18 May 2024 09:16 AM




Sheikh Abdullah at Lal Chowk, 1975

Farooq Abdullah has said in an article in a well-produced Urdu journal from Srinagar that his late father, Sheikh Abdullah, would have been happy to know that the Kashmir youth were picking up the gun for their rights. This is nothing but a figment of Farooq’s imagination.

Even the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto, had a similar approach. He did send infiltrators into Kashmir in the hope that the Kashmiris would rise against India and join him to demand accession to Pakistan.

He turned out to be wrong. The Kashmiris, sufi by nature, were against fanaticism and the criteria of religion, that is Islam, to decide accession. The Pakistani infiltrators were detected by the Kashmiris themselves and handed over to the Indian army.

I knew Sheikh Saheb fairly well. He was the first person to come to my hotel as soon as I informed his office about my presence in Srinagar after my three-month detention during the emergency. I remember his words: Ab tum bhi Haji ho javoge (You have also become a Haji), meaning thereby a jail pilgrim.

The Sheikh was referring to my detention at the Tihar jail because I had written strongly against Indira Gandhi’s authoritarian rule. This reminded Sheikh Sahib of the detention by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. He was so close to Nehru that he would stay at his house whenever he came to Delhi. Even after the detention, he stayed with him because Nehru admitted his mistake and apologized.

Those who are saying all the time that Kashmir is an integral part of India are wrong in the sense that the state of Jammu and Kashmir enjoys autonomy as enunciated in Article 370 which says that except the three subjects—foreign affairs, defence and communications—the other articles of the constitution that gave powers to the Central Government would be applied to Jammu and Kashmir only with the concurrence of the state’s constituent assembly.

In other words, because of these constitutional provisions, the State of Jammu & Kashmir enjoyed the type of autonomy which other states don’t have. Subsequently, the Sheikh Saheb had the state constituent assembly pass a resolution that the state of Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India irrevocably. Before doing so, he sent Sadiq Sahib, who became the state chief minister later, to Pakistan to assess what kind of polity Islamabad was going to pursue.

After hearing Sadiq’s view on the policy which Rawalpindi wanted to follow, the Sheikh Saheb, a product of national struggle to obtain independence from the maharaja and the British, took no time in joining India because his heart was for a pluralistic state. A democratic India, where there would be religious freedom, was the obvious choice for him because Pakistan was wallowing in Islam at that time.

With the passage of time, the Sheikh became the only liberal voice which could be heard clearly in the midst of Hindu and Muslim challenges and counter-challenges. I recall when I was released from the Tihar Jail my co-prisoners asked me to visit Srinagar and request the Sheikh to speak against the emergency because he was respected all over the country.

When I met him at Srinagar, the Sheikh saw the point and issued a statement, criticizing the emergency in unequivocal language. Indira Gandhi traced the statement to my equation with the Sheikh. But what mattered was boosting the morale of those detained during the emergency. The entire nation had fallen silent and was afraid to speak out at that time. It had lost the sensibility to differentiate between the wrong and the right, moral and immoral.

Whenever he spoke, entire India listened to him because his statements transcended the state boundary. In the process, he translated the real sentiments of people. So much so that even political parties in the opposition lapped up whatever he said because he kept India above the state’s interests because he had the aura of a tall leader who did not get into pettiness of politics.

Farooq Abdullah has tried to dwarf the Sheikh’s stature by restricting him to Kashmir. He would have admonished New Delhi for creating such conditions in the state that the Kashmirs were forced to pick up the guns because New Delhi failed to make good the promise: the centre will have only three subjects, defence, foreign affairs and communications, and the rest will be in the domain of the state.

Farooq Abdullah’s earlier statement was constructive. He said that India should recognize the line of control as the international border and allow Islamabad to integrate the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) which is at present under the Pakistani army. In fact, Farooq has hit the hail on is head because both countries have clashed with each other often on the violation of the LoC.

Whatever their strategies or aspirations, the two sides should face the fact: the line of control is the international border. Both India and Pakistan have fought two wars in trying to resolve the border issue on their own. They cannot afford to have another war, particularly when both have nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has done well in allaying the fears of India on the Pathankot incident. He has asked for more details because probably he found the leads that have been provided by India are not adequate. He has done well in also detaining Masood Azhar who was also behind the Mumbai attacks.

It is a healthy development that the meeting of foreign secretaries was rescheduled and not cancelled altogether as was feared after the Pathankot attack. New Delhi also seems to appreciate the pressure under which Nawaz Sharif is functioning because the last word is still with the army. The Pakistan army chief’s importance can be seen from the fact that Nawaz Sharif carried him to Iran and Saudi Arabia for mediation between them.

I feel sad to see Nawaz Sharif giving an equal protocol to the army chief in every meeting that he attends. The tragedy in a third world country is that once the armed forces become a part of the government, they do not go back to the barracks.