August 9, 1953: When Sheikh’s arrest changed Kashmir for ever

People by and large believe that Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was dethroned and arrested on August 9, 1953, for resisting moves aimed at diluting the autonomy of the state.
August 9, 1953: When Sheikh’s arrest changed Kashmir for ever
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People by and large believe that Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was dethroned and arrested on August 9, 1953, for resisting moves aimed at diluting the autonomy of the state. However, his colleague and member Constituent Assembly, Abdul Gani Goni, narrated an entirely different story in an interview with Greater Kashmir some time before his death last year.

According to him, Sheikh's July 13, 1953, speech is very significant. Sheikh had 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."

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 JK'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 but to cage the roaring lion," Goni said.

"Surprisingly Sheikh tried his best to project himself as the victim although this was the only time when he actually behaved and roared like a lion," Goni said. "He observed August 9 as a black day till he lived. He should not have projected himself as a victim. He was a hero and the National Conference should refrain from mourning his victimhood," he added.

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