In defense of Sheikh Abdullah

He served the common man



This refers to the article by Dr Nyla Khan (GK, November 5) in which she defended her grandfather. Despite the turmoil of last two decades for which some hold him responsible, I would still defend him—not for his political judgement but for all he did for common masses. As one of his staunchest supporters during his lifetime, it is with some reluctance that I should point out where he went wrong in his political career from my own perspective.
No one can deny that Sheikh Sahib was one of the greatest men produced by Kashmir.  Let me quote a few sentences which were spoken by one of his political opponents in Iqbal Park Srinagar in a rally just after Sheikh Sahib's death as a tribute to him. Although I do not remember who the speaker was but I remember reading about his tribute in a newspaper. The speaker said that Sheikh Sahib was one of the greatest champions of humanity and he had to deal with uncharitable people; the sincerity with which he offered his hand to India was not reciprocated. He was not only betrayed by his inner circle in NC in 1953 but also by his close friend Nehru. Perhaps he was too much reliant on this inner circle who were more interested in power and money than in serving common masses.
I have heard from a most reliable source that ordinary people knew the real motivations of this inner circle and on and off urged him to purge these elements from the Party. More than 2000 people lost their lives following the event of 9th August 1953. This betrayal by his inner circle is so shocking that Sheikh Sahib's family did not have a house to live in. This episode has been referred to by Dr Nyla Khan in an earlier article in which she relates that after his arrest his family was offered a house by a Kashmiri Pandit. Sheikh Sahib's betrayal by Nehru is all the more regrettable as Nehru denied any knowledge of being forewarned about 9th August, 1953. It is inconceivable that Nehru did not authorize this action.
Given this betrayal and sacrifices given by people during the so called 'wilderness years' from 1953 to 1975, it is fair to say that it was wrong on his part to accept power again in 1975. He was even wrong to embrace those who mistreated Plebiscite Front workers during his imprisonment. During the latter part of these years, I remember as a small boy his popularity and support Plebiscite Front had among common people. I vividly remember how his supporters used to rejoice whenever he was released from prison and we always used to skip school. However, it would be absurd to think that he alone is responsible for the current situation in Kashmir. It reminds me of a statement by Sardar Qayoom Khan, former President of Azad Kashmir, some years back that it would be wrong to malign Sheikh Sahib – after all what else could he do.
One must admit that it was largely due to his personality that valley remained free of communal violence during the turmoil of partition. Although it is true Kashmir has been always a bastion of communal harmony, he did much to promote tolerance between people of different faiths in Kashmir. I remember an event during my school days when there was a disturbance in S.P. College and CRPF units entered into classrooms chasing students. A Pandit boy from Barbar Shah area was head butted and he suffered concussion of brain and later he died. My father later told me Sheikh Sahib personally went to the dead boy's house and offered his condolences to his family. This was arranged by a prominent Plebscite Front activist of the area, Mr Abdul Gaffoor, a milkman by profession who was well respected by both communities.  Sheikh Sahib's devotion to public service , his long years in prison, his boldness in introducing land reforms just after 1947 and his zeal to free people from shackles of debt, which they owed to money lenders, cannot be forgotten.

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Lastupdate on : Tue, 13 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 13 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 14 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST

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