August 9, 1953 was the day when Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was dethroned and arrested
Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was dethroned and arrested on August 9, 1953. For the rest of his life he observed this day as black day. Even after assuming power with Congress support in 1975, he continued to observe it as black day. But times have changed and so has the situation in Kashmir. Sher-e-Kashmir was arrested for nurturing secessionist tendencies. Today’s NC is not only rejecting the 1975 Accord but has been challenging `totality’ of accession. But at the same time it is enjoying power with Congress support. Can today’s National Conference afford to observe August 9 as black day?
People by and large believe that Sher-e-Kashmir was dethroned for resisting moves aimed at diluting internal autonomy of the state. But this is far from reality. He was taken into custody for seeking total independence for Jammu Kashmir. Surprisingly Sher-e-Kashmir tried his best to project himself as the victim although this was the only time when he actually behaved and roared like a lion.
Sher-e-Kashmir’s July 13, 1953 speech is very significant. He said, “These martyrs have prepared us for bigger sacrifices to achieve our freedom and our right of self-determination. If required, our youth would not desist from fighting a liberation war on the lines of Algerian people. I regret my mistake of coming in the way of merger with Pakistan. I had fears that they won’t treat me well, but I was wrong. Now I feel backstabbed, I no longer trust Indian rulers, we have different ways now.”
Abdul Gani Goni, a member of the constituent assembly was a close associate of Sher-e-Kashmir. He strongly resented Sheikh’s arrest in the assembly, sought right to secession while opposing ratification of accession. Goni, however, joined Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad and became a minister. In an exclusive interview with a local newspaper he gave reasons for 1953 episode.
Goni said: “During those days, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was at his best despite facing severe opposition from his colleagues including Bakshi. It was during these days that Sheikh Sahib roared and behaved like a lion for the first and last time in his political career.”
Giving details, he said: “By 1948 Sheikh Sahib had realized his mistake of supporting state’s accession with India. He had started dreaming of an independent state and expressed it without any reservations. Jawahar Lal Nehru visited Kashmir immediately after Moulana Azad got humiliated at Hazratbal shrine. Sheikh delivered a fiery speech against India. Azad also wanted to address the people but Sheikh did not allow him. Nehru’s sister and the then Home Minister, Dr Katju accompanied him. Sheikh told Nehru that he wanted to end his relationship with India. He forcefully put forth his views during a meeting of the National Conference working committee which lasted four days. He also made a mention of independent Kashmir. Nehru, his sister and Katju watched the proceedings with keen interest.”
“A shocked Nehru, however, reacted politely. A park has been named after me in Srinagar. I was under the impression that people from India would come here to enjoy themselves and strengthen the relationship that exists now. Any ways, if you want to remain independent, I have no objection. I am going to London for a conference. After I return I will talk to you.’ Nehru did return from London but not to give independence to Kashmir”, Goni said.
Nehru had to cage the roaring lion. Perpetual detention adversely affected his nerves and he showed signs of breaking down. According to Goni, he started falling from grace. He unveiled another side of Sheikh’s personality. Goni was the speaker of legislative assembly in 1975. One day he was informed about Sheikh Sahib’s arrival in the assembly complex. He narrated the incident. “I greeted Sheikh Sahib. He was dejected. He said, `Show me my room.’ I informed him no room in the complex was meant for him. I further informed him that only Chief Minister can have a room in the assembly complex. I was surprised by his answer. `I want to see that very room.’ I was pained to see the lion of Kashmir in such a state of mind. ”
Goni paused for a moment. He was going to share a secret. “Before leaving the assembly complex, Sheikh Sahib said, `I have offered enough sacrifices. I cannot offer more.’ I shook hands with him and watched him leave the complex amid shock and utter disbelief.”
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