SURELY, the monumental struggle waged against an array of hostile forces to unshackle and free the people of Gilgit-Baltistan at a very critical moment, in the regional history marks a watershed being quintessentially demonstrative of the indomitable will, tenacity of purpose, exemplary courage, conviction and the firm hope. Great events like this do not at all, take place haphazardly but are in fact, the consequence of a people’s determination seeking an opportune moment to clear their soil of the alien rule. It is worth mentioning that he Sikhs had, first embarked on an adventurism to occupy Gilgit-Baltistan in 1939 while the Dogras carried it out virulently with sporadic incursions during the second half of the 19th century. This was perhaps, with the blessings of the British which at long last, resulted into their complete sway over the entire region which had never before in its history – from times immemorial to the medieval ever witnessed such a cataclysmic change leading to an alien rule. As fate would have it, the ominous internal bickering and palace intrigues during this eventful period paved the way for these incursions in the wake of which the forcible occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan occasioned. As the events that followed make it construable that this domination would never have been the case save with the blessings of the British Indian government eying these strategically significant areas that is what gets testified by the alternating rule here between the Dogras and them during the course.
Evidently, it had been the policy of the British colonizers everywhere was their most preferred tactic chiefly centered on the governance in the colonized parts through henchmen and at places through locals subservient to them – something primary aimed at avoidance of huge expenditure to result from administering directly. Be it as it may, the forcible occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan by the Dogras during the course of a tug of war spanning second half of the century culminating in their firm sway over this region was, long last, done away with by the local people thereby emerging triumphant on first November 1947.
The brave local men wielding sword then id est in active military included Colonel Mirza Hassan Khan, Colonel Ehsan Ali, Raja Muhammad Babar Khan, Raja Muhammad Shah Khan, Captain Akbar Hussain and many others others amongst whom, the first named spearheaded the stupendous revolutionary action, in league with the Gilgit Scouts. He had just returned after taking active part in the World War II on Burma Front and was awarded with the coveted Military award of ‘Miitary Cross’ )MC) in recognition of his highly commendable military services. The entire civilian leadership of the time stood solidly behind them.
The war of liberation or to put it, the uprising was so courageously and stunningly executed by the inhabitants of this region without any assistance whatsoever, which is, indeed, demonstration of exemplary valor unparalleled in history. Precisely, the Gogra forces were made to run helter-skelter and the liberation of the area was made achievable on this day 71 years ago on 1st November 1947.
A reference to and mention of such a grandest of solemnities at once prompt one to have a look at the brief history of a people, a region or a nation. One would surely, be keenly interested in the instant case, to have a cursory look at and go through the historical background of Gilgit-Baltistan – a geo-strategically important yet landlocked region until its being fully opened up with the construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) that providing a stupendous linkage with the outside world since its completion in seventies. History bears testimony to the fact that this mountainous area offering an onerous passage into it, comprised about twelve tiny kingdoms, each of them quite independent and sovereign with dynastic rule for most of history save for intervals, witnessing a unified rule over the territory extending from Tibet to Chitral and an occasion facing intrusions from the Pamirian belt abutting Gilgit-Baltistan. As regards any historical linkage of Gilgit-Baltistan with the Kashmir and later on with the Jammu and Kashmir State in political parlance, no historical evidence whatsoever is to be found corroborative of this save the brief period starting from second half of the nineteenth century brought to an end on 1st November 1947 as referred to elsewhere in this write-up. Quite interestingly, a local leader when asked about this in seventies, came out with succinct and pert reply couched in these words “zardasti dakhil, zabardasti kharij”. This depicted the only link resulting from the forcible occupation of this area by the Dogras as said before which persisted until the latter were driven out by the local people by doing away with what the occupiers had done to them.
The fore-going all belies the Indian claim over this region and her terming this area as an integral or de jure part of the Jammu and Kashmir State for the simple reason that the forcible occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan for a period of less than a century as above overlooking the larger historical background pertaining to this region does not make it an integral part of India. The Indian claim becomes quite unsustainable by all counts.
True, a people may genuinely to take pride in and be jubilant about their Liberation Day, in seeing that a glorious victory like this does not become attainable by ordinary means. And in Gilgit-Baltistan’s case, it came in the wake of a heroic struggle at such a critical point in time the history of this region. Therefore, commemorating this day in a fitting manner, honoring and glorifying the heroes and those fallen for the sake of the posterity is the hallmark of nations. It is truly a momentous occasion that calls for a firm commitment and an unequivocal declaration to follow in the footsteps when it comes to defend the motherland. Briefly stated, it is a day of re-affirmation of firm commitment to the noble cause that prompted the forefathers to go through the fire and water to wrest such an extensive territory (72,971 km) from the clutches of the Dogras and in the course, experienced tremendous hardships while fighting in the fronts in the face of inhospitable terrain compounded by freezing weather conditions and above all, despite their not having no sophisticated arsenal in juxtaposition with the enemy. It was, therefore, not an easy victory. Surely they struggled so hard with a strong conviction and sanguine belief that those to succeed them would espouse the ultimate objective of solidarity, societal harmony and integrity which to them meant bringing about an egalitarian society where nothing of real value was to be at stake.
Moreover, they were quite clear in their mind that this land having a historically separate and distinct status was forcibly occupied by the Dogras which led to the alien rule for about a century. The undoing of which clearly and unambiguously and unquestionably returned them to their erstwhile historical or the original as always remains the case with colonial lands on their decolonization. and ipso facto, the people Gilgit-Baltistan quite justifiably deemed themselves free to exercise their free will – a consideration that prompted them to join Pakistan on 16th November 1947 by legitimate choice to amalgamate the nascent 15-day republic of Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan. It was not known to them that India would get it termed as ‘disputed’ and take the matter to the United Nations and Gilgit-Baltistan’s constitutional status would hang in balance disregarding all facts transpiring from a recapitulation of the larger historical background associated with this region. The people genuinely believe that mere fibs of imagination do not change the reality always and in their case too.
The writer is a Gilgit-based freelance contributor, blogger. He can be reached at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org