WAR AND POLITICS
Why it is senseless to celebrate the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War
- The government plans to celebrate 50 years since the 1965 War with Pakistan with a parade on Rajpath.
- But by most accounts the war wasn’t a decisive victory for either side.
- Individuals like Major General Ashok Mehta, who fought in the war feel that a carnival is no way to honour martyrs.
- Pakistan attacked first by occupying the Kanjarkot area in Kutch. It subsequently opened new theatres of war in Jammu and Kashmir.
- The aim was to capture Muslim majority areas of the state.
- Indian forces managed to reverse the Pakistani offensive.
- The war ended on 22 September in a ceasefire negotiated in Tashkent between PM Lal Bahadur Shastri and President Ayub Khan.
- There were atrocities against locals in the Indian Army recapture of territories in Rajouri and Poonch.
- Nearly 85,000 people are estimated to have fled to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in this period.
- A celebration of the 1965 War would reopen old wounds for the survivors.
Pakistan stopped celebrating the 1965 War with India some time ago, after some of its generals questioned the triumphalism being built around the debacle. India, however, it seems, has taken over from where Pakistan left off.
To celebrate India’s military victory over Pakistan, a month-long ‘commemorative carnival’ and a ‘victory festival’ topped with a victory parade is to be held on Rajpath in Delhi on 20 September. A total of Rs 35 crore will be spent to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 War with Pakistan.
There are good reasons for India not to hold such a public celebration.
Celebrating a draw
Major General (Retd.) Ashok Mehta who fought in the Poonch-Rajouri area in 1965 rightly points out, “You celebrate victories not draws. What is there to celebrate about the 1965 War? The war to celebrate is the 1971 War, not 1965.”
AS Dulat, former Chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) who served as Adviser to the Prime Minister on Kashmir between 2001 and 2004, also feels that the idea of celebrating the 1965 War “is completely unnecessary. It may upset some in Jammu but it will certainly provoke the Kashmiris in the valley. It is an unnecessary provocation from which you gain nothing.”
A former bureaucrat and a keen student of the Kashmir issue, Wajahat Habibullah, also advises against carnival-like celebrations. “My own belief is that one does not celebrate a war because of the people who lost their lives in it. Are you honouring those who lost their lives? I don’t think a carnival does that,” he says.
Sushobha Barve, who works with the people of the districts adjoining the Line of Control (LoC) says, “If you want to celebrate giving up the Haji Pir Pass to Pakistan, then that is best done in a seminar room. Why call it a ‘commemorative carnival’?”
The 1965 war was provoked by Pakistan by crossing the international border in Kutch and occupying the Kanjarkot area in April. The Indian Army did not put up any significant defence and withdrew. Although this dispute in Kutch was sought to be resolved through ceasefire negotiations, an emboldened Pakistan simultaneously activated the Ceasefire Line (as it was then called) in Jammu and Kashmir.
By May, it had launched operations to cut-off the Srinagar-Leh highway and Pakistani infiltrators had captured some strategically important hill features astride the highway. They were evicted by the Indian Army around 27 May.
However, undeterred and convinced that J&K was ripe for picking the Pakistan Army launched its infamous Operation Gibraltar in August 1965. The aim was to send infiltrators and precipitate an uprising in Jammu and Kashmir and separate the Muslim dominated areas of Jammu and the Kashmir Valley from India.
After suffering initial reverses, on 28 August, the Indian Army captured the Haji Pir Pass. This was eight kilometres into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. In response, Pakistan activated the second prong of its strategy called Operation Grand Slam in the Chhamb-Jauriyan sector. It wanted to capture Akhnoor to cut off communications in the Poonch sector.
Pakistani tanks crossed the Munnawar Tawi River and were halted only four kilometres from Akhnoor at Fatwal Ridge. The Pakistan Army thinned out from this sector only because India opened a new front in the Lahore sector, crossed the Ichchogil canal to reach within range of Lahore International Airport.
There were atrocities by Indian Army during the War. About 83,000 Muslims crossed over to PoK in this period
Formally, the War ended on the night of 22 September. In a meeting in Tashkent between Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and President Ayub Khan, under UN advice, both sides decided to go back to pre-August ground positions by 10 January 1966. India returned the 1,920sq km of Pakistani territory, which it had captured, while Pakistan returned the 550 sq km of Indian territory it had occupied.
India gave up Haji Pir Pass and Pakistan withdrew from the Chhamb sector. If India had held on to the Haji Pir Pass, that would have cut the distance between Jammu and Srinagar through Poonch by more than 200 km.
Strategic affairs experts argue that the decision to withdraw from the Haji Pir Pass was made by Indian policy makers perhaps because they could not afford to have Pakistan sitting on Fatwal Ridge near Akhnoor in the Chhamb-Jauriyan sector. But perhaps they also did not foresee how the Poonch Bulge would continue to be used for infiltration.
However, the point is that even though India had demonstrated its superior military strength, there was no decisive victory.
Habibullah recalls, “General JN Chaudhuri was the Commander-in-Chief at that time. The war destroyed the Pakistani notion that they were a superior military power. India asserted its supremacy. However, even General Chaudhuri , who we knew as he was a classmate of my father’s, looked at the war not as a victory but at best a draw.”
Any assessment of the 1965 War will also have to evaluate the decisions made by Prime Minister Shastri and his compulsions for signing the cease-fire agreement. It might be a good idea to exhume Shastri’s decisions and conduct yet more post-mortems of the 1965 War. However, academics and war historians may do this better than chest-thumping politicians.
Another good reason for not holding a ‘victory festival’ should be India’s desire not to re-open the wounds of the residents of Rajouri and Poonch. Its Muslim population is decisively pro-India today. This is a remarkable change from August 1965 when Pakistani infiltrators or Razakars were actively sheltered in this area although it was later claimed that this was done under duress.
“Infiltrators did get public support in Rajouri and Poonch. That is a known fact. They did not get such support elsewhere in Jammu and Kashmir,” says Habibullah.
The Razakars were able to establish ‘local governments’ in the area and many government employees gave up their jobs to join them. Hindus and Sikhs fled from rural areas while the supporters of the Razakars grabbed their properties.
The locals in Poonch and Rajouri today do not want to be reminded of the events of 1965
The infiltrators, who had come in the first week of August, left suddenly on the night of 16 September 1965. Perhaps they were ordered to withdraw because by then Pakistan was engaged in a full-blown war with India.
On 17 September the Indian Army launched Operation Clearance to hunt for the remaining infiltrators in Poonch and Rajouri. According to witnesses the Indian Army in its zeal burnt crops and houses of those suspected to have sheltered the infiltrators. Local Hindus and Sikhs helped the Army in targeting individuals who supported the Razakars and their properties.
Reopening old wounds
‘The arrival of the Army was announced by with burning of crops and gutting of houses. Along the roadside from Bhimber Gali to Poonch every house was set on fire,” Zafar Choudhary records in “Locating Jammu Muslims in the Kashmir Conflict” (published by Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation) based on evidence gathered from survivors many years later. It is estimated that nearly 2,000 people were killed during Operation Clearance in 1965.
Another local account reproduced by Choudhary notes that about 83,000 Muslims crossed over to PoK during this period. Of these, 65,000 were from the Poonch and Rajouri areas of Surankote, Mandi, Mendhar, Balakote, Thana Mandi, Darhal, Budhal and Kalakot. At the same time 9,000 Hindus and Sikhs shifted from these areas to Jammu and elsewhere. After the cease-fire agreement was signed only about 20% of those who had crossed over to Pakistan returned and a large number of families have remained divided by the Line of Control till today.
“Unfortunately, there were atrocities. The civilian casualties were very high in Rajouri and Poonch,” admits Habibullah.
However, today the local residents of Poonch and Rajouri, who have now totally rejected Pakistan, do not want to be reminded of the events of 1965.
“I have talked to my Hindu brothers. They also say that if the 1965 War is publicised and celebrated, a lot of bad things that we have forgotten will come out again. We in Rajouri and Poonch see India as our country and we want to live in peace here. The 1965 War divided us. Many atrocities were committed. Let those memories remain buried,” advises an elderly Muslim resident of Rajouri.
Asked about the atrocities, he says, “My father-in-law, for example was killed by a Sikh. What can we do about it now? It is a story that is over. Do not remind us of such things again. We have moved on. Even those who crossed over to Pakistan see the development on this side and regret migrating. But nothing can be done now,” he says.
A Hindu community leader of Poonch, who witnessed the events of 1965, says, “Those in Delhi might think that there is something to celebrate. None of us here thinks so. The majority community saw large-scale migration to Pakistan. The minorities were forced to run away to cities. Most did not return. Both the communities continue to be disturbed. So what is there to celebrate?”
No one is opposed to commemorating those who laid down their lives in 1965; but carnivals seem unnecessary
Barve, who runs the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation in Delhi, says that the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims of Rajouri and Poonch have terrible memories of 1965; of displacement and family members killed. After talking to people in the area she says, “Celebrating the 1965 War may create tensions once again. The Muslims of Jammu region are very sullen suddenly and they are watching the turn of events.”
“Let us not unsettle the LoC districts. We don’t know how they will react,” she warns.
Major General (Retd) Ashok Mehta agrees that the local people suffered during the war. “I have been in Poonch and Rajouri and I know that a lot of people suffered during the war in 1965. Although I am not sure whether the celebrations of the 1965 War would impact the local people negatively, overall I don’t think it is a good idea. I wonder why the government is doing this,” he asks.
Dulat also wonders what the government is doing. “What are you celebrating in any case?
Meanwhile no one is opposed to commemorating the servicemen who laid down their lives during the war. “Release histories of the war, honour those who participated in the war and hold seminars and discussions. But don’t use public spaces to re-enact battles or for holding carnivals. Can’t the government see the implications of what it is doing?” asks Barve.
1965 War Heroes Fight a New Battle as India Celebrates its Golden Jubilee
Even after 50 years, memories are crystal clear for veterans like Wing Commander (Retd), Vinod Nebb. At just 22 years of age in 1965, he had not even completed the entire training course, but he convinced his superiors to be permitted to fly the Hunter fighter bomber. He was awarded India’s third highest war time gallantry award, Vir Chakra, for bringing down a Pakistani Sabre aircraft.
But the recent deadlock between the government and ex-servicemen over the implementation of One Rank One Pension has led to disappointment.
“We deserve a better deal. Unfortunately it’s not happened. The government should go ahead and announce it which will enable me to go ahead and take part in the celebration which happens once in a lifetime I don’t think I’m going to live beyond a 100 years to celebrate another function,” said Wing Commander Nebb.
Wing commander (Retd) KS Parihar, proudly displays his medals, he was a part of the team that foiled Pakistan’s plans to divide Jammu and Kashmir through operation Gibraltar, by winning the Haji Pir Pass on August 28, 1965. But the retired officer seems determined to take on the government.
Wing Commander Parihar told NDTV, “If it doesn’t come through tomorrow I will join the strike instead of celebrating 50 years of the war.”
The implementation of the scheme is a promise made by the BJP before last year’s general elections. The scheme will give equal pension to servicemen retiring with the same rank regardless of when they retire.
At present, a soldier who retired many years ago is paid far less than someone several ranks junior to him retiring now. The scheme is expected to benefit 30 lakh former soldiers.
Literary and Cultural Writeups .
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
SHASTRI JI , GENERAL AYUB KHAN , TASHKENT PEACE TREATY AND ALI SARDAR JAFRI’S POEM
( 10th January ,1966……Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistan’s president General Ayub Khan after signing of the historic Tashkent Peace Treaty in Russia .Shastri ji died in Tashkent, the day after signing the Tashkent Declaration, reportedly due to a heart attack..A Monument and a street is namedafter him in the city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan.)
I quote noted Journalist Kuldeep Nayyar ” Gen. Ayub was genuinely grieved by Shastri ’jis death. He came to Shastri ji’ss room at 4 am and said, looking towards me: “Here is a man of peace who gave his life for amity between India and Pakistan.” Later, Ayub told the Pakistani journalists that Shastri was one person with whom he had hit it off well; “Pakistan and India might have solved their differences had he lived,”
In his first broadcast as Prime Minister, on 11 June 1964, Shastri said..
“There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the cross-roads of history and must choose which way to go. But for us there need be no difficulty or hesitation, no looking to right or left. Our way is straight and clear—the building up of a socialist democracy at home with freedom and prosperity for all, and the maintenance of world peace and friendship with all nations.”
Urdu poet Ali sardar jafri was so much impressed with this peace initiative in the subcontinent that he wrote a poem Tashkent ki shaam.. I add some lines to these photographs..
Manaao Jashn e Mohabbat ke Khoon Ki Boo Na rahi
Baras ke khul Gaye Barood Ke siyaah Badal,
Bujhi Bujhi Si Hai Jangon Ki Aakhiri Bijlee
Mehak rahi Hai Gulaabon Se Tasskent ki shaam..
Yeh Surkh Jaam Hai Khubaan e Tash-kand ke naam
Yeh Sabz jam hai Lahore ke Haseenon kaa
Safed Jaam Hai Delhi Ke Dilbaron ke Liye
Dhulaa hai jis mein mohabbat ke Aaftaab ka Rang..
Kissi ki Zulf na Ab Shaam e Gham mein Bikharegi
Jawaan Khauf Ki vaadi se Ab na Guzareingay
Bhari na jaayegi ab khaak o khoon se Maang kabhi
Milegi maan ko na marg e pissar ki khush khabari
Khilengay phool Bahut sarhad e tamanaa par
Khabar na hogi yeh nargis hai kis ke aankhon ki
Yeh Gul Hai kis-ki jabeen kis ka lub hai yeh laala
Yeh shaakh kis ke jawaan baazuvon ki Angadaai
Khudaa karay ki yeh shabanam yuun hi baras-tee Rahay
Zameen hamesha lahoo ke liye taras-tee Rahay ….
And now some thing more on Shastri ji ‘s Character ..
(Lal bahadur Shastri clearing some important files as Prime Minister while lalita ji ( His wife) is sitting nearby and reading a book)
“Dekho lalita .. Yeh Munshi Prem Chand ka Sahitya hai Aur yeh Kabir ke Dohay hain . Jo Pustak tumhay Pasand Aa Jaaye Pad Lo . Jahaan kahin bhi kuchh poochhanaa chaaho mein huun naa ”
“ Look Lalita . This is Munshi Prem Chand ‘s literature and this is kabir ‘s poetry. You can read them . Should you feel any difficulty , I am here to come to your help.”
Shatri Ji was a very simple man. He would clear important files even at his residence and quite often in the company of his wife lalita ji. He bought her Books of Prem Chand and poetry of kabir and introduced lalita ji to the world of literature.
Kuldip Nayar, Shastriji’s media advisor recalls that, during the Quit India Movement, his daughter was ill and he was released on parole from jail. However, he could not save her life because doctors had prescribed costly drugs. Later on in 1963, on the day when he was dropped from the cabinet, he was sitting in his home in the dark, without a light. When asked about the reason, he said as he no longer is a minister, all expenses will have to be paid by himself and that as a MP and minister he didn’t earn enough to save for time of need.
Although Shastri had been a cabinet minister for many years in the 1950s, he was poor when he died. All he owned at the end was an old car, which he had bought in instalments from the government and for which he still owed money. He was a member of Servants ofIndia society (which included Gandhiji, Lala Lajpat Rai, Gopal Krishna Gokhle) which asked all its members to shun accumulation of private property and remain in public life as servants of people. He was the first railway minister who resigned from office following a major train accident as he felt moral responsibility.
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