A Man Who Refused Pension for Freedom Fighter

Muhamamd Amin Qureshi, one of the pioneers of the freedom struggle was assigned the job of washing Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s clothes when he joined the Reading Room Party.  He performed this duty to the best of his ability and participated in every programme of the organization. On July 13, 1931 he along with many others sustained injuries when Dogra soldiers opened fire on peaceful protestors outside Srinagar’s Central Jail. Luckily he survived.  He was the only person from the reading Room party who got injured in the attack.

Muhammad Amin Qureshi was born in apoor Peer family of Srinagar in 1898. Immediatelyafter completing primary education, he wasorphaned. His poor mother somehow persuadedhim to continue his studies. After completing hismatriculation, Qureshi started looking for a job.

He served as a volunteer in the Revenue Department and the Department of Prisons for sometime.

In 1918, a prominent lawyer of Punjab,Khawaja Kamal-ud-Din came to Srinagar. Qureshi acted as his personal secretary during his stay in the Valley. Kamal-ud-Din was greatlyimpressed by Qureshi’s skills and took him along to Lahore. Qureshiaccompanied Kamal  to Burma, Malaya, Singapore and Indonesia.

Soon after, Kamal-ud-Din and Qureshi visited Europe. Theyvisited France, Germany, England and many other European countries.

After spending more than six years in Europe, Qureshi returned to hishomeland in 1925.

Qureshi’s stay in Europe gave him the much-needed exposure. Hisvision and outlook broadened and he started perceiving life from a differentangle. The miserable plight of the Kashmiris gave him many sleepless nights. He wanted to do something for the betterment and upliftment of his people.

In Qureshi’s neighbourhood lived two prominent personalities ofKashmir,  Moulvi Muhammad Abdullah Vakil and Ghulam Ahmad Ashai.

They played a significant role in the political awakening of Kashmiris.

Qureshi would go there to discuss politics. Having seen life in Europe, he gave the activists who used to come to Vakil and Ashai’s houses valuable tips.

The group started collecting newspapers from Lahore and otherparts of India. They would discuss the news and views. This helped them immensely to frame their future strategy. The efforts culminatedinto the Reading Room Movement.

Meanwhile, he opened a bookshop at FatehKadal. He wouldgift books to poor students. His friends warned him against it but he did not stop. The bookshop could not  ustain for long for obvious reasons.

After July 13 incident, he joined Muslim Conference formally and became its importantmember. When Muslim Conference was converted into National Conference in 1939 by Sheikh Muhamamd Abdullah, Qureshi registered protest and remained aloof. He went to Indonesia to work with his exiledfriend Abdul Salam Rafiqui.

Qureshi returned to Srinagar in 1941 and got associated with ‘Islah’newspaper. He worked for this newspaper upto 1948. This was thetime when dissidents were asked to leave Kashmir. Many activists ofMuslim Conference went to Pakistan administered Kashmir. Qureshi’sfriends urged him to leave the Valley, but owing to some family problems,he stayed back in the Valley only to get persecuted.

Amin’s reluctance to leave the Valley was not taken well by thegovernment. The newspaper (Islah) was banned, office was sealed andthe furniture confiscated.  His typewriter was stolen. Police, however,refused to register his complaint.

Qureshi faced hard times in the coming years. Some of his friends,who had turned collaborators, urged him to meet Sheikh MuhammadAbdullah and assure him of his loyalty. He refused and continuedto suffer. He had to sell his house to marry off his daughter. Circumstancesforced him to live in a rented accommodation, but, in spiteof all the sufferings, he remained steadfast.

In 1969, he happened to meet Sheikh Muhamamd Abdullahwho had been released recently and was collecting donations for thereconstruction of Hazratbal Shrine. Sheikh wished to have an exclusivemeeting with him.  Qureshi replied, “Sheikh Sahib, I amwhat I was in 1931, 1938 and 1948.” After hearing Qureshi’s response Sheikh got angry and left.

In 1975, when the government was considering pension for freedom fighters, Qureshi’s friends and relatives urged him to get his nameenrolled, but, he refused.  His reluctance to apply for thepension was strongly resented by the family members.

Qureshi passed away on May 12, 1977.

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