Contrary to common belief, 1947 was not a cakewalk for Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah – he faced stiff resistance not only from Muslim Conference workers but from a number of National Conference activists as well.
A strong NC supporter and worker, Noor Muhammad Sofi protested Abdullah’s decision by visiting the leader in sadhu garb and offering namaskar.
He was arrested, tortured and detained.
Shortly after being released, he was found dead in a hotel room.
The case remains a mystery to this day.
The son of Abdul Qadir of Kokar Bazar, Sofi was an accomplished horseman, and actually owned a Peshawar thoroughbred, riding which, he is said to have entered the Palladium cinema one day.
“My horse wants to enjoy the movie,” he declared, and no one dared to object.
During the Quit Kashmir Movement of 1946, in which he took active part, Sofi once drove Mohi-ud-Din Karra across the closely-watched city, from Lal Chowk to Batalaloo, in a tonga.
Having asked Karra to cover himself in a veil, Sofi appeared to be carrying a female passenger, and no one suspected that it was one of the most wanted men of those times.
A few days after Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s mann tu shudam vows to Jawaharlal Nehru in Lal Chowk – within a few months of Indian troops landing in Srinagar – soldiers abducted three women from the Budshah Chowk.
Sofi voiced his protest, and was put under arrest.
In the Central Jail in Srinagar, he met Muhammad Yusuf Khan, a Muslim Conference worker put behind bars for his political stand, and told him his story:
“When I heard of the abduction, I was furious, but could do nothing. Finally, early one morning, I dressed like a Pandit and called on Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.
“He was offering prayers, and was annoyed to see me.
“I left, and went to Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad.
“He hugged me, weeping.
“’The Sheikh has sold us out,” he said. ‘Please do not kill yourself like this. We cannot do anything.’”
Thereafter, he began greeting people with namaskar and folded hands. Munshi Muhammad Ishaq’s son must have seen him during those days.
When an acquaintance asked Sofi why he roamed about in sadhu attire, he replied: “I am doing what our leader will make us do after 25 years. He has sold us cheap.”
On one occasion, when he held a rally in Lal Chowk to protest against the state’s accession, other National Conference workers stood helplessly by, not daring to intervene.
Muhammad Yusuf Khan of the Muslim Conference, whom he met in jail, had a rare tribute for someone from a rival party.
“Sofi was a staunch National Conference worker,” he told this writer in an interview, “but he died a martyr.”
“In fact, he is the only martyr of the NC in the post-1947 era.”