May 8 and freedom movement

The Reading Room Party provided a platform for the launch of Muslim Conference later.
May 8 and freedom movement
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Destined to edit daily Al Barq,  Munshi Naseer Ahmad was denied a government job repeatedly on one pretext or the other. He had in him the vein of conscience and would raise his voice against Dogra oppression every now and then. Ultimately he found himself enrolled as a student of erstwhile Teacher's Training School at Magarmal Bagh. However, he was not interested in the training and would spend his time thinking about hapless Kashmiris. One day he and his cousin Moulvi Bashir sat in the Kher Maidan (present day exhibition grounds) and discussed the Kashmir situation.

They desperately wanted to do something for the gullible people. A long session with Moulvi Bashir's Father, Moulvi Abdullah Vakil went in vain. He suggested them to become members of an organization run by Punjabi Muslims. The organization that operated from Amira Kadal worked for the welfare of travelers. "Increase your membership and take control of the organization", he suggested. However, the duo opted for the Reading Room. Bashir was a teacher and earned Rs 15 a month. Naseer was unemployed.  . Bashir and Naseer contributed Rs 5 and 4.50 respectively and hired a few chairs, tables and old magazines. The reading room started functioning from a rented room at Fateh Kadal.

The Reading Room became functional. However, it soon dawned on them that a good amount of money was needed to keep it running. The two sat together and pondered. Suddenly Bashir saw a glitter in Nasser's eyes and a pleasant smile on his lips. He had solved the problem. But the plan had to be executed by Bashir who agreed to compromise his dignity and self-respect for the sake of the movement.

The Hilal-e-Eid (crescent) appeared on the firmament. There was lot of festivity in the city. People were purchasing mutton, vegetables, clothes and sweets but Bashir was busy preparing himself for playing an unparalleled role in the history of the freedom struggle. Naseer was biting his nails for putting his cousin to a very difficult test.

On the day of Eid, people put on new clothes and assembled in the Eidgah. Bashir, however, chose a worn out dress much to the disappointment of his relatives and friends. Slowly he walked towards the Eidgah. He stood firmly in a corner and stretched out his hand. Khudayi Sunde Khatre (For Allah's sake), he sought alms.  In his new  avtaar, he saw himself begging for money and the people responding generously.  The congregation ended. People rushed to their homes. Naseer was eagerly waiting for him. He had done a commendable job. Ninety rupees had been collected. Two pearls rolled down the cheeks of Naseer as a token of respect for his great cousin. 

Soon after, the Reading Room wore a new look. New chairs and tables were purchased. Bashir's heroics in the Eidgah ensured uninterrupted flow of newspapers, journals and magazines to the Reading Room. But to their dismay they saw people indulging in gambling and gossip in the room.  Something had to be done immediately and the duo availed a God sent opportunity. A woman died in Kachgari Mohallah. The brother-in-law of the deceased was a friend of Naseer and Bashir. They talked to him and expressed their desire to host the rasam-e-qul of the deceased. He agreed after being apprised of the plan. Around two hundred invitation cards were delivered. The tea and bread served at the rasam-e-qul cost the duo around Rs 9. The gathering was told to resist Dogra oppression. They were further told to maintain utmost secrecy. This is where the freedom movement was formally launched.  It was May 8, 1930. Three persons, GN Gilkar, Muhammad Rajab and Muhammad Yahya Rafiqui joined the group.

The "five man army" then decided to awaken people across Kashmir. Munshi Naseer was told to go to rural areas. Others were entrusted the job of working in the city. 

Here role of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah merits special mention. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah completed his MSc from Aligarh Muslim University on April 12, 1930 and immediately got appointed as a school teacher. He pursued his career seriously and did not join the Reading Room Party notwithstanding repeated pleas from its founders. However, Munshi Naseer and GN Gilkar repeatedly urged Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah to join the party. After much coaxing and cajoling Sheikh finally joined the party and took over its leadership.  

 The Reading Room Party provided a platform for the launch of Muslim Conference later.   

(Sources: Tehreekh-e-Jung-e-azadi-e-Kashmir by Munshi Naseer Ahmad, Aatish-e-Chinar, Zikr-e-Hayat, unpublished autobiography of Muhammad  Amin Qureshi, a member of reading room party who was assigned the job of washing Sheikh Muhammad  Abdullah's clothes, Interviews with persons directly or indirectly connected to the Reading Room. 

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