By Faizaan Bhat
In my childhood, my grandmother used to tell me about Qaballis, who had come to liberate Kashmir. It was later through history books that I learnt about this turning point in our history. In his book, Two Nations and Kashmir, Lord Birdwood writes about the day the Indian army landed in the valley after the accession of JK Maharaja with Government of India, “It was Poonch rebellion against Muslim killings in Jammu that Muslim Conference leader Sardar Ibrahim Khan crossed Pakistan and sought help for Kashmiris.”
According to the memoir of Plebiscite Front (PF) activist, Munshi Ghulam Ishaq’s Nidaa-e-Haq, “Political Conference agitated against Indian establishment. Founded by Ghulam Mohiuddin Karra, who was previously National Conference (NC) activist and led Quit Kashmir movement underground, [PC] joined Janata Party in 1977. Shafi Qureshi, the General Secretary of the party, had already joined Congress and later became Governor of two Indian states – Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, and Union Railway Minister.” Among the few PC activists who didn’t compromise with their ideology was Pt. Ragunath Vaishnavi who stood by his principles till his demise in 1994.
According to Bilquees C. Taseer’s book, The Kashmir of Sheikh Abdullah, “[On August 21, 1953] Sheikh Abdullah was arrested from Gulmarg and detained in jail for 11 years. He was jailed on the charges of Kashmir conspiracy and was arrested after he met A. Stevenson, United States (US) Statesman, who said that the US was in favor of Kashmir’s independence at that time.” He had talked about India’s promise of plebiscite at many places in his speeches also. Following his speeches, the valley became tense and people agitated. In 1955, a close aide of Sheikh, Mirza Afzal, was released from jail and formed PF which led resistance till 1967 and later converted into NC in 1975.
It was in 1963 that the movement took a new turn. According to prominent journalist Sanaullah Bhat, who writes in his book, Kashmir in Flames, “the resistance was at its peak in 1963 during Moi-e-Muqaddas (Hair of Prophet) agitation when Moi-e-Muqaddas was not found in its place. This led to anger among the people against the Government. There are many versions of Moi Muqaddas theft given by different historians. In one of the incidents, we come to know that PM Bakshi’s mother was ill and wanted to take a look of the Moi-e-Muqaddas in Jammu. After some time, Moi-e-Muqaddas was kept back in its place and thereafter many Indian politicians visited the Valley. But later, the Muqaddas disappeared, leading to agitation. It was during this agitation that Sheikh Abdullah was released and India facilitated his visit to Pakistan for talks with Pakistan leadership. Nehru died in India while Sheikh was in Pakistan and he had to cut short his journey.” It was also in late 60s that Sheikh was granted permission by India to perform Haj following which he visited Arab countries and met Chinese premier, Chou En-Lai. R.A Claridge, the ex-FBI chief, also tried to meet him in Saudi Arabia, as he writes in his book, My life with CIA. Upon his return, he was barred from entering the Valley. He was arrested and sent to Kerala. After which he had talks with the Indian Government which later resulted in 1975 Delhi Accord.
India and Pakistan already had fought wars and in 1965 another war was fought. Autonomy in Kashmir was also eroded by the Sadiq Cabinet in the 1960s which also had an impact on 1965 war. It is important to mention that the financial autonomy was already eroded by the Bakshi cabinet, as argued in the book, A Historical Survey of Kashmir. In his article in Fahad Shah’s anthology titled, Of Occupation and Resistance, Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain writes, “After 1962 Sino-Indo war, India abolished autonomy. There was resistance in valley against it which later resulted in 1965 Indo-Pak war.”
During the1960s, another organization, Al-Fateh, was formed, drawing inspiration from Algerian war of independence. According to Sanaullah Bhat, “Al-Fateh consisted of Doctors, engineers, bureaucrats, and even some DCs and top state officers.” The top leadership of Al-Fateh consisted of Late Ghulam Rasool Zehgeer, Fazl Haq Qureshi, and Nazir Ahmad Wani. In his book, Flashback, Zahir Din states, “It was in January 13,1971, Al-Fateh activists were arrested under harsh laws of conspiracy with Pakistan, armed rebellion against India, attempts of armed decoit, etc.” In 1977, the then CM, Sheikh Abdullah released all Al-Fateh activists acquitting them of all the charges. However, the organisation couldn’t survive for long. In his book, Azadi ki Talaash (In Search of Freedom), Farooq Rehmani, leader of People’s League, writes, “Al-Fateh suffered due to ideological differences. One group under Ghulam Rasool Zehgeer supported Delhi agreement 1975 and the other group of Fazl Haq Qureshi opposed the group as sell out.” In early 2000, the son of Ghulam Rasool Zehgeer was killed by the armed forces. Along with Al-Fateh, there was another resistance organization, Young Man’s League, whose President, Abdul Rashid Dar, later joined NC and became the chairman of the Upper House.
Fazl Haq Qureshi later formed Jammu Kashmir People’s League (JKPL) and became its founding chairman. JKPL was a group of dedicated and committed people – Farooq Rehmani (right now living in self-exile in Pakistan), Nazir Ahmad Wani, and Shabir Shah (whose father Ghulam Mohammad Shah was the first person killed in police custody during militancy and who is right now part of Hurriyat-G. He was later adopted as a prisoner of conscience by the Amnesty International). They opposed the Delhi Agreement and fought against the Indian establishment after 1975, along with Sofi Mohammad Akbar’s Mahaz-e-Azadi. According to the memoir of PF activist, Munshi Ishaq, Nidaa-e-Haq, “Sofi Mohammad Akbar was one of the few Plebiscite Front activists who didn’t compromise on his ideology and saw 1975 the Delhi Agreement as sell out.” Fazl Haq Qureshi was attacked by unknown gunmen in 2002 while moderating talks between Hizb and New Delhi.
While discussing about the different resistance groups in Kashmir, Rao Farman Ali Malik, in his book, Kashmir under the Shadow of Gun, wrote: “In 1963 after the formation of Awami Action Committee, another youth resistance group, Student and Youth League, was formed by Professor Sheikh Ghulam Mohammad with Abdul Rashid Kabli and A.R Shaheen. It is worth mentioning that except Professor Sheikh Ghulam Mohammad, other said members compromised and contested elections later on. In 1964, another youth organization, Revolutionary Youth Group, inspired by Marxist ideology, was formed by M.Y Tarogami with Chaman Lal Katroo, Shafi Shoq, Gulshan Majeed as members. The group was formed for fighting for the right to self-determination. In the same year, another organization, Muslim Youth Federation was formed with Fazal Haq Qureshi as the main member.”
Later, in 1976, Maqbool Bhat was arrested a second time in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). In his book, Kashmir Fights for Freedom, renowned historian, Justice Mohammad Yusuf Saraf, writes, “Mohammad Maqbool Bhat formed Kashmir independence committee in 1963 which later merged with Plebiscite Front (Azad Chapter) in 1965 and became its General Secretary.” He was also arrested in Indian Held Kashmir but he escaped from jail with his two colleagues. Another Kashmiri historian, PG Rasool, in his Urdu language book, Kashmir 1947, writes, “During Indo-Pak War, he formed Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front (JKNLF), which was later converted into Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).” In his autobiography, Juhdi Musalsal, former JKLF patron, Late Aramulla Khan, writes, “JKNLF was converted into JKLF due to 1971 hijacking which would have got a bad name to the organization and it would not have been easy to plead the Kashmir cause at the international levels.” Maqbool Bhat was later executed on 11 February, 1984, and his body and other things were denied to his family. Following which, there were protests throughout the Valley. According to Mohammad Hussain Altaf, JKLF leader and biographer of Maqbool Bhat, “His brother, G.N Bhat, wasn’t allowed to travel to Delhi to get his body back. Later, he also joined JKLF and was believed to be implicated by the Indian army in an accident.” His brother, district president, Kupwara JKLF, was released from jail few years back.
In 1983, the first international match between West Indies and India was played. People supported the West Indies team. In an interview, Indian player, Kapil Dev, said, “It was like we were playing outside India and people were shouting anti-India slogans.” In his book, Flashback, columnist and author, Zahir Din, writes that on October 13,1983, during the first international match, played in Sonar, “[the trio] Showkat Ahmad Bakshi, Mushtaq-Ul-Islam and Shabir Ahmad Shah tried to dig the wicket to disrupt the match.” According to them, Kashmir was a disrupted territory and couldn’t host an international match. They were later detained under the Public Safety Act, 1978. During the match, Kashmiris favoured the West Indies, who eventually won the match. The trio was acquitted from the case in 2011.
During the 1987 elections, all resistance groups formed one umbrella group, Muslim United Front (MUF), to contest elections. The group consisted of parties such as Jama’at-e-Islami, People’s League, and others. MUF was hoping to win more than 20 seats but unfortunately rigging was done by the state. After 1987 mass-rigging of elections, the hope for a peaceful resistance was lost. It was believed that peaceful resistance will not yield results and armed rebellion was the only viable option. Consequently, most of the youth picked up arms. Every Kashmiri was believed to be a political militant. More than seventy thousand people were killed and thousands disappeared. Most of the people boycotted elections and were forced to cast votes by force till 2001. Even doctors, lawyers, activists, and people like Dr. Farooq Ashai, Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru, Jaleel Andrabi, who talked against the state, were killed. The state waged a war against its rivals by using different tactics. Indian officers like Wajahat Habibullah, who held important positions in state and central governments, wrote how the state killed Dr. Guru as well as created a rift between the Hizb and the JKLF. They even tried to eliminate him during the Hazratbal Siege, which he has discussed at length in his book, My Kashmir: The Dying of the Light.
Up to 1987, many resistance parties like Jama’at-e-Islami contested elections several times. Such voices of resistance as Syed Ali Geelani became the MLA. Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai also contested elections against Sheikh Abdullah after the 1975 Accord. After the 1987 mass-rigging, a consensus emerged among Pro-Freedom camps to boycott elections, as there had been always rigging in elections, a fact accepted by Indian officials like BK Nehru, a cousin of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and BN Mullick, Intelligence Bureau chief in the Valley. BK Nehru wrote about the electoral fraud in his book Nice Guys Finish Second and Mullick, too, admitted the rigging in his work, My Years with Nehru: Kashmir.
In 2008, the Amarnath land issue catalysed resistance followed by the 2009 Shopian rape case. The July 2016, mass uprising is the result of Hizb Commander, Burhan Wani’s killing. There is the anti-freedom lobby that alleges that the pro-resistance group were working on foreign money and for fame. While the allegations circulate, the youth have been killed during several such uprisings in 2008, 2009, and 2016. These youth deserve our respect as they are the martyrs of Kashmir, who have sacrificed their lives for the collective good and common cause.
Faizaan Bhat is B.Tech from NIT Srinagar. He writes for many papers – Greater Kashmir, Rising Kashmir, and Kashmir Reader. He speaks on social issues on DD Kashir and Radio Kashmir. He can be mailed at email@example.com
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