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Defending The Indefensible

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

By Z G Muhammad

On 13 and 14 April 2019, GK published a two-part article, ‘In Defence of Sheikh Abdullah’ by  B.R. Singh a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer. Besides having served as Principal Secretary to former Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah for about six years, in the bureaucratic circles, he is known for his nearness with his former boss? Timing chosen for writing three thousand four words long article in defence of Sheikh Sahib intrigued a more significant section of the readers of the newspaper.   

Sheikh Sahib is a past phenomenon relegated to the pages of history. Nonetheless, history has judged his ‘Faustian contracts’. And the verdict is markedly manifest in the political uncertainty that the state has been passing through for past seventy years. More than half a million people have been consumed during the period. It has been but for one after another wrong decision at the right moments since 1937, that in the eyes of comity nations Kashmir has become ‘most dangerous place in the world’ and a ‘nuclear flashpoint in South Asia.   Despite, some friends on social media prompting me to respond to the article of the former bureaucrat, I chose to ignore it; a write-up or two cannot demolish the stark historical realities. Did BG Verghese’s widely circulated press council report on Kunan-Posh Pora titled ‘Crisis and Credibility’ dissolve the story? It did not. Thirty years after, it more powerfully haunts the public discourse than it did at the time of gruesome happening.

Nonetheless, like many other ‘statist narratives’ orchestrated for perpetuating the hegemonic discourse, the overwhelming majority was not ready to accept cock and bull story of the former aide of Farooq Abdullah in defence of SMA. It was more than evident on popular social media sites when Ajaz-ul-Haque take on the former bureaucrat’s article was published in the newspaper. Scores of people on Facebook shared the column. Hundreds commented on it on the microblog Twitter and the social network Facebook. Except for a few scions of the family and some beneficiaries, Ajaz’s column received an overwhelming approbation. On June 14 2019, the newspaper carried another article, ‘Refuting the Narrativists” by ex-Principal Secretary to Dr Farooq Abdullah in response to Ajaz-ul-Haque’s column. In his response to Ajaz’s piece, he has made yet another attempt to defend the former chief minister of the state and blame the columnist’ of distorting history.  Ajaz’s column is thoroughly grounded in history, and it needs no defence, in six hundred words write up, no author could produce exact quotes from the archives to substantiate his point of view.  Equally, he was not writing an academic paper that draws its strength from footnotes or endnotes.

In this column, it may not be possible to answer in detail to question raised by the about Ajaz’s take by reverting to the various source material. Nonetheless, I will briefly mention some historical facts that debunk takes of the former bureaucrat.  He questions Ajaz take on inexcusable silence observed by Sheikh Abdullah on the massacre of Muslims. In defence of Sheikh, he writes that he complained to Nehru about Meher Chand Mahajan. On 30 October 1947, SMA took over as Emergency Administrator on October 6, 1947, thirty trucks loaded with Muslims instead of Suchetgarh were taken to Samba, and asked to disembark from the vehicles. They were fired at close range, killing hundreds of them. And these organised gruesome killings continued for many days when SMA was in the saddle.  Besides, Ian Stephens, many European historians have documented the Jammu holocaust. Authors have documented many eyewitness accounts that tell terrifying stories. Abdullah taking pride in his appointment as Chief Emergency Administrator in his autobiography writes, “Since 1846, the state had 28 Prime Ministers, but I was the first Kashmiri Muslim to have been appointed to the position”. While Muslims were being butchered in Jammu, the Emergency Administration was rejoicing, and a department had been created for arranging theatrical shows and other celebrations.’ (The Blazing Chinar p 301).   Sheikh Abdullah had no love for Jammu Muslims; instead, he nursed a grouse against them, and he had no interest in protecting their lives. Krishan Dev Sethi, then a senior leader of the National Conference from Jammu (living on date) in his memoirs, recalls it:

 “That Pandit Moti Ram Baghra and I visited Sheikh Abdullah and requested him to stop sending leftover Muslims of Jammu to Pakistan, to maintain demography and secular fabric of the city.  Sheikh Sahib lost his temper at our request and questioned us when did Jammu Muslims recognise me as their leader, why should I bother about them. His answer left us to shell shocked”. Sethi also mentions how he ensured exile of Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas and Allah Rakha Sagar.’ (Yad-i-Rafta p 36-37).  

Author of the column, ‘In defence of SMA’ questions Ajaz take on the conversions of the Muslim Conference into the National Conference. That it was a unanimous decision of the Muslim Conference is a blatant lie, how and why cannot be explained in a paragraph. History testifies that it was not an indigenous decision, but a game plane Jawaharlal Nehru executed through Sheikh Abdullah. In 1937 Nehru deputed K.M. Ashraf, a Marxist historian to Kashmir and asked him to campaign for the Indian National Congress. On the instruction of Nehru, he stayed back in Kashmir for mass contact and ‘delivered several speeches in favour of nationalism and joint action by Hindu Muslims.’  “That the movement in Kashmir would be “patterned after the Indian National Congress,   Nehru and Abdullah reached an agreement at Peshawar in January 1938. Nehru used the services of Prime Minister Sir   Gopalaswami Ayyanger to translate the agreement into reality. Ayyanger suppressed all opposing voices, (Rashid Taseer, Prof. Khan and Bazaz have documented it in detail).  Munshi Muhammad Ishaq, one of the closest associates of Sheikh Abdullah in his memoirs published posthumously admits ‘that Ayyanger was involved behind the scene in the creation of the National Conference and he was a supporter of the Congress. (Nidaa-e-Haque p 124). In convincing   Chaudhary Abbas and other Muslim Conference leaders Abdullah kept his colleagues dark about his agreement with Nehru and other Congress leaders. C  In the words of Chitralekha Zutshi, “True to his word, Abdullah remained pro-Congress in ideology and politics for the remainder of his political career in pre-1947 Kashmir. (Language p 250)

History is replete with instances about SMA   keeping his senior party in the dark about his activities. On September 29, 1947, when he was released from Jail, he feigned ignorance about reasons behind his release, when he was fully aware of it, that it had happened after another Faustian agreement with the Indian National Congress. He did not inform people about his correspondence and meetings with the Congress leaders. He did not inform them about his meetings with Dr Chapara, Secretary to the Maharaja and two letters he 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 to Sardar Patel about the release of Abdullah besides explaining reasons about his release also exposes the hidden agenda that unfolded on October 27, 1947.

History reveals itself; it is not subservient to expediencies and whims and fancies of the individuals.    Published in Greater Kashmir on 24 June 2019

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