What led to removal of SMA on 9th August, 1953?

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah

A lot has been written about 9/8/1953 removal of Sheikh M. Abdullah (for brevity, SMA) from chair of State PM. In spite of that, more curiosity stills fills many minds among pro-n-anti-SMA to know why he, after helping India, internally as well as externally, in taking JK, was considered threat to India which led to his unceremonious dismissal from PM-ship on 9/8/1953. Who on the earth doesn’t know of the deep friendship that existed between him & Nehru during those most crucial days of JK’s political history. Nehruvian persuasive skills & mesmerising political nuances unequivocally had indelible impact on him in setting the direction of his political thought “against popular sentiment of majority population of the State”. 1 Nehru-Sheikh bonhomie was indeed responsible for turning the tables on M A Jinnah & his two nation theory. But it doesn’t answer the curiosity why then Nehru unfriended & sentenced him, so ruthlessly & discourteously? After all, the two were doubtless confidantes or “one soul in two bodies” 2  with shared socio-politico-secular outlook. They were not only political colleagues, but also close personal friends. 3 What happened then that “proved” Nehru, willingly or unwillingly, “more oppressive & dictatorial than the Maharaja” for him. 4

Dismissal of SMA from the PM-chair didn’t happen by accident. It was connected to a chain of historical events, knowledge and understanding of which will unfold the causes of SMA dethroning. We will throw some spotlight on that historical background.


Firstly, it has to be noted that after India took K-issue to UN on 01-01-1948, quite against its pre-held expectations that the world body would declare Pakistan as “aggressor”, UN held JK “international dispute” resolution of which was to be got by holding a free & impartial plebiscite under UN auspices. Finding itself caught on a wrong foot by UN Resolutions, India “regretted” its decision. 5 It wanted to come out of UN tangle which equaled to “unusual & abnormal” conditions in the words of Gopalaswami Ayyangar. 6


But it wasn’t possible for India to do it then as it was the petitioner & signatory to the UN Resolutions, apart from having had publically conceded, more than once, to the Kashmiris’ right of self-determination. So, it seemingly needed time to procrastinate settlement of K-Issue & someone within Kashmir who could come to its rescue as it had only army control over the land. Who would have been better there than SMA to do the job? Amid marathon debates in UN GA followed by preparatory steps for conducting plebiscite, it was SMA 7, at whose request Article 370 was adopted in the Indian Constitution on 17-10-1949. Article 370 which was total rejection NC proposed Article 306-A by S Patel & Gopalaswami Ayyangar 8  was a “conduit pipe” employed by them to link J&K “constitutionally” with India, which was intending to become a constitutional democracy.  The jubilant architect of Article 370, Gopalaswami Ayyangar, said:”Article 370 will provide basis for merging J&K with India and, henceforth, Kashmir’s freedom and right of self determination will be impossible”. 8 But SMA had a different self-pleasing notion about Article 370 that it had made Kashmir a “free country” with power to decide on its internal matters through its State Assembly while the Indian-role would be limited to external matters mentioned in IOA only. 9 It was a Faustian bargain of SMA with India is proven by the fact that through this tunnel (Article 370) the whole of the Constitution was applied to the J & K. 10


A dispassionate analysis of his statements shows that he actually wanted Pakistan to be kept away from J&K, with no role for UN [even] in K-Issue where it was pending settlement, & himself as unopposed perennial head of the State after the Maharaja was completely disposed of from K-scene, all but with the Nehruvian help. Nonetheless, in total ignorance of the history & geo-politics, he had been playing most perilous game of politics at most critical times with most formidable politicians of INC.  But sadly, “at the end [he] found himself entangled in the web of his own methods and policy”. 11


Secondly, for some Congress leaders ( Patel & Ayyangar) & all right-wing parties of India inclusion of Article 370 was not a welcome provision in the Constitution as they saw it an obstacle in the way of total merger of the State with Indian Union contrary to the procedure adopted with  other princely States. The within named right wing Hindu organisations wanted the State “should be incorporated lock, stock and barrel into the Indian Union”.12 It was thought that Article did not define fully the State’s relation with India. Nehru too wanted SMA do more to prove his secular loyalty & credentials of pro-Indian ideology. So, ultimately, he entered into Delhi Agreement on 24-07-1952 with Nehru that declared that JK shall enjoy certain unique privileges within UOI which besides conceding number of powers to the UOI, also included that the State shall have its own Constitution, its own flag besides Indian flag, the head of the cabinet shall be called PM, and the head of the State shall be called Sadr e Riyasat who shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the State Assembly. There was extraordinary reaction to these contents of the Delhi Agreement in particular. The Hindu rightwing  parties of Jammu , namely, Praja Parishad, Bhartiya Jan Sangh & Hindu Mahasabha  who had been hell-bent on total merger of the State with the UOI like other States launched violent & aggressive movement against the Delhi Agreement in Jammu, Delhi & some other parts of India with processionists & protesters raising “catchy slogans: Ek Desh mein Do Vidhan, Do Pradhan, Do Nishan—-nahi chalenge, nahi  chalenge (Two Constitutions, two heads of State, two flags—these in one State we shall not allow , not allow) .  13  This Hindu agitation against SMA planted seeds of parting his ways with India in his mind as he had started apprehending what will happen to Muslims of JK after the death of Nehru when communal elements will take over India? 14 Nehru wanted implementation of the Delhi Agreement but could not in the face of furious opposition by the rightwing Hindu organisations. He sent delegates, Abul Kalam Azad & Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, to Srinagar to convince SMA but he was not ready to listen to them. 15  In the meanwhile, some American diplomats, Stevenson & Anderson, had called on him at Srinagar & discussed with him about his idea of possible independence, albeit “agencies” 16 had been regularly reporting Nehru about SMA’s activities, 17 but his idea of independence was rejected by Nehru saying that independent-K would be great threat to the freedom of both India & Pakistan 18  & that he would rather prefer giving Kashmir to Pakistan on a platter. 19 Earlier on 28-01-1948 US Representative, Ambassador Warren Austin, had also made it clear to SMA that “independence was not an option on offer. The only question before the Security Council was whether Kashmir should go to India or to Pakistan”. 20.


Thirdly, the aforesaid circumstances, especially Hindu rightwing campaign, “temporarily” though, shook his faith in secular concept about Indian State, & aroused a wave of criticism and despair from many workers within his party  against his signing of the Delhi Agreement 21 who saw it as “further erosion” on autonomy and freedom of the State. These developments naturally upset SMS. 22 So, he had to hurriedly convene a meeting of his party workers to “favourably” interpret its provisions to calm the rising emotions down. 23 He then began openly venting his spleen on Kashmir’s relation with India. It culminated on 13th July 1953 (Martyrs’ Day) into his emotional outbursts at huge public rallies at Naqshband Sahib Shrine, Jamia Masjid & Shahi Masjid which he attended one by one & where he repeatedly declared: “I regret my mistake of coming in the way of merger with Pakistan. I had fears they won’t treat me well, but I was wrong. Now I feel back-stabbed, I no longer trust Indian rulers, we have different ways now”. 24 Earlier on 10th April 1953, SMA had spoken at a public rally in RS Pora Jammu that communalism had not finally been buried in India & that its presence there till now makes JK Muslims highly worried & apprehensive to think of all eventualities & possibilities. 25 On 25th July, 1953, Sheikh Abdullah said on impact of Praja Parishad agitation: “The confidence created by the National Conference in the people here (regarding accession to India) has been shaken by the Jana Sangh and other communal organization in India.” 26. Naturally, such change of political outlook of SMA was not liked by Nehru & other INC leaders. So, from all this, it is not difficult to see why India found it expedient to remove him from his post of the local premiership. 27.


Fourthly, removal of SMA would not have been so difficult for “Delhi rulers” but they must have been extremely anxious about how to face international community as the issue was very much alive in UNGA & UNSC? But panacea to all growing difficulties & anxieties at this moment for India came from a group of “insiders”, cabinet ministers, Bakshi GM, S L Saraf, D P Dhar, and others, intimately close to SMA, who had been prepared by Nehru for the task as a special group and who were acting in unison with Karan Sigh & B N Mullick. Bakshi G M topped the list of this new group of special loyalists &, hence, was sworn in as new local premier once SMA was removed & arrested on 9th August, 1953 at Gulmarg under the directions of Nehru on the pretext of that SMA had established liaison with Pak Government, 28 had waged a war against Indian State by talking of “independent” Kashmir & had lost support of his cabinet. He was, however, “denied” opportunity to to prove his majority on the floor of State Assembly. He was later in 1958 “framed” under bogus “Kashmir Conspiracy Case” without any trial. The case was withdrawn in 1964 as “political decision” but lot of damage was already caused to State’s autonomy through Bakshi & his successors in office till 1975 when SMA finally decided to rejoin mainstream politics of India & once again occupy the chair,  not of PM, but of CM this time.


End piece:

The story of Sheikh Abdullah is a sad and sorry one. It is the story of once a patriot, a fighter, then turning into an opportunist and, worse, a dictator who at the end found himself entangled in the web of his own methods and policy. 29


Post script:

It may be added here that some people wrongly assume that removal of SMA was linked to his land reforms legislation. Historically & factually, it had nothing to do with that. Had it been so, then, immediately after enactment of the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950 that abolished Jagirs mostly of royal descendants of Dogras, Sikhs & Pandits, there would have been Praja Parished-Jan Sangh type agitation against it. It did not bother Indian leadership or “communal parties” at all since they were focused on “higher planning” of geo-politics to annex JK with India.


Note: Views expressed here are personal & not of the organisation the author works for.


Footnotes & references:


1.Shri Om Mehta Diaries, cited in footnote page 244 of M M Isaaq’s Nida e Haq (2014).

  1. Mantu shudam tu manshudi man jah shudam tu tan shudi man degram tu degree, TOI dated 03-11-2011: SMA’s speech at Lal Chowk in 1947

3.Alan Campbell-Johnson, Mission with Mountbatten (1951) page 10

4.SMA’s The Blazing Chinar (2016) page 188

5.Ram Chandra Guha, India After Gandhi (2007) page 242


6.Prof Amitabh Mattoo, Understands Article 370, published in The Hindu dated 6-12-2013


  1. with his few colleagues , not elected by people but nominated by the party for the job though,.


  1. see Gopalaswamy Ayyangar to Patel (letter dated 15 October, 1949) page 302; SMA reply letter to Gopalaswami Ayyangar dated 17-10-1949; SMA had just threatened S Patel he would resign from premiership & dissolve State CA to which Patel replied that was your choice; but SMA never resigned on his return to Srinagar, instead he supported accession in full


9.Shabnum Qayoom, History of Kashmir (2014) page 300



  1. JK CA Debates, page 481



11.Jagmohan, My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir,(2006, 7th edition), page 252; AG Noorani, A Constitutional History of Jammu & Kashmir’ page, 2


12.Josef Korbel, Danger in Kashmir (1954) page 206


13, Alastar Lamb, Disputed Legacy, page 198


14.Ram Chandra Guha, India After Gandhi (2007) page 249


  1. Ibid page 254; M M Isaaq’s Nida e Haq (2014) page 242


  1. M M Isaaq’s Nida e Haq (2014) page 245


  1. D P Dhar, Karan Singh, G L Dogra, Shyam Lal Saraf, Bakshi, Sadiq, Qasim, B N Mullik, Chinese Betrayal: My years with Nehru (1971) page 37; CJ , M Y Saraf Kashmiris Fight For Freedom ( 2009) page 1208-09


  1. Alastar Lamb, Disputed Legacy, page 190


  1. Ibid, Danger in Kashmir, page 242
  2. Ibid,M M Isaaq, page 245, footnote
  3. Alaster Lamb, Birth of a Tragedy , pages 142-143


  1. CJ , M Y Saraf Kashmiris Fight For Freedom ( 2009) page 1204


  1. Supra, Shabnum Qayoom, pages 373-380
  2. Supra, CJ, M Y Saraf Kashmiris Fight for Freedom
  3. GK dated 09-08-2016; M M Isaaq , pages 249-251


  1. Satish Vashishth’s Sheikh Abdullah Then and Now, (1968) 88


  1. Ibid, page 97


  1. Alastar Lam, Birth of a Tragedy, page 143


  1. Supra M Y Saraf Kashmiris Fight For Freedom, ppage 1211-1212


  1. Josef Korbel, Danger in Kashmir (1954) page 206

M J Aslam is Author, academician, story-teller & freelance columnist Presently AVP, JKB.






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