Ali Gohar: A Veteran of Gilgit-Baltistan Liberation War

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Ali Gohar: A Veteran of Gilgit-Baltistan Liberation War

 

View of Sisuni village and the mountains north- by the author in 2019

Every year, on the first of November people throughout Gilgit-Baltistan celebrate the day to mark independence from Dogra rule. 1947 was the fateful year when independence from Dogras was achieved. Nowadays people from Gilgit-Baltistan who use social media platforms, engage in sharing posts which include pictures of those who fought the war of liberation. Very rarely do these posts include information regarding experiences of the war veterans. After passing of this day the general fervor settles down on social media. What remains largely absent from the general debate is the availability of accounts of the common volunteers and soldiers who took part in the struggle against the Dogras- starting from the initial revolt to the end of the war of liberation.

In this article I would share the experiences of Ali Gohar, a strong well-built man from Sisuni village in Hunza, who himself participated in the war of liberation against the Dogra forces. I had the opportunity to interview him in July 2007, at my village residence. On the second of May 1948 Ali Gohar was with his team at Kargil. There at Kargil he remembered a polo ground near a river. He said that Muhammad Shah Khan (author of the book Gilgit Scouts) ordered them to fire on the polo ground beneath them, as they themselves were on higher ground. When they fired, it missed the target. Instead of hitting the polo ground it hit the riverbed. Muhammad Shah Khan again ordered them to fire. This time the target was hit and the people playing polo died.

Ali Gohar stated that during the war he served under Rustam platoon. Remembering one night during the war, he said that around 11 pm when everyone was asleep a middle aged person from a village was taken as guide to Kargil. This was when Ali Gohar and his comrades were about to advance towards Kargil. Ghulam Murtaza’s platoon was sent beforehand. When they had reached their designated area, Ali Gohar along with other men in arms attacked the cantonment by jumping over the walls. The enemy ran away in panic. Talking about the hardships he said: “In four days we ate two chapatis”. The enemy ran away because their Colonel had ordered them to run. A section of the enemy forces ran towards Ladakh and the rest of them ran towards Suru Nala.

Inside the cantonment which Ali Gohar and his fellow soldiers had intruded, they discovered a box. On opening the box, they took out the money which they found. During the skirmish an injured subedar of the enemy forces was captured. He begged them to save his life and not kill him. On accepting his plea, the subedar told them every secret of the place. Ali Gohar stated that: “with one pair of shoes we captured Kargil travelling from Gilgit”. Ali Gohar along with his comrades and help from the subedar opened a store. Inside the store they got hold of ammunition and American blankets. Muhammad Shah Khan was surrounded by a dense crowd and they were chanting slogans in his favor. Five blankets were divided between Muhammad Shah Khan and Ali Gohar. Other things included watches and binoculars. One rifle was given to Khush Nazar and one to Ali Gohar.

At Parkuta (now Mehdiabad), the enemy Colonel with his fifty soldiers escaped through Olding on the way to Ladakh. 660 enemy men were captured and many were killed by Ali Gohar’s army. Sixty had arrived to capture Colonel Singh of the enemy forces. According to Ali Gohar, 200 guz (182 meters) was the enemy distance from his camp. One subedar ordered them to fire directly on the enemy, if the enemy appeared on the way. During the interview Ali Gohar alos added that Babusar Pass and the road were constructed by the enemy forces. According to Ali Gohar it was a seven months’ war which ended on 27 November 1948.

On asking about other participants Ali Gohar replied Sana Khan, Abbas and Aziz Mohammad participated in war from Passu, Sisuni’s neighboring village. Others from the area included Bosh, Ghaib Shah, Yar Ali, Tayghun Shah and Rizwan. Ali Gohar was appointed on 1 Jan 1948 and in 1953 he was discharged because of his father’s death. Responsibilities now shifted to him as he was the eldest son.

Some writers and scholars writing about the fight against the Dogras either take into consideration the popular accounts or solely depend on the biographies written by the military officers who were in commanding positions. What remains missing are the accounts of the local volunteers and soldiers who fought on the battlefront. Even till date I have not come across any detailed work on Colonel Ehsan Ali from Nagar, who play a very key role in the struggle against the Dogras. Like Ali Gohar there might still be other participants of the war who need to be documented. Sadly, very few of those who participated in the liberation war are alive now. Military experiences of the rank and file needs proper attention. Their hardships, quality of arms, war strategy, war booty, reward, punishment and coordination with their officers need detailed scholarly work.

Few months back I came across a video on a social media platform. In this video the presenter asks simple questions from university going students of Gilgit city. It was unfortunate to see that most of them failed to answer questions about the local history of Gilgit-Baltistan. In a region where local history is not taught in school and colleges, and even history as subject is not taught at universities, what else should one expect- a breeding ground for an oblivious society?

Sadly, Ali Gohar passed away in 2010 and I could not meet him again for a more detailed interview on his military experiences, but I surely plan to write about his high altitude mountain guiding experience in the coming days.

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