About A Dictator Darling
Surprisingly, a dictator attracted all in mid fifties
NOSTALGIA BY ZGM
I was not born on October 27, 1947. The day when ‘at about 9 o’clock units of Indian Army started landing at Srinagar airfield. From my talking to two witnesses to this ‘significant event’, octogenarian journalist Ajit Bhattacharjea, author of Kashmir: The Wounded Valley and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Tragic Hero of Kashmir and second eldest son of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah I can only visualize how the scene on that autumn Monday could have been at the dusty ‘Damdam Wedar’- as the airstrip was known in our childhood with sorties after sorties of soldiers landing at this small air strip. Ajit Bhattacharjea then a young journalist had landed at the Srinagar airport along with the first contingent of men in olive green and Farooq Abdullah as ten year old boy had accompanied his father to greet the Indian troops at the airstrip. Since, I have not recorded the impression of Farooq Abdullah on his seeing tall Sikh soldiers landing at Srinagar airport in my three hour interview with him in 2006, so it would not be fair for me to reproduce his impression about scene at the airstrip on that day. I wait for his promised “honest” autobiography and believe he would record the impressions that he shared with me for the posterity.
The event has not perhaps been even filmed. Some enterprising film makers have documented many an events relating to post October 1947 situation and small clippings of these documentaries have been selectively put on the ‘you tube.’ These films give no idea about the situation as obtained in my part of city on this day that is counted by majority of British and American historians as ‘the commencement of Indo-Pak Kashmir dispute’. The impression I have got about the scene in my part of the city on this day are based on the tales that I often heard while squatting on the lawns of the Grand Mosque, Martyrs Graveyard, on shop fronts and mosque hamams. The dominant impression is that people were unawares about the happenings ten miles away from the political nerve centre of the city that had been witness to the people’s uprisings from the second half of the nineteenth century. They little knew that their destiny was being written- at an airstrip constructed some years before by the last feudal ruler of the state. There were lots of stories about November 1947. Some were horrendously horrifying- that the narrators on the shop fronts in my part of city would shedder to tell. I remember blood would run into the eyes of a tailor in our locality on recounting his tale of receiving cane charge from his not that distant neighbors at local office of a political party for tuning in Radio Tradkhal on his radio set. I have not seen radio sets being chained and dragged to police stations or the office of the political party that hailed the landing troops at the airport- but I often heard these stories. My class teacher Shah Sahib, perhaps from Khanyar would shut the door of the classroom to tell his woeful tale of being beaten to pulp at a local party office for wearing a green turban. There are many events about the period that are yet to be recorded by our historiographers even in footnotes of our story. October besides reminding me of 27th, reminds of a dictator that had endeared himself to people in my birth burg.
I did write sometime back in this column how the pictures of political leaders in drawing rooms spoke about political allegiance of a family. Surprisingly in mid fifties it was picture of a dictator that that crossed party lines and found a place alongside the pictures of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Mirwaiz Molvi Yusuf Shah green clay daubed houses of common people and papier-mâché walls of the drawing rooms of rich and elite. The picture was of none other than Pakistan’s first military ruler Ayub Khan. It may be a matter of research for scholars what endeared this military general of Pakistan born in ‘Rehna, picturesque village in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan on 14 May 2007’ to a generation ahead of us. Is it that he took over reigns of the newly born country for ‘eminent people like Aga Khan and the widow of first slain Prime Minister Liquate Ali Khan urging him to do something to for saving the country that had virtually slipped into anarchy or it was for his avowedly supporting the cause that Kashmir leaders including Sheikh Abdullah were espousing at that time. I was class in class four, when on the night of 27-28 October 1958; three general walked up to Iskander Mirza’s bed room and asked him to sign a letter of resignation. No sooner the news of Ayub Khan taking over as President of Pakistan people in my locality rejoiced. I have very vivid impressions how people glued their ears to their radio sets to hear his radio speech. No sooner his speech started there was graveyard silence in the room- the Hubble Bubble that continuously gurgled in the room fell silent, the children reclined silently against walls in the room and my mother and aunt did not dare to tread inside the room while the speech was going on. After his first Radio Speech this became a routine. On first of every month he would address his people from radio and every one in our locality without fail heard his radio speech religiously- people without beating their eyelid waited for word Kashmir in his speech.
It is history Kashmiris knew a lot more about neighboring Pakistan than they knew happenings in the state. Other than Ayub Khan’s speech it was Sheikh Abdullah’s trial and incarceration kept them glued to their radiosets. My mother and aunt were housewives busy whole day with their domestic chore- cooking food, washing clothes and sweeping house. I was amazed when they made mention about visit of Jackie Kennedy to Pakistan. In 1962, US President John F Kennedy had sent his ‘young glamorous wife as envoy to Pakistan. She was accorded a warm reception at Lahore; the reception accorded to her was more cordial than to Queen of England a year earlier. In those ‘televisonless’ years, I am surprised how people in our part of city remembered every detail about this visit.
I still remember picture of Jackie Kennedy and Ayub Khan in an open car pasted on the wall of a barber in our Mohalla…
Lastupdate on : Sat, 16 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 16 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 17 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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