Honour for Sheikh ‘lost’

George Foremen once said ‘A hero is someone right who doesn’t change.’ The history of the world has been shaped by many brave and daring heroes who gave new direction to the lives of the people they led. The one thread that links them all is their immense contribution in lifting the curtains of ignorance blinding fear and willingness to stand tall among adversities for what is best for their fellowmen. While there is no bigger

tribute to any hero than living in the hearts and memories of the people for whom he had strived and struggled, in a country like ours where symbolism is synonymous with honour, we tend to measure our tribute to heroes by the number of their busts erected at places of importance.

At the time when British sun was setting in India, Jammu and Kashmir remained untouched by the change. It was then in this princely state under the Dogra rule, a strong voice of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah emanated from Kashmir who inspired the people to bring about a change. The inspiring leader took over the administration of the State in 1947 and was its first Prime Minister.

Giving expression to the aspirations of the people, Sheikh Abdullah singlemindedly introduced the land reforms empowering the lowly peasants from being tillers to becoming land owners, a move that pioneered similar land reforms across the entire country. His immense contribution to the political and social fabric of the State earned him the title of Sher-e-Kashmir. But even after more than seven decades of independence, this local hero has yet to find himself among the greatest national heroes.

India has always been vociferous in staking its claim over Jammu and Kashmir, but reluctant in amalgamating its history with its own. The biggest proof of this came when the Congress members of the NC-Congress coalition in the State forced the withdrawal of resolution seeking declaring Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as national hero tabled in Legislative Council by MLC Dr Bashir Ahmad Veeri. The resolution reads "This august house resolves that keeping in view the contribution of Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in bringing revolutionary socio-economic reforms in the state, he shall be declared a national hero and his vision and philosophy of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh unity be incorporated in the syllabus and textbooks of J&K State Board of School Education."  

The discordant note from Congress at a time when it is in coalition with National Conference has brought the fissures in the coalition once again into open. It is also a reflection of how the alliance is a marriage of convenience for minting political gains and how little consensus exists between the two. The resolution had a special importance for NC and especially for the reigning chief minister who had deputed his close aide and Minister Nasir Aslam Wani for getting the resolution through. Presently NC-Congress has 29 seats in the Legislative Council with 13 alone with NC and is being presided over by NC’s recently elected Deputy Chairman Mohammad Yousuf Taing. If NC could not get the resolution on its founder through in the bigger house where it is in majority, what will be the fate of others can well be imagined. By using its silent veto in bringing about the withdrawal of resolution, Congress has yet again shown how it changes its chameleon colours and hardly moves a finger without the nod of Delhi darbar. The statement by Congress MLC and Minister for Youth Affairs & Sports, Technical Education and Medical Education J&K State, R S Chib that the issue will be taken up with the General Administration Department highlights how Congress in the state merely parrot Delhi diktats and lack of confidence among coalition partners.

For years Congress at the Centre has been selling the idea of being the only party which has given national heroes to the nation. It has been relentless in opposing every demand of honouring local heroes who have not been a member of the party, a perception also shared by other non-Congress parties. Had Congress leaders in the State shown a bigger heart and a greater understanding of the aspirations of the people of the State, it would have strongly taken up with the Centre to endorse the resolution. Declaring Sher-e-Kashmir as national hero will definitely not change the stature he holds among the people of the State but it will definitely have an impact on how India perceives the history as well as its future relationship with J&K. But it was not to be…

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