Kashmir-Flag: Whose Flag it was? (Facts For Posterity)

(In response to Haseeb Drabu’s column published in GK dated 11-06-2020 )

jammu and kashmir flag

Since few months, Shri Haseeb Drabu’s columns are carried by GK under a caption “posts for posterity” in its edit-pages.  One is always within one’s right of thinking & asking, how much the opinions of a columnist, or a writer, howsoever big or small, he may be, hold something that would make them worth serious reading or something new to be preserved for the posterity? But that is not the question here.

The present generations abhor the very idea of being governed by herd-mentality as its ill-effects cost men & communities hugely. They are able youngsters to differentiate between fiction-telling & fact-telling.  Education & information have made them witty enough to understand what holds good for their posterity, future generations, from their present.

Kashmiris are not what they were decades before generally less-informed about their own history, identity & culture, because they were innocently & credulously simple, and so, their credulity & ignorance were taken for granted by those who knew the art of enrapturing them by false-folk-tales. As information reached every door of the world, so every home of Kashmir got blessed by the information about everything that “happened” in the past, in & around their homeland. And, the present is, after all, the age of information, narratives & counter-narratives, which can’t be denied.

The curiosity is increased when posts of a veteran-journalist about past history & the like are being published under an intriguing caption like “posts for posterity”.  So, one is compelled to know more about the content under the caption!

For knowing, revisiting the past, not distant past, recent past, becomes must. In this revisit, or counter, I will touch upon, for the time being, one post of his recent-posts relating to erstwhile State of JK’s flag published in GK dated 11-06-2020 under the title of “Flagging the Issue”. The said post, he writes, is “not a vexillological trivia; it is about political history” of JK.

It is exactly here where he has missed both the trivia & [political] history of the “political flag” of the erstwhile State of JK. He begins his argument with wrong information & assumption, & naturally ends it at a wrong conclusion. He tries to trace the origin of the “red colour” flag of NC, later adopted with slight modifications as “State flag”, in the blood-drenched shirt of a martyr of 13th July, 1931.  The flag’s “origin lay in the bloodshed of July 13, 1931.

According to anecdotal history, a protestor picked up the blood-drenched shirt of a martyr, tied it to a stick and declared amidst acclamation, “This will be our flag”, he writes.

The origin of political awakening of the majority community in pre-colonial days being traceable to the fateful day of 13th July, 1931 is historically correct. However, that protester’s acclamation “This will be our flag” was only important symbolic message in the hour of grief, the great sacrifice, echoed from farsh to arsh by “the blood of martyrs”, that was spilt on that day, to the leadership of the hour to honour & respect the sacrifice till attainment of political rights for which the sacrifice was given.

It never, never, meant the red-colour-flag of NC or erstwhile State of JK. In his own words, the handing over of blood-drenched shirt as “flag” to Sheikh Abdullah is a “myth” or “legend” but “that’s how myths grow to become legends & legends become histories”, he adds.  It is true that for decades a myriad number of myths had big audience among the populace of Kashmir.  The propaganda & doublethink always find rich fertilizing soil in Orwellian lands. But the time expounded & debunked the reality of Kashmir-myths, and it became clearer than azure sky that myth never replaces the history of mankind. Nor can anyone historicize his mythical posts. Any argument attempting it is a crime against logic. What to talk of sophistry?

So, it is recorded history that on that fateful day, a martyr before breathing his last in the lawns of Jamia Masjid, Srinagar, sent for Sheikh Abdullah, looked straight in his eyes & whispered in his ear, “We have done our duty. Now it is for you and the nation to carry it through to a successful end”. (Ref JK Constituent Assembly Debates, also cited by Hasnain Masoodi , Lok Sabha MP of NC , in his GK write up dated 6-12-2016)

It was exactly in the background of those 13-07-1931 sad developments in Kashmir, when 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. 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.

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 …”.  Sheikh Abdullah in his Presidential address assured & appealed “his countrymen”, minorities of JK, for mutual love & respect for each other & that Muslim Conference was not any “communal party “ but a political party that would fight for the rights of all Kashmiris against monarchial rule.

So, the first political flag of Kashmir was not distantly related to “red-flag” of NC or erstwhile JK State. (Details coming in next paras)  Shri Drabu  is in gross error  when he writes, Kashmir’s NC-cum-State-flag  was “conceived on the 13th July 1931” . Iterating, it was green colour flag of Muslim Conference that was conceived on that day which is “by far the most important day in the annals of contemporary history and politics of Kashmir”, in the author’s own words. It is insulting to those sacrifices to state that the “red colour, of the flag was drawn from the blood of the 13th July martyrs.” Both the colour & sketch of the NC-State-flag were drawn from the communist ideology.

The red-colour State flag which was adopted from the NC-flag was actually & originally conceived in “socialist” political outlook which was adopted by the NC leadership at critical moments of Kashmir history. The child of socialism & liberalism was nurtured & grown by the NC till it was formally clothed in new uniform of “New Kashmir Manifesto of 1944” & set in for acceptance in the newly invented socialist school of politics in NC’s Naya Kashmir. The Naya Kashmir model of which the red flag was an essential offshoot was prepared by well known Communist leader BPL Bedi who was Sheikh Abdullah’s eminence grise. (Josef Korbel, 252) Acceptance of his appointment as Chief Emergency Administrator  & then PM of JK, with a written oath of allegiance under the monarchial rule of the Maharaja right, on 29-10-1947 & 30-03-1948, respectively, by Sheikh Abdullah after his “orchestrated” release from prison on 29-09-1947 ( Ref Nehru’s letter dated 27-09-1947 addressed to Sardar Patel ), belies the Drabu’s claim that red colour flag of NC had become “flag of successful anti-monarchy revolution”, though it may be “the symbol of a failed rebellion”.

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” for their basic rights. (Ref Kashmir Ink dated 28-03-2016)  But within less than eight years, under the predominant influence of INC leaders, leftists & Pandit leaders, the Muslim Conference was rechristened by Sheikh Abdullah as the National Conference. Contrary to MC flag that was adopted in daylight in the lawns of Pather Masjid, Srinagar before lacs of people, the NC flag was adopted at the dead of the night. 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, which was later adopted as State flag with modifications in June, 1952.

The National Conference flag was prepared by Pandit Prem Nath Dhar and designed by Sardar Budh Singh. On the day of transformation of the Muslim Conference into the National Conference, & adoption of new red-flag, 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”. (Pre Nath Bazaz, Freedom Struggle) 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.” (Shabnum Qayoom)  But, as was admitted by Sheikh 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”. ( Josef Korbel, 21).

The National Conference flag prima facie corresponds[ed] 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. ( Rasheed Taseer , 2: 76-77; Blazing Chinar, 2016:176, M J Akbar, The Siege Within, 292) 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 the leftists & the KPs.

Under the 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 by JK Constituent Assembly on 7th June, 1952 in Assembly Chamber, Rajgarh Palace, Srinagar, as the State flag with addition of “three equidistant white vertical stripes” on left side representing three regions of J&K: Kashmir, Jammu & Ladakh. (JK Constituent Assembly Debates, I;379;  Resolution became section 144 of the State Constitution)  It was hoisted & unfurled at Mujahid Manzil by G M Sadiq well known leftist comrade of Sheikh Abdullah amid clapping of hands by members of the Constituent Assembly. Mawlana Masoodi  had earlier written a poem about NC’flag, “Lehra Kashmir kay Janday” , as early 1939 , and that poem was recited at the time of unfurling of now what was going to be henceforth “State flag” in the State’s Constituent Assembly & that poem or song has been deemed as the so called “national song” or “anthem”  of Kashmir by the  NC. (Ref Blazing Chinar, 2016:176)  It seems that the adoption of State flag had created an impression in the mind of NC leadership that Kashmir had become something, if not sovereign, at least, semi-sovereign country, by adopting a flag & singing a song in the Constituent Assembly hall. Thus, writes his private Secretary, Ghulam Ahmad, IAS, Sheikh Abdullah used to visit to newly built Nehru Park in his “Cadillac convertible car flying two flags, one of India & the other of the State …. he would …acknowledge disdainfully like a Mughal Emperor salutations from the awe-struck subjects”. (Ref My Years with Sheikh Abdullah, 30-31, 112) This fact is borne out by a lucid admission of Sheikh Abdullah himself where he has compared his 9th August, 1953 ejection from Office of premier of JK with Yousuf Shah Chak losing sovereignty of his kingdom of Kashmir to the Emperor Akbar in 1586 AD. (Blazing Chinar, 2016; 435)

On 5th August, 2019, the Central Government revoked the State’s autonomy which put an end to its NC’s chosen State flag, too.  Shri Drabu ‘s column is like an ode to the Kashmir-flag for its “glorious” birth as “national flag” , with a lament in the ode, that the flag was “trimmed” by Syed Mir Qasim to the size of “State flag” or “government flag”, which was unceremoniously pulled down from civil secretariat on 25th August, 2019. However, before 5th & 25th August, 2019, there were certain significant developments vis a vis “State flag” or  “NC flag”, two sides of the same coin, which surprisingly don’t find a mention in Shri Drabu’s cited column. The “State flag” ,though was hoisted on official buildings & cars from 1953 to 1975 ,  the original NC flag of 1939, which was its twin brother,  was disowned by the founding father of the flag: NC. During those 22 years of “political bewilderment” , the same flag was pulled down from political headquarters & all offices of NC, nay, Mahazi Raishoomari, whether that was “properly folded up” or not, who knows. During those 22 years of political bewildermen, it wasn’t red colour NC flag but new Mahazi Raishoomari flag that remained fluttering about on  the party’s HQS & offices, throughout erstwhile State of JK.

Then there are the developments that took place during Shri Drabu’s minister-ship itself which were pre-cursor to the grand action of 5th August, 2019. 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 required it, Mufti M Sayed had to buckle under the pressure of coalition partner & withdraw the circular.  (The Hindu dated 13-03-2015)  Later, two Judges Bench of the JK High Court also stayed the order of a single judge bench that had earlier directed hoisting of the State flag along with tricolor on all official buildings and vehicles of constitutional authorities.  (Indian Today 01-01-2016; Times of India dated 02-01-2016)  These developments about “disrespect” shown to the “State Flag” by the coalition-partner before 5th August, 2019 must be within the knowledge of Shri Haseeb Drabu as he was FM of the coalition government & ‘architect” of coalition-government of PDP- BJP with Ram Madhav. (Indian Express dated 16-03-2015: How two men worked out the deal & became friends) But he is utterly silent on these facts in his present column which is quite surprising.


Without imputing intentions in posting opinions on media outlets for posterity of Kashmir, let me quote what legendary poet of Kashmir said to Sheikh Abdullah when he asked Mehjoor to write “history of freedom movement” in Kashmir. The poet replied: “What history, it has been distorted; you have changed your stance, you have changed your destination, you have become wayward and forgotten the pledges you made to the people. What an irony of fate, the movement of the march has been brought to ignominy, changing the centuries old traditions, ethos and history of a nation which had a proud past but has now a dismal future.” It is Facts & Not opinions on media that become history for posterity of communities.  Kashmir Community is no exception to this universal principle of history.

M J Aslam  Author, academic & freelance columnist



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