Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and his Political Journeys: A Brief Review

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and his Political Journeys: A Brief Review
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By M J Aslam

1. Born to a middle class family of Pandit converts on 5th December, 1905, in 1933, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah(SMA) married Akbar Jahan;, daughter of Michael Hary Nedou, who was eldest son of Nedou hotels chain in Srinagar & Lahore.
2. He did his M.Sc. in Chemistry from AMU in 1930 after graduating from Islamia College, Lahore.
3. He joined the “Reading Room” group at Fateh Kadal, Srinagar. It was a room in the second house of Khwaja Saddr-ud-Din, secretary, Anjuman-i-Ahmadiyya, Kashmir. The idea to establish the Reading Room was the brainchild of Molvi Abdullah Vakil, an Ahmadi Muslim.
4. SMA and his immediate associates were deeply influenced by the teachings of polymath Molvi Abdullah Vakil. (Atash e Chinar (1985) p 67).
5. SMA met Chowdhury Ghulam Abbas at Jammu in 1930 and desired to set up a unit of “Young Men’s Muslim Association” in Kashmir, too. It was readily accepted by CG Abbas who was the head of the party that time. After setting up branch of that party at Srinagar, SMA started highlighting the pathetic condition of Muslims of Kashmir in his public speeches for which he was dismissed from service as government school teacher by the Hari Singh government.
6. Chowdhury Ghulam Abbas, theundisputed leader of Jammu Muslims, through “Young Men’s Muslim Association” was already engaged in highlighting the miserable socio-religious-economic conditions of Jammu Muslims.
7. Taking the lead from struggle for Muslim rights by Chowdhury Ghulam Abbas’ Young Men’s Muslim Association and motivated by the earlier 1920’ s Government Silk Factory Workers Agitations at Srinagar, SMA started highlighting overall pathetic condition of Muslims and agitated against the rule of Hari Singh, the despotic Hindu ruler of JK.
8. Following the 13th July 1931 massacre of dozens of Muslims outside Central Jail Srinagar, the first massive agitation against the Dogra regime was launched by Muslims of JK jointly which led to the formation of All JK Muslim Conference in 1932 with SMA as its President and Chowdhury Ghulam Abbas, Secretary.
9. Despite the fact that the only sufferers under the Dogra regime were the Muslims of JK, SMA , with Bakhsi and Masoodi wanted to convert it into a secular party. As he had developed a close association with the Indian National Congress through Nehru, SMA ultimately under his influence changed the MC into National Conference in 1939, albeit only half a dozen odd non-Muslims joined hands with his NC, that too in their personal and not representative (community) capacities. Non-Muslims especially Bataas/Pandits had a reason to distance themselves away from NC and SMA as they were an endemic part of Dogra despotism, officialdom from top to bottom, and INC in every sense was dear to their hearts. Joseph Korbel who has made a thought-provoking observation in this regard in her classic of 1954 in these words:
“As a matter of fact, the origins of the present tragic struggle can, in a sense, be traced back to those months. Up to that time the Muslims had been united through the Muslim Conference. In 1939, this unity was broken. Responsible for this tragic schism was none other than the popular Lion of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohamnlad Abdullah”. (Danger in Kashmir, page 20).
10. In 1946, again influenced by INC’s Quit India Movement, SMA launched the Quit Kashmir Movement for which he was imprisoned for three years in May 1946.
11. On 29-09-1947, SMA , at the behest of Nehru and Patel was “singly” released from jail by Hari Singh. His close associates, who had avoided arrest during QKM, now felt it easy and publically join him in his next pro-India campaign. The entire Muslim Conference leadersship was either behind the bars, some having crossed over to other side of the divide.
12. Following his “orchestrated release”, SMA’s “target” was not Hari Singh, the Dogra despot, but M A Jinnah and his two nation theory in all his public and private speeches, interviews, all over the State. He praised and espoused the INC’s secular policies and hinted that if asked for accession, he would prefer India, a liberal, progressive and secular nation over feudal, poor and backward people of the newly emerged Dominion of Pakistan. A few excerpts from his few “famous speeches” during that “critical” time of Muslim majority JK are quoted below:
“We have decided to work with and die for India… We made our decision not in October last but in 1944 when we resisted the advances of Mr. Jinnah. Our refusal was categorical. Ever since, the National Conference has attempted to keep the state clear of the pernicious two-nation theory while fighting the world’s worst autocracy” (The Statesman, March 7, 1948).
On December 3, 1947 he spoke at a function held by the Gandhi Memorial College in Jammu: “Kashmiris would rather die following the footsteps of Gandhiji than accept the two-nation theory. We want to link the destiny of Kashmir with India because we feel that the ideal before India and Kashmir is one and the same.”
On 5th October 1947 & 29-09-1947 (day of his release), he in his speeches at Hazuri Bagh and Hazrat Bal Srinagar visualized the market for Kashmiri handicrafts in India “land of baniyas” and not in “the land of Pathan Tongawalas”. He said that in taking a decision about the accession, care has to be taken of Kashmiri Pandits who are like “beacon of light guiding the ships in the sea”.
13. On 30th October, 1947 SMA accepted his role to work as head of an Emergency Administration under a written order of Hari Singh which (EA with SMA its head) Hari Singh was “compelled” to set up at the behest of Nehru.
14. SMA did not countenance challenges to him too well. Chowdhury Ghulam Abbas was the most popular leader of Muslims of Jammu. Molvi Mohammad Yousuf Shah, Ghulam Ahmad Ashai and Ghulan Nabi Gilkar were very popular leaders of Srinagar. Right from 1939 , he and his workers harassed their opponents who were none other than MC activists and leaders, and who had all along refused to play second fiddle to him, after his conversion of MC into NC. Upon assuming role of State’s Emergency Head under Hari Singh’s dictatorship, SMA and his workers with “State power” doubled pressure on their opponents, called themselves “Sheras” (lions) while opponents, for spotting beards, were named “bakras” (goats). “He did not behave in a democratic manner. NC did not tolerate or encourage any opposition”. (Per Ved Bhasin’s Interview, Riots changed J&K politics, Kashmir Life dated 3rd October, 2009).
15. On 5th February, 1948 accompanying Indian delegation at the UNGA, SMA lambasted Pakistan, its leadership, condemned tribal invasion and supported India’s claim on Kashmir.
16. Following his pro-India speech of 5th February, 1948, he was appointed as PM of J & K on 17th March, 1948.
17. India, which had till then only military control over the State was desperate to link JK “constitutionally” with it despite that it had taken the JK Issue to UN for settlement with Pakistan. Thus, SMA together with close aides, Bakhshi, Masoodi, Beigh and Moti Lal Bogra joined the Constituent Assembly proceedings on 16-06-1949 as self-chosen “representatives” of JK. Pursuant to their request, Article 370 (originally Article 306) was finally inserted in the Indian Constitution by Gopalaswami Ayyangar, ex-PM of JK well versed with psyche of its leader and people, Railway Minister of India after Nehru’s “seemingly” persuasion as B R Ambedkar told SMA: “You want that India should defend Kashmir, India should develop Kashmir and Kashmiris should have equal rights as the citizens of India but you do not want India and any citizen of India to have any rights in Kashmir. I am the Law Minister of India. I cannot betray the interest of my country.” Really, highest kind of political wit and craft displayed by Indian leaders to make the “child” cry and weep for a “toy” he childishly believes to be only “reality” in the world.
18. In October, 1951, pursuant to 01-05-1951 order of Karan Singh, head of the State, SMA’s party contested 75 representative seats to the State’s Constituent Assembly and won “unopposed all seats”, which are alleged to have been “totally rigged” (Per Ved Bhasin, ibid).
19. On 24-07-1952, SMA entered into the Delhi Agreement with India through Nehru that again enabled India to “procrastinate” settlement of Kashmir issue as it was a sort of affront to the UN efforts that were on that time through its UNPCM and Plebiscite Administrators to settle the issue by Dixon plan or holding plebiscite.
20. Contrary to the view at 19 above, the communalist parties of JK, the Hindu Mahasabha, Jan Jangh and Ram Rajya Parishad saw the Delhi Agreement as a threat to unity of India, so they launched violent agitation against it in Jammu, Punjab, Delhi and elsewhere in India. In the backdrop of that agitation, on 9th August, 1953 SMA was dismissed as PM of the State & imprisoned for 11 years under the infamous “Conspiracy against State”/Kashmir Conspiracy case by Indian leaders while his deputy Bakhshi was always ready to be appointed as new PM of JK. Nehru’s denial of any role in SMA dismissal & arrest of 1953 has been termed as “brazen falsehood”.
21. Earlier, on the 13th July 1953, at three gatherings at the Martyrs graveyard at Naqshband Sahib, Jamia Masjid and Shahi Masjid Pather Masjid , SMA publically admitted that he had committed mistake by supporting JK’s accession with India. He said: “I regret my mistake of coming in the way of merger with Pakistan. I had fears that they won’t treat me well, but I was wrong. Now I feel backstabbed, I no longer trust Indian rulers, we have different ways now”. After his “original mistake”, he had started dreaming of an independent State and expressed it openly before people. (Nida e Haq, M M Isaaq
22. Following his dismissal and arrest on 9th August 1953, while he was in jail, SMA’s close associate Afzal Beigh founded the new party All Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front on 9th August, 1955 with SMA as its patron. It was more a reaction to that dismissal and arrest (see 24 below).
23. On the 8th April 1964, the State government dropped all charges in the so-called “Kashmir Conspiracy case” against SMA and he was released and returned to Srinagar. After his release, SMA reconciled with Nehru. He was immediately sent by India to Pakistan to talk to the Pakistani leadership for finding a lasting solution to the problem of JK. While SMA was still in Pakistan, Nehru died on 27th May 1964 and he returned to India for attending last rites of Nehru.
24. By 1972, All Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front had quite contrary to its public – stand on holding of plebiscite in JK under UN auspices, started taking deviations from plebiscite demand by stating that Front never “contested Kashmir’s accession to India”.
25. On 24th February 1975, in New Delhi, SMA through Afzal Beigh and G Parthasarthy on behalf of Indira Gandhi signed “Indira-Abdullah Accord” , under which SMA was put on CM chair of the State after burial of Plebiscite Front and revival of erstwhile NC.
26. In the June 1977 State Assembly elections, the resurrected NC won 47 seats (40 in Kashmir and 7 in Jammu) that enabled SMA to be CM of the State from 1977-1982.

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