Munshi Ishaq’s Memoirs An Inside Story

 The whole truth about the ‘actual happenings’ and behind the scene developments between 1946 and 1947 in Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be told.’ End of the autocratic rule in 1947, did not usher in a ‘popular rule’. In fact, the struggle against the autocratic rule, which started in 1924,   with the presentation of a memorandum to Lord Reading, ended up with the installation of a ‘neo-fascist’ regime in 1947.

The neo-fascists, while weaving myths around their leader and orchestrating the “dominant discourse” made the truth first causality. That resulted in clouding, contorting and confusing our contemporary history. Now for past few decades covers after covers have been skidding from the conjured narratives and the truth about the most important period of our contemporary history in all its starkness has started revealing itself. 

The just published   memoirs of Late Haji  Munshi Muhammad Ishaq, one of the prominent leaders in the Kashmir Struggle from early thirties to late sixties and a very close confident of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah is an important addition to the contemporary Kashmir history. It is the diaries maintained by the author over years and some scribed by him during imprisonments at different phases of the political struggle have provided warp and woof to these memoirs. 

This in fact is the first inside story by one of the protagonists of the struggle against autocracy, and witness to the misgovernment after 1947- that was largely marked by political vendetta, hooliganism and corruption. This book is first major work on twenty-two years movement for right to self-determination led by the Plebiscite Front. I for one believe that the book is first of its kind that provides an insight into, the struggle of the Plebiscite Front.  

The 464 page memoirs in Urdu, titled Nida-e-Haq edited   by Munshi Ghulam Hassan, son of the author, a scholar and historian in his own right is important for a variety of reasons. One, after Sheikh Abdullah these are the first memoirs by a top leader close to him.   Second, for the author being central figure during the 1946 Quit Kashmir movement, with his office in Rawalpindi, the book splits beans and exposes the dubious role played by some important National Conference leaders during their self-exiled days in Delhi and Punjab.

Third, the memoirs are important for understanding the birth and the death of the Plebiscite Front.
The comprehensive preface to the book by the editor works as an appetizer that stimulates a reader to remain glued to the lucidly written book from page one to the last page- with every page-taking lid off from some hideous plots that contributed to the birth of the Kashmir dispute, its perpetuation and sufferings of the people. In his preface, the author with subtlety tells that his father right in 1969 had realized that Sheikh Abdullah and Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg wanted to retract their steps and saw the party decision to participate in the Panchayat elections as betrayal of the cause.

 The memoirs’ of Munshi Ishaq are different from biographies of other leaders in as much as much as, these are not aimed at self-glorification but telling truth about treachery of top leaders with compunction. The exchange of correspondence between the author and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq and some other leaders during 1946 and 1947 lends authenticity to some untold stories told for the first time in the book. In one of the letters Sheikh Abdullah from Reasi jail, writes to Munshi Ishaq to support his family by providing Begum Abdullah monthly Rs. 150 for meeting the monthly expenses as Ghulam Mohi-u-Din Qara had not done the same.  This letter was sent by Sheikh Abdullah at a time ‘Mohi-u-Din Qara was collecting huge donations in the name of Quit Kashmir Movement’ and outside the state Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad and Sadiq were fattening on the donations received from the Muslims of Punjab.’ The letters of Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad and Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq quoted in the book expose hideous intentions and ambitions of these leaders right in 1946, when Maharaja Hari Singh was still in his saddle. I see the exchange of letters between the author and other important leaders as forte of the book. The editor of the book needs to publish complete correspondence for posterity, as it will provide leads to the researchers for during most crucial period of Kashmir history.

The author being an insider and an eyewitness is most authentic source for future historian for understanding the truth behind the release of Sheikh Abdullah and other National Conference leaders and the fast political developments in the state that culminated in the landing of Indian troops on October 27, 1947.   

The author as an witness testifies, the assertions made by many other important historians about the delegations sent by  Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1947, headed by M.D. Taseer inviting Sheikh Abdullah to Karachi before taking a decision on the future of Jammu and Kashmir.  ‘Attaching paramount importance to the will of the people Taseer had told Sheikh that state could be autonomous with right to secede, it would also have role in foreign affairs and Kashmir leaders would be part of foreign ministry.’ The book details, how the National Conference leaders at this critical point of history played a dubious role that ultimately resulted in Kashmir becoming a thorn in the neck of people in the sub-continent. The book also gives a graphic account of the corruption and loot by the National Conference workers after the installation of the Emergency Administration.

Munshi Sahib despite having remained an ardent supporter Sheikh Abdullah in his memoirs’ by calling a spade a spade tells us how in 1947, how Sheikh Abdullah lied  to his own party workers and tried for covering up atrocities committed by the soldiers of the Sikh regiment on their landing in Srinagar. Quoting instance of killing of the National Conference workers at Rambag- he writes Sheikh Abdullah concocted a story for this dastardly act that was later on blasted by none other Maulana Azad. The author by quoting an instance of men in olive green shooting down eighteen Muslim in just one village Budgam explains us the magnitude of killings in Kashmir during 1947.

The memoirs’ for author being an insider has been eyewitness to the developments within National Conference but he has not been privy   to many behind the scene development that have immensely contributed to the birth of the Kashmir tragedy. Nevertheless, editor of the memoirs Munshi Ghulam Hassan has largely made up these deficiencies with profusely written footnotes, even then the memoir stumbles on certain fact and suffers inaccuracies in details. Talking about the Muslim Conference leadership sitting ducks, the perhaps would not know that it was at the insistence of Sardar Patel, that Sheikh Abdullah and other National Conference were released under a plan and the Muslim Conference leaders continued under detention. Top most contemporary historian, Ramachandra Guha in his book ‘India After Gandhi has’   honestly written about  objective behind the release of Abdullah and other NC leaders and jailing of the Muslim Conference leaders.

The book deserves to be talked for being first major documentation of the Plebiscite Front Movement.