SHEIKH ABDULLAH'S FIRST RELEASE
After the formation of the Democratic National Conference by Khawaja Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq and D. P. Dhar, soon after the March 1957 'elections', the so-called Peace Brigade thugs who had been let loose on the pro-Pakistan sections since its formation in 1947 and whose goondaism was particularly relished by Dhar and Dogra, were now directed against the new dissidents. Their public meetings were disrupted, the top leaders heckled and insulted and their followers beaten up and harassed. Finding the position unbearable, the D.N.C. demanded the release of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and his colleagues, for two reasons: firstly, to attract public attention, as they had been largely ignored by the Muslim masses and secondly, in the hope that in case of his release, the Bakhshi Government would get wholly involved with him, thus bringing them relief. Sheikh Abdullah's letter to the Security Council and the extremely adverse World press reaction against Mr. Krishna Menon's rhetorics in the Council, spot lighting the continued detention without trial of the man around whom India had built its Kashmir case since 1947, compelled New Delhi to release him on 8th January, 1958. The primary consideration, of course, was to silence a critical world and preserve, as far as possible, the fast shattering image of Nehru's over-trumpeted moralism, but nearer home, the release may have been intended to bring the warring supporters in Srinagar together by confronting them with the man, they considered a
I. Times of India, Bombay, 14th August, 1959.
2. Hindustan Times, 18th February, 1960.
3. Statesman, 12th March, 1951.2.
common enemy and whose liberty was bound to frustrate their hopes of power. Declining the Government offer either to be air-lifted or provided with a State car, he hired a taxi and dashed to Srinagar, several foreign correspondents joining him in the way; so did Mridula Sarabhai. It was bitter cold, January being the coldest month. There had been a heavy snow-fall, yet nothing prevented almost the entire mass of the people living in areas through which he passed, on his way to Srinagar, to flock to the road to give him an unprecedented welcome.
What were his latest views on Kashmir's future? The following speech delivered at Hazrat Bal has been selected as generally representing his state of mind:
"Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah today called upon Pandit Nehru to "stand by his promise" to let four million people of Kashmir decide their future.
Addressing a largely attended post-prayer congregation at Hazrat Bal shrine near Srinagar he said that relations between Bharat and Pakistan were embittered because of Kashmir. Every country in Asia wanted this matter to be settled peacefully but "now that India has got afoot-hold here, she is going back on her promise."
Sheikh Abdullah said "accession of Kashmir is not to be decided by rhetorics of Krishna Menon or by gun and bullets. Kashmir does not belong to Krishna Menon or Nehru or Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad. It cannot be disposed of by India or Pakistan, U.S.A. or USSR. The people who alone can decide its future are the people of Kashmir—four million men, women and children. Muslims and Hindus who inhabit this land."
Several unsuccessful efforts were made while he was in jail to take him back to the Indian-fold in return for power. It has been a peculiar practice with the Congress to win over individual Muslim leaders by bribe or temporary power and glory. Having fathered a political movement and undergone imprisonment and other hardships for over a dozen years. the longest of any top ranking Indian leader, it appeared at the moment that he could not be made to depart with his principles in order to gain power. He then started touring Kashmir valley and some parts of Jammu where he was received by large cheering crowds, raising anti-India slogans. He visited Baramula, Sopore, Bandipura, Islamabad, Shopian, Handwara, Bij-bihara, Udhampur, Kishtwar, Dodah and Bhadarwah, emphasising the right of the people to Self-determination. He also explained at great length how India had marched in, just only to help repel the "tribal invasion" but she had in fact done so to occupy the State.
He did not go to New Delhi nor was any formal invitation extended because a stream of visitors including Jay Prakash Narain and some Central Ministers who met him, found no opening for a dialogue. India was prepared to install him back into power or even to make of him a martyr in furtherance of its so-called secularism but this was not yet possible for several reasons: Kashmir issue was internationally very much alive; the American military aid had improved Pakistan Army's capabilities; there having been no direct confrontation between the two armies, the Pakistan Army generally enjoyed the reputation of an invincible force vis-a-vis its Indian counterpart; the hollowness of Nehru's friendship and the bitterness engendered by his betrayal was still too fresh in his mind and above all, there was the dominant fear of a total rejection by people of any compromise with India, short of accession to Pakistan. Therefore, he concentrated all his energies towards the mobilisation of public opinion particularly in the Valley and Dodah district. Despite the goondaism of the Peace Brigade, the repression let loose by the Government and large sums clandestinely distributed to instigate opposition, he succeeded in raising the tempo of political activity. The fear caused by the presence of the large Indian Army and the brutalities perpetrated by it especially in August 1953, was fast eroding. For the first time the slogans of 'Pakistan Zindabad' were fearlessly raised in public meetings and the photographs of Quaid-e-Azam displayed on arches raised in connection with his visits.
A new revolution was sweeping over the State; the Indian government was breathlessly and with horror watching the scene. The realisation had dawned that the pre-release reports that "he was no longer a problem but an enigma", had been typical of Indian reports on Kashmir, highly coloured and entirely false and that by detention, the man had only risen higher in the eyes of his people. Before his arrest, the people loved the man but largely hated his politics; now they loved not only him but also his politics and this is what made him more formidable than before. The Indian government therefore decided to re-arrest him and the Central Intelligence Agency was entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the ground. On 21st February 1958, a group of Razakars were provoked by the Intelligence men to attack the National Conference office at Raj Bagh resulting in the death of one worker; 30 others including some Razakars were injured; a National Conference jeep was burnt; a wireless-fitted police vehicle as well as some shops from which stones were hurled, were damaged. Using it as an excuse, a large number of political workers hostile to India were arrested. It created a chain reaction as a result of which demonstrations and hartals were staged condemning the represssive policy and demanding the withdrawal of the Indian army. The Ramazan Eid fell on 1st April 1958. Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad and his Ministers, remained in Jammu and dare not join the Eld prayers at Srinagar.
Over a lakh of Muslims said their prayers at the Eid-gah where Sheikh Abdullah made a strong speech demanding implementation of U.N. resolutions on Kashmir and an end to repression.
THE KUD CONSPIRACY CASE
According to Mr. Mullik, ground work for instituting a conspiracy case against Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Begum Abdullah, Mirza Afzal Beg, Pir Maqbool Gilani, Pir Maqbool Wilgami, Khawaja Ali Shah, Khawaja Ghulam Ahmed Ashai and scores of others had been started in 1956 and therefore the release of Sheikh Abdullah came to him as a shock. No human being normally wishes the destruction of his labours and Mr. Mullik and his associates were no exception. In league with Karan Singh, D.P. Dhar, Girdhari Lal Dogra and the anti-Abdullah lobby at Delhi, led by the Law Minister A.K. Sen and with the blessings of Pandit Pant, the Home Minister, they successfully manipulated the re-arrest of Sheikh Abdullah on April 30, 1958 and also succeeded in securing ago-ahead directive with regard to the institution of the case. There was no evidence directly linking him with any conspiracy either to over-throw the State Government by force or to take Kashmir out of the Indian Union, also by force, as alleged by the prosecution. The whole case against him was built around his letter to the Security Council and the mystery surrounding its receipt at New York. By the end of March, 1958, the material consisting of 1600-page dossier had been prepared. According to Mr. Mullik, Pandit Nehru used to call a meeting at his house almost every evening attended by Sen, Setalvad, the Attorney General, Nair, the Legal Remembrancer at Srinagar, Balbir Singh and Mr. Mullik of the Intelligence Service. Mr. Setalvadlaterwithdrew, pleading want of time, but perhaps it was an excuse by the eminent lawyer to avoid association with what actually was a political persecution. After these meetings had lasted for four to five weeks, Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad was summoned for consultations-Let it be recorded in all fairness to the departed leader that the general belief that he had been responsible for launching the case, was utterly false and on this point we have the testimony of Mr. B. N. Mullik who says:
"Bakhshi at this stage declared that whatever might be the strength of the evidence against Begum Abdullah, he could not agree to her prosecution. Muslim opinion in Kashmir valley would not excuse him for dragging this lady, who was known as "Madar-e-Meharban", to the courts. I argued that without her in the trial we would miss one of the main connecting links with Pakistan and this would greatly weaken our case; but on this question Bakhshi would not budge and Pandit Nehru also agreed with him.