Having been borne out of the womb of Lake Satisar – Kashmir has very tall mountain ranges as guardians of it’s geographical boundaries. There were only a few seasonally open mountain passes leading into the valley, besides the gorge at Baramulla where from the lake water had been drained out.

It was nearly impossible to gain entry into the valley when these passes were properly fortified. History is witness to the fact that Rinchen – a fugitive prince of Ladakh came in via Zojila only after seeking refuge in the garrison of King of Kashmir at Gagangir. The so-called great Mughal emperor of India Akbar did not succeed in entering the valley via Hasvanz (now developed as Mughal Road) despite having a far larger army than was available to Yusuf Shah Chak – the king of Kashmir at that time. The Mughals had to resort to treachery to annex the valley.

How have such impregnable boundaries become porous now and the terrorists gain access to the valley so easily with arms and ammunition? People not well versed with the geography of the region and post 1948 history blame our security forces but they could not be more wrong.

In October 1947, Qabailis (Afridi tribesmen) attacked Kashmir with the backing of Pakistani army and unleashed the kind of terror that Kashmir had only witnessed during the reign of brutal Muslim rulers. Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession thereby making Kashmir part of India and Indian army came in to clear the valley of these Qabailis. While the Indian forces were still pushing back the Qabailis from the region, Govt of India declared an abrupt ceasefire (a la-Nehru-Sheikh understanding). The forces were stopped in their tracks before they could clear the region up to the tall mountain ranges that served as the natural boundaries. The Line of Control (LOC) was established right where the Indian forces were halted leaving half the region under Pakistan and hence creating Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).

Here under are elaborated some of my personal experiences that can give the reader an idea as to what happened on the ground post the abrupt ceasefire in 1948.

In 1973, I was appointed as a Veterinary officer in the Sheep Husbandry department. I had to supervise the working of the basic units established in the far-flung areas of Kupwara. In early 1974, a crisis was averted with the help of the army stationed at Teetwal. Our departmental high quality Merino sheep provided to the breeders of the area for upgradation of their sheep had crossed the line of control and were not being returned. Army had to conduct many flag meetings to get the sheep back. I went to see the place where this happened and found myself in Amrohi village where the LOC ran right through the middle of the village. The residents, all related to one another, faced no difficulty in visiting each other in spite of being citizens of two separate nations.

In 1975, I visited Keran, another border village after crossing the Milyal top where the army unit stationed recorded my credentials, purpose and duration of visit. I stayed in a Govt rest house situated on the banks of the Krishen Ganga river (called Neelum river in POK) which served as the boundary between India and POK. I found all the people in the village responding to the call for Nimaz given from the mosque on the other side of the river. In winters when water level is low, one could easily walk across the river into a different country. Next, I went to another village called Bor where the line of control had crossed over to the Indian side of the Krishen Ganga river. A POK border picket fence was right in front of me and a man came out and made small talk. As a young man, I was happy to speak with someone from another country but had to face a very hard time at the local IB office at Keran who demanded details on everything that transpired between the Pakistani man and me. Clearance from the IB office at Kupwara had to be obtained before I was allowed to go. I hastened my retreat from the area.

While coming back from Keran, my companion on this trip Abdul Jabar Wani suggested that we inspect another unit at JumaGund that is situated across another mountain top. I agreed and we reached the top late in the afternoon where we found another army station (Jeewan Picket). As per process, we were interviewed and our credentials were checked and the purpose of the trip was documented. Now we had to go down the hill into the gorge where the village was situated. Unfortunately, it was late in the day and we were completely engulfed in a thick cloud. Visibility was very low and even though we came down very cautiously, we lost our way and lo and behold, we were in Thanda Pani, a POK village. Before anybody could reach us, we beat a hasty retreat finally reaching JumaGund very late at night where we were offered Pakistani cigarettes. I felt great smoking “Made in Pakistan” cigarettes that were available freely and learned that POK people made use of our ration store on a barter system basis.

In 1976, I was posted in Sonawari area and was scheduled to visit the highland pastures where the sheep had been taken for summer grazing. I went to Bandipore and then rode upto Rajdhani top in a small load carrier going to Gurez area – another border village. From Rajdhani top, I took a left side track and went to Gosai pasture where we had a camp. Next, I decided to inspect another camp at Nowshera. Abdul Ahad Ganai was my companion on this trip. We had to cross a very tall mountain top that we reached late in the afternoon. There was an army picket where my tour was documented. Tea was offered and advice was given not to venture further at that late hour. However, I did not want our unit to get news of my arrival and wanted to inspect it without warning, so I declined the suggestion and we started going down and soon found ourselves in a desperate situation. Only the mental alertness of Abdul Ahad saved the day for me. Upon hearing barking sounds, he made me sit down and went in the direction of the sound in the dark. After a long time he came back with two Gujjar men addressing me as Dr Zahoor and informed me that arrangements for our night stay had been made. We were to spend the night in a separate shed that was also utilized as a mosque because all the locals were staying in a long barrack type of shed along with their families and livestock (Had these people known I was a non-muslim, they would not have allowed me to stay in the mosque). We were also informed that males of both camps (India and POK) offered Friday prayers together in the same mosque where we were to stay. Moreover, since the village did not get many visitors, the locals wanted Dr Zahoor to lead the prayer next morning as it was Friday. We could not wait for the night to be over and beat a hasty retreat as soon as the sun came up.

In 1982, I visited Lam area of Rajouri district where our sheep had been located for winter grazing in an area on the borderline itself. While walking around I could almost peep into the bunkers of POK people. Lucky I was not to walk right into them.

In 1992 while being posted in Ladakh, I accompanied our director Dr Chisti to Turtuk, another border village where the locals had captured a male wild goat of Markhor species – a very rare Pashmina producing animal. We were informed that the village was part of Gilgit Baltistan area of POK till 1965 and then the locals showed us the LOC where we could easily cross over to the other side.

In May 1999, I was posted at Kargil where Pakistani army was pounding not only our roads and defense installations but civilian areas as well. Just before entering Kargil, we have to cross over Drass river before it flows into POK. There on the left is a village where people have lived on both sides of the LOC and have relatives on either side. I visited Batalik village also where the army people allowed me to use their binoculars while standing at the front line and I found myself staring into the eyes of a Pakistani soldier on the other side.

Having experienced all these border visits, I wonder as to how our Govt could have taken a decision of ceasefire in 1948 when our army had an upperhand and could have taken control of the entire region of Kashmir thus extending the borders to the mountains. The area would have been safe for our future generations.

While the army was still pushing back the Qabailis, cease-fire was declared followed by another blunder by the Nehru Govt – invoking United Nations intervention thus internationalizing the Kashmir issue. In January 1949, following ceasefire agreement , not only was almost half of the state of Jammu Kashmir left under enemy occupation, the borderline was as porous as it could be thus allowing free flow of men and material from Pakistan.

Had the ceasefire not been ordered in 1948, there would have been no Kashmir problem, No third parties, No militancy and no CPEC (China–Pakistan Economic Corridor) in Gilgit Baltistan.

These erroneous decisions were made again and again. In 1965, Haji Pir area was brought under Indian control at a very high cost to both men and material. Uri was connected with Poonch through the road built before 1947 facilitating the movement of army personnel and civilian population through all seasons. The enemy had been pushed back to the natural front line but this area was also handed back to Pakistan in 1966. Had that area remained with India, URI COULD HAVE NEVER HAPPENED.

Mr Jawahar Lal Nehru, where have you landed your own Kashmiri brethren – your own flesh and blood? What were you thinking? Did the political pressure of the British and their western allies weigh far heavier than your love for Kashmir and it’s people? You might be considered a great visionary by some but the decisions you made have had far-reaching and disastrous consequences for the future generations of Kashmir.

Image courtesy - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_of_Control

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