TRAITORS are often disowned and sometimes betrayed by the powers they collaborate with. Dr Farooq Abdullah’s arrest by the Indian government highlights this brutal fact of history. Other India loyalists, too, have been ‘detained’, like Mahbooba Mufti, but Farooq’s case resembles the weird Nazi lovers produced by the French Third Republic.
Farooq was occupied Kashmir’s chief minister three times, and, more importantly, he is the only son of Sheikh Abdullah, the man who was called the Lion of Kashmir but who ended up as a sacrificial lamb on the multi-deity Indian altar. Like his father, Farooq was a brazen-faced supporter of his people’s bondage to India and was more Indian than Sardar Patel.
His father nursed a deep grudge against Jinnah, because he wanted the Quaid to recognise him as the Kashmiri people’s sole spokesman. He forgot that Jinnah, to quote American scholar Binder, had “a razor-sharp intelligence” who never failed to correctly assess a man’s character and intentions. The sheikh was basically a regional leader, pampered by Jawaharlal Nehru, but he forgot he was taking on Jinnah, one of the two giants in whose hands lay the destiny of British India — the other being Gandhi.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can say that, besides Nehru, India’s first prime minister, no one did more to turn Kashmir into hell and eternally sour Pakistan-India relations than Sheikh Abdullah, who was eulogised and pampered but later dethroned and made to rot in prison for a decade by Nehru and his successors. The sheikh’s insistence that Kashmir should join India betrayed a stubbornness that had an infantile touch, for it defied common sense, besides all geographical and demographic realities.
Besides Nehru, no one did more to turn Kashmir into hell than Sheikh Abdullah.
Kashmir had no land link with India. On its east and (barring the Afghan-controlled Wakhan border) north was China; in the west and south Pakistan, with all its rivers flowing into this country. The state thus had a built-in Pakistan-oriented geography, with its road links and the only train connection leading to Sialkot in northern Punjab. To work for its accession to India by military means would be a crime against history and against his own people. Abdullah did precisely this.
As history records, the sheikh didn’t confine his pro-Congress policies to Kashmir; he was hell-bent on opposing the very idea of Pakistan. In his memoirs, In Search of Sense, the late Ahmad Ali Khan, a Dawn editor, describes a meeting where Nehru made clear that if India were to be partitioned, Jinnah wouldn’t be allowed to walk away with entire Punjab and Bengal. Meanwhile, as the communist delegates to the meeting tabled a resolution extending support to the idea of Partition, Nehru thought a Muslim should oppose the resolution, and rightly chose no one but Sheikh Abdullah to do the job. After Partition, in a speech to the UN, Abdullah reportedly likened the then government of Pakistan to Hitler’s regime.
In 1964, Abdullah was freed by his Indian captors, and a lion emaciated by his people’s renunciation of his duplicitous leadership visited Pakistan to meet President Ayub Khan. In his book Ayub Khan, Pakistan’s First Military Ruler, the late Altaf Gauhar, a Dawn editor, gives an account of their talks and says Abdullah’s arguments mainly centred on how Jinnah didn’t give him the importance he thought he deserved and offered suggestions that bordered on nonsense. In their second meeting, Ayub got so fed up he asked him not to talk about the past and fancy solutions he had in mind and instead say something about what the issue in 1964 was and how the Kashmir problem could be resolved. The talks collapsed on the sheikh’s intransigence. He returned to India to be the occupied territory’s chief minister once again.
Farooq is his father’s true heir and shows a shocking lack of foresight. He thought the Indian constitution’s articles giving a special status to the occupied area were something Indian politicians would always abide by. He couldn’t foresee the inevitability of the day when the revanchist Hindu revivalist movement, waiting in the wings, would seize power once Nehru and other secular leaders were gone.
On Aug 5, Farooq faced his moment of truth. Initially he was ‘detained’ in his home, but later ‘arrested’ under the Public Safety Act (PSA). Forced by his enslaved people’s anger, Farooq couldn’t take it anymore, climbed to a wall of his home, and said, according to AFP: “Why could they not wait? After 70 years, they have stabbed the people of the state. As soon as our gates open, our people will be out. We will fight. We will go to the courts. We’re not gun-runners, grenade-throwers, stone-throwers; we believe in a peaceful resolution of things.”
As irony would have it, the draconian PSA under which Farooq was arrested was enacted when his father was in power.
The writer is Dawn’s Readers’ Editor and author.
Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2019