Untold Story

Final Speech of Sheikh Abdullah


The National Executive of the Praja Socialist Party decided at its Delhi meeting on 16th, 17th and 18th September (1953) to send a delegation to Kashmir consisting of Sadiq Ali and Madhu Limaye to make an on-the-spot study of the situation in the State resulted from arrest of Sheikh Abdullah and  submit a report. Some of Sheikh Abdullah's colleagues in his cabinet made many serious allegations against Sheikh Saheb that he was secretly making a deal with American to get an independent Kashmir.

The Praja Socialist Party delegation comprising Sadiq Ali and Madhu Limaye was in Kashmir from the 25th September to 10th October, 1953. Almost the first person we met was the Prime Minister. The other Minister, they had long talks with was Mr Saraf. The two together gave a background of the crisis resulting in the dismissal and arrest of Sheikh Abdullah. The talks they had a little later with Mr Sadiq. President of the Assembly Mr Dhar, Deputy Home Minister, were just confirmation of what the two Ministers had already narrated. They were, however, at pains to emphasise the large part foreign powers played in the events leading up to the crisis.

They were in Jammu for just two days. They had little trouble in getting to know what people, there, thought and felt. The representatives of Jammu Parishad, Democratic Socialist Party and the People's Party gave, especially the latter two, free expression to their reactions to the situation in the state with particular reference to their province. Refugees also met Ali and Limaye and told their tale of woe and misery. The National Conference was very weak in Jammu but some of its members gave their version of the situation in the province.

They were, also in Baramula for a day when they had occasion to see how and in what mood people chose to greet their new Prime Minister.

In the narration of events the Prime Minister gave in his first talk the main emphasis was on Sheikh Abdullah's increasing association with Americans and the growing differences in the Cabinet and the Working Committee in regard to the interpretation and implementation of the Delhi Agreement. This American business, according to him and his colleagues, started as far back as 1949 when in an interview with a correspondent of "Daily Express" Sheikh Abdullah referred to the existence of third alternative before Kashmir in addition to accession to India or Pakistan. In answer to criticism in the Indian press and from his own colleagues in Kashmir and presumably in response to a threat from Sardar Patel he explained away his interview by saying that it was just "loud thinking". His visit to America for attending the UNO Assembly and the contracts he made there possibility pre-disposed him to the idea of "Independence". The matter, however, did not stop at the interview and its explaining away later. He recurred to the idea in subtler forms. Mr Adlai Stevenson's visit gave renewed life and more precise shape to it.

Stevenson stayed longer than he had originally intended to and had long talks with Sheikh Abdullah. None of his colleagues knew what the talks were about. Stevenson's main idea was that Kashmir was composed of desperate units. It possessed neither cultural nor territorial unity. The 'Independence' idea was pursued by Mr and Mrs Henderson whose visits, particularly the latter's, were frequent and by no means brief. A host of American correspondents and visitors, male and female, also surrounded the Sheikh and sought to influence his mind. The Britisher was not much in evidence in this development.

Whether it is the Praja Parishad, American influence or diversionary tactics to take the popular mind off grave administrative failure, signs of a change in his basic attitude were available more and more first to his colleagues in the Cabinet and the Working Committee of the National Conference and later to the large body of workers and Government servants and finally to the people. People talked openly and covertly of growing differences between Sheikh Sahib and his colleagues and the leaders were at pains to emphasise the close identity of views and outlook which though it did not exist, it was necessary to maintain that it did. The whispering campaign about the reported difference disturbed the general atmosphere and caused doubt in the public mind about the general drift of affairs. The public speeches which Sheikh Abdullah made, particularly in June, July and, August, 1953 also reflected first in a guarded manner and then more openly the change in his approach to the problem of Kashmir and growing differences between him and some of his colleagues.

At first as an answer to rumours, there was re-affirmation in hyperbolic terms of faith in Sher-e-Kashmir. In a speech on 6th June, Ghulam Md Bakshi, the present Premier, declared as follows: "It has become part of the faith of the workers of National Conference that Sher-e-Kashmir is their sole and greatest leader. This is no empty claim. We have shown by our action that we mean it. In future also we shall do the same. We may be hanged but like Majnoon our lips will utter just one word, Laila, Laila".

That all was not well with the National Conference and with Sheikh Sahib's relation with it will be apparent from just this one passage in a broadcast speech delivered by the latter on the 15th July :
"The real test of a political party comes when it is in power. If the members of this Party use power for the good of the people the result is a further strengthening of the Party. But often it has happened that man on account of the frailties of his nature, becomes its victim and uses it for personal enjoyment and for the benefit of his kith and kin. He also sees success in the encouragement of sycophants who shower extravagant praise on everything he does, good or bad. When a party has such men in its ranks it rapidly loses its power and popularity. It is thrown aside and another party takes its place. No member of the National Conference should forget these basic principles of the rise and fall of political parties. If they do, let them take it that the end of their party is close at hand. There is, these days, such a group of men in the National Conference who are in it just for achieving their selfish ends by all means fair or foul. The public should beware of the wiles of such men." (from Khidmat, the official Urdu Daily of Kashmir)

In a speech on the 14th July, he said that everybody recognised the importance of self-determination but nobody created conditions in which it could be exercised. Pakistan would allow the right to be exercised when the decision was in its favour. India also appeared to be ready when it was absolutely certain that the decision would be in its favour. They had the solemn promises of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Patel but "during the last few months the cry is raised from every part of India that Kashmir be put in chains of slavery to India." It was being propagated, he said, that the Sheikh hated India and loved Pakistan. What was it that would satisfy both India and Pakistan? 'Ask the people'. 'Confusion here is being assisted with Indian money'. In another speech he said that it was strange that he was called a 'nationalist' when he condemned Pakistan but a communalist when he ran down any communal organisation in India.

The speeches that followed referred to rumours, the contradictory slogans of 'Sher-e-Kashmir Zindabad' and 'Pakistan Zin-dabad', and the growing' participation of services in 'Party Bazi'.

Sheikh Abdullah's speech of the 25th July contained more explicit references to the new direction in which his mind was moving :
"We have often declared that Kashmir will not be the tail—'dum challa'-of either India or Pakistan".
He stressed the extra-ordinary circumstances in which accession to India took place, meaning hereby that it was not a normal accession in normal circumstances. In the uncertain condition which the threat of plebiscite created no progress, he maintained, was possible. Nobody was prepared to invest capital. The connection with India was based on principle which the Praja Parishad Movement had shaken. "The honest truth is that last year's communal agitation has shaken the foundation of this connection. It is not we who wish to break this connection. India wants it". He pointed out that neither Sheikh Abdullah nor the smallest worker of the National Conference had said one word in violation of the Delhi Agreement. It is the Jan Sangh which has all along been agitating against the Delhi Agreement. "Why are the masses against Pakistan?" he asked. Because we gave them an assurance that the Muslims would not only be protected but also treated with generosity. "We gave defence to India, operative command as well as administrative command. On the Indian army should be represented all communities. Compare the number of Muslims then and now!" Referring to the Post and Telegraph, he asked what exactly had been done to give encouragement to Muslims. The educated unemployed Muslims looked to Pakistan for employment. Why so? "When I am myself not convinced how can I convince others? I feel that we cannot build the structure of our connection with India on weak and shaky foundations. But let it not be understood that I want to get out of the ditch in order to fall into a well".

The two other important speeches were one at Chandarbal on 31st July '53 and the other on Aug. 8, on the eve of his dismissal and arrest. He emphasised again in his Chandarbal speech that the reported differences in leadership were just newspaper speculations. "The leadership was united on one thing, viz. Rai Amma (Public opinion, plebiscite). They wanted good relations with India and Pakistan and the good of Kashmir. Their internal problems were multiplying—refugees, lack of capital, bad communications, etc. Internal peace depends on external factors. The two countries could afford to be complacent but not so Kashmir'. He also said that he would tell later, when the proper time came, what was best for the people of Kashmir. He would explain the pros and cons of every solution that was offered for the problem of Kashmir. Accession to India in 1947 was dictated by their need to seek and in an extraordinary situation. The accession issue, he also said, was primarily to be decided by Muslims because the Hindus would naturally never vote for Pakistan.

In this final speech of August 8, he said that the choice of the people of Kashmir should not be confined to India or Pakistan. 'May be, there is a third alternative—an independent Kashmir with friendly relations with both India and Pakistan'. Referring to the Delhi Agreement he said, that it was the people of India who had violated it. There was, he said, a suggestion in a paper that the Prime Minister he dismissed and President's Rule established. Referring in this speech to the Communist Party, he said that till yesterday it is supported them but today suddenly they wished to deprive 'us of our freedom'. This change of front is significant. Some people desired that an alternative leadership be established. The people are free to do so.

The trend of these speeches was clear. The earlier effort both on the part of Sheikh and his colleagues to hide their differences began to give way to an open, though still cautious, avowals of differences.

There was no mistaking the direction in which Sheikh's mind was moving. There could be a controversy as to the causes for this direction and the importance that should be assigned to each cause and whether the direction was irreversible. Connected with it would be the controversy about the appropriateness and inevitability of the steps taken in the early hours of the 9th August 1953. Our investigation here was subject to one serious handicap and limitation. One of the two parties which could throw light and present its town version of the affairs was behind bars.

According to the party in power, the clash became inevitable when Sheikh's utterances began having a serious effect on the situation in the State, and when it became apparent that he was attempting to alter the balance of forces in the Cabinet and in the Working Committee of the National Conference. The Indian Army was no unconcerned spectator of the whole disquieting development. The emergence of the Political Conference with Kara as its President in June was a fair indication of the way things were going. This Conference was a pro-Pakistan body which at the meeting raised pro-Pakistan, anti-Indian and anti-Indian Army slogans. Some Indian soldiers and officers were greeted with these slogans. There could have been unpleasant scenes but for the restraint our soldiers showed. The Indian military did not naturally relish the new role that was sought to be imposed upon it by the Political Conference and elements in sympathy with it. If the Conference was allowed to carry on its work unchecked many unpleasant situations would have arisen which it was only prudence to avoid. This became the subject matter of correspondence between the Indian Army and the Kashmir Government. There were other law and order and political aspects of the situation. The Cabinet took a unanimous decision to ban the Conference and put its leaders in jail. The present leaders hold the view that the Political Conference would not have come into being but for the favourable atmosphere Sheikh's speeches and actions created for it and other like-minded forces. They even go so far as to imply a bond of sympathy between the Sheikh or Mirza Afzal Baig and the Conference.

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Vol. 52, No. 25, Dec 22 - 28, 2019