August, 1953: Dismissal and Arrest of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah

Greater Kashmir

There are no means to ascertain the three lives of all key actors involved in august 1953 political happenings, the job can be left for those more qualified to do it.

Mohammad Syed Malik  senior journalist, commenting on August 8, 1953,  dismissal of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah ministry , observed, “more than six decades later certain vital aspects of Sheikh’s  undemocratic overthrow on August 8, 1953, remain shrouded in mystery because the dramatis personae, dead as well as living have been less than honest in rendering their account. There are quite a few missing pieces to complete the picture in retrospect, particularly the role played by the principal characters’’ (Kashmir Times August9, 2014). Mr Syed Malik has been a keen watcher of the politics of the state and has rightly referred to key actors living and the dead. An objective and honest analysis of August, 1953 dismissal and arrest of Sheikh Abdullah definitely holds significance for all and more particularly those who value the principles of accommodation, reconciliation and justice.  As a student of state politics I realize the significance of at least two accounts by two eminent persons who were closely watching the happenings. One, Mridula Sarabhai and Mr. YD Gundevia who happened to be India’s foreign secretary during the time of Jawaharlal Nehru. Their communication and writings are quite useful for any serious researcher working on contemporary politics of Jammu & Kashmir state.
Mridula Sarabhai acted as a single person civil society in India when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was arrested on 8th August 1953. Gandhi used to say that if I had only a hundred women like Mridula I could launch a revolution in India. Her home at  Delhi became  the virtual headquarter for Plebiscite Front leaders .Mridula started a forum called Friends of  New Kashmir Committee on December10,1952  and organized public meetings to apprise the people in India that there was no conspiracy to kill Dr Shyama   Prashad Mookerjee who had forced his entry in Jammu &Kashmir. She believed that there  was a group even within congress which held Abdullah responsible for the death of Dr Mookerjee.The widespread criticism of Sheikh Abdullah by Indian leaders made him extremely unhappy .He started believing that almost all Indians doubted his loyalty towards India .A tense situation developed in and beyond Kashmir and various rumors were in circulation within the state  and in  India .This has been aptly described by Mridula in a note addressed to Jawaharlal Nehru on 5 July, 1953.Mridula left huge collection of correspondence. The Sarabhai Trust had it catalogued and filed.Mridula,s note reads as under:
  In the context of Dr Mookerjee,s death and the reported news of the differences in the ranks of the National conference which have not been  contradicted doubts, it appears  have arisen in the minds of the common people about the future relationship of Kashmir with India. Lots of stories in this connection are being talked .It is said that Sheikh Abdullah is out to make Kashmir a sovereign independent state and is not prepared to implement the agreement he made in this connection. It is further alleged that Bakshi Gulam Mohammad on the other hand wants to implement the agreement and is for the accession of Kashmir to India. It is also a common talk that some days back about 50,000 Kashmir’s took out a procession in Srinagar in which slogans “Pakistan Zindabad,Hindustan Murdabad “ were raised .The procession ,it is alleged was organized by Ghulam Mohiudin of the National conference with the connivance of Sheik Abdullah .
Again it is said that Chester Bowles and Adalai Stevenson met the Sheikh and encouraged him for an independent Kashmir. The story is further carried that when some time back Pundit Nehru visited Kashmir, the National Flag was not hoisted and there was some trouble between Pundit Nehru and Sheik Abdullah .The Sheik, it is alleged, told Pundit Nehru that he was dealing with the Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir state and not a person like Dr Gopichand Bhargava .
It is again averred that when Maulana Azad visited Kashmir recently, the Kashmir audience, in a public meeting refused to listen to him and left the meeting after Sheikh Abdullah concluded his speech and the Maulana was asked to speak. Another story is that some time back the officials of the Ministry of communications went to Kashmir to take charge of certain things connected with communications, the Sheikh not only gave them no accommodation but in fact, did not see them and that they have come back without doing anything.
 It is being said that a very critical situation has developed there and the chances are that India would loose Kashmir. The general talk is Kashmir is lost to India and the loss of Kashmir would shake the very foundations of the congress government in this country. The talk goes to the extent that since Pundit Nehru has been personally responsible for the Kashmir policy, the situation of the Kashmir government is very much going to affect his future as leader of the Nation. The common man therefore seems to be quite confused about the Kashmir question at present and generally speaking the doubts seem to have arisen about Kashmir’s future relationship with India.”
When Abdullah was arrested late Maulana Mohammad Syed  Masoodi found Nehru in tears. Shri Balraj Puri repeated the same thing to this writer in an interview during my stay at the University of Kashmir as a research scholar. But all said and done no account will be accurate and credible if the observations of Mr.  Y D Gundevia( former foreign secretary of India ) are not given due consideration . He writes in  his book The Testament of Sheikh Abdullah: all the little people that want to claim credit for their great personal role in the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah in August 1953 have ,surprisingly uniformly ,waited patiently for the great man to leave us for good on that fateful day in May 1964,before they opened their mouths to tell what Nehru said to them on this  date and what he said about Sheikh Abdullah being this ,that and the other on that date and on and on they go .They waited long ,till the ashes of the dead Prime minister were scattered over India before they began telling their sorry tales’’. The great Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia said that all human beings have three lives-public, private and secret. This writer has no means to ascertain the three lives of all key actors involved in august 1953 political happenings and hence the job can be left for those more qualified to do it.