Mujahida Hussain Bibi, well known as Bibi Sahiba in the Jatha, met martyrdom in the Battle of Chirikot-Degear Defile in 1947, that for all reasons turned fierce.
She was part of the charging group to be martyred tale, when she was injured with a bullet and took her last breath leaning over a stone on October 7, 1947 during Pakistan’s Kashmir War, 1947-48. Eccentric, that no one – least of all herself was ever able to decide why she should have elected to partake in freedom fight and register as a female soldier.
Shaheed Mujahida Hussain Bibi, belonged to a noble Rajput family of Thorar, District Poonch (Azad Kashmir). Registered as regular Sepoy (Mujahida) in the 5th Azad Kashmir Regimental Force (5 AKRF) led by Captain Sher Khan in the basin of Himalayas and became first female recipient of Sitara-e-Jurat in the history of Pakistan.
Chaos in princely state Kashmir started brewing in 1930, after revolt against Maharajah became people’s resistance in 1946, picked momentum in the spring of 1947, and reached its climax in the summers; making Kashmiris’ fight for their denied right of self respect; or else century old struggle of liberation against regime, where social, economic and political rights had been snatched, and above all dignity and identity of its people.
In 1946, before partition, a strong force of Maharajah State Forces stationed at the Garrison of Poonch had marched suddenly into the towns and villages and whole of the people’s property, real or personal, was seized by them. The Muslims of the State were only to fall victim to this iniquitous policy of Maharajah.
The last year of British India turned to be turmoil of sordid reaction of the few princely states' to independence of Subcontinent, that untroubled Maharajah of Jammu & Kashmir, Maharajah Hari Singh, ascended to the throne in 1925, led from his majestic palace to be poorly decisive in the world’s greatest partition.
The army of State of Jammu and Kashmir, J&K Dogra regiments consisted of one cavalry regiment and twelve infantry regiments with extra garrison companies. They built forts, posts, police stations and became symbol of oppression in Kashmir after quelling many expeditions in the Kashmir territory that often proved to be ferocious including suppressing of one rebellion in the 1830s.
The people’s struggle of Kashmir was unique in its origin that people demonstrated traditional heritage and singular pride in organizing the freedom fight in groups of platoon and company strength, later to be regimented into Azad Kashmir Regular Forces (AKRF). This had foresight to discipline bands or else could become ganged groups in later years.
mujahidahassain.jpgThe creation of Pakistan in the hinterland where rested centuries old bondage of people over historical and cultural crossroads, turned to be resource of people’s hopes that generations dreamt of liberation. The dramatic turn of events by the middle of September 1947 had gripped the mode of the people.
5th Battalion had been continuously in action against Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Forces to rebel government machinery of Maharajah that could not conceive of there being any real communication or sympathize with people to be treated respectable in any manner. Indeed there was a tax on every hearth and every window. Every cow, buffalo and sheep was taxed and even every wife.
The revolt in August 1947 testifies of indifference opposing Leggan (oppressive taxation) by the Maharajah, where his forces fired upon demonstrations chanting slogans in favour of Kashmir joining Pakistan.
After shoot out at Srinagar Jail and one-sided trial of Abdul Qadir, the turmoil prevailed across. British troops when called upon to assist Maharajah were no different in use of atrocious manner of suppression to be followed by Indian forces.
Small level encounters had already begun with regular air strafing over towns and villages, in a hope to relieve the besieged towns. This was turning into a pauper’s protracted war of world’s most regimented insurgency.
J&K forces with support of Indian forces planned sweeping operations to contain resisting battalion’s support coming from the fertile valleys, indeed the crucial source of supplies and recruitment, which more often than not ran through mountain passes. One such pass was Chirikot-Degear Defile.
Poonch garrison reinforced with brigade strength was ready to assault Azad positions. As the frequency of incursion and battalion’s counter raids increased, positions of Chirikot overlooking Poonch turned to be the stumbling block for attackers.
The 5th Battalion held the attack, now had been closed at Chirikot-Degear Defile and for all reasons to be fierce. The stiff resistance of the 5th Battalion had prolonged it to five days stand off, during which hand-to-hand encounters were frequent.
The defile turned to be centre of gravity for opposing sides. 6th Sudhnuti Regiment (6th Battalion) under Captain Munawwar Hussain Khan reinforced the forward positions. However an important portion of defile had been occupied and its loss would be of opening bottle flushing the wrath downtrodden into valleys.
The defile needed to be counter attacked from three directions; one to be led by 6th Sudhnuti Regiment (6th Battalion), second by Captain Sher and third by Lieutenant Bostan Force of 5th Battalion, of which Mujahida Hussain Bibi was a part.
Day’s long air strafing made the movement difficult leaving no choice but to infiltrate in small groups. All groups infiltrated into their predestinated rendezvous most falling behind the lines of enemy.
The rolling down of squads one after another surprised the enemy and unnerved to the extent that they lost momentum of attack. Bibi Sahiba’s squad positioned at far end of defile spotted rushing columns approaching the defile to reinforce the toe edge of defeated force. This could have been a severe blow to 5th Battalion.
The squad had few .303 British rifles and not many black-powder rounds and other had .303 rifles made in the tribal areas of somewhat British Lee-Metford type with fifty odd cartridges of smokeless powders. Most of the squad had swords and long sticks fixed with spears of local crude blacksmith.
The squad had positioned behind a hill protruding from the slopping, but turning spur with end slope less forested over which located was a pimple on the feature. The matrix of time turned to be the critical ingredient for opposing sides. Delay in reinforcement meant defeat of attackers and victory for the Battalion.
Bostan force realizing the threat decided to engage advancing columns with his shrilling tactics, impression of assembling of force more than or of their well-matched strength behind the pimple. Having fired few rounds squad’s two persons would crawl from the rear of pimple, taking circle and firing one or two shoots at the tucked down reinforcing columns and would quickly join back their squad after a circular movement.
They found overhanging boulder in the rear to find some protection against blazing artillery fire and strafing aircrafts. This continued for hours till sun was blazing over every feature to expose the movement of squad.
As the daylight poured over the feature, the blazing machine guns took more than half of the squad. The advancing columns in groups distanced to be close to the squad from various directions. The squad was losing its soldiers, but winning the most important asset for its battalion – “the time” much needed for their mission.
The hush and rush of night had passed and the cold, clear light of dawn stole over every feature. Night noises of bangs and cries had been calmed by nature and splendour of dawn – it was time. With few rounds in the chambers of rifles and swords in hands, the squad charged.
Bibi Sahiba was part of the charging group to-be- martyred tale that witnessed mountains of Himalaya standing large, white and pure against the cloudless sky, when she was injured with a bullet and took her last breath while leaning over a stone at 0500 hours on October 7, 1947.
The race against time had been won with blood. The counter attack succeeded and groups pursued enemy all the way to Poonch and captured few light machine-guns, rifles and a sizable quantity of ammunition that helped to shoot down one of the strafing aircraft. Bibi Sahiba in recognition of her act of exemplary courage and valour was awarded Mujahid-i-Hydri (now having equivalence with the operational award of Sitara-e-Jurat).
The freedom struggle of Kashmir left behind assortment of people’s sacrifices, stories, their origin and their dreamy tales about freedom. This is the story of “Mujahida Hussain Bibi” of 5th Jatha, now 5th Battalion, Azad Kashmir Regiment, the first female of Pakistan awarded with Sitara-e-Jurat.
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