Munshi Ishaq’s Memoirs

The much-awaited memoirs of Munshi Ishaq have finally hit the stands. His son, Munshi Ghulam Hasan, deserves kudos for publishing them in the shape of a book, Nida-e-Haq, which throws light on some of the most important events of Kashmir’s freedom struggle.

The book comments boldly on the Quit Kashmir Movement, Operation Gibraltar, and the Plebiscite Front sell-out.

The Quit Kashmir Movement had created a stir in Kashmir. The Sher-e-Kashmir became extremely popular, but was it needed at a time when the sub-continent was going to be partitioned? At the crucial phase of our history we were arrested, or lived in self-imposed exile, Munshi Sahib writes.

He further says that the leadership was not cut out for an underground movement. Mohi-ud-din Karra, who gained fame for going underground, showed signs of fatigue.  Munshi makes a mention of Karra’s letter requesting him to send Bakhshi (who was in Rawalpindi) to replace him:

“I am tired. My health has been a cause of worry. I want to go to jail. Please request Bakhshi (on my behalf) to come here and relieve me of the duties.”

This is how Karra showed his fatigue and desperation.

Bakhshi was in equally bad shape. He too wrote a letter, cursing the movement and the day it was started. He too wanted to live in peace and comfort in jail.

The book makes it clear beyond doubt that the Plebiscite Front leadership was aware of Operation Gibraltar. In fact, Pakistan had solicited its support. On page 329, Munshi Sahib writes:

“A person named Rehmatullah from Pakistani embassy held separate meetings with Maulana Masoodi, Mohi-ud-Din Karra and Maulana Farooq.  He gave them some money and urged them to take out a procession in Srinagar on August 9 to ensure the entry of Mujahideen into the city. Maulana Farooq was keen to take out the procession, but Karra and Masoodi persuaded him to refrain from the act. The procession was not taken out and the Mujahideen could not enter the city.”

He further mentions that the army torched a portion of Batmaloo but Karra’s estate remained safe.

Munshi resigned as the acting president of the Plebiscite Front on August 18, 1965. Khwaja Sanaullah Bhat, the editor of Aftaab, contacted Munshi the same evening to know about developments. A tearful Munshi told him that “an opportunity to liberate Kashmir had been lost.”

Divulging details of the plan, he said, “We had been told to muster public support in favour of the operation. It had been decided that we would not remain unconcerned during this movement. Pakistanis had talked with us and I had personally agreed with their plan. Their plan was to undertake a sudden operation of occupying the Srinagar airport, the radio station, the Saddar Police Station and other police stations at Khanyar and Maharaj Gunj. We had been entrusted with the responsibility of seeking public support for this action so that there could be no other alternative for India except to agree to have an honourable settlement of the Kashmir issue. And the message of armed revolution which was being broadcast from Sada-e-Kashmir would take real shape and be implemented. But we, out of selfishness and temerity, did not cooperate.” (Kashmir in Flames by Sanaullah Bhat, Page 109, 110)

This was the time when Munshi came to know about the wavering stand of the leadership. However, he remained silent and revolted in 1969 when the Front decided to take part in municipal elections.

His memoirs say: “Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Beg have started deviating from the basic stand of the Front. The Executive Council in its meeting, March 22, 1969, decided to contest elections, which we had been boycotting till date. I severely opposed the proposal. The people, by and large, and a majority of the Front workers, supported me. I shall oppose the move tooth and nail come what may. Maulana Farooq and Maulana Abbas Ansari approached me, and subtly expressed their support. Let us see what happens in the coming days.”

Munshi walked out of the meeting and decided to muster support against the decision. He called on prominent Front members across Kashmir, but nobody, not even Sofi Muhammad Akbar, was ready to listen to him. He finally, addressed a press conference on August 7, 1969. The daily Aftaab reported as follows:

“The panchayati elections are in the news these days and some people are connecting self-determination to these elections. However, the members of the Front have nothing to do with the elections because we believe elections cannot be a substitute to self-determination.  If some people decided to contest elections in total violation of the constitution of the Front, it does not mean that the Front has decided to join the fray. The Front is alive and shall continue to strive for the attainment of the right to self-determination. We want a referendum in accordance with the UN resolutions.”

The leadership responded by declaring Munshi a traitor. He was also accused of voting in favour of contesting elections. Munshi denied the allegations. In his detailed answer, Munshi quoted two news reports from the daily Hamdard, dated April 9 and 11, to expose the lies of the leadership:

“Our correspondent came to know that the Executive Council discussed the issue and 21 members including the President voted in favour and just 9 voted against it.”

The Front leadership was pushed to the wall. It decided to oust Munshi from the Front. Mirza Afzal Beg’s letter (PF/2068, August 18, 1969) initiated the process. Beg sought an explanation from Munshi who responded by owning the statements published in the local newspapers. In another letter (2095/PF, September 3, 1969), Beg suspended Munshi’s membership till further orders. Munshi later published a pamphlet, Nida-e- Haq, in which he narrated how the leadership had been conspiring to ‘slaughter’ the Plebiscite Front.

Munshi has also made special mention of an earlier pamphlet, Zimni Intikhaab Ka Donge (The Farce of By-Elections) that  urged people  (page 6 and 7) to boycott elections and persuade others to enforce the boycott to expose the tall claims of free and fair elections. This pamphlet was published on the occasion of the Safa Kadal and Budgam by-elections, and signed by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Maulana Muhammad Farooq, Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg, Muhammad Yasin Hamadani, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Karra, Maulana Abbas Ansari, Maulana Iftikhar Ansari and Maulana Syed Qasim Shah Bukhari.

The book has other information about the freedom movement, and is a must read.