Deconstructing the date

Certain events and persons always nag the collective mind



5th December is a state holiday in J&K, marking the birth anniversary of late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. In the statist narrative it is like Gandhi Jayanti for J&K. They say that the person who was born on 5th of December gave us freedom from the Dogra Autocratic Rule. They say it and stop. They drop the detail; detail where in rests the devil. The picture of Sheikh Abdullah can be rightly drawn only if that detail is rightly deciphered. True, he had a mass following, but leaders are not really judged by their populist positions, or a time bound mass following. The actual measure of leadership is the accuracy of vision and the capacity to rise above person when the moment demands. Sheikh Sahab could not rise above his person on both the occasions - 1947 and 1975.  And also he could not accurately visualize what his “friendship” with Nehru’s secular India meant in a region that was determined by historical categorization of communities into politics.
Anyway that is a subject of history, and here we are in the present “celebrating” the day. But on this moment of leisure, which all such holidays provide, I was reminded of Sheikh Abdullah’s anniversary – September 8th – observed in 1989. Remember 1989 was the year when Kashmir volcanically erupted to throw off the burdens Sheikh’s politics heaped on her soul.
Sheikh Abdullah’s death anniversary that fell on September 8, 1989 was called Yaum-e-Najat - Day-of-Deliverance - by the fresh formations of politics, represented by underground armed groups. National Conference, once the representative of Kashmir’s political self, could only hold a meeting “at a heavily guarded¬¬ mausoleum of the Sheikh”. Kashmir witnessed a strike that was “near total”, and Sheikh’s effigies were burnt. Besides, a “blackout” was observed as almost all the lights went off in the evening. This was a symbolic rejection of the decades’ long history of Sheikh–Nehru “friendship”. It was also a clear message that the things in Kashmir cannot be carried forward politically, because the most popular political leader had handed over all the political space to his dear friend, Nehru!
On this Jagmohan, in his book My Frozen turbulences in Kashmir, poses a question, which actually is the statement of his assessment about National Conference. “Was it the same Sheikh Abdullah on whose death seven years ago, a veritable sea of humanity…..came out in the streets of Srinagar? Was it not clear that either his greatness was made of artificial material, and had a mere coating of gold, or those who stepped into his shoes…sucked his greatness”. Fact of the matter is that what Jagmohan makes out of the change in situation was entirely pointless. It was not a question about National Conference. Even if Sheikh Abdullah would have been alive, things could have only come to this pass; may be with a little difference of some delay. This kind of turn-around was historically impending, because what Kashmir thought Sheikh Abdullah did and what he actually did were not the same. When all the political structures were employed, Sheikh’s influence as a mass leader being one of the pivotal institutions, to control Kashmir got exhausted, things relapsed into the historical urge which once had become known in 1931.
Sheikh Abdullah represented a politics that compromised on the political urge of Kashmir; he could only meet a fate that he met on 8 September, 1989.  And it was not just Sheikh, Jagmohan himself mentions in his book that “Nehru’s birthday, November 14, was observed as a ‘black day’”. (Jagmohan, 1996: 321-325). Even the effigies of Nehru were burnt. (Chatterjee, 2009: 37). So what did all these burnings mean. It meant that a Faustian bargain was made and now we were burning the books. Sheikh Abdullah was a medium that allowed disaster a smooth entry into Kashmir. He called it a breeze but when it actually crossed us we found ourselves uprooted. Breeze is not like that.
We all know that towards the end of 1989 there was a sharp increase in violent underground activities. Kashmir was swept over by the wave of armed underground movement, and politics went into hiding. This made it impossible for Unionist parties to stay in Kashmir. The top leadership shifted to either the winter capital of the State, Jammu, or Delhi, the Capital of India. Even now the political opponents of National Conference tease the party by reminding about Farooq Abdullah leaving the state in the time of crisis and settling down in London. Once upon a time Maharaja fled the same way when the entire Kashmir stood against him in 1947. 1989 was a reminder that Sheikh Sahab actually replaced Maharaja, that is why his party had to flee Kashmir one day. Gandhi, Nehru and the state of India came to Maharaja’s rescue. Nothing has changed since then, for Nehru dynasty and the state of India always come to the rescue of those who are chased away from Kashmir.
So who deserves a holiday on 5th December; Kashmir, or those who control Kashmir! India deserves a holiday on 5th December!

Lastupdate on : Wed, 5 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 5 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 6 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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