"I and my organization never believed in the formula that Muslims and Hindus form separate nations. We do not believe in the two nation theory, nor in communal hatred or communalism itself. We believed that religion had no place in politics". These mind boggling words reverberated in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on 5th February 1948 when Late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the tallest and the most popular charismatic leader of J&K addressed the comity of nations. These sentiments echoed by him were to become not only the bedrock for any future political structure of "New Kashmir" but also turned him to Indian dominion for accession in preference to Pakistan dominion. In his address to the J&K constituent assembly on 5th November 1951 he called upon the founding fathers to be "guided" by the highest principles of the democratic constitutions of the world in keeping with the principles of equality, liberty and social justice as an integral feature of the constitution.
The rule of law coupled with independence of judiciary from the influence of the executive should be its corner stone. These were some basic parameters for Sheikh Abdullah to accede to secular democratic India. A cursory glance over the events of past seven decades reveals that by and large, India did stand the test of time but for the recent few years. While detesting the very idea of incorporating secularism in the preamble of Indian constitution, some diehards raised the bogey of "pseudo secularism". In the heart of their hearts, they wish to see a "Muslim Mukt Bharat". Whether a Muslim Mukt Bharat can survive as a glorious nation as it is now is the moot point. Indoctrination of such a pernicious thinking is likely to tear apart the sociopolitical fabric of the country. No nationalist worth the name will ever want that to happen.
Some excerpts from Sheikh Abdullah's opening address to the J&K constituent assembly 1951 are not only soul stirring but can serve us as a beacon for future. "We stood for the brotherhood of men of all creeds and religions and strengthened our union on the basis of common work and sacrifices. Against us were ranged the forces of religious bigotry centered in the Muslim League and its satellites and Hindu communalists from within and without the state". It was Sheikh Abdullah who mustered courage to go against the popular tide in giving its political party the nomenclature of "National Conference" to enlarge its ambit and outreach for inclusion of people of all hues and shades, regions and religions. It is he who stood for the national brotherhood in preference to muslim brotherhood. When flames of communal hatred were consuming lives of human beings across India and Pakistan, Abdullah stood like a rock as a Savior of Hindus, Sikhs and followers of other faiths.
This prompted Gandhi to remark "if I can see a ray of hope anywhere, it is here in Kashmir". The party has given many sacrifices especially during the past two decades to live up to the commitments and principles of its visionary founder leader. To the utter disgust and disdain, some radicalized and absolutely unprofessional media persons are not only doubting the bonafide integrity of its leaders but also using unparliamentary language with them on their national channels. Recently, in a talk show captioned "Agenda Aaj Tak" the anchor didn't hide his prejudice by asking Farooq Abdullah if he is an Indian. In a much worse tone, another so called anchor shouted "shame on Farooq Abdullah". Is it not disgusting, to put it mildly, that a respectable popular leader who has been a three time Chief Minister of the state, a Cabinet Minister of the Union of India and a sitting Member of Parliament is denigrated and humiliated on a national channel ? Do they meet out such a shabby treatment to leaders of other state? Without having the least regard for objectivity, impartiality and professional code of conduct, the same anchor voiced his polluted mind by saying "Kashmiri Bashing Sells".
Recent assertions made on the floor of Lok Sabha that if Sardar Patel had become the first PM of India whole of Kashmir would have been ours. The statement runs contrary to the documented record. The fact is that if any single individual can claim credit for Kashmir's accession to India, it is indisputably Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Leaders like Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel did certainly play the pivotal role by facilitating and contributing to the accession. To quote Abdullah "Immediately after we were set free from the prison, we were faced with the important question of whether Kashmir should accede to Pakistan, accede to India or remain independent". In order to throw out the raiders, an appeal for help was made to government of India from the largest popular organization, the National Conference, headed by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. The conference further strongly supported the request for the state's accession to the Indian dominion. The government of India accepted the request and responded positively by sending its forces to clear out the state of the invaders. In order to avoid any possible suggestion (impression) that India had utilized the state's immediate peril for her own political advantage, the government of India made it clear that once the soil of the state had been cleared of the invaders and normal conditions restored, its people would be free to decide their future by the recognized democratic method of a plebiscite or referendum which in order to ensure complete impartiality, might be held under the international auspices.
These documented statements are ample to prove that Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was the prime and the principle architect of Kashmir's accession to India. Some of its well respected and popular leaders are being provoked on the floor of the state assembly to make statements which otherwise they would never vent out. The moot question is why the integrity of Kashmiri Muslims is being doubted? Never ever have Kashmiri students, businessmen and even travellers been assaulted and killed in some parts of India as is being witnessed during the last few years. Are these people really nationalists and patriots who beat and bruise their own co-patriots without any rhyme and reason? Will this emotional and physical torture of Kashmir's not have a cascading negative effect back home? By pushing them to the corner, are they not provoking them to think and act antinational? Kashmiri muslims are being demonized even if they swear a hundred times of their loyalty to India.
(Siraj Quraishi – IBS – is Ex Deputy Director General Doordarshan)