Bloodshed, massacre, firing and killing was the scenario on November 11, 1947 at Rajouri in Jammu & Kashmir. When whole of India was celebrating Diwali and Independence, the nationalists in Rajouri were defending their motherland without fearing their lives. With numb eyes and heavy heart Sat Pal Gupta, a local of Rajouri, somehow gathered courage to recount the bloody massacre, which he witnessed when he was just 12 year old. He says: “MY father was killed in front of my eyes. My mother preferred to die by poisoning herself rather than getting into the tainted hands of Pakistani raiders and local Muslims. Like my mother, thousands of women willingly preferred to die over dishonour by the invaders. Women gathered and consumed poison as parsad and some jumped into the well”. On their martyrdom site now stands a memorial called “Balidan Bhavan”, which is regularly visited by families of the martyrs.
Some of the readers may find themselves in distress, disquiet and nail biting. To understand the real story we need to look into the past and answer some serious questions such as what happened on November 11, 1947 in Rajouri? Why did women of Rajouri consume poison as parsad? Why did the Hindus of Rajouri not celebrate Diwali for years? Lastly, has their sacrifice been honouredt?
On August 15, 1947, we got Independence and soon the process of Partition started. India witnessed riots in various parts of the country, but what happened in Rajouri was not a riot. It was a war. At one side, there were armed rebels of Maharaja’s Army aided by Pakistan Army, local Muslims of the town and on the other side were unarmed Hindus. They were threatened, assaulted and forced to run away, but without fearing for their lives they resisted and preferred to die rather than being called as coward.
It was the auspicious festival of Diwali. There was happiness all around. Not a single Hindu had any clue that the festival of lights will end with blood and blood everywhere. On November 11, 1947, Safi Daleer (Captain of Maharaja Army) and Major Aslam revolted against the Maharaja and settled a camp about 8 km away from the Town of Rajouri with his other Muslim associates. The Kabaili raiders from Pakistan also joined them. They were aided by Pakistan Army as well as by local Muslims. Soon they wrote a letter to Hindus of the town asking them either to leave Rajouri or be ready for bloodshed. The then Teshildar of Rajouri, Harzi Lal, assured protection to the Hindus of the town. He had some 10-20 soldiers with him. They created small posts and a soldier with some civilians were posted at each post. The time and luck was not in favour of the Hindus. Watching the large number of invaders and rebels, at midnight hour Teshildar called off soldiers and ran away leaving behind the Hindus helpless, hopeless and hapless. However, the unarmed Hindu civilians (especially the RSS swayamsevaks) decided to fight till the last breath rather than escaping. On November 11 (Diwali), 1947, Safi Daleer and Major Aslam marched towards Rajouri with armed soldiers killing innocent civilians. The Hindus of the town and adjoining villages resisted at large, but could not stand for long against the armed soldiers aided by local Muslims. The Hindu males were captured and brought at the ground which at present is Airfield and were killed viciously. Almost 10,000 civilians including 3000-3500 women lost their lives battling for motherland. This is a unique and outstanding example of sacrifice, valour and patriotism ever witnessed in history.
The Hindu males displayed extraordinary valour, while the women set an extraordinary example of self-sacrifice to protect self-esteem. The women decided to gather at a point and kill themselves rather than getting into the clutches of the rebels. Thousands of women consumed poison, while some other jumped into the well. There were few children, women and males who could manage to save their lives. The Pakistan soldiers soon entered the town of Rajouri and declared it as part of Pakistan. On the other hand, Maharaja Hari Singh signed Instrument of Accession with India on October 26, 1947. The Indian army marched towards the territories illegally occupied by Pakistan. After long six months on April 13, 1948, Rajouri was recaptured by the Indian army. It was the day of Baisakhi. The story of Bloodshed that began on Diwali came to an end on the Day of Baisakhi, which is also celebrated as Rajouri Day every year.
There is also a memorial in the remembrance of the martys’ where Hindu women of the town everyday recite prayers to remember the balidan of 1947. It was constructed between 1961-62. It is famously known as Balidan Bhavan. It is constructed near the well into which women jumped after the invaders entered the town. Initially, Sheikh Abdulla refused to transfer land to Hindus for the construction of the memorial. Later on after repeated request and protest by the Hindus, part of the state land was given for the construction of the memorial.
The valour and sacrifice of the Hindus of Rajouri and adjoining area is pious and commendable. They were not trained soldiers, had no arms but carried a long and resistive war against the armed soldiers aided by Pakistan army and local Muslims, with their love and emotions for motherland. It is believed that for years the Hindus of Rajouri didn’t celebrate Diwali to pay tribute to their ancestors. Undoubtedly, the sacrifice of these people is the reason that Rajouri is the integral part of India.
Along with Indian Army, these people are equally credible to free Rajouri from the clutches of Pakistan. They always stood with India and set an example of unity and integrity. However, unfortunately the present India has no space and time to remember their sacrifice and love for India. Every year on Diwali, people of Rajouri perform yajna to pay tribute to their sacrifice for the nation.
Let us remember them; let us honour them.
(The writer is a college student from Rajouri)