Omar Abdullah Berkley Discourse Demolished 

omar abdullah berkley

The Blue Gate, leading to a magnificent two-story white building with blue windows on the foothills of the Mount Solomon, Srinagar has been central to the post-1947 Kashmir narrative. In 1964, when topmost United Nations official Ralph Bunch arrived in Kashmir, the then premier students’ organization, the Jammu and Kashmir Students and Youth League organized a march to the white building housing the United Nations Military Observers Group. Lieutenant General Robert Harold Nimmo, an Australian soldier,headed the group. He who had served in both World War I and World War II.  In 1950, he was appointed to this position, with his fourteen years stay in the state he was adequately conversant with political situation as obtained in the state. To meet the students and know what they had to say he came to the blue gate. The students presented a memorandum for handing over to Mr. Bunch.It called upon the comity of nations for holding of a plebiscite under the aegis of the United Nations.  The official had been deputed by the Secretary-General to report about the ground situation in the state thatthen was in the grip of public protests and student agitation.  Mr. Bunchwas  rememberedin Kashmir for his February 1953 statement: ‘Kashmir is one situation you could never localize if it should flare up. It would influence the whole Muslim World. It is potentially the most dangerous in the world.’

The phenomenon of presenting a memorandum at the Blue Gate introduced by the students’ organization caught the imagination of the public,and it almost became a regular feature in the sixties and early seventies. In the early nineties, presenting memorandums at the UN office pickedup immensely with thousands of people often marching to the Blue Gate, and presenting a plethora of memos calling upon the world leaders to see the UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir executed in letter and spirit.Perhaps the last memorandum was presented at the gate by the Hurriyat Conference in 2008 when more than a million of people had marched towards the UN office. The march was halted at the Tourist Reception Centre.  Nonetheless, from the day the UN office was set up in Srinagar, people have been endeavoring to reach out directly to the military observers. In 1948, two women officers Begum Birjis Abdul Ghani, and Begum Musarrat Showkat Ali were arrested to prevent them meeting the UN official and presenting a fact-sheet about Kashmir situation.  On the orders of Prime Minister, Sheikh Abdullah they had been sent to notorious Bahu Fort in Jammu.

The effort to reach out to the United Nations by knocking at the Blue Gate most of the times was at a very heavy price of suffering baton charges, tear smoke and bullets. Nothingwas known about the fate of these memorandums presented to the UN office in Srinagar, whether these were at all passed on to the Secretary-General or not. Nevertheless, with the birth of microblogs like the Facebook in 2004 and the Twitter, the whole idea of knocking at the blue gate for sending a memo to the Security Council or petition to the UN Human Rights Commission has drastically changed. Now, these offices can be reached out in a fraction of second with the click of a button and one-word #Kashmir is out and out a reminder to the highest office about it having pushed people of the state into a morass of uncertainty and failed in seeing them out of it.

In a population of 16 million, just few hundred individualshave taken to the microblog Twitter for articulating their concerns aboutdark laws in force in the state.Pelleting childrenwith blindness and causing an ‘epidemic of dead eyes’ in the state. Protesting against strangulating the voices of disagreement and shrinking space for freedom of the expression. Nevertheless, it is quite discernable with people more particularly younger generation taking to the microblogging or alternative media it will not be possiblefor the hegemonic forces to pass the contorted or alternative narrative as the historical realities for hoodwinking the world opinion.

Just a week back the classical example was that of the third generation Abdullah going to theUniversity OfBerkeley UniversityUSA witha bag full of distortions and hegemonic discourses. The Institute for South Asia Studies had sponsored the program,andthe target audience was students. Such programs are not always fair academic engagements but have much more to them. The event in old times would have passed without any ado. The hegemonic discourse with all its distortion would have passed as historical realities. Moreover, the conjured narrative would have been believedto be thepeople’s narrative.  Nonetheless, because of microblog posts and online campaign by Kashmir academia and schools, a big question mark was put on the Berkley University inviting him and ‘masquerading’ him as representative of the people. In this column, I am not commenting on Abdullah inviting heckling at the venue by challenging the identity of Kashmiri from the downtown Srinagar family,ironically known intimately to the three generations of Abdullah’s. I will not be commenting on; whether or not Kashmir Diaspora were serious in about taking him to the International Court of Justice for the 2010 killings- the cry that echoed at the venue. Equally, I am not interested in his tweet that hehad a “great session” at the Berkley University.

In his Q&A session, which the former chief minister in his tweet boasted about, Omar Abdullah was miles away from the historical realities. In, one of his replies, he stated that Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra rule of Jammu and Kashmir wanted to remain independent. He blamed the Afridis (the tribal from Northern Areas) for defeating his dream of independence and acceding to India.  The Maharaja, may or may not have been planning for an independent Jammu and Kashmir state but Sheikh Abdullah, the grandfather of Omar Abdullah, leader of the National Conference, had already consented tojoin India way back in 1946. Joseph Korbel, head of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan writes  that there was no official explanation about India not signing the Stand Still Agreement with Maharaja  until five years later Sheikh Abdullah declared that India’s decision to refrain from signing such an agreement was based upon the belief that it could not consider any agreement entered into  had the approval of the people’s representative.’ Nehru’s representative was none but Sheikh Abdullah. That Abdullah, as leader of the National Conference had consented tojoin India, is further corroborated by the letter that Nehru wrote to Sardar Patel on 27 September 1947 (at a time when Sardar Patel India’s strongman was inclined to allow the state to join Pakistan). In his letter, Nehru wrote to Patel to ‘ask Maharaja Hari Singh to make friends with the National Conference and release Abdullah for enlisting his support for bringing about the accession of Kashmir to Indian Union.’ The report sent by British Resident Col. W.F. Webb in July 1946, sufficiently suggest that Nehru had in 1946, taken Abdullah on board to make the State part of Indian Union once British departed. To quote Col. Web, “Nehru in 1946 Jawaharlal Nehru had developed a definite policy for the future of the State of Jammu and Kashmir once the British departed. Under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah, it was to be made into an anti-Pakistani (whatever shape Pakistan might eventually assume) zone to the North of Punjab.”

Interestingly, the Afridis appear in Muzaffarabad one month after Nehru got Abdullah release for enlisting his support for the accession of the state with India. So Omar Abdullah plays a wrong ball when he asserted at Berkley University that landing of Indian troops in Srinagar and Maharaja acceding happened because of Afridi. The whole drama of the Afridis is linked to the Poonch rebellion; this has been fully documented by the Alastair Lamb and Christopher Snedden in their exhaustive books on happening in Jammu and Kashmir in 1947.

There is a lot more to the story that demolishes Abdullah scion’s ‘Dominant Discourse’ at Berkley.

Z. G. Muhammad is author and columnist based in Srinagar


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