakistani Generals had so far shared the laurels. Major General Akhtar Hussain malik had set the ball in motion in a masterly manner and the move had been brilliantly competed by Major General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan. Both were awarded well earned Hilal-I-Jurat in these operations. India was loath to send reinforcements to this sector but the Pakistani commanders by uprooting three storied well-planned concrete bunkers had left no choice to Indian High Command. By sending two of the best Indian Divisions to halt this avalanche the Indian High Command was upsetting the Chaudhuri plan for the main invasion. Having been left with no alternative the Indians cut down the number of divisions from the most important sector of Sialkot.

The second alternative to the plan forced on India by this bold and swift action ordered by C-in-C Pakistan Army was the putting forward of the date of the invasion of Pakistan by the Indian High Command. Originally the date had been fixed for the fourth week of September.

The offensive at Chhamb, across the cease fore line was undertaken by Pakistan Army on September 1, 1965. The result of this offensive was not clear until the evening that day. The Indian invasion of Pakistan could be attributed to the result of this offensive only if the concentrations of the Indian Army opposite Khokhrapar, Lahore and Sialkot were planned, ordered and brought about after this date. We have ample evidence emanating from various sources and conformed by the statement of Indian POWs that the concentration of the Indian Army had started before Chhamb had been attacked by Pakistan.

For example 1 Indian Armoured Division and 2 (Independent) Indian Armoured Brigade received orders to move forward on the morning of September 1, 1965. It is obvious that the decisionhad been taken earlier in the day if not, a day or two earlier. 6 Infantry Mountain Division commenced leaving its locations somewhere in Central India during the last week of August 1965. 4 Sikh reached Frerozpur on 28 August and 9 horse left Saugar on 2 September. 67 Indian Infantry Brigade left Jodhpur on 1 September. 3 madras left Dhar Chilla on 30 August and 5/5 G.R. was out of babina by September 1. NO army can concentrate in a day. Neither is the present Indian Army reputed for excellent movement control and an efficient railway support. At the time of the invasion of Goa, when a little over one infantry division had to be deployed to march across the border, the Indian railway schedules were so upset as to crate a confusion lasting over for a week, The Indian concentration against Pakistan involved a much larger number of formations, inspite of the already sizeable concentrations close to West Pakistan border, and the shorter distance that the 1 Indian Armoured Division had to move.

The Indian Army, due to its huge size, had perforce to take a few weeks to concentrate on a number of points from a much larger number of cantonments. The movement had, therefore, to be spread out over a considerable period. This is the reason why the forward concentrations of the Indian Army started in mid August and according to the existing scheduling had to be completed by mid September. The reason for the move must have been guessed by some elements in the Indian Army. The diary of Lieut. Col. Nitranjan Singh, C.O. of 2 Grenaders , who left Bombay for Pathankot, with his battalion on 14 August, wrote regarding the impending war, on the following day, in his diary, “In the morning I felt the whole thing to be purposeless, illogical and without meaning. All that is happening is ridiculous by any standard”. Another battalion of the same brigade left its peace station on 18 August. There are a score of other moves which provide ample proof that the invasion of Pakistan was already planned but for a later date. Pakistan’s offensive in Chhamb merely rattled the Indian High Command and losing their sense of proportion they out forward the date of the invasion by two weeks and not only upset their plans but also unbalanced their whole army.

The utter dislocation caused inside held Kashmir, the danger posed to Akhnoor and the possibility of a threat developing against Jammu was too big a risk, or so thought the Indian General Staff, to wait for the scheduled date, in late September to arrive. It rattled General Choudhuri as much as Mr. Shastri and the whole of the Indian nation. It merely explains the frame of mind into which the ill conceived propaganda of Indian Government had placed the whole nation, but it shows the fear that had been generated by reverses in Kutch and later in Jurian Sector and the activities of a handful of Kashmiri Revolutionaries behind the Indian lines, that when Mr. Chavan, the Indian Defence Minister, informed the Indian parliament that Indian Army had invaded Pakistan, the whole house stood up to give him an unprecedented ovation. To neutral observers it appeared as if the much promised event had at last taken place. The digression was necessary to bring out the Indian plan and the way in which the Indian rulers wished to escalate fighting in Kashmir into a full scale war. We must now proceed with the events in Kashmir.

It was India which informed the world that she had failed in throttling the voices of the chained and handcuffed Kashmiris by announcing the presence of so called raisers in Kashmir.

The first signs of Kashmiri revolution occurred on 8 August and attacks on Indian posts were so widespread that the Indian authorities arrested a number of oppositon leaders and influential Muslims in Srinagar and other large towns. The revolutionaries found tremendous support in Srinagar itself, probably because a number of them belonged to the metropolis but they preferred to remain out of the capital and attack military targets only. The burning of Batmalu and other villages by the Indians was too big a price to pay for killing the Indian soldiers. In addition there was more scope and a wider field of action out of Srinagar. The reports used by Radio Srinagar from time to time, about the skirmishes between the revolutionaries and the Indian security forces, are an accurate account as far as the chronology of events is concerned. The revolutionaries, all true and full blooded Kashmiris, did not always possess facilities to apprise the voice of Kashmir of their successes. Radio Srinagar came to their help in such cases and helped the revolutionary council in plotting the movement of their freedom fighters. No place was safe for them. Hindwara, baramula, Srinagar Airfield, Budil, Rajauri, Poonch and many other paces, as announced by Radio Srinagar, from time to time, were all being attacked, and the Indian forces punished. The freedom fighters were fighting like any other combatant troops. They had their makeshift uniforms and they never attacked the Indian Army except in the accepted military manner. The Indian Army had as a result deploy over one Infantry Division around Srinagar itself and nearly two Infantry Divisions in Poonch and Rajauri where due to the nature of the terrain and the material qualities of the local population they had brilliant successes in a number of pitched battles against the Indian Army. In Budil they formed a government of their own, set up a revenue department and established law and order like any other settled governmrnt. If they had not been sons of the soil itself it would not have been possible for them to have fought, maintained themselves, captured positions and administered vast territories in Indian held Kashmir. It was only after 23 September, when the whole of the Indian Army was uncommitted, that the Indians dared enter those areas.

The release of forces from elsewhere gave the Indians ample time and opportunity to re-establish their reign of terror once again. They had to fight pitched battles to regain control of those areas from the Revolutionaries. The Indians must know that the day of retribution cannot be postponed for ever and the blood of 50,000 men, women and children that the Indian Army and the Jan Sangh slaughtered during August and September 1965 will be avenged one day.

The Indians put into operation their plans to occupy Azad Kashmir during the third week of August 1965. The first attack came on Bharat Gali in the area of Haji Pir Pass. For seven days the position was continuously shelled by Divisional Artillery of 19 Indian Infantry Division in Baramula-Uri Sector. On 25 August 20,000 shells were fired within 12 hours on this one feature alone. One regiment of field artillery had fired 10,000 rounds that day. On 26 August 1 Para battalion led the attack. The position was occupied by a weak company of about 100 men the majority of whom were Mujahids from adjoining villages. They had come through the devastating shelling in a miraculous manner although their bunkers had all been raised to the ground. The company held their fire until the enemy was hardly 50 yards away. The result was devastating. The Indians were thrown back. They carried away all their wounded except one L/Nk Lal Singh. He, however, died while being evacuated to the hospital. They had left behind over 150 killed. AK casualties had been light, 2 killed, 5 wounded and 5 shell shock cases.

As all the bunkers had been destroyed the company occupied alternative position but this was not as well situated as the main position.

The Indians now chose to out in night attack. They launched the frontal attack at 0100 hours on 27 August which was successfully held. The Indians then pushed in another battalion from the flank and cut off the Bharat Gali position. AK troops fought like seasoned troops. Although the enemy had suffered over 300 killed in this attack they had inflicted heavy casualties on our troops also. The company lost 36 men that day. One platoon had 22 killed out of a strength of 25. The 2 survivors had all been wounded. Sheer superior numbers and unlimited resources had enabled the Indians to beat a force of less than 100 by a full infantry brigade supported by the divisional artillery and that also by making use of the cover of darkness. This is how Bharat Gali fell.

The attack on Bedori had started simultaneously with the attack on Bharat Gali. Here again there was only one company which was subjected to sever shelling for days on end. The non-existence of roads in this area are meant that the time needed to push forward reinforcements or supplies was four days. The result was that after 4 days of stiff resistance, the Indians over ran the position on 28 August.

As a result of this attack in force by the Indians the GOC ordered 20 Punjab to move from its previous location and strengthen the area opposite Haji Pir Pass. They moved in and took up positions in Khora Nakka on the evening of 28 August. They had hardly time to move forward one platoon. This small force was attacked on the morning of 29 August. The battalion hearing of the attack hurriedly moved forward but before they could reach the position the Indians had thrown back the platoon. 20 Punjab as a result, took up position at Kirni and the ridges next to it. With the capture of Khora Nakka the Indians had a clear passage to tauli Pir and on to rawla Kot except that 10 Baluch was holding Sheru Ka Dhara, the South spur of Sankh, where they had just moved in. The Indians wisely did not attempt to follow this course.

The next step on 20 Punjab came on the morning of 30 August. This attack was successfully repulsed with heavy casualties to the enemy. The performance was repeated in the afternoon with similar results. 20 Punjab was now reinforced with one company of 17 Baluch and one company from 10 Azad Kashmir. The helped in further stabilizing the situation. The Indian kept on attacking both during day and night throughout the next three weeks. On 7 and again on 8 September the Indians put in two night attacks which were sufficiently large strengths. The enemy suffered heavy casualties in both these attacks. On each occasion they fell back leaving behind a lot of ammunition and equipment. This senseless hurling of troops to such an extent that after their attack had been repulsed on 21 September they fell back like a mob without any control or discipline at all. That day they had left behind over 200 dead bodies. The attacking Indian troops on that day had been 6 Dogra, battalion of Indian Punjab Regiment and a Gurkha battalion.

The Indians now spent a few days in repairing the road Uri-Haji Pir Pass. It appeared that the enemy was preparing for the big push towards Bagh valley and from there to fab out into Azad Kashmir. It needed to build up a great deal of logistic support for such an undertaking and a road was essential for this purpose. Our defenses against his earlier efforts to push towards Bagh valley had so far stood well in spite of the shortage of troops and very difficult line of communication. The lack of artillery support had definitely affected the operations so far. 12 Pieces of artillery arrived in this sub-sector on 31 August. This made all the differences from that day onwards.

In the South of this sector the Indians brigade in Punch had remained on the defensive. The revolutionaries had disrupted the L of C to Punch very badly and Punch had, at one time, become very nearly a besieged garrison. Lately the revolutionaries had diverted their main attention to Rajauri and as a result the Indian garrison in Punch had got a little breathing space. The capture of Mandi by the revolutionaries so close to Punch had caused the Indians a great deal of concern but it had also helped Punch garrison indirectly by releasing pressure against it. By 30 August the Indians were in a position to venture out of Punch and start the offensive northwards. They first started shelling Chand Tekri on 30 August. They had:

25 Pounders 18
Medium Gun 6
3.7 Howitzers 6
4.2 Mortars 6

Our forces had:

25 Pounders 1
3.7 Howitzers 2

The shelling of Chand tekri and other positions opposite Punch continued on 31 August and 1 September. On addition over 100 rounds of RR s were used by the Indians to break the bunkers on Chand Tekri on 1 September alone. The Indians put in an attack on 2 September at 0200 hours but it was successfully repulsed.

On 5 September the shelling of Chand Tekri was intensified by the enemy and attack appeared imminent. The misfortune was that there was no reserve available to reinforce this sub-sector. As this stage the two 3.7 Howitzers were also lost this area and the only artillery support available to Chand tekri was one 25 pounder gun. On 6 September the Indians launched a full brigade attack on Chand Tekri at 0430 hours. The battalions used were 2 Sikh, 3 Dogra, and 3 Rrajputana Rifles. Opposite this large force supported by 36 pieces of artillery, the position was held by:

· One Platoon of Azad Kashmir · Two Platoons Civil Armed Forces · One Platoon Local Mujahids · One Platoon Rangers

They were supported by only one 25 pounder gun. Outnumbered by 1:25 in manpower, 1:36 in artillery and with no MMGs, mortars or RRs these one hundred odd determined men withstood the onslaught as few defenders have done in the history of war. The Indians had used the hours of darkness for the initial approach. All three batalions had followed different routes. It was thus a three pronged attack converging on Chand Tekri. The last few yards were very costly to the Indians but they had captured their objectives. Our casualties in dead and wounded had been over 50%, to be exact 33 dead and 29 wounded had been. The C.A.F platoon had only 5 survivors. One can confidently say that they had fought well.

The Indian emboldened by their first success from the South advanced and attacked Ziarat on 9 September. This attack was successfully repulsed but during the next night the Indians using the cover of darkness out flanked the position and over ran it by first light. With the loss of Ziarat the road to Haji Pir Pass from the South was open to the Indians but not for use. The westward area dominating the road was still in our hands and the Indians could neither use nor repair it while these positions were held by us. The road was not used by the Indians as a result until the cease fire on 23 September.

The Indians kept on attacking the positions to the West of road Punch-Uri but all their attacks were repulsed. The last attack came on 20 September when 7/11 Sikh tried to gain ground across the road but after suffering a a large number of casualties they fell back. The two main positions which enabled the Indians to dominate Bedori bulge were Haji Pir Pass and Chand Tekri. As it happened both these were lost due to shortage of infantry and absence of artillery in that sector. Two weak battalions were holding a front of nearly 65 miles at a time when they had no supporting arms.