National Conference: Terminating Voices of Dissent


Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah

There is an anonymous saying, you don’t know what is in the people’s hearts, inhistory,and you go by records. The records reveal that the mayhem of April 04 1979 was an expression of mature tendencies in National Conference against any sort of political dissent.

Seven decades ago, in the streets of Amira Kadal area of Srinagar city, Sheikh Abdullah was seen with a hockey in his hand,frightening the associates of Muslim Conference that had challenged his monopoly on the political leadership and when asked, Prem Nath Bazaz says that he said, “if to silence my opponents I have to take up a sword, I will not hesitate to do so.”The culture of the stick has remained intact with the National Conference as the history has progressed.

In 1944, Sheikh welcomed Mohammad Ali Jinnah to Kashmir and called him ‘a beloved leader of the Muslims of India’, however when Jinnah called upon Kashmiri Muslims to rally behind Muslim Conference, Sheikh was instantly upset to the level that he retaliated in a redundant tone on June 20, 1944, and said, that ‘if Jinnah does not give up the habit of interfering in our politics, it will be difficult for him to go back in an honourable manner writes Bazaz. Thus hindsight proves that challenging the honour of dissidents has remained a core component of the genetics of National Conference.

This reproach to dissent by Sheikh was not merely to secure his ideological vision, but to shelter and safeguard his personal gains. Who could have imagined a man sentenced to nine years in prison for having led the ‘seditious’ Quit Kashmir movement against the Maharaja’s regime in May 1946, would shamelessly take oath of power reading,‘I (Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah) shall remain loyal to his highness Rjarajeshwar Maharajadhiraj Sri Maharaja JI Bahadur undermahindersapar I sultanatienglishe, ruler of Jammu and Kashmir and his heirs and successors and shall honestly discharge the duties that are entrusted to me.’ This amounts one to believe that the politics of deceit has a continuum in the political (dis)course of National Conference.

Sheikh’s hatred to the other view continued as he threw dissenters into prison or pushed them across the Line of Control. Sheikh, thus strategically strangulated the voices of CG Abbas, GN Gilkar, PN Bazaz, JN Sathoo, MA Aziz, PN Fani to name a few. In 1953, when the Muslims were mercilessly butchered in Jammu, Sheikh at that time happened to be the administrator of the state and he didn’t spare time to intervene, thus the Muslims of Jammu for their inclinations towards Ghulam Abbas cultivated this ‘reward’. In 1972, the funeral of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad could not attract see the Sheikh’s party men as they were advised not to attend his last rites. This panoptic character of the NC founder has remained deeply ingrained in the political chemistry of NC workers.

In the same context, Jamaat e Islami Jammu and Kashmir – as a political party with a claim that the state is a disputed territory and needs a resolution as per the UN documents and challenging the accession of J&K’s accession to India could never be acceptable to Sheikhand his progeny. While the view of Jamaat was repugnant to the compromise made by Sheikh, the political participation of Jamaat was seemingly a threat to his ‘gifted’ throne. The politics of NC, (be its 73 unopposed elected members in state legislature in 1951, 43 unopposed elected members in state legislature in 1958 and winning of 70 out of 75 seats including 34 won uncontested in 1962) had developed a habit of zero resistance in NC and the dissenting voice of Jamaat needed a stick, an honourable exit, jail or exile as per the Sheikh’s wisdom.  The history has recorded the words of Qari Saif Ud Din – the Jamaat head, who holds that ‘after Jamaat contested elections to challenge the assumed legitimacy of NC after Indra Abdullah Accord in 1975 by fielding Ashraf Sehrai, he (Sheikh) reached the Jamaat office only to see it locked and its officials in the lockups.  The extension of 1975 emergency to the state of Jammu and Kashmir was strategically employed to eliminate the political adversaries including the Jamaat, which was banned, and its public institutionsclosed down and members put to behind the bars. The policy of political vendetta against the other antagonistic views made the policy framework of NC.

The targeted rioting by NC members on 4April 1979 against Jamaat was only an extension of this long process of elimination of political opponents and to keep the throne safe for NC. Historian and senior journalist, Zaheer-ud-din maintains that the arson and loot was not totally spontaneous, its seeds were sown well before 1979. He argues that the ban on Jamaat run schools in 1975 had a similar connotation. As the case against the Bhutto was proceeding in Lahore High Court, some newspapers ran a targeted propaganda campaign against Jamaat and the mood was made in the state to act as the incident across the border happens. Sheikh and his administration knew it well but they allowed the damage to property worth Rupees 40 Crore besides burning of 1245 residential houses, loot of 466 houses, burning of 513 granaries and 338 shops, destruction of 70 apple orchards and 24 Jamaat offices as per the records of Ashiq Kashmiri. This was no democracy at work, it was absolute anarchy allowed only to exterminate the emerging opponent, Jamaat e Islami. It was to celebrate the legacy of no dissent to NC.

The story did not end here in 1979, as NC continued with its policy of exterminating Jamaat workers. The creation of Ikhwan, the killing of Jamaat workers and banning Jamaat activities are the signposts of NC politics. SAS Geelani’s house arrest in 2010 is the continuum of the same contested legacy. The senior Police Official’s public acknowledgement that Junior Abdullah (read Omar Abdullah) wanted Masrat Alam dead alludesto the fact that NC is hell-bent on to follow the footprints of their political guru who is blamed for his insatiable hunger for power and whose unwise personnel choices made people of the state suffer in the discordant dilemmas of political uncertainty. At the end of the day, one can safely assume that NC will not spare his political opponents and will cross any line of dissent if they happen to retain the lost power.

Mir Haseeb Abdullah is PhD scholar at CentreOf Advanced Studies, Department of history, Aligarh Muslim University. Can be reached at [email protected]



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