KASHMIR’S UNSUNG HEROES: Sheikh Ghulam Muhammad

Born in 1913 at Baran Pathar, Batmatoo in Srinagar, Sheikh Ghulam Muhammad had his first rub with politics in 1924 when he took part in the Silk Factory workers’ agitation.

Later he joined the Reading Room Party, and finally became an active member of the Muslim Conference.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah had grown quite fond of him, and would usually take him along on his political appearances and trips.

Ghulam Muhammad took active part in the Quit Kashmir Movement, but in 1947, when Sheikh Abdullah assumed office as the state’s emergency administrator, he withdrew from his fold.

Being a strong supporter of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan, he did not like his homeland being occupied by Indian troops.

He continued to attend pro-movement rallies and functions, and would plaster the walls of government offices, the gates of shrines and mosque, and electric poles with anti-India posters which he printed on a small machine.

 Very sharp and active, Ghulam Muhammad was elected the secretary of the Labour Front, and then, along with its president, Badr-ud-Din Handoo, joined the Political Conference.

Both were terminated from government service after being seen at the party’s opening rally at Suhyaar, Safa Kadal on June 19, 1953.

The then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad, tried his best to lure him to his side, but failed.

He would run the office of the Political Conference from the Ismail Building in Lal Chowk.

Ghulam Muhammad was among the 84 activists of various political organizations jailed in December 1958 shortly after Sheikh Abdullah was released from prison and rearrested following the rousing reception he got from the public, and the Dargah episode.

He became very popular in jail as well, and was put in charge of the prison mess.

According to Peer Hafizullah Makhdoomi, Ghulam Muhammad would help all detainees and try his best to make them comfortable.

“One day, in October 1959, Sheikh Ghulam Muhammad came to my barracks and asked for a bar of soap,” Makhdoomi recalled during a conversation. “I gave it to him and he went outside to take a bath.”

 “After a few moments, I saw a fellow prisoner, Abdul Ahad of the Plebiscite Front, carrying him in his arms. He put Ghulam Muhammad on a blanket in my room. I checked his pulse, and immediately called for the doctor.”

“He arrived within a couple of minutes, only to declare Ghulam Muhammad dead.”

The news of his sudden death came as a shock for the inmates, and created a stir within the jail.

Maulana Masoodi, himself a detainee, led the namaz-e-jenaza (funeral prayers) fellow-prisoners held in the prison yard.

Inmates resisted authorities’ attempts to take the body, insisting that his family be informed.

Relatives later took Ghulam Muhammad for burial at Batmaloo.

He had been only 45.

The jail doctor told Makhdoomi that Ghulam Muhammad suffered from high blood pressure and probably died of a stroke.

The previous night he had sought medicines for his aching tooth.

Despite massive protests in Srinagar over his mysterious death, the government did not deem it necessary to conduct a probe.