Flag is not a mere piece of fabric that flutters about in the breeze. It represents the feelings & ideals of the people for that for which it has been created & thus stands for. The first Kashmir flag was adopted by the first largest political party of J&K Muslims, All J & K Muslim Conference, which was formed in the lawns of historic Pather/Shahi Masjid Srinagar on 14-16 October, 1932. It was undoubtedly first and last political body of J&K that had drawn support of entire Muslim population of the State; something like that never happened thereafter among the majority community of the State. The proceedings of that new organisation, All J & K Muslim Conference, had begun by unfurling of its flag that had a green background with a crescent & a star. I The green background represented [then] 85% Muslim population of the State with 96% of them in Kashmir valley alone. The crescent & star were [Muslim] national religious icons. The flag was hoisted in presence of 200 Muslim leaders & 100 pressmen on the pandal, & three lakh people around on 14th October, 1932 by Waliullah Zain-ul-Abedin, a prominent Punjabi Muslim representative of All India Kashmir Committee. II The flag corresponded [corresponds] to the flag of Indian Muslim league which became later Pakistani national flag with additional white stripes. At the time of flag hoisting ceremony of All J & K Muslim Conference, Waliullah Zain-ul-Abedin spoke: “Today, the hoisting of the green flag with crescent opens a new chapter in the history of Kashmir. As such, it is the duty of the Kashmiris to see that it remains hoisted always. This flag of the [Muslim] Conference is the harbinger of love, peace and brotherhood among all the communities living in the State …”. III
The flag of the All J & K Muslim Conference evinced that the Muslims of J&K had then organised themselves under “a single flag, a single platform and an ideal.” IV But within less than eight years, under the influence of Nehru, some local leftist & Pandit leaders, the Muslim Conference was rechristened by Sheikh M Abdullah the National Conference. To be precise, at 1.45 pm night of 11-12 June 1939 the Muslim Conference was converted into the National Conference at party headquarters, Mujahid Manzil Srinagar. The green flag with white a crescent & a star in the middle was pulled down & replaced by a flag with red background & a plough in the middle which, thenceforth, became the party flag of the National Conference. V
The National Conference flag was prepared by Pandit Prem Nath Dwarika and designed by Sardar Budh Singh. On the day of transformation of the Muslim Conference into the National Conference, there was unsurprisingly huge jubilation among Kashmiri Pandits who celebrated it as their great achievement. But many prominent Muslims opposed the leadership’s move fearing “that the National Conference would become hand-maid of the Indian National Congress”. VI Rejecting that opposition, Sheikh M Abdullah said: “..We had to take a decision (of conversion of the party), so have taken; those who disagree with it may leave.” VII But, as admitted by Sheikh M Abdullah & Chowdhari Ghulam Abbas in their separate meetings in 1948 before Josef Korbel the split in Muslim unity of J&K in 1939 “had been the beginning of all their [Muslim] troubles”. VIII
We may mention of an interesting episode that took place after conversion of the Muslim Conference to the National Conference. To recall, the lawns adjacent to Pather/Shahi Masjid where the Muslim Conference was launched were utilised for construction of a building that was named as Mujahid Manzil which was used as party headquarters of the Muslim Conference atop whereof its green flag fluttered till it was replaced by the National Conference flag. The building was constructed with substantial contribution of money & labour from a staunch Muslim Conference leader Qureshi Mohammad Yousuf who had opposed tooth & nail the conversion of the Muslim Conference into the National Conference. Highly angered Muslim Conference leader asked for return of his money or share in the building. Two rooms were allotted to him where he raised banners & flag of the Muslim Conference. It happened when Sheikh M Abdullah was not present at the party headquarters. He had been on a visit to some area of Jammu division. When he returned & was told about the development, he asked Bakshi G M to call one of the “ruffian-regiments” of the National Conference. The “ruffian-regiment” was called & “they” pulled down signboard & flag of the Muslim Conference & burnt it along with furniture & record that was maintained by Qureshi Mohammad Yusuf in his allotted rooms. IX
The National Conference flag prima facie corresponded to the Communist flag with identical red background with scythe, instead of plough, in the middle. Both flags symbolise workers, labourers & peasants, slogan of all leftist parties till date. X The National Conference flag buried the Muslim Conference flag. Since the Muslim Conference flag contained Muslims icons of crescent & star, it was not liked by non-Muslims & leftists.
Notwithstanding aforesaid developments, a bosom-liking for green flag remained deep inside the Muslims of J&K. That way, with Muslim ideology. On 13-06-1941, with active support of Mirwaiz M Yousuf Shah, Chowdhari Ghulam Abbas, after Sheikh M Abdullah had drifted away from core-principles agreed with him XI & made the National Conference “hand-maid of the Indian National Congress” , revived the All J & K Muslim Conference. And, in view of fast changing political scenario of British India, “the Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir began to return to the Muslim Conference led by Chowdhari Ghulam Abbas, abandoning the ranks of the National Conference of Sheikh M Abdullah” till he “played a poor card” XII or “political ploy” of Quit Kashmir. XIII
With the revival of All J & K Muslim Conference in 1941 & final visit of M A Jinnah to Srinagar in 1944 providing much needed “vitamin” to the Muslim Conference workers, its green flags were publically hoisted by them at all offices & units of the party in Jammu & Kashmir.
The events of August-1947-Partition unfolded the hidden sentiment of the Muslims of J&K. Their love for green flag. So, at midnight 14th August, 1947, they rejoiced & hoisted “Pakistani flags”, which resembled the green flag of their own Muslim Conference, at their roof tops & post offices believing or expecting that they had become or would become part of that country. It was a spectacle to watch streams of people from all directions swarming towards the post office in order to have a glimpse of their hope and desire.” XIV And, when the fateful day of August 15 dawned, Muslims of J&K celebrated a “Pakistan Day” with Pakistani green flags enthusiastically displayed throughout the State. The Maharaja ordered them torn down and retaliated by closing all pro-Pakistani newspapers. XV It was not only the Maharaja who had shown aversion to green flags of Pakistan. Under a well thought of planning, the National Conference workers whose leader at that time was in jail, too pulled down the “Pakistani flags” from the post & telegraph offices & all other buildings all over the State. XVI But the people continued to hoist “Pakistani flags” on government buildings & electricity poles which were again & again removed by the police. Ultimately, the job of removing “Pakistani flags” & dealing with “flag-hoisters” & supporters of the Muslim Conference was given to Sheikh M Abdullah & his cadres. He was released on 29-09-1947 under a pre-planning by the Maharaja at the behest of Nehru & Patel & appointed “Head” of the Emergency Administration of the State. XVII “The soldiers of ―”Abdullah Guard” and “Peace Brigade” were tasked to remove the Pakistani and Muslim Conference flags from all over the State”. XVIII
Under Delhi Agreement of 24-07-1952, it was agreed that the State of J&K shall have its own flag which shall be hoisted alongside the Indian tricolor flag at all government functions & properties. The National Conference flag was adopted as the State flag with addition of “three equidistant white vertical stripes” on left side representing three regions of J&K: Kashmir, Jammu & Ladakh. XIX In March, 2015 the then Chief Minister, Mufti M Sayed, issued a circular directing all constitutional functionless of the State to hoist State flag in their offices & on their vehicles. But as the coalition partner, BJP, refused to hoist the State flag alongside Indian tricolor, thus, paying no importance to the J&K Constitution that requires it, Mufti M Sayed had to buckle under the BJP pressure & withdraw the circular. XX Later, two Judges bench of the JK High Court also stayed the order of a single judge bench that had directed hoisting of the State flag along with tricolor on all official buildings and vehicles of constitutional authorities. XXI
In the aftermath of Sheikh M Abdullah’s unceremonious removal from the State PM- Chair & arrest on 9th August, 1953, Mirza Afzal Beigh, his deputy together with other leaders, renamed the National Conference as Mahaz e Rai Shoomari or All J & K Plebiscite Front on 09-08-1955. The renamed party, however, very belatedly, following its first three day annual convocation held at Sopore between 14-16 November 1964, “adopted a rectangular flag, with green colour for 2/3 of its length representing Muslims of the State and saffron for 1/3 of its length representing the non-Muslims. In the middle there were three motifs a green chinar leaf at top symbolising Kashmir, a pair of clasped hands below it symbolizing friendship between India and Pakistan and a crescent at the bottom”. XXII However, after Sheikh M Abdullah signed Accord with Indira Gandhi on 12-02-1975, the Plebiscite Front along with its flag was permanently buried.
But the love & sentiment towards original green flag [of the Muslim Conference] has continued among the Kashmiris, fundamentally for its Islamic religious symbolism, in one or other form, XXIII for a myriad of historical-cum-political reasons which include betrayals, backtrackings & excesses done by local leadership & India with them since beginning of the Kashmir dispute till date.
Note: Views expressed are personal & not of the organisation the author works for.
I Sheikh M Abdullah’s The Blazing Chinar (Gulshan Books Srinagar, 2016) 122
II M Y Saraf’ s Kashmiris Fight For Freedom ( 2009) pages 482-83
III Alfazl, Qadian, 25 October 1932; F. M. Hassenain, Freedom Struggle in Kashmir (1988 edition), page 77
IV M A Jinnah’s Address to Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir in 1944: Legal Document No 82 also cited in K-Ink dated 28-03-2016
V Gh Hassan Khan’s K-Freedom Movement from 1931-1940(2009) page 386
VI N.Bazaz, The History o f Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir (1954), pages 168, 170
VII Shabnum Qayoom’s Comprehensive History of Kashmir (2014) vol 2, page 262-263
VIII Danger in Kashmir (1954) page 23
IX Supra Shabnum Qayoom, page 265
X Rasheed Taseer, Tareekh-i-Huriyyat-Kashmir (1967 -Mohafiz Publishers, Srinagar) Vol two, pages 76-77
XI Ref Chowdhari Ghulam Abbas’s Kashmakash (1950, reprinted edition of 2017) page 178
XII Josef Korbel, Danger in Kashmir (1954) page 22
XIII Alastair Lamb, Kashmir: A disputed Legacy (1991) page 95
XIV Victoria Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict (2003) page 41.
XV Ibid; Josef Korbel, Danger in Kashmir (1954) page 63
XVI Greater Kashmir dated 11-08-2016: Post Office in flames
XVII Ref letter dated 27-09-1947 addressed by Nehru to Patel
XVIII History of flag politics in Kashmir, article posted by ZG Muhammad on his blog “Peace Watch” on 29-04-2015
XIX Ref section 144 of the State Constitution; The Hindu (Madras), September 29, 1949
XX The Hindu dated 13-03-2015
XXI Indian Today 01-01-2016; Times of India dated 02-01-2016
XXII Indian Express, 11 December, 1964 cited in Shodganga, Chapter IX, Dismissal & the Plebiscite Front, page 233
XXIII India today dated 03-05-2015; Rising Kashmir dated 23-10-2016: This is the truth about Kashmir by Santosh Bhartiya
M J Aslam isAuthor, academics, story-teller & freelance columnist, presently AVP, J&K Bank.