Shudder when I think of Oct 1947 carnage: Survivor of Pak-based violence in J&K
A tribal militia was pillaging its way through her village, killing people and torching huts. Devi, now 105, remembers that the attackers -- aided by members of the Pakistani army -- abducted young children, killed adult men and raped the women.Updated: Oct 21, 2020, 06:32 IST
Shanti Devi was 22 when she fled her home in Chatra village in what is now Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, two young children in tow.
A tribal militia was pillaging its way through her village, killing people and torching huts. Devi, now 105, remembers that the attackers -- aided by members of the Pakistani army -- abducted young children, killed adult men and raped the women.
It was October 22, 1947, and the militia was part of a Pakistani design -- ultimately unsuccessful -- to forcibly capture Jammu and Kashmir. Her husband, Duni Chand, was a marginal farmer. Her family, along with hundreds of other Hindu and Sikh families, settled in Jammu’s Poonch district.
Seven decades later, Devi says the carnage left an indelible scar. “Today I am 105 but I still remember the carnage in 1947. I still shudder whenever I think of it. It was a nightmare,” she said.
Now a resident of Degwar near the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch in a neighbourhood called ‘Mohalla Purani Poonch’, Devi said the tribal raiders were especially cruel with Hindu and Sikh women, who were abducted, raped and forced to accept Islam. “Those who refused were slaughtered,” she added.
Horror stories like that of Devi and hundreds of others are set to take centrestage on Thursday as India spotlights Pakistan’s role in instigating violence and terror in Kashmir months after Independence in 1947, when Islamabad-sponsored tribal militia, along with the Pakistani army, attacked the civilian population, wreaked humanitarian destruction, killed thousands, and came close to capturing the capital Srinagar before being repelled by Indian forces.
The refugees forced to flee their homes have always marked October 22 as a Black Day. Now, after years of being in the shadows, they look forward to tell their stories but also hope for more government support.
“We survived the carnage in PoK and continue to live in penury. We have a small land holding and a cow ---our only source to livelihood,” said Devi’s son Suresh Kumar. “I have a differently abled son and a daughter. No government ever thought of our miseries and we continue to live in oblivion,” he rued.
Advocate Bakshi Dwarkanath, 82, said he was seven when he fled Chatra village, and on a clear day, their old hutment can be seen from across the LoC.
“These raiders attacked Hindus and Sikhs in the night and raised Islamic slogans,” he said. At least 170 Hindus and Sikhs were herded into a house before it was set on fire by the raiders. “We slept in the maize fields every night out of fear that raiders may set afire our houses,” he added.
The terrorised family saw their money and jewellery looted, but weren’t willing to convert; after walking for three days, they reached Pooch town.
“I remember my aunt Shiv Dei, around 50 years old at that time, stayed back with her grandson. Being a rich lady, she gave her money and ornaments to the raiders to save their lives. They also converted to Islam,” said octogenarian. He also recalled some acts of kindness from their Muslim neighbours.
Another resident of the locality, ex-serviceman Sardar Bachan Singh, 82, said his village of around 1,000 people in the erstwhile Bagh sector was wiped out by the militia. “Raiders with active help by Pakistani forces wanted to usurp the entire J&K. We had to flee with whatever belongings we could lay our hands on,” he recalled.
He was 10 at the time.