On 107th birthday



“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

 This pithy Shakespearean quote, typical of great minds, eloquently captures the nature, trajectory and contribution of the finest minds and greatest leaders that Kashmir has ever produced: Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Few people in recorded history have not only achieved so much but left an indelible imprimatur and impression on the course of history, lives and psyche of people. Known as Sher-e-Kashmir (Lion of Kashmir), Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah captured the hearts, minds and imagination of Kashmiris so much so that he epitomized the aspirations, wishes and desires of generations of Kashmiris. Kashmiris projected their hopes, fears and aspirations onto him and the great man responded in kind. Psychologically, Sheikh Sahib and Kashmiris were one. The trust reposed in the man was reciprocated in equal measure. “Al kari, wangun kari, bab kari lolo; yi babas khosh kari, tee kari lolo” (whether he creates potatoes or aubergines, whatever he does it’ll be for our good). People called him Bab (father) and he was, indeed the father of the nation.
Born into a humble family on the outskirts of Srinagar city, Anchar-Soura, the fiery embers of rebellion, an acute sense of justice, passionate revulsion for injustice, sensitivity and high intelligence were an indelible part of his psychological make- up. The young Sheikh Sahib was marked for greatness at an early and tender age. These fine qualities were honed and refined as the great man began his journey of his remarkable life. Blessed with leadership qualities at an early age and a fine mind, Sheikh Sahib observed and absorbed the nature of the Kashmiri condition and internalized it so intensely that his life became entwined with Kashmir. His education validated to him the oppression and exploitation of Kashmiris.
It is said that Sheikh Sahib made a conscious decision to dedicate himself and his life for his people. But this is a half-truth. It may be more accurate to say that the Divine Will had made this decision and Sheikh Sahib saw and realized this and accepted the challenge. This meant a life of struggle, deprivation, harassment, solitude and incarceration. Sheikh Sahib accepted this with equanimity and dedicated his life to the welfare and upliftment of his people. Sheikh Sahib’s heart beat for Kashmir; Kashmiri’s and their welfare resided in his very soul and he breathed Kashmir. This was recognized and appreciated by the people of Kashmir who reposed their trust and confidence in the great man. Sheikh Sahib amplified and gave acuity to the voice of Kashmiris.
This voice, through the person of Sheik Sahib, reverberated in the halls of power and made the oppressors aware that the Kashmiri condition was not immutable and set in stone. A great man had decided to take the cudgels on behalf of Kashmiris and the days of oppression were numbered. This, however, was not to be the end of it all.
The real struggle, trials and tribulations were in store for Sheikh Sahib as the partition of British India took place. Caught in the vortex of a political whirlwind, and the need for a very important and significant decision, Sheikh Sahib, facing the horns of a dilemma made a set of choices which history is proving were not only right; but prudent and farsighted. However, he paid a price for all this. Prolonged incarceration, harassment of himself and his family and above all his people, for whom each heartbeat of his was devoted to, were the prices he paid.
The great man passed each test, trial and tribulation with the strength of character that he was blessed with. Nothing-bullying, harassment, enticements of power and office- deterred him. An event worth to mention here was that 26 days after he made that historic speech to a mammoth gathering on July 13th 1953 in Srinagar on the Martyr’s day where he also demanded the opening of Rawalpindi Road his government was overthrown and on august 9th 1953 sent as a prisoner to Udhampur Jail. In his brief reply to prosecution on 28th June 1961 in the court of special Magistrate Jammu he said “If my imprisonment serves the cause to which I have dedicated myself then it will be all well with me and I shall take pride in thus serving my people and the land of my forefathers. My voice may be stifled behind the prison walls but will continue to echo and ring for all times to come. It can never be stopped. It is the voice of human conscience; I am only the symbol of people’s undeniable aspiration and rights. What I am saying now will be repeated time and again and it will go down in history. Kashmir is dear to us because of its beauty and past tradition which are common to all who inhabit this land but it is the future that calls us and for which we labour, a future that will be common heritage of all in which we as freemen and woman will build the Kashmir of our dreams then only shall we be the worthy of the land we dwell in”
Sheikh Sahib’s life was an odyssey and each chapter of his life was devoted and dedicated to his people. This is clearly reflected in his last testament - a time when he was approaching the end of his remarkable life. When people get intimations of their mortality, people being human, think of life after death, penitence and hope for a better after life. But, nay, Sheikh Sahib, as he approached his last moments had nothing in his mind but concern for his people. He ruminated over the blood and treasure that the people of Kashmir had given to the movement; how this had inspired and motivated him during the dark and forlorn days of imprisonment; how the blood of martyrs and the faith people had reposed in him had nurtured and nourished him and how he wanted Kashmir and Kashmiris to be elevated on a pedestal wherein they lived a life of honour and dignity. This can only be a great man.
It is Sheikh Sahib 107th birthday today. The best gift and honorable memoriam that we can give to the great man is to align ourselves and correspond ourselves to what was important to him: honourable, dignified and prosperous Kashmir and Kashmiris. He boldly and beautifully took on the forces inimical to Kashmir and triumphed against all odds and his adversaries. It is time that we take a leaf from his book and do the same. Sheikh Sahib was a great man and we owe him a lot. May the great man’s soul rest in peace!

(*Tanvir Sadiq is the Spokesman of the National Conference. Can be reached at tanvirm123@yahoo.com)

Lastupdate on : Tue, 4 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 4 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 5 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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