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    'Uncle Shot My Mother, Sister to Prevent Rape, Painful Death': Revisiting the Horrors of October 22, 1947

    Sachhan Singh, now 80, remembers every detail of that October 1947 day like it was yesterday. (Photo: News18)

    Sachhan Singh, now 80, remembers every detail of that October 1947 day like it was yesterday. (Photo: News18)

    The horrors faced by Sachhan Singh and many others because of Pakistan's aggression will be shared with the world in a two-day symposium on 'Memories of 22 October, 1947' in Srinagar.

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    Arunima

    On the night of October 22, 1947, Suchwant Singh, then 7 years old, was woken up from sleep by an anxious grandmother and the sound of gun fire. Tribal militias from the North West Frontier Province had attacked his village, Kotli, in Muzaffarabad District of the then undivided Jammu and Kashmir and he and his family had to flee.

    Singh is now 80 and has been living in Nanaknagar locality of Jammu for decades, but remembers every detail of that October 1947 day like it was yesterday.

    “Our house was on a hill top. I ran outside to see what the noise was. There was an open field outside our house where my neighbours and relatives had all taken position with whatever firearms they had. They were firing back at the raiders. I didn't understand much of what was happening till I saw blood burst out of my uncle. He had been hit by a bullet," he recalled.

    Suchwant's mother, elder brother and younger sister had left for Srinagar the night before, and now it was time for him and his grandmother to follow suit. While he somehow managed to survive the ordeal, his mother and sister did not. They were shot dead by his own uncle to "save them from rape and painful death” at the hands of the tribal raiders, backed by the Pakistan military.

    Singh told News18 that after he and his grandmother fled their village, he was also hit by a bullet in his leg. His grandmother had used her dupatta to bandage his wound and carried him on her back.

    "We somehow reached the Jhelum bridge. A bus was supposed to be waiting on the other side. Raiders were chasing us and we were still a few meters away from the bridge when we saw people who had crossed over started cutting the ropes of the bridge to prevent raiders from crossing the river and coming for them. We had crossed only 1/4th of the bridge when the first rope was cut. But my grandmother did not give up. With me on her back, she clung to the rope and somehow ensured that we crossed over," Singh recalls.

    But the bus that could have been their ticket to safety was gone. There was no sign of Singh's mother, sister and brother. Fleeing, erstwhile neighbours told Suchwant Singh that his mother had refused to board the bus without him. But where was she? Raiders were trying to cross the river and come for those who were fleeing, so there was no time to waste."

    “We climbed hills and crossed culverts and ultimately took refuge in wild caves when we could walk no longer," he tells News18. But the nightmare was far from over. There was no food, no water and the raiders were still on the prowl.

    "Injury was least of my concern. Hunger and thirst were the bigger enemies. The stream flew just a few meters away from where we were hiding but stepping out would have meant instant death. Even nature was not on our side...those were full moon nights. I remember mothers in desperation gave urine soaked clothes to their babies when the thirst became unbearable," Singh says.

    Horror stories like that of Singh and many others will now be shared with the world in a two-day symposium on "Memories of 22 October, 1947" at the Sher-e-Kashmir Convention Centre of Srinagar. The National Museum Institute of History and Art in collaboration with Jammu and Kashmir Administration is holding the two-day symposium-cum exhibition at SKICC. Officials said the exhibition will subsequently be converted into a museum.

    "October 22, 1947 marks the beginning of the first Indo-Pak war. The consequences of this water-shed event are still affecting the country. It is necessary to portray such historic narrative in order to create a dialogue among the people. The aim of such initiative would be to bring about awareness among the people about this phase of our history," Culture Secretary Raghvendra told News18.

    Another officer working with the Kashmir administration, said, "It was a black day. Pakistan always talks about the Kashmir problem, it is time to tell the world that the problem began with them, their attack in October 1947."

    Rare videos and photos of the attack on Baramullah that happened on October 22, 1947, the arrival of Indian army after Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession will also be up for public viewing.

    Some of the videos seen by News18 shows the attack on Baramulla, testimony of survivors and actual footage of Indian army's Sikh regiment clashing with Pakistani army backed tribal raiders as they attempted to move towards Srinagar. Attack on a Baramulla Church where 6 people were shot dead and women were paid and thrown into a well is also part of the exhibits.

    Singh says was eventually caught and taken back to Domel by the Pakistanis. He lived to tell that tale of how the Kashmiri Sikhs and Hindus were displaced and made refugees in their own land. Singh retired as a Director in the agricultural Department of Jammu but says very little has been done to rehabilitate those like him.

    "We lost everything, in return education, jobs, property wise very little has been done to rehabilitate us. Rs 30 lakh per family was recommended as aid, but we got only Rs 5 lakh," Singh said.

    As many as 5,000 Pakistani raiders had attacked Muzaffarabad, Domel and Baramulla in October 1947. They were stopped from capturing Srinagar by the Indian army. The Army's arrival in the valley has been called a black day by separatists for over seven decades but this year it is the role of Pakistan and the original attack that is being labelled as black day. The symposium will have speakers like Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain and Professor Amitabh Mattoo.

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