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Change of Era – 4

Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah was a product of Aligarh Muslim University and acquired an M.Sc. degree in 1930. AMU, as the University is popularly known, had been a center, cultivating and nurturing the sentiments of Separatism in the youth. It was the birthplace of the ideologue of ‘Muslim Nationalism’, ‘Islamic misogyny’, and ‘Creation of Pakistan’. After stepping out of Aligarh Muslim University, Shaikh was appointed as the Science Professor in a Government High School of Srinagar, where he began his political activism.

Shaikh Abdullah was never keen on pursuing a teaching job and it was just a sustaining space to build his political support system.

Maharaja Hari Singh was coronated on 23rd September 1925, as the last ruler of Kashmir, of undivided British India. The new Maharaja of state initiated some amendments on his own accord and a few, under the pressure of the British Government. The amendment was based on the statue of 1924 and 1927.

Maharaja Hari Singh was appointed as the President of the Chamber of Princes and participated in the Round Table Conference, in London in 1931. He had addressed the issue of independence to Bharat and in no uncertain terms, had spoken about ‘Full & Complete Independence’. This announcement had been a rude and pulsating shock to the British Indian Government, as their policy of demeaning the sovereignty of Bharatiya kings, appointing a British regent in their kingdom, hence acquiring the control of the governance and keeping the king as a puppet, would be tarnished. 

The British, to suppress the growing awareness and sentiments for independence, adopted the divide and rule policy. They injected the poison of ill-will and the animosity re-surfaced between the two communities, Hindu and Muslim.

Kashmir, being the region with a high Muslim population, Maharaja’s expression created devastation of their dreams, and the then British administration began the search for an impactful Muslim leader, who could be planted to stand against the Maharaja. 

Shaikh Abdullah was one such youth activist and the British implanted the responsibility of igniting the air, that would demean the popularity of the Maharaja, demolish his base, and eventually decimate his existence.

Shaikh Abdullah quit his job and full-fledged engrossed himself in accomplishing this mission. He began inflaming the Muslim youth against the Maharaja.

As Dr. Gaurinath Rastogi mentions in “Hamara Kashmir”- “He (Shaikh) was sacked from the government service due to unscrupulous conduct. As for being nurtured at Aligarh Muslim University, he already had inflicted seeds of bigotry, within him but such incidences added petrol to the flame. He was fuming with hatred against Maharaja and he began plotting to an ablaze religious frenzy. British diplomacy was locating for someone just like him.”

Shaikh Abdullah combusted a fiery movement with demands for reservation for Muslims in Government jobs, their share in the administration, and religious freedom. The Mosques turned into places for political and social activism rather than peaceful and serene places of worship as constant venomous and fiery addresses continued.

Gopinath Shrivastava has narrated an interesting but heartbreaking incident in ‘Kashmir’ – ” A Muslim named Abdul Kadir had visited Kashmir, as a cook for European traveler. He too got involved in the movement by Shaikh and delivered a seditious and sensitive address in a meeting organized at ShahHumdaan on 21 June 1931. He was arrested and brought to Srinagar Central Jail. Around four to five thousand people gathered outside the jail premises and demanded the case against Kadir be relinquished. The crowd, in delirium and fury, cut off the barbed wire. The police had to fire, to control the hysterical mob.

The communal tensions ascended when the unfortunate twenty-one deceased bodies were paraded. In reaction, the shops of Hindus were looted and three Hindu shopkeepers were assassinated. 

The cordial relations between Hindus and Muslims were thus polluted bitterly.  Maharaja formed a committee led by Chief Justice but the Muslims boycotted it. The number of youth, educated in Lahore and Aligarh had returned to the state with new political and social awareness and awakening.

Shaikh Abdullah was one of them and in 1932, a political organization, named Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, was founded and Abdullah was appointed as the first president.  Its first public meeting was held on 14,15,16th October 1932.

Their significant objective was to thrive for the Economic, Social, and Cultural upliftment of Muslims to ensure their larger share in Civil services and army jobs. The entire Kashmir was burning but one person benefitted immensely from this dispute.

He was Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah.

24th September was Maharaja HariSinh ‘s birthday. The entire city of Srinagar was beaming with lights. The occasion was being celebrated by Hindus and Muslims alike but this affability was not accepted by Shaikh Abdullah. He considered it a threat to his political existence, hence he decided to hamper the exhilaration. He directed the members of the Muslim Reading Room, a party initiated by himself to create chaos by stone pelting the procession, two days before the birthday. They looted the houses of Hindus and damaged Jiya Laal Kalim’s home. The army was deployed at Mirpur and other affected areas. Thus, Shaikh was successful in devastating the festivities of the Maharaja’s celebration. 

His major objective was to ignite the Muslim community and eventually, dethrone Kashmir’s Hindu king and to re-coronate the Islamic rule in the state.

As mentioned in Dr. H L Saxena’s book, “The tragedy of Kashmir”, “The significant activities in this meeting, was that neither President Sheikh Abdullah nor anyone else spoke a word about the atrocities incurred on Hindus, in Srinagar or Mirpur. In fact, they demanded the removal of the deployed army, which would enable complete demolition of Hindus.”

The address by Shaikh and other leaders of the ‘Jammu&Kashmir Muslim Conference’ had escalated the communal tension in the state. Shaikh was fearing his imprisonment, hence he went absconding and hid in some place in Punjab. He returned after a month when the fire had subsided and the atmosphere was quiet.

But, Shaikh would not want peace and began taking out communal processions as well as giving inflammatory orations. 

Maharaja attempted to communicate and convince Shaikh Abdullah through his Home Minister Vajaahat Hussain and the British representative in Kashmir, Colonel Calvin but Shaikh hid the truth and presented a false narrative, in front of them. Home Minister Vajaahat Hussain advised Maharaja to immediately arrest Shaikh, but in prior delusion about the arrest, he again escaped and stayed in hiding, in Lahore and such safe destinations.

He returned four months later. By then his bigotry conduct had worsened the situation and a large section of the Muslim community had risen against the Maharaja, already.

Sources of Information :

हमारी भूलोका स्मारक : धर्मांतरित कश्मीर

नरेन्द्र सहगल

कश्मीर : दहकते अंगारे

जगमोहन जी

जम्मू कश्मीर की अनकही कहानियां

कुलदीप चंद अग्निहोत्री

Kashmir : Behind The Vale

M J Akbar

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