Kash­mir: When Sheikh Ab­dul­lah swal­lowed the in­sult

Views from Srinagar

Pakistan Observer - - KASHMIR -

ZAHIR-UD-DIN HEIKH Muham­mad Ab­dul­lah com­manded re­spect from most of the Kash­miris. Though not undis­puted, he was the one whom the gullible Kash­miris con­sid­ered their leader. How­ever, he was as help­less as others es­pe­cially while deal­ing with the army. When In­dian troops landed in Srinagar on Oc­to­ber 27, 1947, the Na­tional Con­fer­ence work­ers headed by Bak­shi Ghu­lam Muham­mad pro­vided them ve­hi­cles and vi­tal in­for­ma­tion about the tribes­men. Bri­gadier LP Sen who com­manded the troops has ac­knowl­edged their con­tri­bu­tion in his book Slen­der was the thread. But on Novem­ber 4 when Sheikh Muham­mad Ab­dul­lah and Bak­shi Ghu­lam Muham­mad called on him in his head­quar­ters, he scolded them and or­dered them out. The lion of Kash­mir left hur­riedly with­out of­fer­ing any re­sis­tance. Bak­shi who played the NC hit man to sub­ju­gate the dis­si­dents and the gen­eral pub­lic also be­haved like a chicken.

On Novem­ber 4, 1947 Sar­dar Pa­tel and Sar­dar Baldev (the defense min­is­ter) ar­rived in the Val­ley to have an on the spot as­sess­ment of the sit­u­a­tion. They rushed to Bri­gadier LP Sen’s head­quar­ters to know about the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion that had been launched in wee hours on Oc­to­ber 27. Bri­gadier Sen ap­prised them of the sit­u­a­tion and sought ad­di­tional troops and ar­tillery which was promised and sent in a cou­ple of days.

The head of the emer­gency gov­ern­ment, Sheikh Muham­mad Ab­dul­lah and his deputy, Ghu­lam Muham­mad Bak­shi ac­com­pa­nied Pa­tel and Baldev Singh to the air­port to see them off. On way to Srinagar they de­cided to visit the Brigade head­quar­ters. They were re­ceived by Ma­jor Kak, the li­ai­son of­fi­cer. Sher-e-Kash­mir and his deputy were taken to the op­er­a­tions room where Ma­jor Kak ex­plained things to them. Bri­gadier Sen was busy on a wireless set and had no idea of the ‘im­por­tant’ meet­ing in the op­er­a­tions room.

SMa­jor Kak was show­ing them a map and pointed out the de­ploy­ment of the brigade when Bri­gadier Sen en­tered the room. He nar­rates the in­ci­dent in his book on page 77. “When I en­tered the room and was greeted with the sight of two un­known civil­ians care­fully study­ing the map, I was fu­ri­ous. I did not ask who they were, but or­dered them to leave the room im­me­di­ately and never to set foot in it again. They left hur­riedly. It was only when their ve­hi­cle had dis­ap­peared into the dis­tance that Ma­jor Kak told me who they were.”

Seikh Ab­dul­lah had to eat a hum­ble pie in 1980 in yet an­other en­counter with the army. A group of army men in civvies armed with hockey sticks and iron rods ap­peared in Lal Chowk on July 26, 1980 and cre­ated may­hem. The group dam­aged Taxis, pri­vate cars and gov­ern­ment prop­erty. Civil­ians were thrashed. The group also re­sorted to loot and ar­son. It is be­lieved that an army driver had hit a Rick­shaw at Son­awar around two kilo­me­ters from the city cen­tre. The driver was taken into cus­tody. The group came out of the bar­racks and went berserk to free the driver from po­lice lockup. Re­ports sug­gest that a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer also re­ceived a sound thrash­ing and lost some of his teeth. The may­hem lasted sev­eral hours.

Ac­tu­ally sev­eral groups were seen beat­ing peo­ple, loot­ing shops, dam­ag­ing ve­hi­cles from Son­awar to Bat­maloo.

The may­hem evoked se­vere re­ac­tion from the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion. Stone pelt­ing con­tin­ued till late hours and con­tin­ued the next day. The po­lice re­sorted to fir­ing killing six peo­ple in­clud­ing a Pak­istani na­tional.

The demon­stra­tions con­tin­ued for sev­eral days. An army Jeep was torched near Bud­shah Bridge. How­ever, the driver man­aged es­cape af­ter fir­ing sev­eral rounds from his gun. All ac­tiv­ity in the city came to a halt. All ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions were closed down in­def­i­nitely.

Sheikh was the Chief Min­is­ter then and lived at his Moulana Azad res­i­dence barely one hun­dred me­ters away from the city cen­tre where the army men wreaked havoc. Some­body in­formed the pro­test­ers that Sher-e-Kash­mir had gone to Badami Bagh Can­ton­ment where the army of­fi­cers urged him to rec­og­nize the cul­prits. It was fur­ther stated that he (Sher-e-Kash­mir) could not rec­og­nize the per­sons re­spon­si­ble for the may­hem. While this could not be con­firmed im­me­di­ately, it added fuel to the anger. The demon­stra­tions in­ten­si­fied. The gov­ern­ment fi­nally or­dered a probe to be held by a re­tired High Court Judge. The find­ings of the probe were not made pub­lic to this day.

The Sheikh not like Dr Fa­rooq Ab­dul­lah or Mufti Muham­mad Sayed. Peo­ple ex­pected a lot from him notwith­stand­ing the be­trayal in1947 and 1975. But he too sat on a vi­tal probe. Was he told to be­have like a ‘good boy by Madam Gandhi who ran the In­dian show then?’ Or, did he hush up the probe in ‘na­tional’ in­ter­est? The peo­ple have rea­son to be­lieve that Sheikh Muham­mad Ab­dul­lah whom Kash­miris loved and re­spected was no dif­fer­ent. He was as help­less as any­body else. —Cour­tesy: GK

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