Trip to Rawalpindi
Sh. K.N. Koul
March 1947 and I felt a longing to pay a visit to Hardwar. There was no clear
picture as to what was happening down in plains, except sketchy news in broad
contours that was getting through the borders. Hari Singh, Maharaja of
Jammu and Kashmir, had yet to exceed to union of India or Pakistan. Precise
division of territories between India and Pakistan had yet to be known. Sheikh
Sahib was fully committed to nationalism, and did not subscribe to policies
adopted by Jinnah. Jinnah on the other hand did not want to have Pakistan
without Kashmir and not to accept division, without this State. In last moments
being disgruntled, he was thinking of approaching Nehru for being ready to agree
to United India.
Jinnah had his ego as well to sustain. He
thought, that he was great enough to form a country by the name Pakistan, a holy
land, which Muslims, he thought, would love to have, and for which he had
struggled a lot. Jinnah equally felt keen to get a place of honour, in history,
for having initiated and being successful in having a separate homeland.
Maharaja of Kashmir, Jinnah felt, was sure to join only India and envisaged
Pakistan in no case. Sheikh Sahib had cast his dye with Nehru and contributed to
the slogan “Sheikh Sahib Ka Kya irshad, Hindu Muslim Sikh Itehad” Jinnah was
therefore, justified in his chaotic thinking. He could not be decisive
either, with regard to adoption of any methodology to fulfil his objective. He
had deceit and nefarious ways, in his mind, as the only way, to annex Kashmir.
He wanted the territory, somehow and/or any way. At the same time Jinnah was
nervous and felt unfavourable circumstances abounding him all over. How to deal
with Sheikh Sahib, was equally a dilemma for Jinnah and he did not know
precisely as to how to deal with the former.
Sheikh Sahib’s, policies created in our minds a feeling of safety visa-a-vis
communal hooliganism in various parts of India. With mind and thinking being
conditioned as per the prevailing circumstances in Kashmir, we felt some measure
of safety and proceeded on 5th of March 1947, by bus, to Rawalpindi. We were to
board train there for Saharanpur, where we were to reroute ourselves for Hardwar.
We were oblivious to conditions that we were throwing ourselves into. I was
asked to take along my grandmother and an old relative, who were equally anxious
to have Ganga snan.
We reached Uri and bus driver decided to stay there for the night. He was known
and as such, obliged us by leading to a temple. People travelling to Rawalpindi
stayed generally there overnight. We obeyed and condescended to position
prevailing. We could hardly have even a wink of sleep. The pujari had warned, to
be careful, as anybody could drop in, with a view to steal. He would say
repeatedly “Bua band kar dena” and we could hardly make out as to what he
meant by bua,-the gate. In the morning out of our enthusiasm, we were the first
to reach the place where our bus had stopped for the night.
The onward bus journey was somewhat onerous, especially when we started
ascending the hill leading to Muree. We had option to proceed via Abottabad, but
since route via Muree, was clear, bereft of snow and nearer as well, we
preferred this route in comparison to Abbotabad. At Muree we had our lunch. A
number of sardars and others were managing small eateries and we found rajmah
chawal more or less congenial to our taste. From Muree we started ascending the
hill and were in Rawalpindi in the afternoon of 6th March. We stayed in a
dharamsala, in one of the Hindu dominated areas and felt better after having
rice and potatoes and cauliflower as our menu for dinner. We had carried a small
kerosene stove and that was useful for the purpose.
As night started, there were communal riots, and hell broke down on us all. All
sort of cries vitiated the sky and everybody felt unsafe and fearful. Cries of
“Nalai Taqbir” reciprocated by the slogan “Har har Mahadev” raked the
sky all over. Gun shots were heard from opposite sides and these instilled fear
all around. Some bullets even crossed over our heads. People of the locality
prepared for all possible eventualities. Gun holders formed the vanguard
in marches undertaken by young men, and the rest in the back wielded lathies. We
being on the roof were asked to store stones for throwing if attackers could be
nearer. The night was fearful and agony stood writ large on all faces. There
were reports, that trains in Lahore and other places, were being searched for
Hindus, who if found, were massacred. Hindus were reported doing likewise in
trains around Delhi and bound for Pakistan. Question of our proceeding for
Lahore did not arise. We were keen to get back to Kashmir by any possible means.
We were also joined here, by two pundit gentlemen who wanted to run back along
Next day position was a little better, and I along with some local people was
able to reach, transport market, where I contacted a known Kashmiri Pundit, who
was established in transport business. He booked for us two taxis with Kashmiri
Muslim drivers. They promised to proceed early morning next day and pass
Chaklala Cant. in early morning darkness. To our dismay, nobody turned up that
early, and we could do nothing, but to wait. The drivers however, turned up
around 10 O’clock and asked us to board the taxis. They also assured to help
us under all circumstances. We felt reassured, and boarded the taxis for our
back home journey.
We had to change our disguise for being recognised and the problem seemed to be
not that easy. We wrapped grandmother with a white sheet with her eyes only
visible. Others purchased fur caps from a Kashmiri shop which had just opened
for a while. With the dress we felt better placed and started for our
onward journey. Just while we were crossing the Cantonment, a group of Pathans
stopped our taxis and started questioning our drivers. They were equipped with
all sorts of gadgets for the kill. Kudos to our drivers, who swore by the
name of Quran, that we were all Muslims and if they wanted to kill their
brethren, they would not be following their religion. They desisted from taking
action and allowed us to proceed.
Somehow we reached Muree. The place wore a deserted look. All non-Muslims had
either been killed or had run away. I was a non-smoker but with a pack of 50
cigarettes was smoking without respite not knowing what else to do. The drivers
decided to have tea much to our discomfiture, and I kept on smoking till they
were free. All looked at us unsuspectingly. Perhaps they could not expect any
non Muslim to be in the taxis. The drivers also played their part to save us. We
started onwards to reach Kohalla. The ascent from Muree was as usual convenient.
En route we found two Pathans wearing clipped human heads, round their necks,
which sight was repugnant. An Englishman travelling ahead called them, and
questioned as to why they were holding on to these human heads, which were dirty
and smelling nasty. One remarked, without remorse, that they wanted to show, as
to how many of our enemies were killed and felt happy for the same. The
Englishman looked bewildered and left thereafter, without uttering a word.
We crossed Kohalla Bridge and heaved a sigh of relief. After crossing, we found
cadets busy with their drill getting perhaps military training to fight
Maharaja’s dogra army. Something to dislodge Maharaja was brewing to take
We reached Srinagar in the evening. People got round us to have news as to what
was happening down in plains. We thanked our drivers and rewarded them with cash
for saving our lives
We suffered from nightmares for a long time and feel so nostalgic about the
events even now. We shall never think of Rawalpindi any time here after.