Symposium on Allama Iqbal

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Book Review by Ajay K. Mehra

THE PARCHMENT OF KASHMIR: History, Society and Polity, Edited by Nyla Ali Khan, 262 pp. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. $85.

This collection of nine essays divided into five parts and glued together by an editorial Introduction, brings analytical reflections from as many Jammu and Kashmir scholars, which is parched in every sense of the word since decolonization of the subcontinent. In a brief but succinct Introduction, the editor, who herself belongs to the political ‘first family’ of the state, highlights difficulties of academically comprehending and grasping the phenomenon Kashmir and creating an understanding of this ‘simple complexity’ amongst future generations.

She highlights the multifaceted impact of this perpetual conflict on society in general and on women and children in particular and on generations to come. She refers to ‘Kashmiriyat’ as the multi-cultural spirit of coexistence and foundational strength of Kashmir. However, with most of the minority Kashmiri Pundits exiled to different parts of the country due to the xenophobic politics of terror pursued by some and the Government of India bumbling through available options, there is a communal divide that discussions on the two other parts of this three-part state – Jammu and Ladakh – cannot and must not escape. Essays in this volume combine personal experience as well as academic analysis. Naturally, the arguments arise from a mix of history, political developments, social consequences of conflict and victimhood.

No discussion on Kashmir can begin, let alone be complete, without an understanding of the construction of this identity over centuries, creating a multi-cultural salad bowl of Islamic, Saivic, Sufi and Buddhist ideals – concern of the first section in the book containing two essays by Mohammad Ishaq Khan and Rattan Lal Hangloo, both historians. Khan weaves an absorbing narrative of Kashmir from his birth and childhood to growing up, where personal differences did not turn into communal rivalries, despite a discriminatory Dogra rule, to its gradual slide into the politics of ‘jihad’, which was not part of its syncretic cultural ethos described as Kashmiriyat. Resulting securitization of J&K has brought in its wake not merely persistent inconvenience, but also indignities of a quotidian nature, which make any official claim of eerie normalcy hollow. Yet, Khan concludes on a positive note: ‘Notwithstanding banal attempts at distorting Islam and Kashmiriyat for sustaining the battered mainstream ideologies of India and Pakistan, still a vast potential underlies with my experience with Islam and history for the development of a realistic and practical approach to the crisis of identity politics in Jammu and Kashmir.’

Hangloo’s interrogation of Kashmiriyat, a concept that has ‘gained currency’ with armed insurgency despite fuzzy conceptual clarity and empirical reality, explores its various manifestations. Used mainly to underline communal harmony, multiculturalism, and the inter-community tolerance and coexistence, academic explorations of Kashmiriyat combine its roots in ‘homeland’ (kashir) and common speech (koshur) as well as similar customs and practices (T.N. Madan) and as ‘the gradual outcome of mutual adaptation the various pre-Islamic religious traditions and great tradition of Islam’ (M.I. Khan). What has been described as ‘a hotchpotch’ of various ideologies and anti-Islam by Islamist Suhail Showkeen, emerges simultaneously as a civilizational/cultural concept and a political project, which was distorted due to various streams of political rule, more particularly ‘by the fabrication in the mid-nineteenth century of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, a Hindu polity and its intrusion into the cultural life of the people of the Valley’. Hangloo brings out contradictions seeping into this civilisational concept, rather way of life, that has pervaded the people and the society over centuries with the arrival in the valley of people from a variety of civilisational streams, as different political projects took shape. He identifies the Dogra rule, the Indo-Pak conflict, India’s nation building assimilation project and militancy, which brought in several and severe cracks in the edifice of Kashmiriyat. His narrative also highlights that for some Islam is the cornerstone of Kasmiriyat, though he does not say it, but that does bring in paradox of a coloured vision that impacts syncretism as well as lends artificiality to the concept that has been promoted essentially to bring unity and peace.
Two chapters in the second section ‘Cultural Syncretism and Deconstruction of a Monolithic Culture’ complement the discussion on Kashmiriyat in the previous. In an attempt to identify the predominant spiritual tradition of Kashmir M.H. Zaffar attempts to outline how Saiv, Buddhist and Sufi traditions were interpreted by the Muslims and the Pundits; the same deity getting different names and continuing to be integral part of cultural lives of the syncretic society. Neerja Mattoo complements Zaffar’s arguments in her opening sentence: ‘As a Kashmiri Pandit woman growing up in Kashmir in the 1940s and 1950s, I was never aware of any difference between Muslim or Sikh girls of the same social class and me, either in the neighbourhood or in school And college.’ She demonstrates more substantially through her analysis of the practices of Saivism, Buddhism and Sufi Islam as well as compositions of legends such as Sheikh Nuruddin Wali/Nund Rishi, Lal Ded/Laleshwari (for Muslims and Hindus respectively) religio-cultural syncretism in Kashmir. These were further followed in the compositions of mystic Aziz Darvesh (d. 1819), Sufi mystic Shah Ghafoor (d. 1850), Rupa Bhawani (1625-1721), Khwaja Habibibullah Nowshera, Shams Faqir (1843-1904), who bridge couple of centuries, that seamlessly sang peans of the almighty weaving the traditions of both the religions without prejudice.

Part III of the collection debates ‘Conceptualization of Sovereignty, Democratic Governance, and Regional Stability’ with three essays. Noor Ahmad Baba’s essay ‘Demorcacy and Governance in Kashmir’ situates Kashmir’s problematique in the triangle of India, Pakistan and the international community – while India and Pakistan spar over the state, the international community’s perspective too does not factor in the people of this disputed region. Naturally, ‘the conflict has not allowed normal politics to function in the state(.)’, deprived the people ‘of a functioning democracy’ and ‘politically dispossessed’ community has further suffered lack of a normal existence, ‘rule of law’ and lived under the shadow of special security laws such as Public Security Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act as well as incompatible coexistence of democratic process and the military. Weaving his arguments through political development, which have been tempestuous to say the least, Baba argues how even democratic measures such as Panchayati Raj have failed and political leadership too has been ineffective.

Gul Mohammad Wani traces ‘Political Assertion of Kashmiri Identity’, by putting the politico-economic deprivation of Kashmiris in the historical context – 1586 when Kashmir came under the Mughal control and 1846 when the valley was sold by the British to Dogra Maharaja Gulab Singh for a paltry Rs. 75 lakhs (this has been repeated by many authors). Taking a detour of Kashmir’s political history in situating Sheikh Abdullah’s secular politics symbolizing the spirit of Kashmiriyat and post-1953 politics, which eventually reached a situation of rebellion in 1989 that apart from other things created a chasm between the majority Muslims and minority Pundits of the valley, he finds the future of Kashmir bound and constrained by contemporary geopolitics: ‘What the days hold for Kashmiri aspirations depends on largely uncontrollable regional developments, and on the strength of Kashmiris’ own movement for the assertion of their rights.’

Rekha Chowdhary is brief, succinct and objective in exploring contestations between the Indian and Kashmiri nationalisms, which has vexed the subcontinental and India’s national politics since independence. She situates the complexity in conflict on the ‘statist’ and ‘territorial’ model, which is resolvable in ‘the recognition of cultural diversity’ and ‘political divergence’. She critiques the Indian nationalist perspective, which has undermined ‘plurality’ and ‘centrality of people’. Analyzing the complex history of the state in the wake of decolonization, her assay succinctly delineates multiple political trends that impacted J&K politics at that time – a movement for liberation from the Dogra rule, its linkages with the Indian national movement, the emergence of religious nationalism in the valley, the politics of partition and emergence of two nation states, the dilemma between independence and joining either India or Pakistan, circumstances of accession to India and the intricate developments since, land reforms and its impact in the state (more particularly the valley). The most sinuous set of developments indeed were the situating of the state in the Indian model of asymmetrical federalism with Article 370 of the Indian Constitution granting J&K autonomy and special status with its own Constitution, only Indian state to have such a privilege. These are what make the Kashmir issue what I call a ‘simple complexity’.

In Bashir Ahmed Dabla’s sociological exploration, the most controversial aspect is the assertion on demographic manipulation by the Government of India. A table (p. 190) showing a steady decline of the Muslim population in the census data that from 80 percent in 1941 to 62.5 percent in 2001. The corroboration of this contention are a reported statement of ‘the chief minister of the state at that time’, i.e., 1980s, (sic!) and a reported statement by a Union minister during the NDA rule in the 1990s (which only means 1998 and 1999) admitting that the Government of India was in touch with Israel government for ‘demographic orchestration’ (191). Both these contentions are supported either with his own publications, or reports from Kashmiri newspapers; obviously both are weak empirically. He has ignored the demographic change in the valley due to the exodus of the Pundits, whatever the factors, which should have been analysed objectively because it is integral to the conflict. The second part of his chapter succinctly brings out the pathos and suffering of a society growing in conflict – family, women (more particularly), exploitation of women, men (youth in particular), education and unemployment, victimisation and so on. Though analytically weak, this part shows that conflict has had both quotidian and enduring impacts and the scars would not go away easily.
Hameeda Naeem, an academic and human rights activist, highlights ‘the politics of exclusion in Kashmir’ from two perspectives. First, the syllabi at all the levels of education has acquired a dominant perspective – she is perhaps referring to ‘official’ Indian perspectives that would be referred officially as national perspective – where generations in the valley have been growing ‘rootless’, i.e., without much knowledge about Kashmir. Second, any academic or activist from the valley invited to any international forum to present a perspective on Kashmir is haunted, right from landing at the airport to return to the valley. Tragic indeed, the second one is an avoidable impact of the enduring conflict in the state. The first would need a more engaging treatment in looking at the school and higher education separately and an assessment whether at each school level the state perspective is not allowed at all, or whether instead of complete autonomy of bringing in state perspective, a national majoritarian perspective with the approval of the Union government is allowed. This would need a further qualification, whether she means the state, or the valley!

This useful contribution to the study of the world’s among the most enduring conflict zones, is not easy to critique. It appears to have been designed to look at the society and politics of Kashmir with objective subjectivity, i.e., the handpicked authors have been asked to look at the issues at stake as Kashmiris. Though Rekha Chowdhary is from Jammu and not an ethnic Kashmiri, the focus is on the valley and not on the state, as if the conflict as well as the controversial contestation over the state has not affected other components and ethnicities of this multi-component, multi-ethnic state. Not unexpectedly, most essays, leaving aside Mohammad Ishaq Khan, Hangloo, Mattoo and Rekha Chowdhary, are more subjective than objective and do not give a holistic picture of the state and in highlighting the pathos of the valley and its people are repetitive in their narrative of the history, even issues. Islam, Muslims and Kashmir emerge as major foci, but are the Muslims in the state homogenetic? Is the conflict situated only in the valley? Where do the Muslims of the border areas, who face dusk to dawn curfew due to cross border firing and other difficulties due to counter insurgency activities figure in this analysis? How to situate the debate on J&K’s autonomy or azadi; is it only about Kashmir, or about other territories and people too? Where do they figure on the debate on self-determination?

Obviously, the volume would have done better in being holistic, bringing in issues beyond the valley; for it is a collective suffering. To the extent that the valley’s intelligentsia looks at J&K as a unit, the analysis and projected solutions too have to emerge in unison. It is nonetheless a useful addition to the discourse on Kashmir.

Ajay K. Mehra
Honorary Director, Centre for Public Affairs, Noida

Published in the Book Review Literary Trust

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Book Review by Alpana Sharma

The Parchment of Kashmir gathers together a wide range of essays on the subject of Kashmir. It is a compelling and stimulating book for a number of reasons. First, it interrelates a range of disciplines from political science and sociology to history, philosophy, and English. Second, it is produced by academics, all of whom are based in Jammu and Kashmir. Third, because these essays are written by scholars who are intimate with Kashmir, yet have not had an opportunity to be read outside of local circles, the book gives them a readership that they otherwise wouldn’t have; but readers themselves also benefit because the essays provide them with a view that is genuine and local and that otherwise would have been obscured.

The book comprises an introduction and nine chapters, each authored by different scholars. Therefore, it seems appropriate to structure this review according to their separate contributions. As with any such collection of essays, there is, of course, an element of repetition. But, broadly speaking, the essays follow a chronological trajectory, passing from the personal, through the spiritual, to the practical, and then back to the personal. The book is demarcated by sections which group the essays under such subjects as identity and Kashmiriyat, cultural syncretism, sovereignty and democratic governance, conflict, and knowledge production.

Nyla Ali Khan, the editor, who currently teaches at the University of Oklahoma and has written extensively on Kashmir (most recently, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan, Tulika Books, 2009; Palgrave Macmillan, 2010; Gulshan Books, 2011), begins her Introduction with a general look at Kashmir, focusing next upon issues of history, nation, culture, and misfortune. Noteworthy is Khan’s insistence on the heterogeneity of Kashmiri identity and history, her refusal to sentimentalize aspects of cultural loss (such as the loss of Kashmiriyat), and her emphasis on ‘analyses of subjectivity’, which makes possible her own emphasis on women’s roles and identity in the context of cultural and political upheaval. In Khan’s words: ‘Narrative structures in this work are constituted by the variables of race, gender, education, marital status, social class, and nationality, which generate complex conventions and relations of power’ (p. 7). The result of this diversity of personal and ideological backgrounds is a richness that cannot be reduced to a monolithic truth about Kashmir.

The first chapter, ‘Evolution of my identity vis-à-vis Islam and Kashmir’, by Mohammad Ishaq Khan, provides an effective opening by examining personal identity and opinions in the historical environment of Kashmir. Most important, key terms are introduced, including Kashmiriyat, jihad, rishis, Sufis, and azadi. All are examined from the personal viewpoint so that, for example, jihad is thought of as the war against one’s baser self. The essay concludes with an appeal to the higher, unifying logic of spiritual nonviolence.

Continuing the discussion of Kashmiriyat, the second essay, ‘Kashmiriyat: The Voice of the Past Misconstrued’, by Rattan Lal Hangloo, historicizes this ethos of Kashmiriness, viewing it not merely as a concept but as a many-layered, syncretic cultural and secular institution. This essay is, in many ways, the most fundamental contribution in that it examines Kashmiriyat in detail, its development and change over time. Hangloo views Kashmiriyat as unique to Kashmir as a result of geography, ecology, religion, and culture, although it has imbibed influences from neighbours. He concludes with a useful discussion of the partial erosion of Kashmiriyat in terms of diaspora and the geopolitics of the Cold War.

Chapter three builds upon the previous contribution in that it examines both Muslim and Hindu approaches to Kashmiriyat. But M.H. Zaffar’s inspirational essay on the spiritual nature of Kashmir prioritizes ‘an un-indoctrinated folk approach’ (p. 71) as it looks in turn at Buddhism, Saivism, and Sufism. The whole is further enlightened by wonderful selections from the poetry of Lal-Ded and Nund Rishi.

Neerja Mattoo’s essay complements Zaffar’s in bringing the Sufi and Saiva traditions together as a symbiotic entity. Mattoo discusses the poetry of Lal-Ded, Nund Rishi, Shah Ghafoor, and Rupa Bhavani to show how the Muslim and Hindu mystical traditions fuse to form a common worship of the Divine.

The following four chapters take a pragmatic turn, beginning with Noor Ahmad Baba’s ‘Democracy and Governance in Kashmir’, which introduces the more practical elements in an examination of democracy and government. In the conflict between two states over governance, the Kashmir Valley in particular has suffered, leaving a politically bereft community and laying waste to the potential of a true democracy, defined here as ‘the empowerment of people, ensuring rule of law and guaranteeing rights and securities fundamental for living a good life’ (p. 106). Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s re-election in 1975 paved the way for decentralization through local governance with the adoption of the Panchayati Raj Act of 1989; unfortunately, these sound initiatives were squandered as the Jammu and Kashmir region grew increasingly militant and divisive. The key point made by Baba is that there are not simply two states that are involved; this simplistic view completely disregards the will of the people and produces politico-institutional distortions.

Gull Mohammad Wani’s essay, ‘Political Assertion of Kashmiri Identity, follows naturally from Baba’s while taking up the thread begun by Hangloo on the subject of identity politics. Wani clarifies that the issues lie essentially between people, not in people. The idea of community is traced through history, from 1585 onward, and illustrates the gradual elimination of the Kashmiri self. Particular attention is paid to the spirit of nationalism and the drive for self-determination in the face of foreign aggression and oppression, and the secular ideology of Kashmiriyat is understood as the core element of Kashmiris, such as was embodied in the 1950s political mobilization led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Wani argues that the distinct identity of the Kashmiris is rooted in history and culture, but it also includes variables such as geography, economic viability, and iconography. While such a view has been inhibited by the differing thought processes of India and Pakistan and held back by global geopolitics, the essay remains optimistic about the prospects for regional governance.

Chapter seven investigates in more detail the historical links between Kashmiri and Indian nationalisms. These were not inimical in their aims – agrarian reform being one of the binding factors, secular democracy being another. However, over time and, in particular, with the ousting of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1953, the two came into conflict; Kashmir then became India’s ‘national interest’ and thus the two nationalisms became antagonistic. Of note in the essay is Rekha Chowdhary’s urging readers to consider what is left out of forms of nationalism that are univocal and monolithic: the will of the people themselves in all of their cultural diversity and genuine heterogeneity.

Bashir Ahmed Dabla’s essay, ‘Sociological Dimensions and Implications of the Kashmir Problem’, develops many of these ideas from the sociological viewpoint. Commendable is Dabla’s inclusion of his own personal experiences of the trauma and ravages wrought by the state of militarization and militancy in Kashmir. His premise is that Kashmiri identity is distinctive, affected by a wide range of factors including religion, ideology, politics, economics, sociology, culture, and psychology. With the active participation of academics, the distinctive Kashmiri perspective has been highlighted and reinforced by the growth of militancy. The author recognizes four phases over recent history: one, Kashmiri national fervour and progressive reforms; two, ambiguous democracy; three, mass election rigging; four, the insurrection of Kashmiri youth. Following this is a discussion on a range of broadly sociological problems, including demographic manipulation, economic backwardness, educational backwardness, violence against women, deviance and crime, and the effects of all of these, including discrimination against Kashmiris, cultural deprivation, mental and physical deterioration, corruption and militancy. Dabla concludes that there is a desperate need for social programmes and, in fact, complete social rehabilitation.

The book closes with a moving personal account of the politics of exclusion enforced by the Indian hegemonic state. From an early age, writes Hameeda Naeem, ‘I got passionately involved in thinking about the fate of my homeland, which paradoxically seemed to be my own, and yet very alien’ (p. 214). An education in postcolonial theory exposed Naeem to the politics of knowledge construction and the ideological functioning of the state, the manner in which the state coerced or manufactured consent to its regulation of every aspect of human life. Gross brutalities carried out by the Indian Army against people for demanding basic civic rights, several of whom included the author’s own family, galvanized Naeem into political activism. Not only the repressive forces of the government but the public media – ‘analyses of television debates; the invited panelists; write-ups in the national English and vernacular papers, magazines, and reports from the government agencies; and …reporting on the conflict by the national media’ (p. 220) – too bear responsibility for distorting facts and silencing minority voices. As a result, the history of Kashmir, both past and present, stands severely diminished, and children are brought up ‘almost rootless’ (p. 221).

In all, this collection of essays is a compelling tribute to the need for genuine democracy for Kashmir, one that will account for all of its voices, religions, languages, histories, and traditions. One must believe that the sharing of such views with other scholars, particularly in the Indian subcontinent, will produce some movement, if barely perceptible, towards a fuller understanding and a possible settlement of the Kashmir issue. Furthermore, the book provides an instructive framework for both theoreticians and practitioners who work on global minority issues which bears some resemblance to that of Kashmir. An obvious example which springs to mind and is located in at least four states is that of the Kurds. In Iraq, there is a clear Kurdish history, identity, and perspective and at the present time efforts are being made to delimit a boundary to the Kurdish area which takes into account the variables discussed in this book. The Parchment of Kashmir is a step in the direction toward a broader, yet deeper, knowledge of Kashmir as told by Kashmiris. More than this: to read its parchment is an invitation to extend our social and ethical thinking.

Alpana Sharma
Wright State University, Dayton

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Bridge Builders in the Kashmir Conflict

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Understanding Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah

The annoying salvos and barbs hurled by the honchos of the PDP and the NC at one another don’t interest me, nor are they intellectually stimulating. What I do find particularly ridiculous and pathetic, to say the least, are the constant and untiring efforts of Mufti saheb’s daughter and her coterie to deploy jujitsu and irrational belligerence to gain credibility. I would venture to say that some educated Kashmiris might appreciate a sparring match between the living honchos of the two regional organizations, which could even provide amusement. And perhaps, Geelani saheb’s Hurriyat would enjoy taking pot shots as well! But for a seasoned politician like Mufti saheb to acquiesce to the repeated and absurd diatribes unleashed against Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah by his delirious cohort is ridiculous. I’m sure he has a greater sense of history than the rest of the lot! Politics isn’t just about delivering harangues and giving vent to venomous rage! Politics shouldn’t be, in an ideal world, about befuddling the masses! It is so easy to make criticisms without careful thought and aim them at a handy target! Nothing easier than demonizing someone who died thirty years ago!

Over the years, especially the past two decades, the propagandist machines of various pressure groups, political organizations, and the well-funded machines of the Governments of Pakistan and India have been working overtime to discredit and vilify Sheikh Abdullah. It is unfortunate that after his untimely death even the NC could not preserve his real ideology and willingly allowed it to be ripped to pieces. I am also distressingly aware of the atrocities inevitably inflicted on such idealism as Sheikh saheb’s, particularly by nation-states that, by their nature, do not brook opposition. Through his idealism, or because of it, Sheikh saheb sought to “appeal to friends in India and Pakistan to understand our misery, to know our agony and not withhold from me and the people of the state [Jammu and Kashmir] the warmth of the human heart” (Abdullah 17).

Having been raised in a world polarized between India and Pakistan in which Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s espousal of the right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and his opposition to the two-nation theory had made him persona non grata in the two young nation-states, respectively, I was intrigued and taken aback to see a validation of his courage in the face of adversity from an unlikely source, Sardar Ibrahim Khan. Sardar Ibrahim Khan was President of Pakistan Administered “Azad” Kashmir from 1947 to 1950, 1957 to 1959, and 1975 to 1977. In his book published in 1965, Khan did not dither in eulogizing Abdullah,

“. . . Sheikh Abdullah suffered incarceration for more than ten years. In these sufferings he bore insult and humiliation with courage and steadfastness. He stood by his convictions. No temptation came in the way of Sheikh Abdullah in his stand on the question of the inalienable right of the people of Kashmir vis-à-vis the question of plebiscite. No sufferings or humiliation could make his mind change. His family bore insults and privation. They all stood firm and faced the might of the Government of India for twelve years or so.” (Khan 34)

So is standing by one’s convictions and nurturing one’s ideology synonymous with wasting away from grief in wilderness? The role that Sheikh saheb and Begum Akbar Jehan played in creating a political consciousness among the people of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the Muslims of the state, can be critically analyzed but cannot be wished away nor can it be erased from the annals of history.

Whatever one’s political persuasion, it would be difficult to deny that in that day and age  Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had the charisma and magnetism to sway public opinion in his favor, and he exercised an uncanny clout on the masses. Even his detractors acknowledge that he had a consummate ability to inspire and persuade the masses from the podium, and despite the feisty opposition to him from some quarters, could stimulate action. Here, I take a pause in my recollections, and paraphrase illustrious revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s reminiscences of Kashmir in the 1940s. With his political acumen, depth of character, and inimitable clarity, he states, in retrospect, that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah

“created for the Kashmiri as sense of selfhood, as Allama Iqbal called it. He discovered for them their personality and he is one of the few people of this subcontinent who created a movement out of nothing. . . . That this contribution was the awakening and inspiration which electrified his people, nobody can deny. . . . whatever Kashmir has achieved or done, he was responsible for it and this was because of his total and complete identification with his people.” (Quoted in Taseer, 259)

When I try to recall the vicissitudes of the 1970s, as perceived by a child, I can hear the audible running to and fro of NC workers, some bleeding profusely after having been manhandled by members of the opposition at polling booths, standing ramrod straight to tell their leader that they would brook every harassment and ford every stream in their endeavor to carve a political space for Kashmiris, which had been denied them for more than two decades. Sheikh Abdullah, believed that,

“It is the sovereign Parliament of India which has recognized, a number of times, that the accession shall be determined by the free will of the people of Kashmir. . . .  Take away the bayonet and see what will happen. You will succeed if you can win the hearts of the people there. No power, no country can retain for all times to come, any other land by force of arms. India itself has shown this. It concerns the fundamental principle of its policy.” (Abdullah 7-8)

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, despite the political compromises and expediencies required in the oscillating and vast spectrum of subcontinental politics, believed that the course of Kashmir’s political destiny would be charted by the people of Kashmir:

Yih mulk tumhara hai, yih mulk kisi aur ka nahin.
Yih Roos, America, Pakistan ya Hindustan ka nahin hai.
Yih mulk yahin ke Hinduon, Musalmanon aur Sikhon ka hai. (Quoted in Beg, 47)
This land [Kashmir] belongs to you, not to anyone else.
It does not belong to either Russia, or America, or Pakistan, or India.
The land belongs to the Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs of Kashmir. (translation is mine)

Very few leaders have the political insight to comprehend that the changed nature of the struggle requires a new vision and pioneer spirit to endow Kashmir politics with an intellectual enlightenment. It is in light of the changed nature of the struggle and the new roles that political players in Kashmir need to assume that History will judge Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. The tired rhetoric of those who haven’t been able to carve legitimate political spaces for themselves and seek to do so by stigmatizing Sheikh saheb, and the tired rhetoric of the NC that hasn’t been able to revive the ideology of Sheikh saheb on which his grass roots politics was built, must be assessed with clear eyes, particularly by the younger generation.

Abdullah, Sheikh Mohammad. Kashmir: A Human Problem and a Moral Issue: Speech of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Delhi: Raj Art Press, 1965.

Abdullah, Sheikh Mohammad and Y. D. Gundevia. The Testament of Sheikh Abdullah. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1968 and 1974.

Khan, Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim. The Kashmir Saga. Lahore: Ripon Printing Press, 1965.

Taseer, Bilqees. Kashmir of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Lahore: Ferozsons, 1986.

Published in the Greater Kashmir on November 7, 2012

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Rethinking State Formation in Kashmir

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Illusive Peace in Kashmir

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