The Rise and Reign of Sheikh
By U. Mahesh Prabhu
With the objective of perpetuating their rule on the vast Indian subcontinent, the British made two things the foundation of all their political activities. First was the 'divide and rule' diplomacy and secondly, the arrangement of able agents and even stooges for implementing this appropriately in the political setup.
The rulers of Indian states too, played their role in strengthening the British political base. These Rajas and Maharajas neither dared nor thought it proper to oppose the foreign power because they were busy with entertainment of all sorts. The freedom struggle of 1857 was a revolt at a time when the British were yet to gain a strong foothold. Therefore, the British gave importance to the individual egos of these rulers and never tried to interfere in their world of pleasure. This is precisely why the foreign rulers had nothing to fear from them and kept on using them as the base for stability.
But something interesting occurred at the Chamber of Princes' round table conference of 1931 in London. Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir, in his capacity as Chairman, talked about 'Indian independence'. Such talk, that too from the head of the Chamber of Princes, was undoubtedly a challenge for the British Crown. Those were the days when the pace of the freedom movement and partition of India were getting faster.
Kashmir was a Muslim majority state and the Maharaja, by talking about India's 'complete independence', had struck at the caste-based politics announced by the British. Getting angry and alert, following the unhelpful attitude of the Maharaja, Viceroy Lord Mountbatten started looking for a suitable British agent in Kashmir to field against the Maharaja.
Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), which had produced many leaders for assisting the Indian Muslim society in adopting the path of separatism, also happened to produce Sheikh Abdullah. Sheikh who had an M. Sc. degree from the university was appointed as a teacher in the government high school in Srinagar. Facts suggest that he began his political activities in the state then.
Though he claims to have 'given up' his service in the interest of the state, an investigative account published in his book 'Our Kashmir', by Dr. Gori Nath Rastogi, states that he was sacked because of his 'immoral behavior' which reportedly enraged Sheikh Abdullah. Combined with the seeds of communalism, received from AMU, he began encouraging separatist ideas – then onwards – openly. The British diplomacy had the need for such a person in Jammu and Kashmir.
A prominent weekly of Bombay, 'Blitz', in its April 24, 1964 issue published a comprehensive article in which Sheikh Abdullah has been dubbed a British agent. In the article, original documents in the form of secret correspondence and letters have been published exposing the anti-national activities of Sheikh, Dr H L Saxena has published the entire article of 'Blitz' in his book 'The Tragedy of Kashmir'.
Before embracing death, however, Sheikh Abdullah decided to wear a mask of nationalism. He wanted the support and blessing of some Indian leaders and Hindus to see his dream of becoming the Sultan of Kashmir, fulfilled. He succeeded in receiving guidance, support, and blessings, of influential national leaders like Pandit Nehru, and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, to reach the level of national leaders.
According to Prof. Balraj Madhok in his book 'Kashmir, Jammu & Ladhakh', Sheikh Abdullah had converted the Muslim Conference into the National Conference in 1939, in the interest of his political ambition; he wanted to secure the support of the Indian National Congress and, even, the Indian Press fraternity. This strategy paid him dividends, indeed.
Very astonishingly, facts also reveal that Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, better known in India as 'Frontier Gandhi', too played a pivotal role in this. The Khan had explained to the Sheikh that since 95 per cent of the population of the valley was Muslim, he would get the power, whenever and however, as a leader of Kashmiris.
In this way Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah a region leader, highly communal person, and also a stooge of the British, succeeded in making an appearance on the all India stage. Even after 'Blitz' lifted the thick veil from the initial political life of Sheikh, some of our eminent journalists have continued to term him s a 'champion of the Kashmiri cause ', 'a nationalist' and what not!