|3rd Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir|
25 February 1975 – 26 March 1977
|Preceded by||Syed Mir Qasim|
|Succeeded by||Governor's rule|
9 July 1977 – 8 September 1982
|Preceded by||Governor's rule|
|Succeeded by||Farooq Abdullah|
|2nd Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir|
5 March 1948 – 9 August 1953
|Preceded by||Mehr Chand Mahajan|
|Succeeded by||Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad|
|Born||5 December 1905
Soura, Kashmir, British India
|Died||8 September 1982 (aged 76)
|Political party||Jammu & Kashmir National Conference|
|Spouse(s)||Begum Akbar Jahan Abdullah|
|Alma mater||Islamia College Lahore
Aligarh Muslim University
Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah (5 December 1905 – 8 September 1982) was an Indian statesman who played a central role in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost Indian state. The self-styled "Sher-e-Kashmir" (Lion of Kashmir), Abdullah was the founding leader of the National Conference and thrice served as the head of government in Kashmir. He agitated against the rule of the Maharaja Hari Singh and urged self-rule for Kashmir. He was the Prime Minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir after its controversial accession to India in 1947 and was later jailed and exiled. He was dismissed from the position of Prime Ministership on 8th of August 1953 and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad was appointed as the new Prime Minister. The expressions ‘Sadar-i-Riyasat’ and ‘Prime Minister’ were replaced with the terms ‘Governor’ and ‘Chief Minister’ in 1965. Sheikh Abdullah again became the Chief Minister of the state following the 1974 Indira-Sheikh accord and remained in the top slot till his death on 8 September 1982.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Higher studies
- 3 Political career
- 3.1 Muslim Conference formed
- 3.2 Formation of Praja Sabha (Legislative Assembly)
- 3.3 Meeting with Nehru
- 3.4 Muslim Conference renamed as National Conference
- 3.5 Quit Kashmir agitation
- 3.6 Head of emergency administration
- 3.7 Prime minister
- 3.8 Pakistani view
- 3.9 Arrest and release
- 3.10 After Indo-Pakistan war and creation of Bangladesh
- 3.11 Chief minister
- 4 Controversy
- 5 Notes
- 6 See also
- 7 References
The most important source of Sheikh Abdullah's early life is his official biography Atish e Chinar by his son. He was born in Soura, a village on the outskirts of Srinagar, eleven days after the death of his father Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahim. his father was a middle class manufacturer and trader of Kashmiri shawls.
Sheikh Ibrahim was the descendant of a Hindu Kashmiri Pandit named Ragho Ram Koul who was converted to Islam in 1890[dubious ] by the saint Rashid Balkhi and after conversion changed his name to Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. Thus Sheikh Abdullah was the namesake of the progenitor of his family branch.
According to Sheikh Abdullah, his step brother mistreated his mother and his early childhood was marked by utter poverty. His mother was keen that her children should receive proper education and so as a child he was first admitted to a traditional school or Maktab where he learnt the recitation of the Koran and some basic Persian texts like Gulistan of Sa'di, Bostan, Padshanama, etc. Then in 1911 he was admitted to a primary school where he studied for about two years.
However, their family barber Mohammed Ramzan prevailed upon his uncle to send him back to school. He had to walk the distance of ten miles to school and back on foot but in his own words the joy of being allowed to obtain a school education made it seem a light work. He passed his Matriculation examination from Punjab University in 1922.
After matriculation he obtained admission in Shri Partap College, the leading college of Kashmir. He also went to the Prince of Wales College in Jammu. Then he took admission in Islamia College, Lahore and graduated from there. In 1930, he obtained an M.Sc. in Chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University.During his college days he was an eye witness of the protests of the workers of the Government Silk Factory during the Silk Factory Workers Agitation and the sight of workers agitating for their rights made a deep impression on him and was an important factor in motivating him to struggle for the rights of the people of the Jammu and Kashmir State.
As a student at Aligarh Muslim University, he came in contact with and was influenced by persons with liberal and progressive ideas. He became convinced that the feudal system was responsible for the miseries of the Kashmiris and like all progressive nations of the world Kashmir too should have a democratically elected government.
Muslim Conference formed
Molvi Abdullah's son Molvi Abdul Rahim, Sheikh Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Gilkar were the first three educated Kashmiri youth to be arrested during the public agitation of 1931.
Kashmir's first political party the Kashmir Muslim Conference with Sheikh Abdullah as President, Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas as general secretary, and Molvi Abdul Rahim as Secretary was formed on 16 October 1932. In his presidential address Sheikh Abdullah categorically stated that the Muslim Conference had come into existence to struggle for the rights of all oppressed sections of the society and not Muslims alone. It was not a communal party and would struggle for the rights of the oppressed, whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, with the same fervor. He reasserted that the struggle of Kashmiris was not a communal struggle.
In March 1933 the Muslim Conference constituted a committee which included Molvi Abdullah and nine other members for the purpose of establishing contacts with non-Muslim parties and exploring the possibility of forming a joint organisation. Those nine members were Khwaja Saad-ud-din Shawl, Khwaja Hassan Shah Naqshbandi, Mirwaiz Kashmir, Molvi Ahmad-Ullah, Mirwaiz Hamadani, Agha Syed Hussain Shah Jalali, Mufti Sharif-ud-din, Molvi Atiq-Ullah and Haji Jafar Khan. According to Sheikh Abdullah this effort was not successful because of the unfavourable reception of the idea by the non-Muslim parties. Sheikh Abdullah campaigned to change the name of the Muslim Conference to National Conference, under the influence of among others Jawaharlal Nehru. After a prolonged and vigorous campaign a special session of the Muslim Conference held in June 1939 voted to change the name of the party to National Conference. Of the 176 members attending the session, 172 members voted in favour of the resolution. According to Sheikh Abdullah the support of Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas of Jammu was very important in motivating the members to vote for this change.
Formation of Praja Sabha (Legislative Assembly)
As a result of the 1931 agitation the Maharajah appointed a Grievances Commission with an Englishman B.J. Glancy as President which submitted its report in March 1932. Subsequently a Constitutional Reforms Conference also presided over by B.J. Glancy recommended the setting up of an elected Legislative Assembly (Praja Sabha). Consequently a Praja Sabha with 33 elected and 42 nominated members elected on the basis of separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims was established in 1934. Women and illiterate men without sufficient property, or title, or annual income of less than Rupees four hundred did not have the right to vote. Roughly less than 10% (according to Justice Anand only 3%) of the population were enfranchised.
Even after the formation of Praja Sabha in 1934 as recommended by the Commission real power continued to remain in the hands of the Maharajah.
Seventeen years later in 1951, the government of Kashmir with Sheikh Abdullah as Prime Minister held elections to a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal adult suffrage. Sheikh Abdullah's Government had been accused of rigging in these elections to the Constituent Assembly. Nonetheless, due consideration should be given to the quantum leap in moving from elections with 10% of enfranchised population to universal adult suffrage and that too just after a ceasefire from an active war.
Meeting with Nehru
Sheikh Abdullah was introduced to Jawaharlal Nehru in 1937 and as he too as a leader of the Indian National Congress was demanding similar rights for people of British India and had formed The All India States Peoples Conference for supporting the people of Princely States in their struggle for a representative government the two became friends and political allies.
Muslim Conference renamed as National Conference
He introduced a resolution in the working committee of the Muslim Conference for changing its name to National Conference on 24 June 1938 to allow people from all communities to join the struggle against the autocratic rule of the Maharaja. Meanwhile he along with his liberal progressive friends, many of whom were not Muslim like Kashyap Bandhu, Jia Lal Kilam, Pandit Sudama Sidha, Prem Nath Bazaz and Sardar Budh Singh drafted the National Demands the forerunner of the famous Naya Kashmir (New Kashmir) Manifesto (which was a charter of demands for granting a democratic constitution committed to the welfare of the common people of Kashmir)
He presented these demands to the Maharajah in a speech on 28 August 1938. The Maharajah was not willing to accept these demands and so he along with many of his companions was arrested for defying prohibitory orders and sentenced to six months imprisonment and a fine. His arrest provoked a public agitation in which volunteers called Dictators (so called because they had the authority to defy laws that was forbidden for normal law abiding party members) courted arrest. This agitation was called off on the appeal of Mohandas K. Gandhi. He was released after serving his sentence on 24 February 1939 and accorded a grand reception by the people of Srinagar on his return. Speeches were made at the reception stressing the importance of unity among Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Subsequently the resolution for changing the name of Muslim Conference to National Conference was ratified with an overwhelming majority by the General Council of the Muslim Conference on 11 June 1939 and from that date Muslim Conference became National Conference.
Quit Kashmir agitation
In May 1946 Sheikh Abdullah launched the Quit Kashmir agitation against the Maharajah Hari Singh and was arrested and sentenced to three years imprisonment but was released only sixteen months later on 29 September 1947 According to prominent columnist and writer A.G.noorani quit kashmir was illtimed and illogic (See Tehreek e Hurriyat e Kashmir By Rashid Taseer (Urdu) volume 2-page 29 for "National Demands" discussion and see Chapter 12-page 310-313 regarding presentation of "Naya Kashmir" Manifesto to Maharaja Hari Singh. Full text of "Naya Kashmir" manifesto is given from page 314 to 383. English translation of this text is available at Wikisource. Also see relevant chapters from Atish e Chinar regarding 1931 agitation (Chapters 9, 10 and 11) Glancy Commission (Chapter 15) formation of Muslim Conference (Chapter 18) meeting with Nehru (Chapter 23), reasons for change in name of Muslim Conference to National Conference (Chapter 24) and becoming president of All India States Peoples Conference (Chapter 31). His arrest and subsequent release following the Quit Kashmir agitation is discussed in Chapter 34-page 372-389.) 
Head of emergency administration
Maharaja Hari Singh appealed to Lord Mountbatten of Burma the Governor-General of India for Indian military aid. In his Accession Offer dated 26 October 1947 which accompanied The Instrument of Accession duly signed by him on 26 October 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh wrote "I may also inform your Excellency's Government that it is my intention at once to set up an interim Government and ask Shaikh Abdullah to carry the responsibilities in this emergency with my Prime Minister."
Lord Mountbatten accepted the accession after a meeting of the Defence Committee on 26 October 1947. In accepting the accession unconditionally he wrote, "I do hereby accept this Instrument of Accession. Dated this twenty seventh day of October, nineteen hundred and forty seven". In the covering letter to Hari Singh. he wrote "In consistence with their policy that in the case of any State where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute, the question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the State, it is my Government's wish that, as soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and its soil cleared of the invader, the question of the State's accession should be settled by a reference to the people". Also in his letter to the Maharaja Lord Mountbatten wrote "My Government and I note with satisfaction that your Highness has decided to invite Sheikh Abdullah to form an Interim Government to work with your Prime Minister." The support of Mahatma Gandhi and Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a key factor in getting Sheikh Abdullah appointed as Head of the emergency administration by the Maharaja.
As a consequence, Sheikh Abdullah was appointed head of an emergency administration by an order issued by the Maharaja which was undated except for the mention October 1947 in place of the date. He took charge as Head of the Emergency Administration on 30 October 1947.
He raised a force of local Kashmiri volunteers to patrol Srinagar and take control of administration after the flight of the Maharaja along with his family and Prime Minister Meher Chand Mahajan to Jammu even before the Indian troops had landed. This group of volunteers would serve as the nucleus for the subsequent formation of Jammu and Kashmir Militia. This, Sheikh Abdullah hoped, would take over the defence of Kashmir after the Indian army was withdrawn. This was articulated in his letter to Sardar Patel dated 7 October 1948 in which he wrote, "With the taking over of the State forces by the Indian Government, it was agreed that steps would be taken to reorganise and rebuild our army so that when the present emergency is over and the Indian forces are withdrawn the State will be left with a proper organised army of its own to fall back upon." (Sheikh Abdullah has alleged that most of the Muslim soldiers of the Militia were either discharged or imprisoned before his arrest in 1953. The Militia (dubbed as Dagan Brigade) was converted from a State Militia to a regular unit of the Indian Army on 2 December 1972 and redesignated the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry)
Sheikh Abdullah took oath as Prime Minister of Kashmir on 17 March 1948.
The government of Pakistan in 1947 viewed Abdullah and his party as agents of Nehru and did not recognise his leadership of Kashmir. He spoked against pakistani government in united nations by comparing it with hitlers rule,and he also endorsed indian stand on jammu and kashmir. However there was a change in Pakistan's viewpoint with the passage of time. When he visited Pakistan in 1964 he was awarded a tumultuous welcome by the people of Pakistan. Among the persons who received him was Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas his once colleague and later bitter political enemy who earlier in his book Kashmakash had denounced Sheikh Abdullah as a turncoat and traitor. Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas embraced him and in his speech described him as one of the greatest leaders of the subcontinent and a great benefactor of the Muslims of the subcontinent. President Ayub Khan and his then Foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto discussed the Kashmir problem with him. The government of Pakistan treated him as a state guest. Sheikh Abdullah had the rare distinction of having poems in his praise written by three major Pakistani Urdu poets namely Hafeez Jullundhri, Josh and Faiz Ahmed Faiz who admired his lifelong struggle against injustice and for democratic rights of the common man.
Arrest and release
On 8 August 1953 he was dismissed as Prime Minister by the then Sadr-i-Riyasat (Constitutional Head of State) Dr. Karan Singh, son of the erstwhile Maharajah Hari Singh, on the charge that he had lost the confidence of his cabinet (not the house) He was denied the opportunity to prove his majority on the floor of the house. and his dissident cabinet minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed was appointed as Prime Minister. Sheikh Abdullah was immediately arrested and later jailed for eleven years, accused of conspiracy against the State in the infamous "Kashmir Conspiracy Case".
According to Sheikh Abdullah his dismissal and arrest were engineered by the central government headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He has quoted B.N. Mullicks' statements in his book "My Years with Nehru" in support of his statement. A.G. Noorani writing in Frontline supports this view, as according to him Nehru himself ordered the arrest. On 8 April 1964 the State Government dropped all charges in the so-called "Kashmir Conspiracy Case". Sheikh Abdullah was released and returned to Srinagar where he was accorded an unprecedented welcome by the people of the valley".
After his release he was reconciled with Nehru. Nehru requested Sheikh Abdullah to act as a bridge between India and Pakistan and make President Ayub to agree to come to New Delhi for talks for a final solution of the Kashmir problem. President Ayub Khan also sent telegrams to Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah with the message that as Pakistan too was a party to the Kashmir dispute any resolution of the conflict without its participation would not be acceptable to Pakistan. This paved the way for Sheikh Abdullah's visit to Pakistan to help broker a solution to the Kashmir problem.
Sheikh Abdullah went to Pakistan in spring of 1964. President Ayub Khan of Pakistan held extensive talks with him to explore various avenues for solving the Kashmir problem and agreed to come to Delhi in mid June for talks with Nehru as suggested by him. Even the date of his proposed visit was fixed and communicated to New Delhi. On 27 May while he was en route to Muzaffarabad in Pakistani Administered Kashmir news came of the sudden death of Nehru and the Sheikh after addressing a public rally at Muzaffarabad returned to Delhi. On his suggestion President Ayub Khan sent a high level Pakistani delegation led by his Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto along with him to take part in the last rites of Jawaharlal Nehru.
After Nehru's death in 1964, he was interned from 1965 to 1968 and exiled from Kashmir in 1971 for 18 months. The Plebiscite Front was also banned. This was allegedly done to prevent him and the Plebiscite Front which was supported by him from taking part in elections in Kashmir.
After Indo-Pakistan war and creation of Bangladesh
In 1971 an insurrection broke out in erstwhile East Pakistan, and subsequently war broke out between India and Pakistan which ended in the creation of Bangladesh. Sheikh Abdullah watching the alarming turn of events in the subcontinent realised that for the survival of this region there was an urgent need to stop pursuing confrontational politics and promoting solution of issues by a process of reconciliation and dialogue rather than confrontation.Critics of sheikh hold the view that he sold cherished goal of plebesite for gaining chief ministers chair. He started talks with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for normalising the situation in the region and came to an accord called 1974 Indira-Sheikh accord with Indira Gandhi, then India's Prime Minister, by giving up the demand for a plebiscite in lieu of the people being given the right to self-rule by a democratically elected Government (as envisaged under article 370 of the Constitution of India) rather than the puppet government which till then ruled the State.
He assumed the position of Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The Central Government and the ruling Congress Party withdrew its support so that the State Assembly had to be dissolved and mid term elections called.
The National Conference won an overwhelming majority in the subsequent elections and re-elected Sheikh Abdullah as Chief Minister. He remained as Chief Minister till his death in 1982.
Abdullah, described as a six feet four inches (1.93m) to six feet six inches (1.98m) tall man, was fluent in both Kashmiri and Urdu. His biography in Urdu entitled Atish-e-Chinar was written by the noted Kashmiri author M.Y. Taing and published after Sheikh Abdullah's death. It is often referred to as his autobiography as Taing claimed that he only acted as an amanuensis. It is based on extensive interviews that Taing had with Sheikh Abdullah and provides valuable information on Sheikh Abdullah's family background, early life, ringside glimpses of happenings in Kashmir at a crucial juncture in its history, and his viewpoint about the political events in Kashmir in which he himself played a central role.
After his death his eldest son Dr. Farooq Abdullah was elected as the Chief Minister of the State.
In 1933 he married Akbar Jahan, the daughter of Michael Harry Nedou, the eldest son of the European proprietor of a chain of hotels in India including Nedous Hotel in Srinagar, and his Kashmiri wife Mirjan. Michael Harry Nedou was himself the proprietor of a hotel at the tourist resort of Gulmarg (The writer Tariq Ali claims that Akbar Jehan was previously married in 1928 to an Arab Karam Shah who disappeared after a Calcutta newspaper Liberty reported that he was actually T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) a British Intelligence officer. He claims that Akbar Jehan was divorced by her first husband in 1929.)
- Hoiberg, Dale H. (2010) p 22-23
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- ACCEPTANCE OF ACCESSION BY THE GOVERNOR GENERAL OF INDIA
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- List of Kashmiris
- History of Jammu and Kashmir
- Kashmir conflict
- Instrument of Accession (Jammu and Kashmir)
- Kashmiriyat – a socio-cultural ethos of religious harmony and Kashmiri consciousness.
- Political Parties in Kashmir in 1947
- List of topics on the land and the people of "Jammu and Kashmir"
- Kashmir Conspiracy Case
- List of political families
- [(Political Awakening in Kashmir – Page 127 )]
- A.G. Noorani (2000), "Article370: Law and Politics". Frontline Volume 17 – Issue 19, 16–29 September, (Discusses illegality of Central Govt and Parliament's Actions in amending Article 370 without concurrence of Constituent Assembly of Kashmir)
- A.G. Noorani (2006), "Nehru's legacy in foreign affairs". Frontline Volume Volume 23 – Issue 15 :: 29 July August 11, 2006 (Discusses Nehru's role in arrest of Sheikh Abdullah and erosion of Article 370)
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- Tariq Ali (2003): The Clash of Fundamentalism. Verso Books. London. ISBN 978 1 85984 457 1
- Syed Taffazull Hussain (2009): Sheikh Abdullah – A biography:The Crucial Period 1905-1939. Wordclay. Indianapolis.IN. ISBN 978-1-60481-309-8 (Full text of the updated December 2013 edition is available at books.google.com)
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- Brenda M King(2005): "Silk and empire"Manchester University Press ISBN 978-07190-6701-3. Describes Sir Thomas Wardle's role in establishing modern filatures in Kashmir and his dream of making Kashmir a competitor for China and Japan in the international silk market.
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