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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A Call to Action: The Story of Prof. Balraj Madhok and the Jammu-Kashmir Praja Parishad

Prof. Balraj Madhok reached Jammu from Srinagar, with great difficulty, on the 7th of Novy1947. Immediately, he got in touch with significant leaders of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and other notable citizens to discuss establishing a political outfit in Kashmir. The meeting held at Pandit Premnath Dogra’s residence was attended by the then Prant Pracharak of RSS, Madhavrao Mulay ji, Jagdish Abrol, Durgadas Verma, prof. Balraj Madhok, Kedarnath Sahani, Shyamal Verma, Bhagwat Swarup, Omprakash Mengi, Sahdev Sinh and Hansraj Sharma.

The important decision to set up a political party, Jammu – Kashmir Praja Parishad, was taken in this meeting. Everyone was very keen for Pandit Premnath Dogra to take charge of the important post of its President, but as he was already a Vibhag Sanghchalak of RSS, he was unable to take the official position of a political party. Hari Vajir ji was appointed as the new party’s president. Hansraj Pangotra was appointed as the general secretary and Thakur Sahdev Sinh was appointed as the secretary. Balraj Madhok was given the responsibility of secretary (organization). 

On the 17th of November 1947, Prof Balraj Madhok made an official announcement publicly. Madhavrao ji Mulye, who was present during its inception, addressed that Pandit Premnath Dogra and Bhagwat Swarup would remain associated as the guide (Margdarshak) and he added that all the RSS pracharaks and karyakartas of Jammu – Kashmir would also lend their support to Praja Parishad’s workload. 

Hence, since the time of its outset, Praja Parishad came in the mission mode and had a team of thirty dedicated persons, who offered their service, without any expectations. Immediately after its inception, the Praja Parishad put forward its manifesto. In their opinion, the entire political agitation of Shaikh Abdullah was to capture the political dominance in the Kashmir valley. The “Quit Kashmir” movement initiated by him in 1946, was planned to separate the Kashmir valley from Jammu and to demolish the already established Dogra rule.

Handing him the governance of Kashmir valley, was a bitter decision but yet understandable. Additionally, handing over the administration of Jammu and Ladakh was a historic blunder. The manifesto specifically illustrated the ensuing strategy of Praja Parishad.

1. To present the state of Jammu & Kashmir, as an integral part of Bharat and initiate implementation of the Bharatiya constitution, which was under the process of being written, like all other states.

2. The regions of Jammu and Ladakh, which are also integral areas of Kashmir, should be given equal opportunities and share in development as well as administration.

3. The picturesque destinations of Jammu region, Kudd, Barot, Sanaasar, Patnitop, Bhadrawaah, and Kishtwad Banihal to be developed as tourist places.

4. To promote Agricultural growth in Jammu and the water of rivers like Ravi, Chinab, etc to be utilized for drought-prone areas of Kandi region, by initiating irrigation projects and to advance Hydroelectric energy production.

5. To provide complete support to the Govt of Bharat and Bharatiya armies in vacating the Pakistani army from the forcefully captured area of Jammu Kashmir.

6. To protect the borders of Jammu & Ladakh.

7. To implement exhaustive and inclusive economic policies, especially supportive to the backward classes and tribes.

8. To strictly abolish untouchability and create an atmosphere of probity, uprightness, and rectitude among all the citizens of the state.

9. To initiate maximum efforts for re-settling refugees from Pakistan and Pakistan-captured areas of the princely state.

10. To care for the well-being of retired persons from the armed forces.

Praja Parishad was a cadre-based political outfit. Any person, above the age of 18, having belief in the Parishad ideology could become a member by paying 25 paise as the annual membership fee. The Pakistani army, disguised as the raiders invaded the borders of the Jammu region, as they had been beaten badly in the Kashmir valley. Hence, their plan was to capture certain areas of Jammu. 

The Mirpur, Poonch, Kotli, and Bhimbar were the Punjabi language dominant regions. The Muslims too had their influence in Jammu.  From West Punjab, which had become part of Pakistan, thousands of Hindu and Sikh refugees had migrated to the Jammu region. The Pakistani army was creating mammoth coercion in the area. Especially, Mirpur was in peril. 

The Bharatiya army was present in the state but the decision regarding their movement was solely with Shaikh Abdullah! Prof. Balraj Madhok and Pandit Premnath Dogra had a meeting with him at Jammu airport on the 15th of November 1947 and gave him extensive information about the dire condition of Mirpur. They pleaded to Nehru to immediately send the army, but Nehru was adamant about his opinion and could not see anything beyond Shaikh’s whims and fancies. He told the delegation to meet Shaikh and put forward the request to him.

The news spread that Pandit Nehru and Shaikh Abdullah were Interested in freeing only the Kashmir valley from the clutches of the raiders and they were least interested in releasing Jammu from being snatched away by Pakistan. Meharchand Mahajan too had appealed to Nehru with a heavy heart to save the princely state army stuck in Mirpur, Kotli, Poonch, and Naushahara.

The truth was, that Shaikh Abdullah was unwilling to liberate the Western region of the state from the Pakistani army. The major reason behind this was his diminutive popularity in all regions other than Kashmir valley. He was unsure of his acceptance and neither his party had a people’s mandate in these areas.

Just Six days, after the delegation’s appeal to the then Prime Minister, the Mirpur was lost on the 21st of November. Hindus were slaughtered and around 5000 women were kidnapped and taken to Pakistan forcefully as slaves. Several Hindu women committed suicide in order to save their honor. Very few Hindus could flee and reach Jammu.

The Governor General of Bharat too was not in favor of the Western regions of Jammu, getting annexed to Bharat, and thus, the army was denied permission to take action as planned. Even the commanders of Bharatiya and the Pakistani army were British and were working in cooperation to fulfill the British interest.

Unfortunately, their wily motives remained unfulfilled as Lord Mountbatten had to travel to London to attend the wedding of a relative, on the 9th of November. By the time, he returned on the 29th, the Bharatiya army had vacated several areas of Jammu, removing the Pakistani army.

On his return, he wrote a letter to Pandit Nehru: ” The Government of Bharat is wishing to impose its hegemony over people of Poonch and Mirpur, using its armed forces. The majority of the people are Muslims, hence enforcing their annexation in Bharat, would be an injustice to them.”

This is pure evidence of the Governor General’s reluctance to liberate the invaded areas, similar to Shaikh. Maharaja Hari Singh was also left without any decision-making power. Sydney Smith, reporter of “Daily Express” who was abducted in Baramulla by the raiders has mentioned, ” All the tribal raiders were assenting on three purposes. 

a) To diminish the minority government of Sir Hari Singh.

b) To demolish the major Sikh state, Patiala.

C) To capture Amritsar and, to step onto Delhi, one day.

Shaikh’s stepmotherly conduct with Jammu shook the hopes of people in the region. They set their eyes, in hope, towards Praja Parishad. Praja Parishad walked alongside the Bharatiya army as far as they could. Though Praja Parishad had ideological differences with National Conference, they strongly wished that the calamity struck in the region should be tackled by internal forces, only. They immensely hoped that all the political outfits, within the state should jointly fight the external attacks.

In such a dire situation, Praja Parishad took a call to present their case to prominent heads in Delhi. The Parishad decided to send Prof. Balraj Madhok and he started from Jammu on the 29th of January 1948. But, immediately after his departure, the state govt led by Shaikh, banned his entry into Jammu – Kashmir!!! The very next day, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated and after four days, the Government of Bharat imposed a ban on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, victimizing the organization for the killing.

Balraj Madhok mentioned, ” I did not have the slightest idea, that this journey would turn out to be my permanent departure from Jammu”.

Sources of Information :

हमारी भूलोका स्मारक : धर्मांतरित कश्मीर

नरेन्द्र सहगल

कश्मीर : दहकते अंगारे

जगमोहन जी

जम्मू कश्मीर की अनकही कहानियां

कुलदीप चंद अग्निहोत्री

Kashmir : Behind The Vale

M J Akbar

My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir 

Jagmohan ji

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