Anyone who has travelled to Gilgit-Baltistan is aware of how hospitable and accepting the people of the region are towards travellers. No matter what your race or religion is, the mountain folk will always welcome you with open arms. However, looking at the peaceful region now, it’s hard to imagine they too, were once oppressed by the Dogra tribe.
On November 1, 1947, Gilgit-Baltistan became independent and since then, the government of the region has declared the day an official holiday. This year marks the 72nd independence day of the district.
There was a time when the Northern areas had different tribes and rulers. Gilgit stood as a capital of all the kingdoms since it geographically lay in the center. But the circumstances changed for the residents in 1842 when Kashmiri troops under Mahraja Hari Singh entered Gilgit and began to dominate the lands. This lead to British colonisation of the region.
In 1846, the British handed over the reins of control of the region to the Kashmiri Dogras.
The situation followed by the takeover
In 1885, the Indian government undertook administrative reforms and created the Gilgit Agency in 1889. Things however, took an unstable turn when the area was leased to the government of India for a period of sixty years and for an amount of 75,000Rs. This gave the British political agents complete control of defence, communications and foreign relations while the Kashmiri state retained civil administration.
When the British influence declined after World War II, Mountbatten terminated the lease that was hovering over the future of Gilgit.
The fight for independence
Though the Kashmiris ruled over Gilgit for a few years, the people of the area never accepted the Kashmiris due to ethnic differences. Gilgit was also one of the most backward areas of the Kashmir state, hence, the people of the region always felt neglected.
When the hold of the Dogras weakened, the populace of Gilgit-Baltistan started revolting. The people of Ghizer were the first to raise the flag of revolution, and gradually the masses of the entire region stood up for independence.
On November 1, 1947, Gilgit Baltistan was liberated. It also managed to survive as an independent state for 15 days before they offered Pakistan to take over the administration.
How is the day celebrated?
The independence day is celebrated with festivities throughout Gilgit-Baltistan. This includes paying tributes to the heroes of the liberation war and the Gilgit Scouts who revolted against Dogra rule.
This year round, political, social and literary circles arranged celebratory programs. A ceremony was held at the Helipad ground in Gilgit as well as the Aga Khan Shahi polo ground. Prime Minister Imran Khan also took part in the festivities by delivering a historic tribute to the martyrs of the region.
“On this day, I especially wish to pay tribute to the youth of Gilgit-Baltistan who sacrificed in Kargil, in the war against terrorism, and the heroes of 1947 and 1948,” stated Khan.
“Pakistan is not fully aware of what happened here in 1947, that the people here fought a war for independence, defeated the Dogra rule and got their freedom, and then fought in Skardu and Baltistan and gained independence there the next year in 1948,” he continued as he lauded the efforts of the fighters of the region.