When SMA formed “Kashmir’s National Fouj”

By M.J. Aslam

Recently, while passing by remnants of Palladium Cinema, Lal Chowk, Srinagar, I came under a sudden whirlpool of memories when this cinema used to remain daily abuzz with cinema lovers & now being occupied by CRPF men since almost three decades. But the currents of memory didn’t end there to recede to the present, I was in , as immediately an “unknown” high tide that had swept across entire political landscape of JK, inter alia, following “orchestrated release” of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah (SMA) from jail on 29-09-1947 and his  appointment  as Head of the Emergency Administration that was set up by Maharaja Hari Singh (MHS) “unwillingly” at the behest of Congress leaders on 30-10-1947,  struck my mind to its great tumultation & inquisition.

Before narrating that historical recollection, I had, it is quite apt to recall to our minds that MHS , Despotic Ruler of JK, had virtually abandoned his thrown, his power, in Kashmir begging Kashmiris to ascend to it,  who were just one “right action” away to grab the occasion but they couldn’t for pre-meditated planing  of INC through courtesy of SMA &Co . MHS along-with his family and Darbar had fled to Jammu on 26-10-1947 for further shelter. Historian, Alaister Lamb writes that ” at this  time  SMA had organised an effective force of armed volunteers to keep order in Srinagar and, if need be, defend it; … The regular police had totally disappeared. It was widely believed, at least by the wealthier Hindus, that ferocious Islamic hordes were rushing along the Jhelum Valley Road and would at any moment enter Srinagar unopposed”. ( Birth of a Tragedy, Kashmir-1947, page 90). This fact is further corroborated by an Indian News Website of TV 18. A devout follower of SMA , it writes, “Maqbool Sherwani, whom tribesmen had asked for directions towards Srinagar, turned them towards Shadipura from Shalateng”, ( Firstpost, dated 28-10-2015) . that is, in a total reverse direction from the tribal goal of Srinagar.

Oh, yes, I was talking of the “historical recollection” that tossed my mind immediately by looking at rubble  of  Palladium  Cinema. Yes, I was reminded of the fact that this (Palladium Cinema) is the place where once upon a time the headquarters of Kashmir’s “National Fouj” were initially created by SMA in 1947 . Later, he formally introduced  “National fouj”  on 15th April 1948 in Emergency Administration immediately after his return from Delhi  . The chief of this ” “National Fouj, which was given the name of “Peace Brigade” , initially in 1947 , was Mr. Gh Mohi ud Din Hamdani. It was, at the outset, “inaugurated” under high sound of Buggles and Bajas inside Exhibition Grounds Srinagar  by none other than Mr. GM Sadiq, a staunch communist but close aid of SMA . A few ex-army personnel (Muslims) of British-Dogra army and most of the NC volunteers were recruited in this newly invented “Kashmir Fouj”. ( Nid e Haq, Late Alhaj Munshi M Isaaq, (2014) , pages 190-192). At this time Indian Army ( Real Army) had already landed and reached territory of J & K. NC volunteers headed by Mr. Bakhshi GM , another intimate friend of SMA, took an active role in guiding Indian Army in trucks placed outside Srinagar airport to different parts of Kashmir and provided  them (army) vital information about the tribesmen. (Slender Was the Thread: Kashmir Confrontation 1947-48, by Brigadier LP Sen; Greater Kashmir dated Jun 9 2016 ).

But , “the fact remains that the common people of the State were at no stage party to this plan”.( Kashmir Issue, A Historical Perspective by A M Mattu, ( 2002) page 47). So, it has been concluded on “an analysis of the events of those eventful times …. that the NC workers were following a plan. They knew they had to support accession to India even before the creation of Pakistan and India on August 14 &15,  respectively”. (((http:// www. greaterkashmir. com /news/ opinion  post-office-in-flames/225468.html ; “SMA had already in a secret airplane shifted his family members to Delhi”, Nid e Haq, Late Alhaj Munshi M Isaaq, (2014) , page 193))).

Several Indian Army Officers were assigned the task of “training and preparing Kashmir Fouj” against Qabaeel . Many communists who had fled AJK and Pak were entrusted with the job to “mentally and psychologically training and preparing “Kashmir Fouj” against Aggressors”. A “cultural wing of many local opportunist artists” was created to launch “propaganda programmes” against Pak and Qabaeel. . Famous communist leader Mr. P L Bedi and his wife wife, Fareeda Bedi, were given the charge to look after the “newly created cultural and propaganda departments” of Emergency Administration. Under the influence of communist members of NC, it’s Leader, renamed Amira Kadal as Lal Chowk ( parallel to Red Square of Communist Moscow). After talking over “control of things” , the “National Fouj” spread out but a reign of goondaism and terrorism in every part of Kashmir. Local police was mute spectators [for obvious reasons] …..(Nid e Haq, Late Alhaj Munshi M Isaaq, (2014) , pages 190-192).

National Fouj served the purpose for which it was created. Perhaps, NC Leadership had decided to live by a false, self-deceiving dream, or a promise sold by Indian Leaders to him that soon after restoration of “peace” they would vacate their Army and leave Kashmir to be run by its own people and Fouj under its [NC] control. This claim is borne out by the fact that SMA “pleaded” to Sardar Patel in his letter dated 7th October 1948 in these words : “With the taking over of the State by India, “IT WAS AGREED” [between NC & INC leaderships] that steps would be taken to reorganise and rebuild our own army so that when the present emergency is over and the Indian forces are withdrawn, the State will be left with a proper organised army of its own to fall back upon.” (Bonefire of Kashmiriyat : Deconstructing Accession, by Pandit Sandeep Bamzai,(2006), page 73). This letter followed by few reminders was “deservingly” consigned to Dustbin by Indian Leaders. After playing “quisling’s role”, to ask for mastery is a stupid thing to do, by the group.  SMA seems to have been still “adhered to his old dream of an independent State, the “Switzerland of Asia”, under the administration of the National Conference with himself at the head of affairs.( Birth of a Tragedy, Kashmir-1947, by Alaister Lamb,page 62).
After arrest of SMA on 9th August 1953, some of the members of the “Kashmir Fauj” still loyal to SMA were removed and tortured and it[Kashmir Fauj] was re-invented by Mr. Bakhshi GM with such members who had higher levels of loyalty towards him than SMA just to “Crush” all voices of dissent in JK, same way as his predecessor [SMA] had done when he was put on “Chair” of PM of the State administration by Indian rulers. ( Kashmir Issue, A Historical Perspective by A M Mattu, ( 2002) page 71).
The Kashmir Fouj (dubbed as Dagan Brigade), it is circulated, not knowing the reality behind it,  was finally changed into regular unit of the Indian Army on 2nd December 1972 and re-designated the J & K Light Infantry. (Press Information Bureau, GOI, Press Release of 16 September 2004,Presentation of colours to the J & K Light Infantry Regiment:  “…..The JAK LI Regiment, earlier J&K Militia was raised as volunteer force on 15 April 1948, when the Kabalies raided the State of J&K. A clarion call was given by Late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, at the rampart of Lal Chowk for volunteers to come forward and protect the State, and push back the raiders supported by Pakistan. Thousands volunteered with staves, lathies (sticks), spears and some with single barrel guns and facilitated the Indian Army in launching operations by acting as guides, porters and even in leading assaults…..While the nefarious designs of the raiders were thwarted, these volunteers were organized into fighting units under the banner J&K MILITIA. .. …….”).

Note: The views are personal of the author & not of the organisation he works for.

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