Tuesday, December 18, 2018
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Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah - Devoured by his revolution

By B L Saraf

When political discourse gets embellished with phraseology like ‘ Complete Merger ‘ ‘ Nationalization of Kashmiris ‘ Art 370 , 35 A ‘ Greater Autonomy ‘ ‘ Self rule ‘ ‘Azadi ‘ and ‘ Achievable Nationhood ‘ ,

December the 5th provides an opportunity to remember a man without critiquing him true import of these polarizing words will always elude us . The man was called Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah ; today is his birth day .
This is a day which in all fairness should be celebrated in recognition of what Sheikh did by giving a meaning and dignity to the life of an ordinary resident of J & K and , also , for showing a mirror of sanity to the communities living elsewhere in the Sub-continent which were at daggers drawn in that dark period of August 1947 . How unfortunate, we recall this day only in derogation to what Sheikh did in those trying times to prevent communities perishing in the communal cauldron : and refuse to see the course he charted out for J &K to travel ahead , in association with India .

With current discussion in the T V Studio depicting stupidity , some of us cry hoarse to portray Sheikh Abdullah a cause for our all ills . Thanks to the TV warriors , we have cast aside real icons and placed false gods on the pedestal . Nationalists accuse Sheikh for harboring an ambition to turn Kashmir into his Sultanate and blame him of not allowing a complete merger of J& K with the Indian Union . Separatists denounce him as India’s quisling who blocked Kashmir’s straight walk to the Pakistan’s lap .

Sheikh Abdullah reinvented the idea of pluralism in Kashmir ; which , though innate to the Valley’s ethos , had come under a severe strain in view of the pernicious two nation theory propounded by Muhammad Ali Jinnah to vivisect India . His effort becomes stupendous once it is understood in the Valley’s demographic context and the sway Jinnah had , then , on the Sub -continent’s Muslim community . No wonder , this idea found resonance in the nationalistic circles in the mainland , lead by Mahatma Gandhi in their pursuit of independence from the British . Pluralism being outstanding characteristic of India , Sheikh’s ideology gelled well with it . Sheikh Abdullah withstood communal odds and helped India find some political space in the Valley . Besides , Sheikh’s pluralistic stance lent moral and political authority to Gandhi to question the raison d’être of the two nation theory . He gave content to the idea of India which is based on the plurality of faiths and respect for varied political beliefs . For them Kashmir’s union with India was an ideological confluence rather a mere territorial extension . Polemics apart , the Idea needs to be celebrated , just for India’s cause , even by those who are pathologically averse to anything that Sheikh and Nehru did in the larger interests of India . True , despite Sheikhs efforts , India didn’t have a smooth sail in Kashmir . Entirety , as said , can never be a measure of success of everything .
What Sheikh Abdullah did for India can be understood better on the analogy ,albeit in converse , of what Maharaja Hanuwant Sigh-Ruler of Jodhpur - intended to do on the eve of Independence . He wanted to affiliate his State with Pakistan . How Mountbatten reasoned him against doing so should silence those ‘ nationalists ‘ who refuse to acknowledge Sheikh Abdullah’s effort for India’s cause in Kashmir . Maharaja Jodhpur was summoned to Delhi by Mountbatten for a plain speaking . How Mountbatten brought around the hesitant Maharaja is recorded by V P Menon in his book Integration of the Indian States ;

“…….. Lord Mountbatten made it clear to him that from purely legal standpoint there was no objection to the Ruler of Jodhpur acceding to Pakistan : but the Maharaja should , he stressed , consider seriously the consequences of his doing so , having regard to the fact that he himself was Hindu : that his State was populated predominantly by Hindus and that same applied to the States surrounding Jodhpur . In the light of these considerations if Maharaja was to accede to Pakistan his action would seriously be in conflict with the principal underlying partition of India on the basis of Muslim and non Muslim majority areas ; and serious communal trouble in the State would be inevitable consequence of such affiliation ………….” page 117.
Hanuwant Singh had tried hard to muster support from his Nobles to the idea of acceding to Pakistan , but none came forth .

True , along with the call for nationalism , India is also witnessing the re-emergence of sub-nationalism as a political idea . Of all the places , it is emerging from Karnataka , which is neither ruled by a regional party nor has shown any secessionist or separatist tendencies in the past . A demand is raised for separate state flag for Karnataka . Therefore , to a nationalist Sheikh’s concept of ‘ Special status for J & K , placed with these emerging developments may ring an alarm bell . Particularly so , when the balkanizing monster looms large on some parts of the country . However , given the multiple identity markers sub-nationalism could act as an agent to foster shared political community which is accommodative of the varied aspirations of diverse population .

Feudal had to quit . Hari Singh may have had compulsions to dither on the subject of accession , the fact remains that despite his intentions to take his State to India he wouldn’t succeed without moral and political support of Sheikh Abdullah , who ruled hearts and minds of people in the Valley . Any document of Accession , though legal , would be a mere piece of paper had locals aided Pakistani horde’s entry to the Palace in Srinagar . Maharaja’s intent to accede to India, without support of the local Muslims , would be as futile as Jodhpur’s desire for accession to Pakistan . Hnauwant Singh failed to full fill his personal desire because he had none like Sheikh Abdullah among his Hindu population to back up .

With no Sheikh Abdullah on the side of Kashmir’s accession with India , even if Hari Singh had wanted to align with India , Mountbatten’s advise to him would be the same he tendered to Hanuwant Singh , against going to Pakistan . Because , both suffered demographic disability in exercising their choices in the matter , though, their right to choose was unfettered . Sheikh helped Hari Sigh to overcome the disability . Herein lies a true value of his services rendered to the India’s cause in Kashmir .

Such was the measure of love and affection Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah enjoyed of his people that whatever he did people followed him . Be it 1947 when , despite all odds going against the move , he was instrumental in aligning J &K with the Indian Dominion . He triggered a revolution . Every revolution has an inbuilt trait to go either way . Seldom it has yielded what was intended . And often it has , in the words of Jacques Mallet du Pan “ devoured its children .” Has Sheikh Abdullah fallen prey to his own created revolution ? True , Sheikh Abdullah , as a human , had his failings . Sometimes , streak of ambition overtook his judgment . We leave that to other day . He was to die but it will be tragic if we allow his revolution to meet the same fate .

Sadly , Sheikh cuts a tragic figure . For him , one may lament ; Naa Khuda Hee Milla NAA Vissal Sanam :Na Idhar Kea Rahea Na Udhar Kea Rahae . But experiencing what he has done in real terms for a common person of the State , the leader Sheikh Abdullah has every reason to rest in peace satisfied with Fidel Castro’s thought ; “ History will absolve me .”

(The author is a Former Principal District & Sessions Judge. Feedback- [email protected] )

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