Azad Kashmir Regiment History
The British plan of 3rd June 1947 for the partition of the South Asian Subcontinent had really not met the full norms of justice. In spite of having decided that the Muslim-majority provinces would form part of Pakistan, the provinces of Punjab and Bengal were further subdivided to accommodate Sikh and Hindu minorities of these regions. Further confusion was created by giving a choice to the rulers of all the states to decide the destiny of their subjects.
Despite the fact that the state population was overwhelmingly Muslim, their representation in the armed forces and police services was extremely meager. The Hindu ruler, for the security of his own rule, maintained a Hindu army and predominantly Hindus security forces. The Muslims of the State were generally untrained in the art of weaponry and at a disadvantage in comparison to the Hindu population right from the outset.
The Hindu ruler of the State, on one hand, concluded a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan to be effective from 15th August 1947, and on the other gave a free hand to India to make inroads into Kashmir. He also embarked to suppress the popular uprising by use of brute force. He ceased to have any allegiance of his people due to use of ruthless suppression. The uprising erupted, simultaneously, throughout Kashmir, and the situation went completely out of his control.
Raising of the Regiment
Sensing that the Hindu ruler was not sincere towards Pakistan and had entered into the Standstill Agreement with Pakistan to buy time and in the process, cause extermination of the Muslim population through use of brute force. The Muslim population resolved to challenge of the State authority by voluntarily taking up arms to overthrow the yoke of slavery and subjugation. It set the pace for the freedom struggle against the Hindu rule and proved to be the foundation stone of the Azad Kashmir Regiment with effect from 1st October 1947.
Having chosen the path of armed struggle, the people of the State armed themselves with all sorts of weapons ranging from axes, swords, spears and muzzle-loaders to a very limited number of Darra-made single-shot rifles without bayonets. They took to the fighting; initially organizing themselves in platoon/company size groups under local leaders in respective areas of domicile. With the passage of time, it turned into a fairly well knit and organized Force.
Jammu and Kashmir War of Liberation, 1947-48
Initially, the freedom fighters met with quick successes against the State Army troops. By 22nd October, 1947, the State Army and para-military forces had been routed with substantial area falling in the hands of the freedom fighters. One of the freedom-fighters’ columns managed to reach the outskirts of Srinagar, summer capital of the State. The freedom-fighters formed a formal government of their own called the Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir State under Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan on 24th October, 1947. On 27th October, 1947 at 0900 hours, Indian troops started landing at Srinagar. They also entered the State from the Madhupur headworks over the Ravi River by the land route as if they were already standby, awaiting formal orders.
The freedom fighters, in rag-tag, had to face and struggle against the Indian Army and Air Force. They chose to fight out this new enemy with the same courage and determination as they had done against the State Army the Indian Army to evict the freedom-fighters from the area held by them. This forced the Indian Government to take the matter to the United Nations’ Security Council through a formal complaint on 1st January, 1948. Around this time, some people from Punjab and a number of lashkars from North-West Frontier Province joined the freedom fighters to reinforce their indigenous campaign.
The uneven war between ill-armed freedom fighters and Indian Army supported by Indian Air Force went on unabated till 2nd May, 1948, when Pakistan was able to field some troops in supportive role. Thenceforward, the ongoing indigenous campaign changed into conventional war. A kind of set piece-battles developed and virtually remained so during the next eight months.
India designed to force a military decision in Jammu and Kashmir on the lines she had done in Junagadh and Hyderabad but the Azad Kashmir Regular Force (now Azad Kashmir Regiment) with due support of the Pakistan Army blunted the Indian fighting machine. Finding no way out of the dilemma and being unable to defeat the Azad Kashmir Regular Force and its friendly allies India found it more beneficial for her to arrange the ceasefire in the State through the United Nations’ Security Council on 1st January, 1949.
The Azad Kashmir Regiment enjoys unique honour of having been born and nurtured in the battlefield. Its pioneering stalwarts were the devoted sons of the soil. They voluntarily took up arms against worst suppression. Their lack of material resources was compensated by their deep faith in their destiny. They liberated over 34,000 square miles of the State’s territory that is now called Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Areas.
The Regiment has come a long way from voluntarily raised and self-organized Force called Azad Kashmir Regular Force to its present shape and form. There have been many ups and downs enroute but the Regiment has braved all such acid tests with skill and determination.
Initially towards the end of September 1947, local ex-servicemen and civilian volunteers started forming up in the shape of revolutionary groups of freedom-fighters in varying strength, mostly in platoon/company size groups under command of local leaders who had raised them in their respective areas of domicile. They were initially armed with heterogeneous weapons of sorts as mentioned earlier. They started operations against the State Army in various parts of Poonch on 1st October, 1947, and soon spread their operations in other parts of Jammu and Kashmir State.
Forces Headquarters Formed
With the increase of Indian Army’s pressure gaining momentum throughout the theatre of war the necessity for a proper cohesion and coordination was felt. Accordingly, High Command of the Freedom Fighters called Forces Headquarters Azad Kashmir Regular Forces (FHQ AKRF) was set up in the first week of November 1947 to exercise command and control over the freedom fighters and also to arrange reinforcements, war material and other essential provisions. This phase lasted till 30th November, 1947.
Revolutionary Groups to Azad Kashmir Regular Forces (AKRF)
FHQ AKRF visualized a protracted war in the offing. To meet the challenge squarely the irregular freedom fighters were organized into rudimentary battalions by 1st December, 1947. First 21 units of the AKRF (now Azad Kashmir Regiment) came into being as a result of this organization-cum-recognition. The group, as a whole, was named Azad Kashmir Regular Forces (AKRF) and its units were named regionally as 1st Sudhnuti, 1st Bagh, 2nd Muzaffarabad, 7th Bhimber, 10th Kotli, 14th Rajauri, 15th Jammu Battalions and so on. As the war prolonged and Indian Army’s build-up increased, fresh raisings in the AKRF continued.
Azad Kashmir Regular Forces to Azad Kashmir Regiment
AKRF underwent reorganizations in 1948, 1949, 1956, 1957, 1960 and 1961 but remained a territorial Force. In 1970-71, a comprehensive review of the structure and organization of the AKRF was carried out. In consequence, infantry element of the AKRF was re-designated as the Azad Kashmir Regiment and its Infantry Battalions were brought on Standard Tables of Organization and Equipment with effect from 20th September, 1971. Their rotation in all parts of the Country was also approved.