Defending the indefensible

On the SMA debate between B R Singh and Ajaz-ul-Haque
Defending the indefensible

On 13 and 14 April 2019, GK published a two-part article,'In Defence of Sheikh Abdullah' by B R Singh, a former Indian AdministrativeService (IAS) officer. He has served as Principal Secretary to former ChiefMinister, Dr Farooq Abdullah for about six years.

Sheikh Sahib is a phenomenon relegated to the pages ofhistory. Moreover, history has judged his 'Faustian contracts'. And the verdictis markedly manifest in the political uncertainty that the state has beenpassing through for past seventy years. More than half a million people havebeen consumed during the period. It has been but for one after another wrongdecision at the right moments since 1937, that in the eyes of the comity ofnations Kashmir has become 'most dangerous place in the world' and a 'nuclearflashpoint in South Asia. Despite some friends on social media prompting me torespond to the article of the former, I chose to ignore it; a write-up or twocannot demolish the stark historical realities. Did BG Verghese's widelycirculated press council report on Kunan-Posh Pora titled 'Crisis andCredibility' dissolve the story? It did not. Thirty years after, it morepowerfully haunts the public discourse than it did at the time of gruesomehappening.

Nonetheless, like many other 'statist narratives'orchestrated for perpetuation of the hegemonic discourse, the overwhelmingmajority was not ready to accept cock and bull story of the former bureaucratin defence of SMA. It was more than evident on popular social media sites whenAjaz-ul-Haque's take on the former bureaucrat's article was published in thenewspaper. Scores of people on Facebook shared the column. Hundreds commentedon it on Twitter and Facebook. Except for a few scions of the family and somebeneficiaries, Ajaz's column received an overwhelming approbation. On June 14,2019, the newspaper carried another article, 'Refuting the Narrativists" byex-Principal Secretary to Dr Farooq Abdullah in response to Ajaz-ul-Haque'scolumn. In his response to Ajaz's piece, he has made yet another attempt todefend the former chief minister of the state and blame the columnist ofdistorting history.  Ajaz's column isthoroughly grounded in history, and it needs no defence. In a 600 word writeup, no author could produce exact quotes from the archives to substantiate hispoint of view. Equally, he was not writing an academic paper that draws itsstrength from footnotes or endnotes.

In this column, it may not be possible to answer in detailall the questions. Nonetheless, I will briefly mention some historical factsthat debunk the former bureaucrat's take on the subject. He questions Ajaz oninexcusable silence observed by Sheikh Abdullah on the massacre of Muslims. Indefence of Sheikh, he writes that he complained to Nehru about Meher ChandMahajan on 30 October 1947. SMA took over as Emergency Administrator on October6, 1947. Thirty trucks loaded with Muslims instead of Suchetgarh were taken toSamba, and asked to disembark from the vehicles. They were fired at closerange, killing hundreds of them. And these organised gruesome killingscontinued for many days when SMA was in the saddle. Besides, Ian Stephens, manyEuropean historians have documented the Jammu holocaust. Authors havedocumented many eyewitness accounts that tell terrifying stories. Abdullahtaking pride in his appointment as Chief Emergency Administrator in hisautobiography writes, "Since 1846, the state had 28 Prime Ministers, but I wasthe first Kashmiri Muslim to have been appointed to the position". WhileMuslims were being butchered in Jammu, the Emergency Administration wasrejoicing, and a department had been created for arranging theatrical shows andother celebrations.' (The Blazing Chinar p 301). Sheikh Abdullah had no lovefor Jammu Muslims; instead, he nursed a grouse against them, and he had nointerest in protecting their lives. Krishan Dev Sethi, then a senior leader ofthe National Conference from Jammu (living on date) in his memoirs, recalls it:

"That Pandit Moti Ram Baghra and I visited Sheikh Abdullahand requested him to stop sending leftover Muslims of Jammu to Pakistan, tomaintain demography and secular fabric of the city. Sheikh Sahib lost histemper at our request and questioned us; when did Jammu Muslims recognise me astheir leader, why should I bother about them. His answer left us shellshocked". Sethi also mentions how he ensured exile of Chaudhary Ghulam Abbasand Allah Rakha Sagar.' (Yad-i-Rafta p 36-37).

The author of the column, 'In defence of SMA' questionsAjaz'a take on the conversion of the Muslim Conference to the NationalConference. That it was a unanimous decision of the Muslim Conference is ablatant lie; how and why cannot be explained in a paragraph. History testifiesthat it was not an indigenous decision, but a game plane Jawaharlal Nehru executedthrough Sheikh Abdullah. In 1937 Nehru deputed K.M. Ashraf, a Marxist historianto Kashmir and asked him to campaign for the Indian National Congress. On theinstructions of Nehru, he stayed back in Kashmir for mass contact and'delivered several speeches in favour of nationalism and joint action by Hinduand Muslims.' That the movement in Kashmir would be "patterned after the IndianNational Congress,   Nehru and Abdullahreached an agreement at Peshawar in January 1938. Nehru used the services ofPrime Minister Sir Gopalaswami Ayyanger to translate the agreement intoreality. Ayyanger suppressed all opposing voices, (Rashid Taseer, Prof. Khanand Bazaz have documented it in detail). Munshi Muhammad Ishaq, one of theclosest associates of Sheikh Abdullah in his memoirs published posthumouslyadmits 'that Ayyanger was involved behind the scene in the creation of theNational Conference and he was a supporter of the Congress. (Nidaa-e-Haque p124). In convincing Chaudhary Abbas and other Muslim Conference leadersAbdullah kept his colleagues in the dark about his agreement with Nehru andother Congress leaders. In the words of Chitralekha Zutshi, "True to his word,Abdullah remained pro-Congress in ideology and politics for the remainder ofhis political career in pre-1947 Kashmir. (Language p 250)

History is replete with instances about SMA keeping hissenior party in the dark about his activities. On September 29, 1947, when hewas released from Jail, he feigned ignorance about reasons behind his release,when he was fully aware of it, that it had happened after another Faustianagreement with the Indian National Congress. He did not inform people about hiscorrespondence and meetings with the Congress leaders. He did not inform themabout his meetings with Dr Chapara, Secretary to the Maharaja and two lettershe had written to Hari Singh, expressing his allegiance to the Dogra ruler,ironically against whom he had started Quit Kashmir movement.  Nehru's letter dated 27 September, 1947, toSardar Patel about the release of Abdullah besides explaining reasons about hisrelease also exposes the hidden agenda that unfolded on October 27, 1947.

History reveals itself. It is not subservient toexpediencies, and fancies of individuals.

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