By M.J. Aslam
- Born to a middle class family of Pandit converts on 5th December, 1905, in 1933, he married Akbar Jahan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begum_Akbar_Jehan_Abdullah; http:// central. gutenberg. org/ articles /akbar_jahan, daughter of Michael Hary Nedou, who was eldest son of a European owner of Nedou hotels chain in Srinagar & Lahore & his Kashmiri Gojar Muslim wife, Mirjan ” when in Indian subcontinent, it was unheard of to marry an out of cast person, let alone a European”, writes Nyla Ali Khan , granddaughter of SMA.
- He did his M.Sc. in chemistry from AMU in 1930 after graduating two years back from Islamia College, Lahore.
- He joined “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. The group was financed by Ahmadiyya (Muslims & Madrasas) from Calcutta.
- He & his immediate associates were deeply influenced by the teachings of polymath Qadiyani Molvi Abdullah Vakil. ( Atash e Chinar ( 1985) p 67).
- He met Chowdhury Gh 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 that Association that time. After setting up its branch at Srinagar, SMA started highlighting pathetic condition of Muslims of Kashmir in his public speeches for which he was dismissed from government service of a school teacher by the Hari Singh regime.
- Chowdhury Gh Abbas, undisputed leader of Jammu Muslims, through “Young Men’s Muslim Association” was already engaged in highlighting miserable socio-religious-economic conditions of Jammu Muslims.
- Taking lead from his struggle for Jammu Muslims’ rights & motivated by the earlier 1920s Government Silk Factory Workers Agitations at Srinagar, he started highlighting overall pathetic condition of Muslims & agitated against the rule of Hari Singh, despotic Hindu ruler of JK.
- Following 13th July 1931 massacre of dozens of Muslims outside Central Jail Srinagar, 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 & Chowdhury Gh Abbas , Secretary.
- Despite the fact that the only sufferers under the Dogra regime were the Muslims of JK, SMA with Bakhsi & Masoodi wanted to convert it into a secular party. As he had developed close association with Indian National Congress through Nehru, he ultimately under his influence changed MC into National Conference in 1939, albeit only half a dozen odd non-Muslims joined hands with his NC, that too in their personal & not representative (community) capacities. Non-Muslims especially Bataas/Pandits had a reason to distance themselves away from NC & SMA as they were an endemic part of Dogra despotism, officialdom from top to bottom, & INC in every sense was dear to their hearts. Joseph Korbel 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).
- In 1946 again influenced by INC’s Quit India Movement, he launched Quit Kashmir Movement for which he was imprisoned for three years in May 1946 on charges of sedition.
- On 29-09-1947, he was, at the behest of Nehru & Patel, “singly” released from jail by Hari Singh. His close associates who had avoided arrest during QKM, now after his release by Hari Singh felt it easy to support & publicly join him in his next pro-India campaign. Entire Muslim Conference leaders was either behind the bars, some having crossed over to other side of LO Divide, at that time.
- Following his “orchestrated release”, his “target” had changed. It was was no more Hari Singh, Dogra despot, but M A Jinnah & his two nation theory in all his public & private speeches, interviews, all over the State. He praised & espoused the INC secular policies & hinted that if asked for accession, Kashmiris & he would prefer India, a liberal, progressive & secular nation over feudal, poor & backward people of newly emerged Dominion of Pakistan. 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 & 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”.
- On 30th October, 1947 he accepted his role to work as head of an Emergency Administration under a written order of Hari Singh who was “compelled” to set up Emergency Administration with SMA as its head at the behest of Nehru & Patel. It was to create an impression among naive Kashmiris that power was being shifted to them( people).
- SMA was a born egoist who believed in self-aggrandizement & hated the company of those who were no less in popularity than him in JK. Chowdhury Gh Abbas was the most popular leader of Muslims of Jammu. Molvi Mohammad Yousuf Shah, Gh Ahmad Ashai & Ghulan Nabi Gilkar were very popular leaders of Srinagar. Right from 1939 he & his workers harassed their opponents which were none other than MC activists & leaders, and who had all along refused to play second fiddle to him, after his conversion of MC into NC. With assuming role of State’s Emergency Head under Hari Singh’s dictatorship, SMA & his workers with “State power” doubled atrocities on their opponents, called themselves “Sheras” (lions) while opponents, for spotting beards, were named “bakras” (goats). It may be described as the foundation of Goonda Raj in Kashmir. “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).
- On 5th February, 1948 accompanying Indian delegation in UN GA, he lambasted Pakistan, its leadership, condemned tribal invasion & supported India’s claim on Kashmir.
- Following his pro-India speech of 5th February, 1948, he was appointed as PM of J & K on 17th March, 1948.
- India that had till then only Army Control over the State was desperate to link JK “legally or constitutionally” with it despite that it had taken the JK Issue itself to UN for settlement with Pakistan. Thus, SMA together with close aids, Bakhshi, Masoodi , Beigh & Moti Lal Bogra joined the Indian Constituent Assembly proceedings on 16-06-1949 as self-chosen “representatives” of JK. At 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 & people) & then 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 Ministers of India. I cannot betray the interest of my country.” Really, highest kind of political wit & craft displayed by Indian leaders to make “child” cry & weep for a “toy” he childishly believes to be only “reality” in the world.
- In October, 1951, pursuant to 01-05-1951 order of Karan Singh, head of the State, his party contested 75 representative seats to the State’s Constituent Assembly & won “unopposed all seats”, which are alleged to have been “totally rigged” ( Per Ved Bhasin ibid ). SMA was appointed PM of the State via those “elections”. From inaugural speech of SMA on 30-10-1951 in JK Constituent Assembly Debates till its conclusion in 1955/1956, only polemic line that comes to the fore is that it was constituted to debate, discuss the ways & means to strengthen “accession with India”.
- On 24-07-1952 SMA entered into 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.
- Contrary to the view at 19 above, the communalist parties of JK Hindu Mahasabha, Jan Jangh and Ram Rajya Parishad saw Delhi Agreement as a threat to unity of India, so they launched violent agitation against it in Jammu, Punjab, Delhi & 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 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”. http://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl2325/stories/20061229001008100.htm
- Earlier on 13th July 1953 at three public gatherings at Martyrs graveyard at Naqshband Sahib, Jamia Masjid & Shahi Masjid Pather Msadjid he publicly 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 back-stabbed, 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 http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/kashmir/august-9-1953-when-sheikh-s-arrest-changed-kashmir-for-ever/225289.html).
- Following his dismissal & arrest on 9th August 1953, while he was in jail, his close associate Afzal Beigh founded 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 & arrest (see 24 below).
- On 8th April 1964 the State government dropped all charges in the so-called “Kashmir Conspiracy case” against SMA & he was released and returned to Srinagar. After his release he 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 he was still in Pakistan, Nehru died on 27th May 1964 & he returned to India for attending last rites of Nehru.
- By 1972, All Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front had quite contrary to its publicly-declared-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”.
- On 24th February 1975 in New Delhi, SMA through Afzal Beigh & 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 & renewal of erstwhile NC.
- In June 1977 State Assembly elections, resurrected NC won 47 seats ( 40 in Kashmir & 7 in Jammu) that enabled SMA to be CM of the State from 1977-1982: to be precise, till 8th day of September, 1982 when he breathed his last at Srinagar after a short illness
Note: Views expressed are personal & not of the organisation the author works for.