NC and non-Muslims

One of the reasons for converting Muslim Conference into National conference was to ensure participation of all shades of opinion into the freedom movement. However, contrary to Sheikh’s expectations, the newly launched National Conference evoked lukewarm response from the non-Muslims. Attempts to revive the Muslim Conference started immediately. The idea was discussed in detail by senior National Conference workers including Ghulam Muhammad Bakshi. Munshi Naseer-ud-Din (editor Albarq) discussed it with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah as well. It is believed that Sheikh Abdullah agreed in principle with the members. He is believed to have said Munshi Naseer: “You go ahead. I will work as an ordinary member of the Muslim Conference.

I will not accept its leadership.” One such meeting was held in the lawns of erstwhile Teachers’ Training School at Magarmal Bagh.

In 1944 when Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah visited Kashmir, the National Conference hosted a reception in his honour. Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Zahra Hamdani posed three questions to Quaid. Quaid answered the questions politely. Question No 1. Is creation of Pakistan possible in presence of overwhelming majority of Hindus of India?  Quaid replied, “If De veer can separate Ireland from Britain, why should not 10 crore Muslims succeed in creating a state of their own.”

Question No 2: If Pakistan comes into existence, will it not be a poor country? Quaid replied: “No. Not at all. It is better to live in a shabby hut than live in a mansion in insecure India.”

Question No 3. Keeping the Muslim Majority population of the state in view which party can serve the interests of Muslims better. National Conference or Muslim Conference? Quaid replied: “Apparently National Conference. But can you tell me how many non-Muslims are members of National Conference.”

This stunned the National Conference workers. Hamdani had to eat a humble pie. Some one from the crowd cried, Budh Singh, Kashap Bandhu. This was greeted with laughter by the people present much to the discomfort of the National Conference workers.

Quaid said: “Had non-Muslims joined the National Conference, the Maharaja’s government would have succumbed in seven days.”

As the time passed the non-Muslims in the National Conference started giving sleepless nights to Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. He had to shave off his beard. Soon after his `trusted friend’ Kashap Bandhu wrote an editorial in Martand and criticized Sheikh Abdullah for taking out Millad processions. A frightened Sheikh succumbed. In 1943 Sheikh decided not to take out the procession. This gave the newly formed Muslim Conference a chance to prove its mettle. A Millad procession sponsored by Muslim Conference evoked overwhelming response.

Raghunath Vaishnavi who was the general secretary of National Congress, an organization that later merged into National Conference also deserted him. In 1953 he joined the political Conference, an organization that stood for total merger of Jammu Kashmir into Pakistan.

Another friend, Prem Nath Bazaz also parted ways. He jointly owned the Hamdard with Sheikh Abdullah. The partnership was broken and Bazaz became his `worst enemy’.  On June 10, 1947, Bazaz wrote an editorial in Hamdard. It read: “The Hindus do not like National Conference. However, some Hindus have joined it not because they love it but for the hatred it has exhibited against Muslims of India. The inclusion of a handful of Hindus in National Conference does not make it a representative of the minorities. The Hindus and Sikhs praise National Conference in public because they believe that it is working against the interests of Muslims…….”

The editorial speaks a lot about NC’s chauvinistic mindset. But what did it get in return. It (NC) resorted to coaxing and cajoling to woo non-Muslims but failed. Three decades after Sher-e-Kashmir’s death, non-Muslims hold him responsible for persecuting them.

In 1975 when Afzal Beg  signed the infamous Indira-Abdullah accord, his `friend’ Kashap Bandhu also refused to join his government. The only non-Muslim who remained with him was Budh Singh.

(Source: Aatish-e-Chinar by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Kashmir Ka Siyasi Inqilab by Shabnam Qayoom, Tareekh-e-Hurriyat-e- Kashmir by Rashid Taseer, Tareekh-e-Jung-e-Azadia-e-Kashmir by  Munshi Naseer-ud-Din,  Jinnah in Kashmir by  Tabasum Kashmiri –a series of articles published in local dailies, interview with Muslim Conference worker, Muhammad Yusuf Khan of Balgarden).

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