Sheikh Abdullah and His End
By Muhammad Farooq Rehmani
“The most popular man under a democracy is not the most democratic man, But the most despotic man. The common folk delight in the exactions of such a man. They like to boss them. There natural gait is goose step. ” – H L Monichan
There are people in Jammu and Kashmir who curse Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah for supporting the so called letter of accession by Maharaja Hari Sing to India in 1947 instead of Pakistan, with which the State of Jammu and Kashmir have strong geographical, cultural and religious relations, while many people adore him as their god of dreams for his valiant struggle against the autocratic and barbaric rule of Dogras and landlords who were responsible for condemning Kashmiri peasants and laborers as Roman serfs and slaves. God forbid, if the present resistance movement of the Kashmiris for the right of self determination is once again dwarfed and marginalized by the west and vested class of politicians in Kashmir (on both sides) for their self rule mirage, then again it would be difficult for the history to pass aspersions on Sheikh Abdullah alone, whose support to the India’s military aggression against the state in 1947 was an asset for India. Without Sheikh and his party National Conference, India would not have ventured to send in her invading troops to Jammu and Kashmir. And again India would not have the potential and pretext to launch a diplomatic offensive in the Security Council to declare Pakistan an aggressor in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, regardless of the deductive logic of his supporters, history may not bail out Sheikh Abdullah for marring the future of Kashmiris, generation after generation to deprived them of their birth right—the right of self determination. Except his fiery brand public speeches with religious touch, he has not left behind any enviable legacy for Kashmiri politicians and freedom lovers in the ongoing most turbulent and testing times of history.
Sheikh’s history of politics and governance can be looked at and judged from different facets, without; we cannot do justice to the people and their sacrifices. Even today in the 21th—century—the age of the flow of scientific knowledge and Information people are easily led astray and exploited by ambitious politicians and clergy for petty interests but not showing them the right path towards humanity and piety; fraternity and justice, so essential for peace and progress.
Sheikh Abdullah’s early period was the period of illiteracy, poverty and simplicity. He was successful to mould and mobilize the masses and political workers — change after change in Muslim Conference, National Conference and Plebiscite Front; through his religious, secular and nationalistic themes. But with so much popular support and power he swallowed the bait before India in 1975. He ignored his own claim for national honor and pride as a nationalist leader of Jammu and Kashmir.
Sheikh Abdullah was a flamboyant orator, who used Quranic verses particularly Surah Al-Rehman to mesmerize the Kashmiri Muslims for the political ends which he proudly preached from the Holy rostrum of Hazratbal mosque/shrine. He began his career as a Govt. school teacher, which he thought was below his educational status. This state of affairs led to rage and despondency in him. He was the first Kashmiri Muslim, who had passed M.Sc. from the Muslim university of Aligarh. This was a proof, how Muslims were treated under the dynastic and despotic rule of Dogra rulers of Jammu. Dogra Kingdom treated the Kashmiri Muslims as sub-humans.
From 1931 onwards, he focused on the plight of Kashmiri Muslims as a fearless political leader-a champion of the basic human and political rights of Kashmiris. In 1948 after the annexation of the state, by Indian he became the Prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir. But in 1982, he passed away as simply a Chief Minister of 2/3 of the state, under the Congress rule of India.
In between the eventful and tumultuous decades of the state, his politics, power and Government, confused, disgusted and disillusioned the public of Kashmir. In 1964, his queer decision to launch the campaign of social boycott against the members of the Congress Party surprised many people in Kashmir.
From August 1953 to 1975, he spent his life in detention for alleged charges of conspiracy with Pakistan and USA, for seceding Kashmir from India. He was implicated in Kashmir conspiracy case along with his own trust worthy companions like Afzal Beigh, Ghulam Muhammad Shah and others. From Kud Special Jail where he was languishing as a detenu, he used to write letters to his friends and well wishers—quoting Quran and Iqbal’s poems to admire their faith in the struggle for freedom and right of self determination.
Sheikh Abdullah, who had lost his popularity and charisma during his rule between 1948 and 1953, regained it after his imprisonment in 1953. He commanded great public support for plebiscite and right of self determination in almost every region of the state, but again in 1975, he fell into the trap of Indian leadership and his own circle—accepting the Chief Minister ship in 1975, without obtaining back even the status which the Government of the state, enjoyed in 1953, under the so called instrument of accession of 1947.
He had taken a hasty step in 1947 against the wishes of the Kashmiris without underscoring the inherent risks in the accession with India. No doubt, he hated the feudal prejudices of Punjabi politicians, but he at the same time ignored the conspiracies of Brahman leadership of Indian National Congress and their extreme fanatic outlook against the Indian Muslims, which had forced an over whelming majority of Muslims to carve out a sovereign and independent homeland in the shape of Pakistan.
It is said that Sheikh believed in the idea of an independent Kashmir. To achieve it, he first of all wanted to use Indian army against Pakistan in Kashmir and then he thought could be easy to tell India to call back their troops from Kashmir. Perhaps it was his thinking and miscalculation, which misguided him and his organization to rise against Pakistan. Consequently, he marred the future of Jammu and Kashmir by his misjudgment. Earlier a leftist leader of NC G.M. Sadiq and the nationalist Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad, had warned him against the repercussions of accession with India, but he paid little heed to their apprehensions and thus plunging Kashmir into chaos and unending trial and tribulation. When Sheikh Abdullah woke up and recalled his haunting dream, it was too late to rectify the blunder. He again began his odyssey but only to get a berth in the Delhi bound train only to die as the Chief Minister of the tormented and forlorn Jammu and Kashmir. His followers argue that his pro Indian friends betrayed him, but the question is why he himself betrayed the innocent people of Kashmir who had been crying for centuries to get rid of the economic and political bondage and foreign domination.
If Sheikh Abdullah had remained loyal to the cause of freedom of Kashmir and had not accepted the post of a Chief Minister in 1975 from Indra Gandhi he would have been a role model for the successive generations of our nation. The Kashmiris would not have been killed on daily basis from village to village and city to city unceremoniously and so brutally by their enemies. Sheikh’s late life accord with India encouraged his son and grandson to enact fresh black laws to give immunity and impunity to Indian troops and police for killing, forcibly disappearing and raping women of Kashmir. The beneficiaries of the black laws, the Indian army paratroopers and vested interests are ruling the roost since 1990. Although, the history will see, whether or not Sheikh was the sole politician responsible for tragic episodes of 1947 and 1975, and who else can be held responsible for the miseries and misfortunes of Kashmiris. With regard to this question historical factors and conditions also must be considered and analyzed.
But no benefit of doubt can be given to Sheikh Abdullah and his successors for imposing a totalitarian regime over Jammu and Kashmir. He subjected the people to cruelty, imprisonment, torture and banishment; disregarded completely the basic human rights and civil liberties of the people by adopting draconian laws to shut the mouth of opposition and every dissent, rigged the elections for the constituent assembly before declaring National Conference candidates as unopposed winners. This was the feature and character of the first National Conference Government which forced so many Muslim Conference leaders and sympathizers to forsake their lovely homes and seek shelter in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference were responsible for adopting the Enemy Agent Ordinance in 1948 against the opposition leaders and workers of the State. He knew little that one day his revengeful and ferocious totalitarian system will end and devour its own godfather like a prey. In 1948 nobody could have guessed that Sheikh Abdullah will be sent to jail in 1953 by his own party colleagues.
Sheikh’s first government of so called ‘Naya- Kashmir’ from 1948 – 1953 was too ugly and inhuman to be revered by the people. Pandit Nehru the first Prime Minister of India and a close friend of Sheikh Abdullah who sent him to prison in 1953, had supported Sheikh Abdullah in 1951 elections for the State Constituent Assembly by uttering these words, “Jammu and Kashmir cannot afford the luxury of democracy.”
Sheikh Abdullah again gained power in 1975. Mrs. Indra Gandhi the then Prime Minister of India did not agree with him to restore his 1953 position and old nomenclature of the state government of Kashmir. This time also Sheikh Abdullah did not repeal the black laws of the state Government. He enforced the so called Public Safely Ordinance to crush the freedom struggle of Jammu and Kashmir, despite the assurances he had given to the detained Al-Fateh leaders during his visit to the central jail Srinagar in 1977. After having failed to gain the support of the detained leaders for the Delhi Accord 1975, he however told them that his government would not invoke harsh detention laws against them, provided they acted upon peaceful ways and means of political struggle for achieving the right to self determination. Yet, he did not honor his own commitments. This time the Delhi Government had abrogated the central laws of “preventive detention” and Sheikh Abdullah could follow the suit, but he did not. The infamous law known as The Public Safety Act is still in vogue in Jammu and Kashmir, with stringent modifications and regulations made by the National Conference government and other successive regimes.
Sheikh Abdullah was always the locus of power in his party and government, so it is strange that as the chief emergency officer in the fall of 1947 and Prime Minister in 1948 to 1953, he had neither tears in his eyes nor remorse and regrets to see lakhs of his fellow Muslims in Jammu massacred and women kidnapped and slaughtered by terrorists in the fateful months of October and November 1947.
On the contrary, Muslims of the Kashmir valley had demonstrated complete communal harmony in those misty and revengeful months of India’s division, to protect the life and honor of the pundit and Sikh minorities of Kashmir. At that time hordes of armed Hindu terrorists from Punjab joined Maharaja’s soldiers and terrorists like mad wolves to slaughter local Muslims and kidnap Muslim women, only to quench their thirst for the Muslim blood in Jammu. The neighboring rural terrorists also brought doom and gloom on the Muslims of Jammu province. Sheikh Abdullah as the Muslim secular leader of the state could play his role to stop the bloodshed of innocent Muslims of Jammu. After taking over the reins of the state Government in March 1948 as its Prime Minister he could bring to justice the killers and their accomplices. Instead he remained mute and went to UNO to help India to declare Pakistan aggressor in Jammu and Kashmir.
What kind of a patriot and nationalist was he? His actions and policies as a ruler and politician never matched his sermons on nationalism and patriotism. He fluctuated between his concept of independence, internal autonomy and accession with India and ultimately failed not only as a Kashmiri nationalist, but also as the executive head to give Kashmir a fair, clean and honest government and establish a prosperous welfare state in 1948 – 1953 and 1975 – 1982.
Sheikh Abdullah’s regime received a big jolt when on 26 and 27 July 1980, Indian army gangs in mufti appeared on roads, creating mayhem from Batamaloo to Sonawar under the pretext of freeing an army driver from police custody, accused of having hit a Rickshaw in Sonawar. They committed loot and arson and killed at least six people including a Pakistani national to show their colonial character. Sheikh Abdullah was in his home on the Maulana Azad Road, knowing what havoc had been created under his nose in the city. Later an inquiry tribunal under the chairmanship of a retired High Court Chief was constituted, the findings of which were not made public to this day.
He was responsible for taking a solo flight to resolve Kashmir dispute with India, but he got only a slice of credit from India to the utter disregard and despair of the people of Kashmir. He believed in his own single leadership and one party rule of National Conference but could not resist the temptation of power in collaboration with the Congress Party and Syed Mir Qasim in 1975. From 1953 onwards Pakistan gave him full-fledged support and promoted his leadership both internally and externally. But he again started hobnobbing with Indian Congress leadership in late 1960s and 1970s. The consequences of the Beg-Parthasarthy negotiations alarmed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, who cautioned him through these remarks, “Sheikh Abdullah has committed blunders in past. He should not repeat them now. If he does, it would be his last blunder.”
The Plebiscite Front leadership urged Pakistan to open the natural route between Rawalpindi and Srinagar, but Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto argued, “Sheikh Abdullah should first of all come on the natural path, before demanding the opening of the natural route of Pakistan and Kashmir.”
Today Kashmiri leadership should learn from the omissions and commotions of Sheikh Abdullah. They should abstain from covert tasks and solo flights to oblige the pleaders of porous borders and business powers in big cities and high mountains in the name of Kashmir.
Note: The writer is Convener All Parties Hurriyet (Freedom) Conference AJK Chapter and Chairman J&K People’s Freedom League. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Article has been Published in monthly “The Honour” Srinagar in Jan 2010 Issue