Then, and Now

A question arises. What if he had not made the Peace Brigade and allowed dissent to flourish?
Then, and Now
Representational pic

National Conference patron, Dr Farooq Abdullah and Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) President, Mahbooba Mufti recently got engaged in a verbal duel over the creation of Ikhwaan. Dr Farooq accused Mahbooba's father, Late Mufti Muhammad Sayed of scripting the 'phenomenon' in early 90s when he was the Home Minister of India. Mahbooba responded with similar allegations. Well, the Ikhwaan came into being in late 1994 when Mufti Sayed was not there in the Home Ministry. This dreaded force was used to make a reluctant Dr Farooq contest the controversial 1996 elections. So neither Dr Farooq nor Mufti Muhammad Sayed had any role in creation of the dreadful force. However, an in-depth study of the measures taken by National Conference leadership after assuming office of the emergency administration in 1947 merits a serious consideration.

To sustain the newly achieved `freedom', the emergency administration put in place an Ikhwaan like structure to crush dissent. It was named Peace Brigade and comprised mostly of unscrupulous elements and NC toughs. In the name of peace, they abducted women, raped them, humiliated people, held them for ransom and even murdered them. They did what the Ikhwaan was seen doing in mid 90s. Some people believe that Grish Chander Saxena, the then Governor of the state, adapted the Peace Brigade model for creating the Ikhwaan.

The Peace Brigade was used to silence all those who had the guts to oppose accession. They were either arrested or exiled. The Dogra rulers are criticised even today for sending a few persons into exile but the so-called democratic rule exiled thousands of persons.

The people at the helm in those fateful days knew the Peace Brigade brandishing `toy guns' was no match to the heavily armed `tribals' but was formed all the same for some ulterior motives. The brigade was not needed in the battlefield. It was to operate somewhere in the streets of Srinagar and other towns and villages of Kashmir.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, who headed the emergency administration, knew that a comfortable stay in the Prime Ministerial berth was simply impossible while the dissidents were around. He expected stiff resistance from his opponents and to silence them a force comprising Sur Walas, Tangay Walas and anti-social elements, especially from Srinagar city, were given a free hand to crush resistance. This lumpen force wreaked havoc to make Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah's stay in the chair comfortable. The people of Kashmir were on the run and could not, therefore, stand up for the Jammu Muslims who were ruthlessly butchered.

People accusing Kashmiris of shameful silence over the Jammu massacre unwittingly convey a message that can mislead the coming generations. They should not be made to believe that the Kashmiris were strong enough to protect the Jammu Muslims but preferred to stay mum. It also exonerates the person who created the Peace Brigade to silence Kashmiris.

The Ikhwaan was created after fifty years of coming into being of the Peace Brigade. But the modus operandi, the `aims and objectives' were similar. The Pearce Brigade dealt a severe blow on the freedom movement, as did Ikhwaan. The Ikhwaan forced people to migrate to Pakistan and Pakistan administered Kashmir and also triggered massive internal displacement. Was the Peace Brigade any different?

The peace Brigade was absorbed into JK Militia and the Ikhwaan into Territorial Army.  However, despite all their ruthlessness and barbarism to `win Kashmir for India', New Delhi neither trusted the Peace Brigade nor the Ikhwaan. The Muslim members of the Khuftan Fakirs (Peace Brigade) were arrested or discharged before Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah's arrest in 1953. The Militia (dubbed as Dagan Brigade) was converted from a State Militia to a regular unit of the Indian Army on 2 December 1972 and redesignated the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry. Similarly, it has come to fore that some dreaded Ikhwanies were eliminated by their handlers to destroy evidence of custodial murders and other heinous crimes. The Ikhwanies involved in murder of noted human rights activist and lawyer, Jaleel Andrabi met a similar fate.

After Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah's arrest, the shameful legacy was carried forward by Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad. In fact, the dreaded force was given more teeth during his regime and the persecution of Kashmiris continued.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah realized his mistake but it was too late. His July 13, 1953 speech is very significant. He 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 back-stabbed, I no longer trust Indian rulers, we have different ways now."

A question arises. What if he had not made the Peace Brigade and allowed dissent to flourish?

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