Four eventful days in 1947 decided the fate of Kashmir and led to Article 370. Here’s a look at what happened…
Raid on Kashmir (last week of October 1947)
Invader’s route (October 23)
The tribesmen transited through Pakistan carrying modern military gear. The first standoff was at Muzaffarabad where they faced a battalion of Dogra troops, capturing the bridge between Muzaffarabad and Domel, which itself fell to the attackers the same day. Over the next two days, they took Garhi and Chinari. The main group of attackers then proceeded towards Uri.
The gallant 300
At Uri, Brigadier Rajinder Singh, who led J&K state forces, was killed. “He and his colleagues will live in history like the gallant Leonidas and his 300 men who held the Persian invaders at Thermopylae,” writes civil servant VP Menon. The battle at Uri holds significance as it likely helped Maharaja Hari Singh avoid capture and bought the Indian government valuable time to bring in more forces. After the battle, the tribesmen travelled down the Jhelum river to Baramulla, the entry point into the Valley.
The flight of Hari Singh (October 24-25)
On October 24, the maharaja made an urgent appeal to the Indian government. He waited for a response, while the Cabinet’s defence committee met in Delhi.VP Menon, administrative head and secretary of the states department, was instructed to fly to Srinagar on October 25. Menon’s first priority was to get the maharaja and his family out of Srinagar. There were no forces left to guard the capital and the invaders were at the door. The king left the Valley by road for Jammu.
Indian troops fly into the valley
On October 26, after a Cabinet defence committee meeting, the government decided to fly two companies of troops to Srinagar. Menon himself took a plane to Jammu where the king was stationed.
Signing of Instrument of Accession (October 26)
Governor-general Mountbatten had contended it would be the ‘height of folly’ to send troops to a neutral state without an accession completed “but that it should only be temporary prior to a referendum.” Neither Nehru nor Sardar Patel attached any importance to the “temporary” clause, but Menon was carrying a message for the maharaja: he had to join the Union if he wanted to ward off the invasion. The king was ready to accede. In fact, according to Menon’s memoirs, he had left word with an aide that if Menon did not return with an offer, he was to shoot the king in his sleep. Hari Singh signed the accession letter regretting that the invasion had left him with no time to decide what was in the best interest of his state, to stay independent or merge with India or Pakistan.
Final act (October 27)
Referendum would be held in the state when the law and order situation allowed it. Sheikh Abdullah took charge of an emergency administration in Kashmir. Nehru appointed N Gopalswamy Ayyangar as a cabinet minister to look after Kashmir affairs. Ayyangar was one of the chief architects of Article 370.