KASHMIR’S UNSUNG HEROES: Mirwaiz Muhammad Abdullah Shopiani

Fearless and outspoken, Mirwaiz Molvi Muhammad Abdullah Shopiani was a staunch supporter and worker of the Muslim Conference. Once, when he decided to hold the party’s annual session in Pulwama, the date happened to clash with an important National Conference event, and neither the Mirwaiz nor Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was ready to back down.

The Governor was called upon to intervene. Sheikh Abdullah went to his office with a band of drummers, threatening Mirwaiz Shopiani with dire consequences.

In a tit-for-tat reply, the latter said: “If you take up cudgels against me, the people of Srinagar will not even see your body.”

On another occasion, the Mirwaiz announced that Prime Minister         Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah would not be allowed to come to Shopian. Enraged, the Sheikh, one Friday, led thousands of National Conference workers to march on the town. His party had made announcements urging people to assemble in the Shopian Jamia Masjid for the Prime Minister’s speech.

The Mirwaiz countered by calling for a total strike, and asked people to stay away from the mosque, which he locked down.

When Sheikh Abdullah arrived, he found the streets deserted, markets closed, and the Jamia gates padlocked. The news created a sensation across Kashmir.

In 1948, when the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed its historic resolution of August 13 on the Kashmir issue, the Muslim Conference formed a Plebiscite Board, with Muhammad Yusuf Qureshi at the head. Mirwaiz Shopiani, who was made its provincial president for      Kashmir, reached out to party workers throughout the length and breadth of the Valley, distributing literature prepared by Qureshi.

He dared the often violence-prone National Conference workers who derived pleasure in harassing and persecuting MC activists and supporters. His efforts led to another revival of the Muslim Conference which had suffered a huge setback with the arrest and exile of its leadership.

Irked by Shopiani’s growing popularity, Sheikh Abdullah ordered him to be arrested. But the Mirwaiz went underground and was able to evade the police for some time, running his party from a safe-house.   Authorities eventually found his whereabouts and took him into custody in a police raid.  Later, he was “pushed back” into Pakistan via Suchetgarh.

He settled in Lahore and kept aloof from politics. He did not join the government in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir (PaK) despite pressure from his former colleagues. The mutual bickering of Kashmiri leaders disheartened him.

The Mirwaiz was held in great respect by the establishment, the people, and fellow Kashmiris.  He passed away at Lahore. Thousands of people attended his funeral.