he predominant Sunni Muslim leadership of Kashmir Valley has regularly sought to inspire Kashmiri masses to converge under the garb of Pan-Islamism and for this they have received support and subtle sustenance from Pakistan and other Islamic countries. Some have from the get go sought to create a niche and build a constituency within the radical elements. Some are believed to have remained amazing flip-floppers depending on whether they were in Delhi or in Srinagar. And most of these leaders behaved as secularists by conviction and therefore grew and grabbed appeal and sympathy at the national level, but later unfortunately morphed into communal satraps once their sheen was lost by their personal shortcomings.
The tallest of them all, Sheikh Mohd Abdullah converted Muslim Conference into National Conference to give it a secular, liberal and democratic complexion. His appeal spread in the state and around the country. Even National Congress and Pandit Nehru fell for his bait and charms and extended full moral political and logistic support to his movement of Quit Kashmir. After India achieved freedom in 1947 and Pakistan injected raiders and army regulars into Kashmir, the Sheikh stood against and came to be the virtual lord of Kashmir. But within the democratic and secular state of India he could not tailor this situation to meet his soaring political ambition of forever being the Emperor of Kashmir. So he started to find faults with the Indian system of secular democracy. The same Sheikh who had endorsed the Accession of the State with India on the grounds of political affinity, democratic and secular approximation started finding faults with the arrangement. In his famous speech at R.S.Pora in Jammu, he advocated secession from the Union of India on the rickety ground that Muslim majority of the Valley was not interested in continuing with India. He defended his advocacy on the grounds that since all rivers of the State were flowing and mountain chains were receding towards Pakistan, and so he could not go against the natural flow of things by compelling Muslims of Kashmir to remain with India. By extending this logic of the above argument Mainland China should have extended to India, Pakistan, Afganistan, Mayanmar and Korea and Vietnam. Even Europe should have consolidated into one State on the basis of the sane natural flow of geographical factors.
This was therefore the fall of a colossus of tall political stature to demagogy. After remaining in the wilderness for fifteen years, he came back as Chief Minister of the State on his committed stand for democracy, secularism and federalism. He achieved this position as a proxy of the National Congress which allowed him to head a Congress majority legislature in the State. Yet as soon as he was in power, he reverted to his Pan-Islamic propensities, again harping on ratification of the Accession of Kashmir with India. He advocated restoration of State’s autonomy which had already been rationalized by Kashmir’s elected Legislature in the interests of the development and welfare of the people of the State. He also wanted to freeze Article 370 into a permanent feature of the Constitution. This was more with the intent of embarrassing secular India and gaining international mileage besides placating Islamic fundamentalist forces that he was encouraging as a personal constituency after he came into power.
Moulvi Mohd Yousif Shah the great Kashmiri cleric and the great grand father of present day cleric Moulvi Umar Farooq nourished political ambitions with his clerical duties. He dreamt of a separate Muslim State for the Valley, which he thought was possible only after State’s accession to Pakistan, a theocratic Muslim State. On the creation of Pakistan he relocated to Pakistan, and was thereafter banished from his native place in Kashmir by Sheikh Abdullah for his political propensities. From Pakistan, he desired to shift back which was not his destiny. Personally it was a great tragedy for him, who was a believer in an un-democratic theocracy, otherwise was deemed to be a clean, decent and dignified cleric. Thus his fall from grace too was unfathomable.
The intellectual ideologue of National Conference and Chanakya Pandit of Sheikh Abdullah, Moulvi Mohd Sayeed was a shrewd political tactician who kept Sheikh Abdullah under leash whenever he would try to sway masses into an extreme position by increasing demagogic rhetoric. He knew that Kashmir’s links with India were firm and strong which could not be tampered with, yet he advised the Sheikh to maneuver to browbeat India and seek more and more privileges and concessions from it. His speeches were well measured and his briefings of the Sheikh were well nuanced. It was not ever possible to find fault with his handling of party and political affairs. He was therefore held in great esteem for his tenacity though he had no popular base. He was clever enough to keep himself away from the pelf of Party and Government. Though he never criticized Pakistan and its Agencies for fomenting trouble in Kashmir, still he fell to the bullets of Pakistani trained terrorists in 1990.
Mirza Mohd Afzal Begh was called the evil genius of the Sheikh and manipulated Sheikh’s moves by his diplomatic maneuvers. It is believed that it was he who prompted the Sheikh to float and run Plebiscite Front to mislead the people of the Valley and embarrass India on the international front, to win back political power. Though he enjoyed his status in India, he would play with the sentiments of the Kashmiri people by carrying in his pocket big pieces of rock salt, wrapped in green cloth. Kashmiris had a sentimental preference for rock salt which was smuggled into the valley from the mountains of Pakistan and green was the color of the Pakistani flag. This way he would play up with the sentiments of the people of the Valley without inviting the provisions of Enemy’s Act. He enjoyed all the rights and privileges in a democratic state like the right of freedom of speech and writing but against the virtues of the same Constitution he would censure and condemn others. He was adept enough to play with the sensitivities of the Muslims of the valley and thus did not play a positive role to bring Kasmiri Muslims into national mainstream. This was the greatest irony of this great man of the State, who was brilliant and sharp but for his jaundice against secular, democratic and federal India. His moves were subtle and deceiving. When he too was reinstated along with the Sheikh in 1975 he could not digest the dynastic ambitions of the Sheikh family and fell apart with him. He was humiliated in full public gaze and died a sad man’s death.
Bakshi Gulam Mohd was a veteran politician-administrator of the State. He is still considered to be the greatest builder of Kashmir. When he took over power after the Sheikh was removed, he was frustrated with the communal and parochial gimmicks of the Sheikh and introduced a reign of growth development and prosperity for the people of the State. People were highly elated with his style of functioning and governance. But unfortunately for him, like other Muslim leaders of the valley when he had to abdicate under Kamraj plan to remove the dross from the Indian Political System he took a sharp about turn. The politician who swore by Accession and the benefits it granted to the State was instigated to declare that Article 370 of the Constitution could be repudiated (the demands for which were raised in the State) only on his dead body. This was his last ditch effort to regain his lost sheen and placate pro-Pakistani elements in the Valley and sustain himself in the State’s politics.
After Bakshi Gulam Mohd it was the turn of Kh. G.M.Sadiq to come to power in the State. He was a statesman and was reported to be of secular, democratic and liberal caste. But he too erred in his assessment when he thought that Kashmiri Muslims needed special treatment and reservation to achieve equal playing field with the remaining citizens of India, thereby created means to prevent their integration in the national mainstream. He willfully forgot that besides Kashmiri Muslims there were other segments of the society like Hindu Dogras, Kashmiri Pandits, Ladakhi Buddhists, Shia Muslims and Sikhs who were being discriminated against. He did not even want to handle Parmeshawary (Kashmiri Pandit girl’s) forceful conversion case that rocked the civil society during his regime with a firm hand because he did not want to displease his Muslim majority vote bank. Extreme elements in this vote bank sought to make a point by legalizing a forceful conversion in full public gaze of a Kashmiri Pandit Hindu girl to Islam. He too fell to the machinations of Islamic fundamentalist forces in the Valley, which was never expected of him.
After the death of the Sheikh, the succession was manipulated to be passed on to his maverick son Dr. Farooq Abdullah, though there were other claimants from the ruling National Conference. Since he was erratic and flamboyant, his regime was a period of chaos and non governance in which some vested political and bureaucratic interests flourished and ruled the roost. He neglected his legitimate duties and started spending more time on the beaches of Europe thus allowing the rot in the governance to persist and spread. When people got frustrated by his misrule, he also started to whip up the dead horse of Article 370 and autonomy for the state. He attributed all his failures to the tension in Centre-State relations, which he created himself. He wanted to appoint the Chief Justice, Chief Secretary and the D.G.Police of the State himself against the standing national practice and norms. By such acts of challenge to the Central Govt he wanted to please and incite his Muslim vote bank. This way he wanted to confuse Muslims of the Valley so that he would not be rejected for his gross failures on the front of able governance. It was he who presided over the total surrender of state power to terrorists and liquidation of state machinery to fundamentalist militancy. In the first such surrender, he ordered the release of 100 militants nabbed by the state police, which led to further spread of militancy in the State and humiliation of the administration. This he did in order to endear himself and his National Conference to the Muslim fundamentalist forces of the Valley. He objected to the execution of Maqbool Bhat who was sentenced to death for murder after due process of law. For his political survival Dr. Farooq who is presently the patron of National Conference has now declared his unstinting support for Ahad Guroo’s clemency on the ground that if he is executed it could ignite national disaster, as did the execution of Maqbool Bhat a decade ago. As two times Chief Minister of the State Dr. Farooq need not be told that the State should not falter before brutal criminals, especially when they have been charged and convicted under due process of law. What prompted Dr. Farooq to advocate thus is not far to seek. He too like other Kashmiri Muslim leaders wants to keep militants and terrorists in good humor so that they compensate him in the coming elections.
Moulvi Umar Farooq was the grandson of Moulvi Yousef Shah and a contemporary of Dr. Farooq. Besides being the high cleric of the Valley he too dabbled in local politics. He doubled with Dr. Farooq to pester the Centre and the ruling National Congress with the theory of Pan-Islamism. But he could not cut much ice even in the city of Srinagar because his influence was restricted to some parts of the downtown only. He was known to waver and believed to be lacking consistency. In his hobnobbing he could not maintain his balance and unfortunately fell to the bullets of Pakistani trained terrorists in 1990.
To be continued -