Friday, August 19, 2011

Mohammed Yusuf Saraf, Kashmir’s Fight for Freedom

 "Kashmir's Fight for Freedom" by Mohammed Yusuf Saraf, who rose to become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of "Azad" Jammu Kashmir (AJK).

“A large number of tribals, without wasting any time, arraigned themselves against the people of Baramulla and within a few hours many buildings were gutted. Houses built of pucca bricks were forcibly entered into and plundered, the inhabitants being held in thrall at the pain of death. Scores of houses on the left bank of Jhelum were burnt to ashes.”

“The Mother Superior of St. Joseph Hospital, three nuns and a British couple staying there were slain. Three of my Hindu neighbours – Shambhu Nath, Ved Lal and Arjan Nath – schoolteachers all, were murdered. As far as looting and arson went, no distinction was made between Hindus and Muslims.”

“For instance, when a tribal started to forcibly snatch away a blanket from a poor weaver called Ghani – the father of four daughters – he asked him, “Is it for this purpose that you have come to Kashmir?” Ghani was shot dead on the spot. The local cinema hall was turned into a veritable brothel. Exercising abundant caution, a well to do family sent all its women out of town. Due to some reason, one daughter-in-law of the house was unfortunately left behind. When a tribal spotted her, he ordered her to the camp. Displaying presence of mind, the girl sought permission to don new clothes and to carry her jewellery. The permission was granted. The girl entered a large room where fodder for horses was stored. She set the fodder on fire and herself jumped in. Not only the girl and her house, two hundred other houses of the mohalla were reduced to ashes.”

“A city dweller named Rasul, who owned an oil press, invited two hundred tribals for dinner. After having eaten, the ‘guests’ demanded women. Fortunately all women had been sent out earlier and there was just an old granny in the house. The tribal went away in thorough disgust.”

“The Kashmiri Pandit women wear a particular piece of jewellery in their ears which is never taken off during the lifetime of their husbands. The tribals, without giving them the opportunity to remove these themselves, tore at them mercilessly, leaving the ears of the women spouting blood.”

“While plundering houses, they did not stop only at cash and jewellery. Samovars and brass utensils were also looted, thinking them to be made of gold. Some tribals were seen wearing ferans that are the particular apparel of women.”

(Mohammed Yusuf Saraf, Kashmir’s Fight for Freedom, p.906-908) 

Baramullah's population of 14,000 before the invasion of October 22 1947 was reduced to 1,000 by the time the Indian Army freed it in the first week of November. The men had been killed. Something like 4,000-5,000 women of all communities had been transported back in lorries to be sold in markets in Peshawar, Rawalpindi etc. I have said this on the basis of my readings of the newspapers of the time etc but would much appreciate any further references.

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