KASHMIR’S UNSUNG HEROES: Muhammad Amin Gurkhoo – I

Born in1929, and hailing from the Malichmar locality of Aali Kadal in Srinagar, Muhammad Amin Gurkhoo had chosen to earn his living by dyeing clothes and selling pashmina rather than opting for law or government service, fields then most sought after by educated young men.

He began his politics as a zealous National Conference worker, and though his association with the party turned gradually reluctant, he continued with it till August 9, 1953, when the state’s internal autonomy was torpedoed by BN Mullik, the then director of the IB, at the behest of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Mullik had employed Dr Karan Singh, the Sadr-e-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir, and the police force, for operational purposes. (My Years with Nehru, BN Mullik).

Gurkhoo’s relatives and neighbours were staunch supporters of Mirwaiz Molvi Muhammad Yusuf Shah, did not take kindly to his association with the National Conference.

After 1953, he became an active worker of the J&K Plebiscite Front, and did not change his stand after 1975 when most of its workers decided to make hay under Indira Gandhi’s smile.

According to the late Advocate G N Hagroo, people of the Valley follow their leaders blindly, but Gurkhoo was a different type entirely.  He would always keep his eyes wide open.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah wrote him hundreds of letters from various jails, which he preserved for posterity.

“The couplet you have quoted in your letter,” Abdullah wrote in one, “carries the same message as taught by the Qur’an. Unflinching faith in one’s ideals, supported by continuous, uninterrupted and purposeful efforts, leads to success.”

Even in 1957, when Abdullah was the darling of the masses, Gurkhoo had sensed that something was going wrong somewhere, and did not hesitate in seeking an explanation from him.

What had Gurkhoo asked of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in his letter? As the leader’s reply indicates, only to have faith in his ideals, and pursue them with continuous, uninterrupted and purposeful effort.

On March 7, 1957, Sheikh Abdullah tried again to explain his position.

“I am concerned about the welfare of Muslims,” he wrote to Gurkhoo.

The leader who had changed the name of his party to please a handful of Hindus is concerned about welfare of Muslims!

It seems that Gurkhoo’s letters had shaken Sheikh Abdullah’s conscience, but that did not prevent him from taking a u-turn in 1975.

-to be continued