History

A teacher ‘shaken’ by October 27, 1947

With the arrival of the Indian Army, lives of Kashmiris changed. One among them was a village teacher living on the outskirts of Srinagar. After that bloodcurdling fall of October 27, 1947, he was never normal again.

They never saw the war coming, until the Dakota-ferried Indian army landed on the tarmac near their non-decrepit village, in a historic huff to “invade the competing war-turf”.

It was October 27, 1947 and Gogo was yet to become a wired and bunkered hamlet, perched near the Srinagar Airport. As a packed house of yesteryears’ horror stories, the imposing military installation called Gogoland makes it ‘a surveillance town’ today.

With that historic assault, seventy one years ago—sending Gogo up in shrieks and flames, the hamlet fared on the radar and threw war-torn characters, like Ghulam Mohiuddin Khan, on its landscape.

The likes of Khan could never restore their normalcy—lost in the emergency transition that continues to put Kashmir on edge, 70 years down the line.

But despite being a well-informed village teacher, Khan didn’t read much into the changing equations, crumbling empires and the emergence of new nation states around. He was busy in his own small world when the Indian army was airdropped in Kashmir.

That day on October 27, Khan was discharging his regular duties at school. Kashmir’s last monarch Hari Singh had put his tribe on a ‘special assignment’.

He was meant to impart skills and learning to “reluctant” Kashmiri students, inside what came to be known as Jabri School. Apparently, Singh wanted to train his ‘subjects’ in skills and learning to overcome the labour crunch in the valley.

But soon as the Imperial sun set over the Indian Sub-Continent, the fleeing Maharaja left behind his uneasy crown and lasting orders, which the likes of Khan was still enforcing inside his classroom.

Singh’s “temporary” accord with New Delhi had turned Safdarjung Airport into a war-base, from where the warplanes had started ferrying troops of the Sikh regiment towards Kashmir to counter Afridis from Pakistan.

Amid India’s sabre-rattling, some villagers in Gogo had conveyed the presence of Afridis in Budgam. But the Pakistani irregulars were still far away from the Srinagar hamlet, which was soon going to witness the first massacre with the arrival of Indian forces in Kashmir.

Then as the dusk fell, the Indian troopers showed up in what was presumed to be an ‘enemy territory’. But Gogo, as per the local accounts, even lacked the war pretence. It was its proximity with the war-stationed tarmac that made it the first-assault spot in the valley.

Infact, the “invading” army were yet to gun down their cheerleading National Conference’s Peace Brigade members at the Ram Bagh trenches, when they had launched the first Cordon and Search Operation, now called CASO, in Kashmir at Gogo.

National Conference’s Peace Brigade.

One of the rear accounts of the event paint it as a nightmarish situation, where armed men in fatigues had suddenly arrived at the doorsteps of the villagers, ordering them to accumulate in an open ground.

“Suddenly we were asked to stand in a line before they trained their guns at us,” Sidiq Malik, the last survivor of that massacre told me three years back when I met him at his residence.

Sidiq who showed me his bullet wounds inflicted on him by that first assault has since then joined his 1947-tribe in the grave.

“Some ten villagers were shot dead that evening,” he told me. “The number would’ve been higher, hadn’t the villagers run for their lives under the cover of dark.”

Among scores of injured persons was Khan, the village teacher.

At SMHS, where he was taken along with others, a bullet was removed from his right hand before he went to live with his relatives in another part of the city.

Some weeks later as the war thawed in Srinagar, Khan stepped back in the village with his shaking hand. There was no trace of life, except burnt structures, roasted carcasses and enforced calm.

The description that Sidiq painted of the post-arson Gogo makes it no different from those filmed European towns, ravaged in the World War-II showdown.

“It took us a lifetime to rebuild what we had lost in one single action of the Indian army in Gogo,” Sidiq told me. Khan was among the re-builders of his clan.

Till his demise in the late Seventies, he had never parted ways with his teaching.

Khan’s students had, however, noticed an uncontrolled body movement in him over the years. His right side would shake quite wildly.

“He had never spoken about it, even though the villagers knew the obvious,” Sidiq recalled. “He finally spoke about it when his students insisted.”

On that fateful evening of October 27, Khan would tell his students, as he was taken out on the first cordon and search operation in Kashmir by the Indian forces, he had tried to ‘play hospitable’.

“Khan had offered a pear from his pocket to a hostile Indian trooper out of good gesture,” Sidiq remembered. “But in turn, that trooper had fired a bullet on his hand.” Although the darkness saved his life, that historic assault never ceased the wild ‘shakes’ in his hand and life.

Those shakes finally stopped, when he breathed his last.

 

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