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Sheikh, a tall leader of Kashmir

The late Sheikh Abdullah (Saturday Extra, Oct 4)
was undoubtedly a tall leader of Kashmir. He was
originally associated with the Muslim Conference
and was the founder of the National Conference.
However, his influence was confined to the Valley
and up to the LoC even before 1947.

Khushwant Singh, in his ebullience for Abdullah, has
rated him as an epic character — ‘Prometheus’— even
at the cost of twisting facts. Sardar Patel, a down-
to-earth statesman, had sensed valley-related
complexities and remained cool to its accession to
India. R.C. Kak, Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir,
who intrigued and double-crossed Maharaja Hari Singh,
was dismissed and arrested by him before Pakistan
played mischief.

From day one, Sheikh Abdullah nursed the ambition
of the Valley’s (his Switzerland) separation (azadi)
from India, with him perched as Sultan. Egged on by
a foreign agency he resorted to acceleration. Ego-
boosted, he insulted Abul Kalam Azad. Both Azad and
Kidwai persuaded Nehru to act swiftly when they got
a whiff of Abdullah’s intended mischief.

Abdullah was arrested in 1953, but was released later. His political odyssey to Pakistan with Nehru’s blessings in 1964 and Nehru’s end in its midst dropped the curtain on his dangerous ambition. With the demise of Nehru, the graph of his political destiny dipped.

Since Sardar Patel died in December 1950, hinted references to him, too, are misplaced. Khushwant Singh, has taken questionable liberty with facts and events post August, 1947.

V.I.K. SHARMA, Jalandhar


It is an informative write-up introducing Sheikh Abdullah to the young generation of India. However, I would like to point out certain historical and factual inaccuracies in the piece. First, Sheikh Abdullah was not from a Gujjar stock as claimed by Khushwant Singh. His forefathers were Kashmiri Pandits who had converted to Islam just three-four generations before Abdullah’s birth. The Gujjar community of Kashmir has never been associated with the weaving and marketing of Pashmina shawls.

Similarly, Abdullah’s father and elder brother, Sheikh Mohiuddin, were not followers of the Sufi tradition. Theologically, his father and uncle were more inclined to the Deobandi thought of Islam.

Farooq Abdullah is not the eldest child of Abdullah, but it is Ms Khalidashah who is married to G.M. Shah, a former Chief Minister of J&K.

Again to claim that Ram Chand Kak, the former Prime Minister of Kashmir under Maharaja Harisingh, was close to Sardar Patel is not factually and historically correct. He was inclined to Jinnah and was in constant touch with him and supported Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. Hence, during Abdullah’s first tenure as Prime Minister of Kashmir, Kak was prosecuted and tried for treason. Similarly, to write that Sardar Patel was involved in the arrest of Abdullah and his wife in 1953 is not correct. Sardar Patel died on December 15, 1950.



Khushwant Singh is not right in describing Sheikh Abudullah as a “touchstone to test the secular pretensions” of India. If Abdullah had wanted a neutral Kashmir, it was for himself as its ruler, roping in India and Pakistan as supporters of his personal ambitions. Even after Kashmir had acceded to India and he was made its Prime Minister, his moves were narrow, sectarian and anti-national when he blocked the entry of Indian citizens into the state by introducing the permit system.

Dr Shyama Prasad’s agitation and death in Kashmir jail was the culmination of Abdullah’s thoroughly communal and anti-national designs. If you need a touchstone for India’s secular credentials then it is Jawaharlal Nehru who remained steadfast despite fierce criticism from within and outside his government. He even allowed Abdullah later to visit Pakistan. But after Abdullah was disappointed, he started clamouring for ‘Azad Kashmir’.

Sheikh Abudullah’s love for Kashmir was only for his personal glorification and the fulfillment of his ambitious designs. He loved Nehru dearly but more dearly after his death. Indira Gandhi yanked him out of political wilderness and brought him into national politics.

K. GAUTAM (On e-mail)


Whatever he wanted, Abdullah was a felonious criminal guilty of treason. He was rightly, though belatedly, put behind bars for his reprehensible attempt to balkanise the country.

Only Khuswant Singh can place the eccentric Abdullah above titans like Maulana Azad and Abdul Ghaffar Khan. No words of praise can succeed in absolving Abdullah.


Mamata, not an inspiring leader

Politics of Bad M” (Perspective, Oct 12) written by Swati Chaturvedi was a thought-provoking and comprehensive article. I think Mamata Banerjee is a very courageous woman. She seems to be a tireless fighter but she does not have the qualities of a clear-headed and inspiring national leader.

She tried to beat the Left government of West Bengal with the stick of Singur without caring a fig about the future of the Nano project, which has now gone to Gujarat. She is, certainly, capable of holding big demonstrations, but her followers don’t know exactly what her basic ideas about the agricultural crisis and unavoidable industrialisation of West Bengal are.

At a time when the size of land holdings is shrinking fast and agriculture as a profession has become a poor consolation to most marginal farmers, generation of gainful employment is quite impossible without the acquisition of unviable land holdings for much needed industrialisation.

The small farmers who cannot hope to survive on small patches of land are forced to migrate to distant cities in search of greener pastures. They can be persuaded to part with their land happily if they are given adequate compensation in line with the market prices.

Their displacement from their perennial source of income and dignity i.e. their agricultural land is a big challenge for policy makers in states and at the Centre. Banerjee is a big rabble-rouser with poverty of thoughts as she does not seem to be much moved by the ever-increasing poverty and unemployment in the countryside.

Yes, the “cigar-smoking and drawing-room” leaders of Congress in West Bengal have given her much “space” as the writer very perceptively points out. The consistent decimation of the Congress is somewhere indirectly linked with the rise of Mamata Banerjee in the politics of West Bengal.


Maharaja & British

In the profile of Navtej Sarna (Sept. 28), Harihar Swarup writes that Sarna was drawn by the story of a man who was taken to England as child after the defeat of his father Maharaja Ranjit Singh by the British. But the fact is that the British never defeated Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Rather, the British had recognised Ranjit Singh as the sole sovereign ruler of Punjab in 1809 through the Treaty of Amritsar. Dalip Singh was born in 1838, and Maharaja died in 1839. After his death Kharak Singh, Nau Nihal Singh, Rani Chand Kaur, Sher Singh, and the boy prince Dalip Singh with his mother Maharani Jindan as the Regent, successively ruled the kingdom of Lahore.

During this period, the Sikh army had become all-powerful. To weaken it, Maharani Jindan and her ‘loyal’ nobles approached the British who were looking for an opportunity to invade the kingdom of Lahore. The Sikh army was defeated by the British in the First Anglo Sikh War in 1845-46; and Punjab was annexed to the British territories after the Second Anglo-Sikh War when Maharaja Dalip Singh signed the document of annexation on March 29, 1849.




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