Exonerate Sher-e-Kashmir?

National Conference leaders Dr Mustafa Kamal and Sheikh Nazir have issued a series of statements over Sher-e-Kashmir’s involvement in the 1975 Accord. Their statements have evoked reactions from others. Taj Mohi-ud-Din and GH Mir have said that the Accord was final and all issues were duly settled by it. Why is NC raising the issue at this stage? Will it make any difference now? For the sake of arguments if it is accepted that Sher-e-Kashmir was not involved in the process, what does Sheikh Nazir want to convey. 



Advocate GN Hagroo was a close friend of Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg. He has the distinction of being the acting president of Plebiscite Front, while Beg was in prison. He wrote an article for Greater Kashmir on December 14, 2006. He wrote:  “Beg tried his best to safeguard all the genuine rights of Kashmiris. While Parthasarthy protracted the talks, Sheikh grew impatient. One day when Beg was talking to Parthasarthy, Sheikh walked in and ordered Beg to meet him outside immediately. When Beg came out, Sheikh screamed at him. “Why are you protracting the talks? I am not interested in your ifs and buts. I am interested in getting some sort of accord for using as a face saving device.” (SIC)

Hagroo and Beg hailed from the same locality of Islamabad. He told Hagroo: “I could not comprehend Sheikh’s thinking and managed to sign the so-called accord. After the accord was signed, Sheikh was so quick to rush to Jammu (winter capital of the state) that he did not allow Beg to collect his bedding.” Sher-e-Kashmir did not want Beg to delay the accord, or to put it plainly transfer of power by raising issues like restoration of autonomy.
Before signing the accord, Sheikh Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Beg issued a series of statements wherein it was mentioned that New Delhi had agreed to restore pre-53 status. Amid massive protests, the Plebiscite Front Council discussed the terms and conditions of the accord and ratified it on February 15. A few members opposed it. Sofi Muhammad Akber and Advocate GN Hagroo were two of them.  

On February 15, 1975, the Plebiscite Front gave consent to Indira-Abdullah Accord and on February 28 Kashmiris responded to Pakistan Prime Minister, Zulifkar Ali Bhutto’s strike call. The strike paralyzed life in Kashmir. But on March 3 when Sheikh Abdullah arrived in Srinagar the same people accorded a rousing reception to him. While the saner elements across the globe were trying to understand the strange behaviour of Kashmiris, Sheikh Abdullah had strong reasons to feel depressed. He was ditched by Madam Gandhi by informing the Parliament about the accord on February 24; something which she was not supposed to do as per an unwritten agreement between the duo.

Sheikh Abdullah received the shocking news at Jammu and expressed his reluctance to go to Raj Bhawan where he had to take oath as chief minister of the state. According to Shabnam Qayoom, Indira Gandhi when informed about Sheikh’s reluctance, urged the governor, LK Jha to allow Mir Qasim, who had submitted his resignation, to continue as chief minister.  Gandhi also urged Jha to tell Qasim to follow her directions on Nedous Hotel Issue. The lease of the hotel had expired recently and the government had plans to lease it out to another party. This, according to Shabnam, forced Sheikh to proceed to Raj Bhawan.

Qayoom believes Mir Qasim persuaded Sheikh to attend the function. He agreed and later accused the media of misinterpreting some of the clauses of the accord. “I will apprise the people of the terms and conditions of the accord soon. No mention has been made about my correspondence with the Prime Minister”, he said.

No explanation was ever offered. However, in his autobiography Sher-e-Kashmir writes on page 837:  “It was not a deviation from the basic stand. It was change of strategy. We shifted our struggle from streets to the table.”  

Sheikh Nazir’s statement on the accord, therefore, cannot be accepted. History proves that Sher-e-Kashmir was involved in the process and accepted it the terms and conditions. In fact, he did New Delhi a favour by not raising the issues that were left for the Principals.  Five issues including nomenclature of Governor and Chief Minister, Comptroller and Auditor General’s jurisdiction, Election commission and Supreme Court’s jurisdiction in Jammu Kashmir were reemitted to Principals.

Not to speak of Sher-e-Kashmir, the Plebiscite Front also cannot be exonerated of the betrayal. After fooling the people for 22 years in the name of self determination, it ratified the Accord in lieu of power. Those who opposed it died in despondency while the rest enjoyed power and minted money.

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