Was SMA really a K-Nationalist who stood for so called “Independence of JK” or simply an “Indian agent”?

By M.J. Aslam

During the past few years, some articles have appeared in media about Kashmir Problem penned by some reputed writers endeavouring hard to cleanse Late Sheikh M. Abdullah (SMA, for brevity) of his “tricky” role he played in assuring JK landing in the lap of India. This is a historical fact unfortunately obfuscated by some writers. They want to project him in these writings a victim, a Kashmiri-Nationalist who stood for “independence” of JK which is historically and factually incorrect. His political history is not so old as needing excavation of an Aasar-e-Qadeema (old monuments) or fossils. Many people young those days glued to his mantra of twisting and turning facts his way have narrated every bit of information about his role in JK accession with India to later journalists and writers who have recorded and shared it with people. Since 1947 till date, so much polemic light has been thrown on this Issue by historians, writers and thinkers that it is now utter impossible to cover the faces that have led JK Muslim Majority State from ravine of Dogra despotism into an abyss of pseudo-secularism [BJP’s own terminology about Indian secularism] wherefrom to abysmal hell of ultra Hindu nationalism. The “most conspicuous face” responsible for pushing JK Muslims into the present quagmire is that of none other than SMA. These writers are picking up the threads that have been left by SMA here and there, quite bizarrely, only to contradict his “avowed and confirmed statements” on Kashmir-Issue made by him, from time to time, during his political career of five decades within India and beyond. He is known to have been making political gimmicks  & spreading canards just to pull the wool over the people’s eyes.

In this well planned endeavour, the first argument of SMA-protagonists is that when the talk of a federal union, not partition, was going on in India, SMA in a telegram dated April 19, 1946 to the British Cabinet Mission of 1946 demanded “a right to independence” because “the Kashmiri nation” resided in “a unique region in India”. To this point, without delving deep into whether SMA had ever written such a telegram to the Cabinet Mission or not, I would like to contend what was significance of such a telegram when right from day one of arrival of the Cabinet Mission of Ministers in British India, they had “mandate of the Crown to negotiate with” two major political parties, Congress & ML, of the sub-continent only? Even such a telegram was written, it didn’t count anywhere. There were then many other small regional parties for the Cabinet Mission in every Province to hear and deal with. Noted historian and author on those days history of Kashmir, writes that such a memorandum to the Cabinet Mission in 1946 was a poor card played by SMA as it was totally ignored by the Cabinet Mission  ” whereupon SMA reacted by launching in May 1946 a “Quit Kashmir” campaign against the Maharaja. This sentiment would seem to be cause for rejoicing among the Kashmiris, but actually SMA was accused of highly ulterior motives. It was charged that he opened this agitation solely in an attempt to regain the popularity which he had lost for his pro-India policy. Even his former close associate, Prem Nath Bazaz, accused him of opportunism and through his paper, Hamdard, denied him the right of claiming to represent both the Muslims and Hindus.  Not only did this ill-fated gesture fail to strengthen his position with the Muslims but also, because of his campaign against the Maharaja, he became unacceptable to many Hindus and Sikhs who looked upon the Maharaja as the main pillar of their privileged position in Muslim Kashmir.”( Josef Korbel, Danger in Kashmir (1954), pages 22- 23).

It may be recalled that British India comprised of two kinds of provinces: those fully controlled and partially controlled (princely) States (600 odd total). JK was one of “dozens of princely States”. https:// en.wikipedia. org/ wiki/List_of_princely_states_of_British_India_(alphabetical); https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/List _of_princely _states_of_British_India_(by_region). Those States too had unique identity of culture, language, traditions, customs,  etc. The Cabinet Mission of 1946 came out with two Plans. First Plan of April-May 1946 was about making India a Federation on the principle of “parity” which both Congress [initially] and ML always agreed upon. The acceptance of the First Plan came when Obul Kalam Azad was the president of the Congress. But in the meanwhile, when Nehru took over as the President of the Congress, he totally backtracked on the previously agreed idea of Federation on the ML’s avowed principle of “parity” by declaring that in the Constituent Assembly the Congress shall be free to make radical changes in the “earlier agreed” proposals of the Cabinet Mission First Plan. So, it was Nehru who laid the foundation of partition here by his reneging on earlier policy of the Congress. When I say partition, I mean of entire British India including all its erstwhile provinces. Failure of the First Plan gave rise to the Second Plan of the Cabinet Mission in May-June 1946 under which the idea of two Dominions came out and the provinces were given option to accede to either of the two Dominions of India or Pak. Independence was not anywhere in the that Cabinet Mission Plan Two. Though the final call was to be taken by the Ruler of a particular State, native/princely and non-princely/British State, yet it was stressed and agreed that the demography and geography of the province must be taken into account by the Ruler concerned while making a decision about accession to a particular Dominion. So, it is manifestly clear from these facts that SMA’s alleged telegram didn’t have any political and legal validity especially when other equally important political party of MC with “absolute majority” in Jammu division and “good support base” in Srinagar and some other areas of Kashmir valley had been expressing a different line of thought about the political future of JK.

The second point that is raised by SMA protagonists is that SMA after his release on 29-09-1947, stated on 3rd October 1947 that after partition, “we will choose the path which will lead to the independence of … the Kashmiris” (SMA, Atash e Chinar, The Blazing Chinar, Gulshan Books, Srinagar; pages 256 and 275). The third point of pro-SMA people is that after his release on 29-09-1947, Abdullah said: “If the 40 lakhs of people living in Jammu & Kashmir are by-passed and the State declares accession to India or Pakistan, I shall raise the banner of revolt and we face a struggle.” Then, on October 22, 1947, Abdullah’s line as reported in his mouthpiece, Daily Khidmat same date, was “Freedom before Accession” in these words: “What the present moment demands and demands urgently is not accession to Pakistan or India but power to the people. Are we going to sell ourselves to the Indian capitalists or the Pakistan Nawabs?” (Quoted in Chitralekha Zutshi, Languages of Belonging, Permanent Black, page 307).

Let me respond to the points raised in the above two quotes jointly as both are inter-connected. One can just smile on these points and statements. Firstly, because SMA’s biography, Atash-e-Chinar, The Blazing Chinar, is generally believed to be un-credible and un-trustworthy source of information for the half truths and half facts narrated in it and its deliberate omission of many of the facts that were most closely connected with the events of the time that ultimately gave birth to the Kashmir-Problem. It contains many brazen concoctions like change of MC into NC in 1939 was done by SMA at the behest of Late Sir M. Iqbal. Can any sane Muslim having elementary knowledge of Sir M. Iqbal’s political thought digest that he would tell SMA choose Secular Politics and in the same breath guide M A Jinnah towards a separate homeland for Muslims in the sub-continent? “M. A. Jinnah..was described by the great Kashmiri poet Dr. Sir M . Iqbal as “the only Muslim in India today to whom the community has a right to look for safe guidance. . . .”‘ ((Letters of Iqbal to Jinnah. Kashmir Bazaar, Lahore, page 19 quoted with approval in Danger in Kashmir, page 45, by Josef Korbel))..Note the words: “safe guidance”. It is a big white lie imputed to great thinker of Islam who had already demised almost four decades before the release of this book. It is perversion of history. Further elucidation is beyond the scope of this write up. The book is a failed attempt of SMA after his death (the book was published in 1984) to canceal his “huge” political decisions and deeds from the eyes of the people. True, he was in Jail since June/July 1946 serving a 3 years sentence of imprisonment for sedition charges along with some of his close associates and many MC leaders were also in prison. Why only he and his workers were released and on what conditions and under what circumstances? Who secured his release from prison? At whose behest MHS released him? An honest answer to these queries prima facie reveal the facts about his “orchestrated release” simply to pave a way for accession of JK with India. Like an immature journo one should not read between the lines of his biography [[pages 256, 275, referred in those columns by the writers]] to dig out something which does not exist there. At the contrary, SMA while in jail had already ruled out independence because in his view, despite partition of India, there existed in India parties and individuals with a political ideology in full harmony with that of his own party: NC. (SMA, Atash e Chinar, The Blazing Chinar, page 270). His “conditional release” came only after he had tendered a written apology to the MHS through his lawyer Barrister Asaf Ali in trial court against his wrong of having had launched agitation of Quit Kashmir Movement against His Majesty. ( See also Nida-e-Haq, M M Isaaq).

Immediately, on his release from prison, he made his first appearance on the same day at Hazuri Bagh (now Iqbal Park) Srinagar and “his speech gave ample indication of his mindset towards accession to India. He visualized the market for Kashmiri handicrafts in India “land of baniyas” and not in “the land of Pathan Tongawalas”. He observed 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”. His slogan for Azadi before accession was a camouflage for local consumption as conveyed to Nehru by his private secretary Mr. Kachroo who was sent to Srinagar to get clarification from SMA. On October 2 the National Conference convened a special meeting of the executive council and decided to accede to India. The decision of the NC executive council was not made public. However, Mr Kachroo informed a delighted Nehru of the important decision”. http://mahazi-islami. com/ features/ articles .asp? ID =199. On the same day, in his Hazuri Bagh Speech SMA said: “I do not know why I was arrested and I also do not know why I have been released…. Till the last drop of my blood, I will not believe in Two-Nation Theory.” http:// www. greaterkashmir. com/ news/opinion/post-office-in-flames/225468.html. Khidmat-references in the above argument have no weight & relevance in the light of “historically documented and recorded” contents of his two “famous” speeches; one that he delivered in UN GA on 05-02-1948 openly pleading in favour of accession with India. Here is an excerpt from that marathon speech of SMA: “The question is not that we want internal freedom; the question is not how the Maharaja got his State, or whether or not he is sovereign. These points are not before the Security Council. Whether Kashmir has lawfully acceded to India — complaints on that score have been brought before the Security Council on behalf of Pakistan — is not the point at issue. If that were the point at issue then we should discuss that subject. We should prove before the Security Council that Kashmir and the people of Kashmir have lawfully and constitutionally acceded to the Dominion of India, and Pakistan has no right to question that accession….http://www.jammu-kashmir. com/ documents/abdulun48.html. (Emphasis added). In this afore-cited UN GA speech SMA highlights the “atrocities” committed by “tribesmen” on “non-Muslims” of Jammu and also on Kashmiri-Pandits while remaining totally silent on massacre of lacs of Muslims in Jammu division during September to December 1947. Do these protagonists still try to find a Kashmiri Nationalist in SMA after hearing this historical speech?

Jammu massacre 1947
Jammu massacre 1947

The second speech was delivered by him on 5th November 1949 before 73 members of JK Constituent Assembly, overwhelming majority of whom was Muslims, and in that inaugural speech he openly vented out his mind while pleading for affirmation of ilhaak (accession with India), in these words: “The most powerful argument which can be advanced in her favour is that Pakistan is a Muslim State, and a big majority of our people being Muslim the State must accede to Pakistan. This claim of being a Muslim state is of course only a camouflage. It is a screen to dupe the common man, so that he may not see clearly that Pakistan is a feudal State in which a clique is trying by these methods to maintain itself in power. In addition to this, the appeal to religion constitutes a sentimental and a wrong approach to the question. Sentiment has its own place in life, but often it leads to irrational action”. (J & K Constituent Assembly Official Report Part 1, First Volume, 1951-55, page 108, italics added). SMA further in that speech says: “It is an untenable argument that we should not accede to India because Banihal pass presents some difficulties. We should see that mountains exist in almost every country of the world. The existence of mountains in a certain country is no justification for its enslavement by the other. The world has progressed a lot and the existence of mountains in a country is not considered a disadvantage but a real asset”. (Ibid at page 893, emphasis supplied). A cursory glance through these documented speeches of SMA will leave no scope for the reader to argue that he was a Kashmiri Nationalist. Whose case he has was pleading begs no answer.

One more point stressed upon by SMA protagonists is that “in New York as a member of the Indian delegation to the Security Council, Abdullah approached the U.S.’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Warren Austin, on January 28, 1948. Austin recorded: “He did not want his people torn by dissension between Pakistan and India. It would be much better if Kashmir were independent and could seek American and British aid for development of country.” (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948 South Asia, page 292). To this point, I would like to reply that the discussions and deliberations among the delegates and representatives before, or after, or during sidelines, of regular sessions of UN GA or SC do take place. Even if SMA had told Warren Austin what is stated above in his “private conversation”, it does not have any validity because decisions in the “House” are taken on the policy statements given by a delegate or a representative or a leader or head of state inside the “House”. What he said inside the UN GA on February 5, 1948 is a shocking truth that is insulated against denials and it debunks the claims that he stood for independence of JK. If his “private conversation” of January 28, 1948 with Warren Austin is taken as true, then, his UN GA speech of February 5, 1948 exposes him further. One week later, his speech in favour of India in UN GA, with all apologies, qualifies him, then, to be named as the biggest hypocrite of his time.

One more quote to sustain their argument is that “SMA had told Phillips Talbot, ex-US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, who was in India from 1939 to 1948, that “……. that Kashmir would be ‘finished’ if it had to join one Dominion and thereby incur the enmity of the other. What he sought, he said, was an arrangement by which Kashmir could have normal relations with both countries” (An American Witness to India’s Partition, Sage, page 378). This quote again shows that SMA was playing a dual game. On the one hand, he had been “openly, publically and officially” pleading for and confirming “accession with India”, as mentioned above, while, at the other end, he was narrating different idea of “independence” to some foreign dignitaries “in private”. A confused man indeed.

These SMA protagonists now want to project him as a Kashmiri-Nationalist who cherished goal of Independence. Just Indira-Abdullah Accord of 1975 is sufficient to deal mortal blow to all these claims and now, these discussions are of academic interest only after his “political bewilderment” of 23 years. If, at all, he wanted to maintain neutrality and secure Independence of JK, then, again his own speeches expose him badly. As noted above, in his UN GA speech and inaugural speech before the Constituent assembly of JK he has nowhere mentioned of so called Independence. The documents do not reveal such a thing. At the contrary, he had been confirming and reconfirming Accession with India in those two speeches. Furthermore, when under Partition plan option was to choose between India and Pakistan, wherefrom came the idea of independence. None of the Hindu Rulers of any British state or any [Hindu] politician had cherished such an idea of independence of his province. They all decided in favour of [Hindu] Indian Dominion. Then, in such partition scenario, one ponders why SMA held an exception. And, if he believed in Independence, why then, he said on Martyrs Graveyard at Nagashband Sahib on 13th July 1953 : “ 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.” http:// www. greaterkashmir. com/news/ kashmir/ august-9-1953-when-sheikh-s-arrest-changed-kashmir-for-ever/225289.html.

Looking at all the recorded history from all authentic sources, one is painfully left with one conclusion about SMA that he was an ego-centric man with huge contradictions and conflicts, an untrustworthy personality who all along his life changed his statements that only landed JK Muslims in unending misery and agony. He was simply an Indian Agent in Kashmir.

Note: Views are personal of the author and not that of the Organisation he works for.

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