Sopore: Wali Mohammad Adil, now in his 90s, is bed-ridden and keeps within reach a glut of medicines on a table next to him. His face, though, is calm, and conceals the life of trials and tribulations that has made it a mirror to Kashmir’s fractured history.
As an eyewitness to the transformation of the Muslim Conference into the National Conference, Adil vividly recalls, “I was young when news came that Molvi Mohammad Yusuf Shah had chosen seven key members to run the Muslim Conference with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as an important leader. The concept of the movement was to have our own government (Khud Nizam), as against that of the Dogra ruler. Nothing like it had happened before. It electrified the public mood. When members of the Muslim Conference would come, especially in north Kashmir, they were greeted with tremendous enthusiasm and slogans of ‘Khud Nizam Dari’.”
The story of the subsequent rift in the Muslim Conference is a household tale in the Valley, but Adil notes how the divide ended up creating the famous Sher and Bakra (lion and goat) split in what had once been a well-knit society. “As a young and fearless man, I joined the Sher party of Sheikh Abdullah, because in those days people viewed him as a liberator and a leader who championed their legitimate cause.”
Gradually, however, it became clear that Abdullah was gravitating towards the Indian position. “It was then that I and a lot of other young, thinking individuals began to turn our energies away from Sheikh’s politics and rejoined the original Muslim Conference,” Adil recalled.
When Pakistani irregulars (Kabali) launched an attack on Kashmir in October 1947, Adil volunteered to guide the tribal raiders in reconnaissance sorties.
“I, with another member from Baramulla, received the Pakistani irregulars near a playground in Uri. They were in the hundreds; the first group that had reached Kashmir. Some of the militia were wearing slippers made of wood (khraw). When we started to chant pro-Pakistan slogans, one of the commanders scolded us to stop sloganeering and start doing work.
“Some of the militia were not well-trained and resorted to looting in some areas. Not all of them, but a few. This caused us grief, but it was a time of great upheaval. Soon after the attack by the militia, when half of Kashmir was under their control, the Indian military landed in Srinagar and launched an offensive. It was a very difficult time for us. Fearing for my life, I along with my family left for Pakistan via the Kupwara border,” Adil narrated.
In Pakistan, Adil met with Sanuallah Bhat, who then used to edit the weekly newspaper, Akhbar-i-Kashmir, in Muzaffarabad, along with other comrades like Amir-u-din Marazi of Sopore who had crossed over to Pakistan. As an activist, Adil continued his work in Muzaffarabad.
“We met with several deputations and foreign delegations who wanted first-hand information on the war in Kashmir. Making our position of independent Kashmir clear to these dignitaries, we became among the first handful of people to broadcast the voice of Kashmir outside the Valley,” Adil recounted.
“Trouble began when, all of a sudden, after eight years of our stay in Pakistan, some members of the Pakistan police came to our homes and picked us up. Leaving our families behind, they handed us over to the Pakistan military. The military later pushed us across the border through the Poonch-Rawalkote sector. We sensed that they didn’t want any trouble, which was why they were sending us back. Before we were pushed across, we had met one of the international delegations at Pakistan, but we had not been invited there. This became an irritant in the eye of a few among the Pakistan army, the reason why we were pushed across the border. Once in the Valley, we were arrested and taken to Srinagar. Upon our release, we managed to recover our families, who had arrived at the border with legal papers in 1959. However, that was not the end of my trials.”
In Sopore, Adil said he had to face harassment and jail multiple times. He spent almost six years in different jails of Kashmir. He was tortured on many occasions. While he continued with his small, electrical goods business in Sopore town, the harassment grew when the armed insurgency began in Kashmir in the 1990s.
“In August 1990, the 50th battalion of the CRPF picked up my son, Khursheed Ahmed Adil, from his shop in Iqbal Market, Sopore. He was lodged in a dreaded interrogation centre on the outskirts of the town. It has been a little over 27 years. Khursheed never returned. An FIR (252/90) had been lodged against two CRPF officers under Sections 365 and 302. Some say they killed him. They didn’t even have the decency to return his body,” Adil said.
When this correspondent was leaving, a heartfelt piece of advice followed: “We should not disremember our remembrance.”
Adil’s other two companions, Sanuallah Bhat and Amir-ud-Din Marazi, both returned to Indian Kashmir. Both of them are no longer alive. Bhat came back and established his own newspaper, “Aftab”. He later settled in Srinagar and died a few years ago. Marazi was a resident of Doabgah, a village on the outskirts of Sopore. He started working as a contractor here and a few years ago he died.