Titbit 54: Demand of Responsible Government

Muslim Conference did not hold any annual session in 1936. However the fifth annual session of the Conference was held in Poonch city on 14, 15, and 16 May 1937. S.M. Abdullah as President in his detailed speech demanded a powerful Assembly and a responsive and responsible govt. The significant part of his speech was that he hoped in near future the poor among Hindus and Sikhs will join hands in the struggle for achievement of responsible government. He also made a comparison between J&K State and British India so far as Inter-community relationship between majority and minority was concerned. He said that if the “State minorities insist that they should get the same rights in the State which will be available to the minorities in the sub-continent , we have no objection in affecting the same”. These words were not spoken by S.M. Abdullah without a context. From amongst the Hindus a group had already joined the struggle with a desire to remove poverty and hunger.

Referring to the Government of India Act 1935, Abdullah was too critical about setting up of a Federation. In his speech he came down heavily upon all Maharajas and Nawabs and clearly rejected thier policies towards eight crore population in India. In this backdrop the annual session at Poonch adopted a resolution to be submitted to the Maharaja requesting him not to join the Federation and if the Maharaja desired so, then he should get the State Representatives fairly and duly elected by the people. In the resolution some more demands were made which are summed up as follows:

  1. Establishment of intermediate college in Poonch
  2. Measures be taken for development of industries, commerce and handicrafts
  3. Construction of new building for Sardar Hospital, Srinagar
  4. Engagement of experts to explore the mineral wealth of the State and income/revenue thereof be utilized for the welfare of the people; and
  5. Creation and establishment of a university in the State.

It was also announced in the annual conference that once the Responsible Government is formed it will be neither of Hindus nor Muslims. As a matter of fact it will be a people’s government in all respects and in its true sense.One may recollect that this demand was first raised in 1934 at the time of drafting the Constitution of Legislative Assembly.

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Titbit 53: So Called State Assembly

Amid pandemonium all members who were representing people decided to tender resignation to the Maharaja who was camping in Jammu.

In Kashmir internal divisions, fragmented society and unabated internecine clashes particularly in Srinagar, the nerve centre of political movement, had administered a serious blow to the aspiring and dreaming population to move away from the shackles of poverty, deprivation and exploitation. As if this was not enough to subdue innocent people, further fragmentation of polity was witnessed. Hanfis, Wahabis, Shias, Mirzaes etc came to fore and all were busy in their respective machinations. This division of society started taking its toll apart from abhorable ‘ Sher-Bakra’ feuds.

During Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule two institutions i.e. Assembly and Municipality had emerged as most important centers of attention. The impending Municipal election slated to be held in January 1937 thankfully brought Molvi Hamdani and Molvi Yousuf Shah together during first week of October 1936. Both religious leaders forged an alliance and a joint board was constituted in which Sheikh Abdullah conspicuously opted out.

An important development was in offing. During last week of October 1936 withdrawal of ‘ Grazing Tax Bill’ was presented in the Assembly by Budh Singh. The bill evoked a lot of heated exchanges between the members in the Assembly. The discussion lead to exchange of unparliamentary language between Sir Barjor Dalal, President of the Assembly, and Budh Singh. Amid pandemonium all members who were representing people decided to tender resignation to the Maharaja who was camping in Jammu. Consequently on 29 October, 1936 Budh Singh declared Assembly as Toy Forum and tendered his resignation. He was followed by Muslim Conference members who too resigned on 27 November in protest against the rejection of demand moved for the withdrawal of Grazing-Tax Bill. Interestingly by-elections to the seats vacated by M.C members were held in Feb. 1937 and to the Maharaja’s dismay the same members were returned on party tickets.

The constitution of Assembly seats was as follows:

  • Muslim Conference = 19
  • Independents = 2
  • Non Muslims = 12
  • Nominated = 18

Despite all out efforts of the govt. to deprive Muslim Conference of as many seats as possible, the party was able to capture 19 out of 21 seats. It was a joke in the name of election as non-muslims and nominated seats overwhelmingly out numbered the real public representatives which adversely affected genuineness of so called ” democratic process “.

The session of the Assembly was held in Srinagar on 7 September, 1938 with Mian Ahmad Yar elected leader of Muslim Conference and Mirza Afzal Beg as its deputy leader. Please remember that earlier in a General Council meeting held on 5 January 1938 a resolution was passed calling upon the Maharaja, apart from other demands, to desist from joining the proposed Indian Federation.

TitBitsScan_Assembly
Municipal election board ward 4, Srinagar, 1937.

Titbit 52: Abdullah’s Financial Crisis

During the period of early thirties Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah in his own right carved out his place on the political landscape of Kashmir. His impressive recitation of Quran, delivery of speech, extraordinary height, advanced education etc etc were his assets. He had undoubtedly shown the required courage and leadership qualities. Though there were several others available to take over leadership role but due to inherent weaknesses no one could fit into circumstances. However this was a difficult period for S.M.Abdullah. He all along faced acute financial difficulty and penury conditions and lived a hand to mouth life. It was because of these shortcomings that S.M.Abdullah would get occasionally fed up and express his desire to say goodbye to politics and leave the State for further studies. He also once showed his desire to take an employment in some Muslim State of India. In this back drop on 16 September 1934 Ahmad-u-llah Shahdad, a prominent and well to do respectable, invited around two hundred well off persons on tea at his residence. Mr Shahdad took his guests into confidence and narrated entire story of Sheikh Abdullah’s weak financial condition and his desire to leave kashmir for an earning. The host appealed to his guests to make liberal contribution and raise an amount of rupees ten thousand for the Sheikh and six thousand for Mujahid Manzil. He also further suggested that the amount of rupees ten thousand will be invested in some business activity and its returns will be paid to the Sheikh on monthly basis which will help him to meet day to day expenses.

While modalities of collection of contribution were being worked out, another prominent businessman namely Habib-u-llah Zargar arranged a meeting and dinner at his residence on 6 November 1934 in which many rich and affluent individuals of Srinagar were invited. S.M.Abdullah, who too was present, once again insisted to leave Kashmir as he was facing acute shortage of funds. He also assured Habib-u-llah Zargar and Haji Amma Ganai (Nowhatta) that before leaving Kashmir he will repay them the amount ( Rs 3000 ) which he had earlier taken on loan. However, both respectables announced that they will neither demand nor accept the loan amount back from the Sheikh as they had given the money for the sustenance of the movement. Ultimately arrangements were made and S.M.Abdullah abandoned his plan to leave Kashmir.

TitBit 51: Communal Wedge

On 7 July 1936 a roit broke out between local Muslims and Pandits at Mattan ( Bhavan ), Anantnag on a disputed land. Scores of people from both sides including Mirza Afzal Beg got injured.

After Mr Jinnah concluded his Kashmir visit during first week of June 1936 usual political and religious activities again picked up. For a change majority population in Srinagar forgot about ‘Sher-Bakra’ feud and bickering for a while. Instead S.M.Abdullah and the Mirwaiz started a campaign against Kashmiri Pandits. In response the minority community leaders also adopted a proactive approach in expressing their anger against Muslims. It appeared that there was a sudden and mysterious escalation of communal tension. It was all due to eruption of disputes over ownership of various places in the valley. Some of these incidents are mentioned hereafter.

During last week of June 1936 Pandits made an attempt to raise a temple at ” Bhairav ” (piece of land) at Srinagar which was resisted by Muslims by advancing an argument that the place was commonly known as Masjid Ali Mardan Khan. During Maharaja Partap Singh’s rule it was a deserted place till an unknown Sadhu came and established his camp on the vacant land. The Muslims, at that time, had protested but to no avail. To defuse the prevailing tension a board was constituted, in reference to Glancy Commission recommendations, which was represented by Saad-u-din Shawl and G.A.Ashai on behalf of Muslims. Kh. Shawl opined in favour of Pandits and Ashai took the opposite view. The place was handed over to the Pandits who raised wall on the disputed land. The Muslim youth feeling agreived started agitation. Subsequently a civil suit was lodged in the court of law. On 25 June a public meeting was held near the disputed place which was addressed by Molvi Saeed, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed and G.M.Sadiq.

On 30 June 1936 protesting Pandits held a public meeting near Habbakadal and came down heavily upon Wajahat Hussain, Home Minister, and announced that construction of ” Bhairav Mandir” shall be started very soon. S.M.Abdullah reacted by lamenting on Pandits during his speech at Partap Park. Earlier Mirwaiz spoke vehemently against Pandits at Jamia Masjid, Srinagar. Due to undesirable activities from both sides peace in Srinagar was disturbed.

On 7 July 1936 a roit broke out between local Muslims and Pandits at Mattan ( Bhavan ), Anantnag on a disputed land. Scores of people from both sides including Mirza Afzal Beg got injured. Apart from senior officials of the administration, S.M.Abdullah, Saad-u-din Shawl, Jia Lal Kilam and P.N.Bazaz rushed to the spot. The situation was brought under control after many days of strenuous efforts of the administration. As a matter of fact the problem got converted into a triangular dispute involving Pandits, Muslims and Sikhs. The dispute has not been resolved fully till date and, therefore, continues to be a sleeping but a potential law and order problem.

On 25 July 1936 a hindu-muslim clash occurred at Barbarshah. A piece of land was bone of contention between two communities. Both sides advanced their claims. Fortunately the clash remained confined to Barbarshah locality only.

On 3 October 1936 a clash took place between local Muslims and Pandits at Jogi Lanker, Rainawari on an open place which was used by Muslims for offering prayers. The Pandits came in sizeable numbers and started dismantling stones. Local Muslims also gathered and offered stiff resistance resulting in a serious clash. Police reinforcements were called as local police was out numbered to handle the situation.

Mutual differences and grievances between Pandits and Muslims notwithstanding, sudden upsurge in clashes between the two communities were worrisome and a big cause of concern. As multiple forces were at work, the leadership of both communities failed to identify the real cause of this Inter-community unrest.

Titbit 50: ABDUL QADEER A forgotten chapter

Abdul Qadeer was taken into private employment by the Britisher and both remained and moved together. After sometime the British officer shifted to Peshawar and Qadeer accompanied him. (Perhaps many mistake it that Qadeer was a resident of Peshawar).

Alistair Lamb described people (Kashmiris) as the exceptionally docile natured – a view consistent with Tyndale Biscoe’s theory of a people whose “manhood” had been crushed by exploitation. In the 1930s, however, the era of popular politics in Kashmir arrived. So arrived Qadeer to symbolize overwhelming public sentiment. This write up is, therefore, dedicated to him.

Abdul Qadeer was of great historical consequence in the Kashmir political history of twentieth century. Mass uprising of Kashmiri people shall remain indebted to Qadeer whose trial at Central Jail Srinagar made people, in large numbers, to assemble outside Jail premises on 13 July 1931. While the detailed accounts of the day have been mentioned in several books and published material, yet many details about Qadeer continue to remain unknown.

Qadeer was a tall and robustly built young man with faint marks of variola on his face. He was a Pathan from Amroha (U.P.) and extraordinarily brave, courageous and gutty. During start of 1930 a British Army officer (Col. Abbot substantive rank major) of the Yorkshire Regiment was posted in Garwal area of Utar Pradesh. During one of his visits to the planes of U.P. , Col. Abbot came into contact with Abdul Qadeer. The British officer was impressed by Qadeer’s honesty, uprightness and courage. Abdul Qadeer was taken into private employment by the Britisher and both remained and moved together. After sometime the British officer shifted to Peshawar and Qadeer accompanied him. (Perhaps many mistake it that Qadeer was a resident of Peshawar). After remaining posted in Peshawar for a brief period, the British officer at his own request was posted to Kashmir. Those days Britishers were fond of visiting Kashmir on vacations. The British officer’s another attraction to get posted to Kashmir was his close friendship with G.E.C Wakefield who was Prime Minister of J&K State at that time. On reaching Srinagar Col. Abbot hired a houseboat at Naseem Bagh and Qadeer as an aide cum cook also lived with his employer in the same house boat. Therefore, it can be presumed that Qadeer arrived in Kashmir much before 21June 1931 and continuously lived in Srinagar for the entire period.

In 1965 Rasheed Taseer interviewed Ghulam Mohi-u-din Qarra which was published in Urdu weekly “Mohafiz”. In the interview Mr. Qarra disclosed that well before the incident of firing on a mob outside Central Jail, Srinagar on 13th July 1931, Abdul Qadeer used to visit the shop of Peer Abdul Ahad Shah (perhaps located at Batmaloo) where Qadeer came into contact with Ahad Shah, Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq, Husain Khan, Sultan Dopata, Nasir Khan and Muzafar Khan (later Judge in 1947) apart from Qarra Sahib. The group used to discuss political developments and the freedom struggle in Hindustan. These discussions and interactions impressed Qadeer and left an imprint on his mind. He was keen to know details of high handedness of the government on the poor and hapless people in Kashmir. The desecration of Quran in Jammu earlier was heavily weighing on his mind and had left him infuriated. It is most likely that Qadeer during his stay in Kashmir had met many individuals/commoners but he was surely following Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah through latter’s speeches and anti-ruler activities. It is a fact that Qadeer had developed a strong urge to address people and give vent to his feelings and emotions. Studying Qadeer suggests that he had met S.M. Abdullah on several occasions and had always showered praises on the leader. He also visited Abdullah’s residence (Soura) once to meet him. Qadeer’s meeting with Abdullah at Dargah Hazratbal during second week of June, 1931 was one of those efforts which he was making to convince Abdullah to provide him opportunity to address a gathering. (Read Titbit 39).

On 21 June 1931 a massive public meeting was convened by the Reading Room Party at Khanqahi Moula with the highlight of the two Mirwaizs (Molvi Yusuf Shah and Molvi Hamdani) sharing the same platform. The meeting, which was biggest political gathering until then was convened to elect 7-member deputation to present a memorandum of demands to the Maharaja. After the speeches were concluded the names of deputationists were announced. The names included Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, Mirwaiz Ahmed-u-llah, Aga Husain Jalali, Munshi Shahab-u-din, Saad-u-din Shawl, G.A. Ashai and S.M. Abdullah, all representing Kashmir. Choudhry Ghulam Abbas, Mistri Yaqub Ali and Gouhar Rehman were nominated to represent Jammu Province. The meeting ended and the leaders on the stage retired to a nearby house for a cup of tea and further consultations. While the dispersal started, Qadeer climbed on the stage with the facilitation of Ahmad-u-llah Shahdad and raised slogan of “Narai Takbeer – Alloh-o-Akbar”. (God is Great). Thereafter he delivered a provocative speech using harsh words against the Maharaja and his government. He reminded the gathering that they continue to be slaves and ruled by a government who has the impertinence to insult their religion. He exhorted upon people to answer violence with violence. Qadeer expectedly received tremendous ovation from the gathering who had been craving to hear such words for a long time. During the speech he raised his arm and pointed his finger towards the Shegarhi Palace and provoked the gathering to demolish the seat of repression. The people, thereafter, dispersed peacefully amid slogans against the Maharaja.

The Maharaja called for report from Sub Inspector (CID) Mohammed Yusuf Allaqaband who feigned ignorance about the details of Qadeer’s speech. He was promptly placed under suspension. The government responded by registering a case u/s 124-A (treason) and 153 RPC (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion…) in Police station Maharaj Gung, Srinagar. Qadeer also left for his house boat and was arrested during the night and handcuffed. The investigation of the case was expedited and challan was produced in the court of Judge Kishen Lal Kichloo. The court was located at Amirakadal near court road. Lala Nanak Chand led the prosecution and Molvi Abdullah appeared as defence counsel. While the proceedings of the court started people in large numbers assembled near the court premises to have a glimpse of Qadeer. It became unmanageable to bring the accused to the court. Owing to law & order problem the government shifted the court to Central Jail Srinagar on 5th July, 1931. After few days of court proceedings Qadeer was sentenced to the three years, rigourous imprisonment on 13th July 1931, after in-camera trial. A large crowd had converged at the gate of the Central Jail. Please read eye witness account as to what happened at Central Jail by Pir Afzal Mukhdoomi in his book “Tareekh Tehrik Hurriet Kashmir” who also got injured in the firing on 13th July 1931 (P.P. 42 & 43). It may be mentioned here that the firing on the crowd was ordered by Governor Attar Singh.

While remaining in Jail for about 15 months Qadeer’s employer (Col. Abbot) laboured hard and used his proximity and clout to get him released from the custody. Ultimately Qadeer was surreptitiously released and taken by officials to Lahore via Rawalpindi. It is presumed that from Lahore Qadeer went to his home town Amroha (U.P) and lived a life in oblivion.

Input from Archives Department files are acknowledged

Titbit 49: Jinnah’s Visits To Kashmir

Qaud-i-Azam Muhammed Ali Jinnah was a muti-faceted personality. He was a brilliant and reputed lawyer, a shrewd politician and undisputed leader of India Muslim League. According to his biographer, Stanley Wolpert, he remains Pakistan’s greatest leader. ‘Qauid’ and ‘Azam’ are both Arabic words. ‘Qauid’ is an ‘esm’ ( اسم) and Azam is a ( صفت) ‘siffat’ ( feature) in Arabic language. It is an appellation driven from Arabic ‘ Tarqeeb’ (composition). Mr Jinnah popularly known as Quaid-i-Azam or great leader is the only political leader in the Muslim world to have been exalted to such a level by his people. He has millions of fans and followers and millions of critics who call his two nation theory as pernicious. Lot has been written about him and much more will be written in future as well.

Jinnah had been going to hill stations and picturesque places during summers. Therefore it is not definitely known as to how many times did he visit Kashmir valley. He may have visited Kashmir even before late twenties in 20th century. According to Justice Saraf, who had access to Archival Files in Pakistan, writes in his book ” Kashmiris Fight for freedom” vol 1 that Jinnah first visited Kashmir somewhere between 1925 and 1928 and his travel was organised by Travel Agency (Thomas Cook). However in 1929 Jinnah accompanied by his wife visited Kashmir, which is recorded. The next visit came in 1936 when he had emerged as a tall leader of Muslims in India. It is interesting to note that Rasheed Taseer gives the year of visit as 1937 in his book and Adv. Sharif Tariq mentions 1935. S.M.Abdullah in his autobiography also mentions the year as 1935. However 1936 is the authentic year as Barrister Jinnah appeared in a famous case in the State High Court ( Hanifa Begum v/s State u/s 494 Penal Code — the offence of marrying an already married woman). He also reportedly appeared in another case about which details are not known.

Barrister Jinnah appeared in the above said case before High Court and the bench comprised of Sir Barjor Dalal, Chief Justice, J. Sheikh Abdul Qayoom and J. Sawhney. On the day of final arguement the court premises ( near Amirakadal or Lal Chowk) was thronged by a large number of people. Barrister Jinnah, as defence counsel, built up his argument on the difference of days between Solar and Lunar callenders. At the conclusion of the argument the C.J. asked : ” Mr. Jinnah. Is there any Authority?”. Barrister Jinnah ” My Lord, I am the Authority”. Jinnah won the case to the relief of the accused namely Mirza Maher Ali who was employed as sub inspector police.
Mr. Jinnah remained busy in various activities and local visits during his stay in Srinagar. On 15 May 1936 he visited Jamia Masjid, Srinagar and delivered a speech at Pather Masjid same day. On 17 May 1936 he visited Islamia School (Gojwara). The head master gave the introduction and background of the school. Jinnah in his speech focused on unity and self reliance. He also gave a donation of a few hundred rupees to the school. On 1 June 1936 Eid Milad procession was taken out from Pather Masjid which terminated at Partap Park. These were the days when Nawab Khusro Jang and Prince Moazam Jah, heir apparent of Nawab of Hyderabad, were also in Srinagar. On 3 June 1936 Jinnah delivered a speech in English before a huge gathering in the spacious ground of Mujahid Manzil. Mirza Afzal Beg played as Kashmiri interpreter.

The last visit ( perhaps third as Qaud-i-Azam) came in May 1944. He visited the State on the invitation of Kashmiri leadership. Jinnah accompanied by his sister Fatimah Jinnah entered the State via Suchetgarh (8 May) and the Valley on 10 May 1944. From organisational side Ch. Ghulam Abbas, Mirza Afzal Beg and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed remained with him all along the route upto Srinagar. Tumultuous welcome waited him everywhere, be it Jammu areas or Kashmir valley. Suchetgarh to Rambagh it seemed a show of Muslim Conference and from Banihal onwards National Conference dominated in the reception arrangements. Significantly it was not Kashmir of 1936. Change in political narrative, race for assertion and division of local leadership, increase in the In-puts to the movement, variety of pressures on the Ruler etc etc was profoundly visible as compared to the previous visit of Mr Jinnah. On this visit M.A.Jinnah stayed in Kashmir upto 25 July 1944. Obviously during almost ten weeks stay, Jinnah remained awfully busy and was engaged in hectic activities.( Details will come in Tit Bits at appropriate time).

Titbit 48: INQILAB ZINDABAD

After the third convention of Muslim Conference held on 11,12 and 13 November 1934 Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah left Kashmir for planes ( Punjab ) on a study tour and also to meet top Indian leadership. During his tour he met Jawahar Lal Nehru and other prominent leaders. In Lahore he had a couple of meetings with Dr Saif-u-din Kichloo. In a press conference at Lahore, at the residence of Dr Kichloo, the Sheikh indicated his approval to the political strategy of the Congress Party. He vowed to form an organisation on his return to his homeland which will be nationalist in character. Various Muslim organisations in Punjab were upset on this change of stand.

June 1935 was an important month so far as unity rather disunity in the organisation was concerned. Disagreement on different issues between the Sheikh and Ghulam Nabi Gilkar came to fore. Gilkar distributed posters carrying an open letter addressed to S.M.Abdullah highlighting allegations of embezzlement of funds against the latter. Molvi Abdullah, a source of inspiration for the leader, joined critics in this campaign. Organisational cracks started appearing.

As a follow up to Sheikh’s visit to Lahore, Dr Kichloo visited Kashmir in July 1935. Many nobles in Srinagar hosted feasts in honor of Dr Kichloo. On 1 August 1935 a well attended public meeting was organised at Hazuribagh Bagh, Srinagar in which Dr Kichloo was the chief guest. Several Kashmiri leaders from both communities delivered speeches. In his concluding speech Dr Kichloo raised slogan ” Inqilab Zindabad”. It was first time when this slogan was publicly raised. The audience got astounded on hearing this slogan. Another public meeting was organised at the same venue on 3 August which was addressed again by Dr Kichloo. In his speech Dr Kichloo declared that Kashmiris should not forget India since Kashmir is part of Hindustan. Apart from showering tons of praises on Sheikh Abdullah, Dr Kichloo released the first copy of newspaper ‘ Hamdard ‘.