Fall of Mirpur

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Every year 25th Nov is remembered as Mirpur day. On 25th of Nov 1947 a curse desended on Mirpur now in POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). Out of a total population of 25000 about 18000 were killed (primarily Sikhs) and about 3500 were wounded by the raiders.

To pay tributes to Martyrs on this day Parbhat Pheris (Morning Processions) are taken out. People from all walks of Life including school childeren participate in these special processions.

About 650 years ago, according to a legend, was laid the city of Mirpur by two Saints, Mira Shah Gazi and Gosain Bodhpuri. The word 'Mir' was taken from the name of the former while 'Pur’ from the latter to give the name 'Mirpur' which became the Hindu-Muslim unity and brotherhood. Simplicity, fairdeal, integrity, hospitality and tolerance marked the character of its inhabitants. Not only were they imbued with the feelings of self-respect and qualities of hard-working, intelligence and God-fearing but were also brave and courageous, and ever-ready to sacrifice anything in the cause of their mother-land. Hospitality and courtesy are the inherited qualities of the people of Mirpur. They have their own sweet language known as Mirpuri.

According to the 1931 census of the old District of Mirpur ( which includes todays districts of Mirpur, Bhimbher and Kotli and some parts of Poonch which are in IOK 80.5% of the population in the district was Muslim, of whom the Jat formed almost 40% of the districts Muslim population. In Mirpur, Jats were the majority in their traditional heartlands of Chakswari, Dadyal, the city of Mirpur and the countryside surrounding Mirpur, which is overwhelmingly Jat. The Jat population was made up of numerous clans, all claiming descent from a common ancestor. Among the larger clans were Aasar, Bangial, Badhan, Dhamial,Gill, Heer, Kalyal, Kanjial, Kanyal, Karyal, Khabal, Manjaal, Matyal, Nagyal, Nathyal, Rachyal, Ranyal, Rupyal, Thathaal, Pakhreel and Punyal. The second largest group were the Rajputs, almost 13% of the total Muslim population, they were mainly Chibs and Mangral. The Gujjars came third, making up almost 10% of the population. Most of these Gujjars were connected with those of northern Punjab, speaking Pothwari and not Gojri, the language spoken by the Gujjars of the rest of the state, including the Kashmir valley. Among the larger Gujjar clans we find the Banya,Bagri, Bajar, Chandpuri, Chechi, Gorsi, Kallas, Kasana, Khatana, Khepar and Paswal. The other communities were not ethnic groups as such but mostly people whose tribes were known as Kammi and massalis. About 20% of the district population was made up of castes that were associated with certain occupations such as Tarkhan (carpenters), Jogi (labourers), Lohar (smiths), Nai (barbers), Jheer (water carriers), Darzi (taylors), Khatik (butchers), and Machi (bakers). Slightly seperate from these kammi groups were the Mussali (2,068) and Mirasi (1,235), who like the Chamars and Meghs among the Hindus, were communities of outcastes. The other large groups associated with agriculture were the Awan, Arain, and Sudhans, the last two groups were found only in Kotli. By the early 20th Century, the district was home to a substantial community of Kashmiri Muslims such as Butt, Dar and Wani. Most of them had switched to speaking Pahari, as this was the language of the area. Among the Hindus of Mirpur, the Jat, formed a significant elements, with the Nagyal and Smotra forming the two larger clans. The Rajputs, mainly Bhao, Charak, Chib and Minhas formed an important element in Bhimber. Three interesting communities that were only found in the region were the Basith, Mahajan and Muhial. The Basith claimed a Rajput status, were generally cultivators and outside Mirpur were only found in Poonch. After the 1948 War, the Basith community was made refugees. The Mahajan or Pahari Mahajan were found in the all the towns such as Koti, Mirpur and Nawshera, and were largely traders. The Mahajan of Mirpur town were a particularly wealthy community. The Muhial Brahmans were the landowners and soldiers of the Pothohar region, and a substantial section found in the Mirpur region. In addition, the district was home to two large Dalit communities, theMegh (weavers) and Chammars. Mirpur was the western most region that was inhabited by Jatt Sikhs. The Sikh population of Mirpur differed considerably from those of Poonch and the Kashmir valley, who are largely Brahman. In Mirpur, the Sikhs were divided between the Jatts and the Khatri/Arora castes, who were traditionally associated with trade. The population of Mirpur was Muslim 277,631 80.5% , Hindu, 57,594 = 16.5% Sikhs 9,432 + 3%. Jat where 103,096 of the total population of muslims who were 277,631. Hence Jat were the largest ethnic group in Mirpur according to the census. The Rajputs were second at 35,534 and Gujar were third at 26,414. Among the Hindus the Jats were also the largest ethnic group making up 14,460 out of total of 57,594. Among the Sikhs again the Jats were the largest ethnic group making up 4,951 out of a total sikh population of 9,432.

The city of Mirpur gradually rose to become a great commercial centre next only to Jammu and Srinagar. But the partition of India in 1947 resulted in the city being all but destroyed. At the time, with a population of 25,000 souls including migrants from Punjab, it became the boundary line between India and Pakistan on the western side of Jammu and Kashmir State. Pakistan in connivance with Pathans attacked Mirpur in full force with the intention of grabbing the whole of Jammu and Kashmir State. But the Mirpuries unitedly stood against the invaders to a man.

On the 4th of November, 1947, heavy enforcements of the Pakistan Army took position on the ridge known as Palan-Da-Galla and also started heavy firing and tried to besiege the small Garrison of State Force at Mangla Dam on the river Jehlum, at about 10 miles from Mirpur city. Under heavy odds, the State Force decided to retreat from both the posts mentioned above, falling back to the city. This brought the enemy right to the gates of Mirpur city and the prize much coveted by the enemy now looked within its easy reach. But the people of Mirpur were not prepared to give-in without fighting in collaboration with the small state force. They organised the defence of the town. Together they repulsed the enemy attack with heavy losses on November 6, 10 and 11, 1947.

The morale of the state Garrison got a big boost when on November 12, the Indian Air Force effectively bombed and strafed the enemy positions around Mirpur City. The Planes appeared in the skies over Mirpur again on November 14 dropping some small arms and ammunition which the Garrison needed very badly. Unfortunately, a great part of the arms, having been loosely packed, were damaged and unuseable. The ever increasing need of ammunition for the Garrison, engaged in continuous fighting, could hardly be expected to be met by the fighter aircraft whose cargo capacity was very limited.

Little wonder then that all attempts to do so were subsequently suspended. In the meantime, the enemy came closer to occuping almost all the posts around the city. Not only was the ammunition almost out, essential commodities such as food, water and medical supplies in the besieged city became critical. The people of Mirpur then organised committees to distribute the limited supplies among the people. The soldiers of the state army lived off of their C-rations or prepakaged meals supplied to soldiers.

After November 16, the intensity and regularity of the enemy attacks on the city greatly increased. But the young and brave souls of Mirpur also displayed tremendous grit and tenacity in their defence. On November 19, the then thin and poorly equipped strength of the State army had little hope of holding out for more than 3 days. In that critical situation, the State Garrison received another consignment of 25,000 rounds of ammunition dropped by air in the nick of time.

Though in-sufficient, the extra ammo boosted the morale of the Garrison tremendously. The next day another massive attack was made on the town and the enemy managed to break through the defence on the south western portion of the city. The enemy was then rebuffed in hand to hand fighting by the young men of Mirpur and the soldiers of the State army. The enemy was pushed back and their attempt to enter into the city was foiled. Unfortunately on November 21, the wireless set with the Garrison went out of order and all contacts with the country were lost. The air strikes of the Indian Air Force against the enemy also declined thereafter. On November 22 and 23, the enemy used it's full force and putting bullets into the city from all directions. This continued day and night without any break.

On November 24, came the final blow when a full battalion of the enemy strongly supported by artillery and 3" Mortar fire launched an attack on the south western part of the city. This was the heaviest attack witnessed so far. The post put up the most spirited resistance, but the enemy came in wave after wave and after six hours of ceaseless fighting, this portion of the defence was over run by the Pakistan army, units of which entered the city at mid-night. Alarmed by the most critical situation, the internal flying squads engaged themselves in hand to hand fights with the infiltrators and kept them on their toes at the cost of their own lives till the morning of November 25.

At this critical juncture, the administrative machinery at Mirpur clandestinely took the decision of retreating to Jammu leaving the civil population to its fate. In an utter display of cowardness, the Wazir Wazarat and his officers showed their backs to the enemy. Some other soldiers also left their pickets and followed suit. This created panic, choas and confusion among the civil population. Thousands of women committed suicide to save themselves from the clutches of the cruel enemy and rape let loose by the invaders. Others assembled in the deserted Army Camp where the wounded and sick soldiers of the State force, lying on their beds were looking towards the sky with tears flowing from their eyes. In the camp, the old men, women and children were searching for their family members among those who lay dead or dying.

For a moment, there appeared a glimmer of hope when at 1100 hours a fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force appeared in the sky and again at 1300 hours. But each time hope turned into despair as the aircraft turned away without helping the helpless. The enemy then greeted the people of Mirpur with showers of bullets from all sides and the whole town was covered with the blood and dead bodies of over 18000 mostly Sikhs. About 3500 wounded and half-dead were made prisoners while another group of about 3500, after walking miles and miles barefooted, managed to make their way to Jammu. Their very miserable condition of starvation and mental upset is too difficult to describe in words even now.

Thus the curtain of that tragic scene of, 'the naked dance of death at Mirpur' on 10 Maghar 2004 ( 25th November, 1947) dropped with grave silence where none was left to utter- the mourning tunes on the unprecedented turmoil which brought the tragic ruin of Mirpur.


Article by Sh. C.P. Gupta