Irrespective of our political beliefs and political affiliations, we as people are averse to remembering the sacrifices offered by our forefathers in the past. For our apathy towards the selfless leadership of the State that articulated the cause of the sufferings of the people from 1924, before the mighty powers we have failed to pass on the narrative to the generation next.
This harsh reality about our failure not to pass on our story to the generation next, dawned on me some days back when two young journalists wanted to know about the availability of some authentic source material about the November 1947, Jammu holocaust- the worst ever in the history of our land. Minus, a couple of works by some Western writers and scattered columns by some Kashmir based writers and columnists during the past two decades, I could not refer them any major work. No important contemporary historian or memoirist from our side of the dividing line has ever endeavored to document in detail the gory autumn of 1947 in Jammu.
In 1924, like in the Kashmir Province, the Jammu province also threw up a formidable Muslim leadership. That not only emerged as a most forceful voice for the voiceless Muslims of Jammu but also served as a bridge for uniting the subjugated overwhelming majority in the two provinces. Sadly, the cacophonous narrative of 1947, overwhelmed the Kashmir writers and historians – to satiate the ego of a section of Kashmir leadership they not only chose to downplay the role of Muslim leaders of Jammu but not to mention them even in footnotes of the history of the struggle for restoration of the rights of the Muslims of the State.
In the post-1947, one man rule, ignoring Jammu Muslim leadership that has been beautifully summed up by Krishen Devi Sethi in his memoir while briefly mentioning about Jammu ethnic cleansing is understandable. Nonetheless, the most painful is the apathy of the some of the politicians who claim to be legal heirs of the Kashmir Freedom Struggle. The galaxy of Jammu leaders that had shot into headlines in 1924 included Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas, Sardar Gowhar Rahman, Mistry Yaqboob Ali, A. R. Sagar, Ghulam Haider Gori, Abdul Majid Qarshi, Ghulam Ahmed Bhat and Sardar Fateh Mohammad. These leaders had launched a formidable struggle against Shudhi Movement- coercive re-conversion of Muslims and defeated the nefarious designs of changing the demography of the then Muslim majority province of Jammu. Of these leaders, Abbas in early thirties played a pioneering role in uniting the leadership of the Kashmir and Jammu region for fighting a united battle against the brutal, discriminatory policies and injustices. The year 2004, marked his birth centenary but none of the organization in Kashmir claiming to be wedded to the Muslim Conference resolutions of 1947 remembered him. For understanding, the narrative of Jammu Muslims, and the horrendous happenings in 1947, the new generation needs to know about the Jammu Muslim leadership that was in the vanguard of the freedom struggle in 1931.
Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas was born in February 1904. He graduated from Punjab University. In 1922 he revived Young Men's Muslim Association founded in 1909, which had lost its relevance as a political organization. In 1924 he was President of this Association and it was under his leadership that the organization emerged as the powerful voice of Muslims of Jammu province. Towards the start of 1930, the Association played a pivotal role in infusing a new life in the Kashmir Freedom Movement. Jammu province at that particular point of time had substantial Muslim population and ratio of Muslims and Hindus was almost 60:40 percent- this changed after October- November 1947 holocaust. In Kashmir Province, the educated Muslim youth had formed the Reading Room Party. It was Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas who brought about the wedlock between the Reading Room Party and the Young Muslim Association of Jammu. The unity caused the birth of the Jammu and Muslim Conference- the first political organization of the voiceless Muslims of the State. Seen in right perspective, it was for him that the Reading Room Party that was born for demanding representation of educated Muslim Youth on the basis of the population graduated into a political forum.
History testifies that Chowdhury Ghulam Abbas protested with full vigor against the sacrilege of the Holy Quran, preventing an Imam from delivering Friday Khutaba and banning of prayers in Jammu which caused a widespread resentment amongst the Muslims all over the State. The Young Men's Association issued big printed posters about these incidents. These posters were sent all over the State. In Kashmir "Reading Room Party arranged to paste them in Srinagar through their own volunteers." It was the Coordination between the Young Men's Association and Reading Room party that converted the muffled resentment against the autocratic rulers into a movement, which erupted like a volcano on 13 July 1931, outside Srinagar Central jail. In 1932, deliberations were going for the launching of the Muslim Conference, there was a voice in Jammu province against a united organization- some powerful voices like Sardar Gowhar Rahman from Jammu wanted a separated organization for Muslims of Jammu. For, his belief in the Unity of suffering people of the two provinces Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas Khan played a pioneering role in bringing all important leaders on the same page and ensuring smooth take of the first political platform of the Muslims of undivided Jammu and Kashmir. Leaders in this category in the early stage of were not driven by self-aggrandizement but for self-effacement. In his effort to mobilize people of the state for a common goal he introduced Kashmir leader, Sheikh Abdullah to the Muslims of Jammu, Poonch, Muzaffarabad and Northern areas and projected him as the voice of Kashmir.
In 1947, when the Jammu holocaust was happening, the Muslim leaders of the province including Abbas was in jail and our important leaders had chosen to be part of the Dogra Durbar. For our chroniclers and writers, it is time to tell the whole truth and let the new generation have their own assessment.