By A Special Correspondent
There is enough evidence to suggest that the J&K government and Government of India had sufficient information about raiders’ invasion before hand.
Dr. Atri’s revelation:
On October 8, 1947 Dr. SK Atri, a leading doctor of Srinagar had been informed by some of his patients who held pro-Pak views that an invasion was in the offing. He took Prof. Madhok and many others into confidence about it. This is corroborated by Prof. Niranjan Nath Raina, the founder of the communist movement in Kashmir. In his book ‘Kashmir Politics and Imperialist manoeuvres’ (1846-1980), he writes:
“Some influential refugees from the NWFP with close personal contacts among the Pathan elite, reached Srinagar in second week of October. They had personal knowledge that Khan Bahadur Kuli Khan had been recruiting tribes in the Swat Valley for invasion of Kashmir”.
Indian forces pushing back Pakistani Invaders in Nov. 1947 in Teetwal Sector.
The communist group in the National Conference acting on this information issued a handbill on the 14th or 15th of October warning that an invasion was being planned to take place before the onset of winter. It asked all the patriotic forces to rise to the occasion to defend the state against invasion. At the same time it asked for transfer of power to the people, claiming that only a government enjoying the confidence of the people would be able to organise effective defence.
George Cunnigham, who was Governor of NWFP at the time of partition, wrote a letter to Lord Mountbatten divulging information that Pakistan was sending armed tribesmen to Kashmir. His letter was forwarded to Prime Minister Nehru by the Viceroy. Pandit Nehru later admitted in Parliament to having accidentally destroyed the crucial document.
Dewan Shiv Sharan Lal, who was Deputy Commissioner of Dera Ismail Khan had soon after his escape from Pakistan met Sardar Patel, the Home Minister and informed him about Pakistan’s preparations for invasion of Kashmir. Sardar Patel had, it is believed, despatched Dewan Shiv Sharan Lal to Srinagar to be in touch with DIG Kashmir, Sh. Gian Chand Bali.
By far the direct and comprehensive evidence about the Pakistani attack came from Major Onkar Singh Kalkot on 19th October i.e. more than two days prior to invasion.
Major OS Kalkat, who later rose to be the Major General in Indian Army was serving as the Brigade Major at HQ Bannu Frontier Brigade Group at the time when preparations were underway for tribal invasion. His Brigade head was Murray, a British national Kalkat had been with Murray for over a year and was in his confidence. He was a postgraduate in Economics from Delhi University and had joined the Army rather late at the age of 24 in 1942.
Soon after partition there was communal trouble in Mirpur, killings had gone unabated.. Kalkat had offered to go there but was restrained by Murray. The latter told him it was better that a white officer went there, otherwise the issue would get politicised. Kalkat’s family had already reached East Punjab.
Kalkat was under watch of Pakistani intelligence, a junior Lieutenant was watching his movements. Besides Kalkat there were other few non-Muslim military personnel stationed at Bannu brigade outpost.
Messenger packet used to come on every Monday. The duty officer brought the packet, Kalkat as Brigade Major signed for it. The packet marked ‘personal/top secret’ was meant for Brig. Murray. It was an official communication from Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army. Major OS Kalkat was on the horns of a dilemma. As Brigade Major it was his duty to relay the message by radio to his Brigadier. At the same time becoming privy to what was supposed to be secret communication to his boss would put his life in danger. For a moment Kalkat hesitated. Then he opened the packet, which included a letter addressed to Brig. Murray. It was signed personally by General Sir Frank of Messervy, C in C. Kalkat on reading the contents of the letter got nervous and felt excited. He bolted the door of his room to study the details in secrecy.
The letter and the accompanying briefing note detailed the plan for an Army offensive named ‘Operation Gulmarg’. The invasion was planned by Pak Army Headquarters meticulously with considerable strategic and tactical insight. The ‘Operation Gulmarg’ was to be an invasion of the Kashmir valley by tribal warriors of the northern frontier areas, which were to be armed and led by Pak army officers wearing tribal dress. The headquarters of ‘Operation Gulmarg’ was to be in the building that housed General Messervy.
Kalkat was the only Indian to know of secret invasion planned by Pakistan. Destiny had chosen him for a very special task. There were still two months in which India could make effective preparations to foil Pakistan’s nefarious game-plan. Kalkat made notes hurriedly, making a point-by-point copy of the plan.
‘Operation Gulmarg’ had devised a three-pronged operation:
Hit and Run attacks along the border with J&K force dispersal of state forces of J&K into small groups.
Unleashing of systematic propaganda on the border areas inciting the Muslims to fight the forces of the Maharaja and resort to religious-cleansing of their non-Muslim neighbours.
Finally, thousands of tribal warriors were to cross the frontier into J&K and occupy every bridle road and mountain tracks.
According to this plan, as revealed by Major Kalkat, every Pathan tribe was required to enlist one Lashkar of 1,000 tribesmen. The tribal detachments were to be collected at Baftnu, Wana, Peshawar, Kohat, Thal and Nowshera by the first week of September, 1947. The Brigade Commanders at these places had to issue them arms/ammunition and essential clothing items. Each Lashkar was to be commanded by a Major. A Captain and 10 JCOs of the regular Pakistan army were also to be provided to each Lashkar. The invasion was to be commanded by Major General Akbar Khan, who was assigned the code name ‘Tariq’.
As per ‘Operation Gulmarg’ all Lashkars were to meet at Abbottabad by October 18th. Six Lashkars were to advance along the main road—Abbottabad-Muzaffarabad-Uri-Srinagar, with the specific task of capturing the Srinagar Airport and subsequently the Banihal pass. Two Lashkars were to march from Haji Pir Pass direct on to Gulmarg, ensuring the security of the right flank for the main force advancing from Muzaffarabad. Two other raiders’ detachments were to move from Tithwal through the Nastachchun Pass for capturing vital towns of erstwhile Baramulla district—Sopore, Handwara and Bandipore. 10 other Lashkars were assigned the task of capturing Poonch, Bhimbar and Rawalkot before advancing to Jammu. Detailed plans were made for procuring guides/informers to be provided to different Lashkars. These guides/were to come from pro-Pak elements in J&K State forces.
Arms/Ammunition and other required items were to be transhipped to Abbottabad by October 15th. These were to be subsequently moved to Muzaffarabad and Domel after the D-Day.
The D-Day was fixed as 22 October, on which date the Lashkars were to enter J&K territory. Pakistan’s 7 Infantry Division was to concentrate on the Murre-Abbottabad area by October 21st and was ordered to be ready to back up Lashkars entering J&K territory and help these consolidate their hold on the Kashmir valley. Another infantry brigade was to be kept ready at Sialkot to move on to Jammu. The main attack was to be launched along the motor road. The raiders force was supplied rifles, the LMGs, 300 civilian lorries were put at their disposal.
Kalkat after finishing the notes asked his two Sikh batmen to stay back for the nightwatch. This made his junior Lieutenant spying on him suspicious. Kalkat concealed the envelope he had received in utmost secrecy. Then he talked to Brigadier Murray on radiophone. Kalkat conveyed that a code-named ‘Operation Gulmarg’ had been drawn up by the Pak Army and described it as an astounding plan—an invasion by Tribals.
Brig. Murray asked Kalkat to keep the plan to himself and not to reveal more on the radio. He warned him that any leakage would put his (Kalkat’s) life in danger.
Kalkat believed Brigadier Murray to be a part of conspiracy and took his advice as a veiled threat to keep quiet. Murray reached Bannu the following morning. It is said that the Pakistani Lieutenant had overhead Kalkat’s radio-talk with Brigadier Murray.
The next morning Kalkat was on a stroll. The Lieutenant, accompanied by a British officer surrounded him, putting him under arrest. The British officer told him, ‘you just poked your nose into something too big’. Kalkat was taken in a jeep for Lahore. He believed that the Pakistani Lieutenant or Murray himself had summoned them from Pak Army Headquarters.
At the helipad Kalkat was put before Major General Akbar Khan. Murray was also brought there. As per one version Akbar Khan himself shot him dead. Kalkat was put under house arrest in Lahore. He made his escape from Lahore, hiding in a goods train and reached Delhi via Ambala.
On 19th October Major OS Kalkat met Brigadier Kulwant Singh and Defence Minister Baldev Singh and revealed what Pakistan was cooking up. He also met other senior army officers at the headquarters. The Defence Minister asked his Army Hqrs. to analyse Kalkat’s information.
A Brigadier dismissed Kalkat’s revelations (Operation Gulmarg) as a Cock and Bull story’ and said the latter had invented it as his family was caught up in the riots and that was weighing on his mind. The Brigadier further claimed that he had spoken to his friends at Pak Army Hqrs, who laughed away at any possibility of trouble between India and Pakistan. But a colonel who knew Kalkat for years disagreed with his Brigadier and said Kalkat was steady as a rock who would never say anything for which he did not have basis. Kalkat was then taken to Prime Minister Nehru and made to repeat what he had said earlier to Defence Minister and other officers at Army Hqrs. Angry Nehru stared at his Defence Minister. Before Kalkat could finish, Nehru let loose verbal barrage against his senior Army officers for disregarding Kalkat’s information. He rumbled through his papers, telegraph messages and army couriers and flung these at them and kept shouting unrestrained.
Nehru turned to Kalkat and acknowledged, “This man (Kalkat) here risked his life, forgot about his family, to come to us here, to the PMO office, to tell us about an attack, a perfidious attack on our country. He had details, total step-by-step plans of an enemy operation. And what do my Army officers do, what does the Defence Minister of India, Sardar Baldev Singh, no less, do. They laugh it off. Kalkat is a mad man or worse. A paranoid patriot. They do nothing”. Pointing at the fallen papers Nehru said”, There is the proof that every word that Kalkat spoke was true. We have the news now that ‘Operation Gulmarg’ has already started and raiders are entering Kashmir.
Major Kalkat was soon drafted into the Kashmir operations (1947-48) and saw operations in the difficult Tithwal sector. Kalkat had great political foresight too. He was mentioned for his leadership role in Kashmir operations in dispatches. His plan for settlement of refugees from Muzaffarabad in 1947 was widely appreciated but ignored by Pt. Nehru at the instance of Sheikh Abdullah.
Kalkat later commanded 14 Infantry in the Western Sector to recapture 32 posts from Pakistanis in Mamdot and Jalalabad sectors in the 1971 war. In the same war Kalkat and Major General BN ‘Jimmy’ Sarcar had initially commanded ‘Operation Jackot’ in the Eastern Sector. Kalkat also worked as Chief Military Intelligence Officer in the Cabinet Secretariat for two years. He wielded a facile pen. His brilliant account—‘The far-flung frontiers’ (Allied, 1983) has attained the status of a classic.
Though Kalkat was approved for promotion as Lt. General, he sought voluntary retirement at the age of 54 in 1972. This great son of India passed away at Chandigarh on December 3, 2004 after a prolonged illness.