In response to respected Dr Javed Iqbal’s October Narrative, it needs to be made clear that the freedom movement was launched by Qadiyanies on May 8, 1930, a few months after the Reading Room was constituted.
Although the Reading Room provided a platform for conscious Kashmiris to give vent to their feelings, the freedom movement was formally launched on May 8, 1930 from Mohallah Haji Rather, Fateh Kadal during the rasam-e-qul of the daughter-in-law of Hassan Mir who worked in telegraph office.
Munshi Naseer (Editor Al Barq) and Moulvi Bashir, a teacher by profession invited around 200 persons. Sher-e-Kashmir who had just returned from Aligarh was also invited but he stayed away. The duo apprised the invitees of the need for launching an organised movement.
The people were told to keep the meeting a secret. Earlier, Saad-ud-Din Shawl was externed for political reasons by the Dogra ruler. The people, therefore, knew the importance of maintaining secrecy.
Three young men, Gulam Nabi Gilkar, Muhammad Rajab (MA, LLB) and Yahya Rafique joined the reading room party then and there. The “five man army” then decided to awaken people in the nook and corner of the Valley. Munshi Naseer was told to go to rural areas. Others were entrusted the job of working in the city. (Tareekh-e-Jung-e-Azadi-a- Kashmir by Munshi Naseer Ahmad)
The pioneers of the struggle were aware of the shortcomings of the tag they carried and, therefore, needed a dynamic person (other than a Qadiyani) to strike the appropriate chord. It was GN Gilkar who roped in Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. However, young, energetic and brave Gilkar continued to be the backbone of the Party. Gilkar, therefore, cannot be accused of hijacking the movement.
On October 4, 1947 Gilkar did not found the state of ‘Azad Kashmir’ on his own. The decision was taken after hectic deliberations. The venue is not important but the courage displayed by Gilkar is important. He volunteered for the job when others expressed reservations. The selflessness of Gilkar can be gauged from the fact that he stayed in the presidential chamber at Tradkhel for two days only.
Fortunately some of the people who witnessed the historic events are still alive and can be contacted. I was fortunate to interview around fifty persons who either participated in the freedom movement in 1938, ’47 and onwards or witnessed the events. I was also fortunate to lay hands on five unpublished autobiographies of political activists.
For me it is an important to rely on the first hand account of the events collected during my interaction with such people. Gilkar’s name sake GN Gilkar lives in Qamarwari. He was Gilkar’s trusted worker and was jailed for his political activities in November 1947. He and senior Gilkar were lodged in Kothibagh police station which was then a sub-jail. Later they were shifted to Central jail. According to young Gilkar, Sher-e-Kashmir called on Gilkar in the central jail and urged him to join his government. Young Gilkar stands a witness to this conversation.
Similarly history books project Gilkar as a person who hated Pakistan. But this is far from reality. He (Gilkar), according to young Gilkar did not come to Srinagar on the instructions of Quaid-e-Azam. He felt his presence was more important in Srinagar than in Tradkhel. And during those times Gilkar was making people aware of the importance of joining Pakistan. He changed in Pakistan and pursued pro-Independence ideology.
And as far as exchange of Gilkar with Gansara Singh is concerned, I quote Khawaja Ghulam Ahmad Pandit’s Kashmir Azadi Ki Dahleez Par, published by Jung Publications, Lahore. Pandit served government of Pakistan in the capacity of Joint Secretary Information and Publicity. The book published in 1991 says on page 232: “ After few days of release, Begum Brijish Ghani , her husband Abdul Ghani Renthoo and his children were taken to Pakistan in exchange of , Brigadier Gansara Singh. KH Khurshid, Yusuf Buch, Allah Rakha Sagar, Begum Aga Showkat Ali, GN Gilkar, Moulvi Abdul Rahim and others were also flown to Pakistan in the same plane.”
In 2007, my friend Peer Mairaj-ud-Din came across Abdul Qadeer’s son, Saboor Khan in Islamabad, Pakistan. The 80-year-old Saboor said Qadeer was greatly influenced by the Ahrar Movement and hated Qadiyanies. He also said Qadeer was a Kashmiri and could speak Kashmiri. Interestingly Saboor conversed in Kashmiri.
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