Kashmir: When Sheikh Abdullah swallowed the insult
Views from Srinagar
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