June 19: A tribute Sull’e Galdaar

A stray rocket fired by militants from somewhere hit the northern side of Rambagh bride in early 90s. The rocket smashed a plaque stone.  Then, the bridge was dedicated to the memory of Sher-e-Kashmir’s trumpet blower, Muhammad Sultan khan alias Sull’e Galdaar by Dr Farooq Abdullah in 1983 in recognition of his services during the Quit Kashmir Movement.

Galdaar in Kashmir, means a person who deals in food grains. If used in a negative sense, it means a person with a high pitched voice. Khan was not a dealer in food grains, however, he had a “big mouth” and this particular quality won him the name Galdaar. He was a full time NC worker and remained at the disposal of his beloved leader day in and day out.

Senior National Conference workers say, the Quit Kashmir Movement would have failed had Sultan not been around. He would board a tonga (a horse driven cart) and roam around the city. He would deliver fiery speeches, warning Maharaja Hari Singh of dire consequences in case he did not leave Kashmir immediately.  One day, he stopped his tonga near Habba Kadal. “I give the Maharaja twenty-four hours to leave Kashmir. I will lynch him alive if he is seem anywhere in Kashmir tomorrow,” he announced. This warning caused a stir across Kashmir. A few days later he along with the leadership was arrested.

Sheikh Abdullah   and others were released following interference of Lord Mountbatten, Jawahar Lal Nehru and Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi. However, Maharaja Hari Singh sought a written apology which was readily given.  The apology letter has been published in Sardar Patel papers.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah became the emergency administrator in October 1947. Sull’e Galdaar went to his official residence to congratulate him. However, the guards posted outside stopped him. Angered, he told the guard to inform Sher-e-Kashmir of his arrival.

On his return, the guard gave Galdaar the shock of his life. “Sheikh Sahib is busy. He has directed you to meet him in his office tomorrow.” The shocked Galdaar left perhaps cursing himself for the only mistake he had committed in his life.

 He never called on Sheikh Abdullah again.

On June 19, 1953 Sher-e-Kashmir’s close associates launched a new party. The new party believed in total merger of Jammu Kashmir into Pakistan. On June 20 all the leaders of the party were arrested and lodged in Udhampur jail. The detained leaders included Mohi-ud-Din Karra and Muhammad Sultan Khan.

Sultan Khan was Sher-e-Kashmir’s trumpet blower during the Quit Kashmir movement.

 On June 9, 1953 when the Political Conference was launched, Sull’e Galdaar became its active member. Prior to its launch, Galdaar did what he was best at. He hired a tonga and announced the proposed launch of the new organization. He even went to the Civil Secretariat and gave Sheikh Abdullah and his former colleagues some tough moments.

On August 9, 1953 Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed and arrested. For a few hours he was kept outside the Udhampur jail. When Sull’e Galdaar came to know about the presence of Sheikh Abdullah, he became restless. “What is wrong with you,” Mohi-ud-Din Karra, according to Advocate Muhammad Amin Nehvi, asked him. “I am searching for a stick. I want to go out and beat Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah,” he replied. It took the leaders quite some time to pacify him.

Khan hated National Conference but Dr Farooq tried to own him by dedicating the Rambagh  Bridge to him. Allah the most exalted perhaps did not like his `glorification’ by the NC leaders after his death. A rocket hit the plaque stone and smashed it into pieces. It was never replaced. Instead of re-installing the memorial plaque, the authorities plugged the hole, caused by the blast, with cement. The future generations will never know that a freedom fighter was honoured by dedicating a bridge to his memory.

Dr Farooq also named Rambagh Bridge after Khan but the people did not like it either. Nobody calls it Sull’e Galdaar Bridge as desired by Dr Farooq.   Khan never compromised and died in extreme poverty. People known to him say he died while offering salaat in a mosque.

Some senior freedom fighters, however, continue to call it Sull’e Galdaar Bridge. “He was a great man, a great freedom fighter. He deserves a fair deal. The civil society must re-install the plaque stone,” they maintain.

Galdaar is the only leader who was imprisoned by three successive regimes. Maharaja Hari Singh detained him for the Quit Kashmir Movement, Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah for  Political Conference and Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad for `Muddy Shali’ agitation.