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Until Lions Have Their Historians, Tales of the Hunt Shall Always Glorify the Hunters: Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, History Retold

Telling this story enables me to trace my personal trajectory and work on healing the pain that I inherited. To give the reader a holistic picture of some events of great historical and political significance, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s side of the story should, in my opinion, be given space as well, and the complexity of the situation should be foregrounded. After the rumblings and subsequent explosion of armed insurgency and counter insurgency in Kashmir in 1989, one saw and still sees reductive readings of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s ideology and the attempted erasure of the political and sociocultural edifice of which he had been the primary architect.

I consider it pertinent to underscore that in Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s lifetime, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed did not win a single election from his home state. Although he was made Deputy Minister for Agriculture in Sadiq’s government in 1967 by a strange twist of fate, when the Sheikh was a persona non grata and a political prisoner, Mufti couldn’t claim to be electorally successful. Although, his politics were always centrist and integrationist even at the cost of the democratic aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, it wasn’t until much later in his political career that Mufti could claim electoral victory in his home state.

My concentration on the political milestones in the lives of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Akbar Jehan provides an insight into the history, politics, and society of Kashmir in the major part of the 20th century. My attempt is to paint a picture of the era in which the later Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was a loyal Congressman, piggybacked on Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq in order to carve a niche for himself in the political architecture of Jammu and Kashmir. While Mufti Sayeed was being groomed by Bakshi and Sadiq and enjoyed their patronage aka the patronage of the Indian state, those opposed to the Indian National Congress, the Sadiq-led Democratic National Congress, and to centrist politics were pariahs and ousted at the behest of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

I begin this story by writing about the fateful decade of the 1950s. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s ouster on August 9, 1953, at the behest of the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and his subsequent arrest, was an event that alienated the Kashmiri masses and cast his next of kin as personae non grata. The Sheikh’s vociferous protests against, what he perceived as, endeavors to erode the constitutional autonomy of the state and undemocratically legitimize its integration into the Indian Union earned him the disapprobation of some of his former allies.

While looking for archival material on the coup d’état of August 9, 1953, which still requires substantive research, I came across the correspondence between Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and G. M. Sadiq, a principal political actor and once a trusted comrade of the Sheikh, and in 1956 the President of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. Sadiq’s complicity with the arbitrary and undemocratic forces responsible for the coup was established beyond a doubt. In his letter to Sadiq written from sub jail, Kud, Jammu on August 16, 1956, the Sheikh, in the third year of his detention, eloquently and intrepidly protests his dismissal and subsequent confinement.

He articulately states that enough evidence had surfaced to establish beyond a shred of doubt that the 9th August coup was the fruition of a well-hatched conspiracy by communal and extremely conservative elements in politics “with whom the Bakshi [Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad replaced the Sheikh as Prime Minister of the state] clique joined hands in order to sabotage the great movement of which I have been the spearhead since 1931.” He assertively observed that the newly installed ruling coterie in Jammu and Kashmir had eradicated the fundamental principles for which several of his comrades had sacrificed their lives during the struggle for responsible government and the sovereignty of the people of the state. The ruling clique had allied itself with the forces of centralization and integration “to crush the spirits of freedom fighters in the State of Kashmir which is being ruled by a lawless law of Preventive Detention, which authorizes arrest without warrant and detention without trial for a period of five years.” This draconian law of Preventive Detention was frequently deployed to brutally curtail dissidence and to snuff out legitimate political aspirations, which might jeopardize the interests of the powers-that-be. This harsh law was brazenly used for coercing members of the opposition in the legislative assembly to tender their resignations (Sheikh-Sadiq Correspondence [August to October 1956], 3-4).

The Sheikh protested, “To crown all this ignominious state of affairs, there is my continued detention without trial for the last three years extended from time to time for the sole reason of giving the present Government a fresh, albeit brief, lease of life.” Needless to say, such a sordid situation had created terrible hurdles in the restoration of a democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir. It had invalidated a secularism that recognizes diverse religious identities and allows for the accommodation of those identities within a secularist framework. The Sheikh concluded his letter discerningly, “History has produced many quislings, but the world knows the doom of every enemy of the people” (Ibid.).

The Sheikh’s well-articulated protests and Akbar Jehan’s untiring efforts to disseminate his protests did not decrease the length and barrenness of his incarceration. The deprivation that Akbar Jehan and her children were subjected to in the Sheikh’s long absence and the isolation that they were condemned to might have discouraged, even distressed some, but Akbar Jehan did not cringe. I still see a distrust of statist versions of history and criminalization of progressive politics in Suraiya [Sheikh Abdullah’s daughter and Nyla Khan’s mother], which she must have imbibed in her inclement and agitated childhood. But Akbar Jehan was the powerful trooper, the silent force that kept the flag flying while anti-colonial and anti-feudal freedom-fighter like the Sheikh, Mirza Afzal Beg, and other soldiers of the Plebiscite Front were shunted from one jail to the other, from one solitary confinement to the other.

In my monograph on Kashmir, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir (2010), I have written about the vibrancy and zeal that the creation of the Plebiscite Front imbued in the stifling political environment of the state. For the benefit of the reader, I reiterate that in August 1955, eight legislators from the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir spearheaded a political movement called the Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front. The first president of this organization was Mirza Afzal Beg, who, at the time, was the Sheikh’s committed and reliable lieutenant. Beg courageously led this movement during the Sheikh’s probationary period. Akbar Jehan and other women leaders involved with this movement worked unflaggingly, behind the scenes, to create new openings for people, including women, to discuss public issues and become active participants. This is a little known and little written about aspect of the history of Kashmir.

Kashmir Conspiracy Case

Interestingly, the irony of an “Indian Muslim” [Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah] being put behind bars for voicing and advocating the right of self-determination “by the very Indians who won admiration and sympathy in the world in attaining their own” (Extracts from Commentary by Edward R. Murrow, 1 May 1958), wasn’t lost on the world community. Having been raised in a world polarized between India and Pakistan, I have always been acutely conscious that Akbar Jehan’s and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s espousal of the right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and their opposition to the partition of India along religious lines made them persona non grata in the two young nation-states. That is the reason I was intrigued and taken aback to see a validation of the Sheikh’s courage in the face of adversity from an unlikely source, Sardar Ibrahim Khan.

Sardar Ibrahim Khan was President of Pakistan Administered “Azad” Kashmir from 1947 to 1950, 1957 to 1959, and 1975 to 1977. In his book published in 1965, Khan did not dither in eulogizing the Sheikh. He observes that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had remained in incarceration for more than ten years. During that precarious period, “he bore insult and humiliation with courage and steadfastness. He stood by his convictions.” Sardar emphasizes that no offer of material and financial benefit, or of a luxurious life could tempt the Sheikh to alter “his stand on the question of the inalienable right of the people of Kashmir vis-à-vis the question of plebiscite.” His family suffered tremendous deprivations and harassment in the face of the Sheikh’s resolute political stance. Akbar Jehan and her children, Sardar regretfully says, “bore insults and privation. They all stood firm and faced the might of the Government of India for twelve years or so” (34). The role that Akbar Jehan and the Sheikh played in creating a political consciousness among the people of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the Muslims of the state, can be critically analyzed but cannot be wished away nor can it be erased from the annals of history. The havoc caused during this torrential phase of the history of Kashmir is borne out by the testimonies of several people, which should be documented.

She intrepidly and valorously led protest marches against Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad’s puppet regime on several occasions and faced the full wrath of the government, including baton charges and getting doused by water cannons. I remember that back then the authorities, instead of water deluges, would use human waste to disperse the protestors. It cannot be hard for a relatively objective observer to admit, even one who might disagree with Akbar Jehan’s politics, that despite her forbearance, quiet strength, and unbuckling conviction, she was sorely tried.

Akbar Jehan was subject to familial strictures and responsibilities: care for children, maintaining and enhancing the vibrancy of her husband’s political mission, remaining steadfast and resilient in the midst of persecution, dispossession, and relocation. It would be a reasonable inference that she did not define herself in terms of a niche, because the landscape that she moved through was in a state of constant flux. Akbar Jehan’s survival entailed a constant battle with the power apparatus and the social apparatus, which were built on a monolithic hierarchy and were opposed to the growth of a collective political consciousness. In order to meet new challenges head on, she, unlike a lot of woman of her culture and generation, reconstructed and redirected her life. Seasoned journalist Ajit Bhattacharjea observes, “When freed of her domestic chores, Akbar Jahan [sic] developed the personality latent in her. . . . She was regarded as being even more committed to securing Kashmir’s autonomy than her husband. Known in the Valley as ‘Madr-e-Meharban’ (kind mother), she was to be accused by the Intelligence Bureau of having links with Pakistan in the final conspiracy case filed against her husband and his associates” (Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah: Tragic Hero of Kashmir 43-44).

In anticipation of the reader’s bewilderment at the reference to the “conspiracy case,” I had collected bits and pieces about the troubled period after the Sheikh’s arrest and the strategy deployed by the Intelligence Bureau of India in collusion with the government of Jammu and Kashmir to frame not just the Sheikh, but Akbar Jehan as well. I vaguely knew that in order to justify Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s undemocratic dismissal and incarceration, he was labeled a Pakistani agent and allegations of receiving large sums of money from the government of Pakistan were leveled against him. Akbar Jehan was accused of being the conduit through whom the Sheikh purportedly received “illegal funding” for “espionage activities.”

In an attempt to negate criticism of the barbaric methods deployed to muzzle Akbar Jehan and the Sheikh, the then premier of Jammu and Kashmir, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, in a show of preposterous cunning, contradicted himself. His doublespeak, however, was not lost on neutral observers. After the Sheikh’s rearrest in May 1958 and the leveling of unsubstantiated allegations against him, Akbar Jehan, and their colleagues, the correspondent of The Times of London reported that the news of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s arrest had come as a complete surprise, and people were taken aback at the audacity of the imprisonment. The correspondent tells his readers that the official statement issued by the government of Jammu and Kashmir to justify the Sheikh’s arrest was that, “his remaining at liberty would be ‘hazardous to the security of the State.’” This statement, the correspondent notes, contradicted “the confident claim made by the Prime Minister, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, to your correspondent less than a week ago that Sheikh Abdullah’s release had completely failed to disturb peace and order” (May 1, 1958).

The correspondent of The Times of London expressly tells the reader that while he was delving into the political turnabouts and reversals of policy and opinion in Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, prior to his rearrest, was leading an ostensibly quiet and austere life, “seldom leaving his house except for occasional appearances at public prayers. He declared that he had no intention of engaging directly in any political activity for the time being, as he did not wish to embarrass the Security Council in its effort to find an agreed solution to the Kashmir problem . . .” (Ibid.). Although the Indian nation-state used all the apparatuses at its command, political, judicial, and military, to muzzle the people’s yearning for the right of self-determination and a democratic dispensation, Akbar Jehan worked hard to advance the political agenda of the Plebiscite Front, while maintaining a low profile.

My impressions regarding the Sheikh’s arrest and the Kashmir Conspiracy Case became more coherent after reading the monograph by Y. D. Gundevia. Gundevia was Special Secretary handling Kashmir Affairs in the United Nations, then Commonwealth Secretary handling Kashmir Affairs, and Jawaharlal Nehru’s Foreign Secretary, all in the 1960s. Gundevia’s monograph is appended with The Testament of Sheikh Abdullah (1974). I quote portions of Gundevia’s astute observation about the Sheikh’s ouster and arrest in 1953. Gundevia observes that the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir [Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah], at this stage, was contending with the rabidity “of Muslim communalism of the pro-Pakistan variety and Hindu communalism of the strongly entrenched Praja Parishad (today’s Bharatiya Janata Party, a right-wing ultra-nationalist organization) in Jammu.” The increasing communalization of Indian politics was a juggernaut that questioned the myth of secularism in India, and the increasing religiosity in Pakistan was just as damaging. Punitive measures taken against Muslim communalists were welcomed with quiet sighs of relief and approval in India, but any attempt to crack down on the divisive politics of the ultra-nationalist, right-wing Praja Parishad met with strong denunciation.

Gundevia quotes B. N. Mullick [Director of the Intelligence Bureau in the Ministry of Home Affairs, 1953], who was, by no means, sympathetic toward the Sheikh’s cause. Mullick observed, “’If anything accelerated the final break between Sheikh Abdullah and India, it was the Praja Parishad’s agitation in the winter of 1952-53 in Jammu Province over the demand for the full integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India on the basis of one Constitution, one flag and one President.’” The Praja Parishad’s demand for unconditional integration of the state into the Indian Union would have entailed the negation of the Instrument of Accession, the subsequent Delhi Agreement [of 1952] and Article 370. The negotiations in June and July 1952 between a delegation of the Jammu and Kashmir government led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Beg, and a delegation of the Indian government led by Jawaharlal Nehru resulted in the Delhi Agreement, which reinforced the autonomous status of J & K. These legal and constitutional provisions ensured that, except for the areas of Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Communications, the Indian Parliament would require the concurrence of the legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir to apply any law to the state.

Gundevia goes on to observe that the Ministry of Home Affairs in India wasn’t content with the incarceration of the Sheikh and the suppression of his political activities. In order to legitimize the crackdown on the political consciousness of Kashmir with unprecedented brutality, the Ministry of Home Affairs [India] in collusion with the Intelligence Bureau conspired to criminalize the political activities of the Sheikh and Akbar Jehan. So, employing diabolic political statecraft, “the story put out was that the Sheikh had been receiving large sums of money from Pakistan and that he had gone to Gulmarg (with his wife and children) on the night of his arrest to contact important Pakistan agents—or, to make it even more dramatic, did he intend going over, bodily, to Pakistan?” But, as Gundevia notes in his testimony, such intimidation did not daunt the Sheikh, who, “however, featured in a further complaint that was filed on October 23, five months later [1958].” Surprisingly, “the Begum Saheba [Akbar Jehan] was never charged and never brought to book. One would have thought that she would be the principal accused, with hundreds of letters said to be in the hands of the prosecution, ‘proving’ that [she was complicit]” (111-112; 113; 116).

Gundevia’s deconstruction of the infamous Kashmir Conspiracy Case of 1958 places the Intelligence Bureau of India, the Ministry of Home Affairs [India], and the government of Jammu and Kashmir, headed by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, in the scrutinizing public glare. The testimony of the then Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Mullick, during the Kashmir Conspiracy Case and the attempted indictment of Akbar Jehan further accentuates the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft. Mullick astutely points out that Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad [Prime Minister of the state during the Kashmir Conspiracy Case] announced that even if the allegation leveled against Akbar Jehan [Begum Abdullah] could be substantiated, he would hesitate from agreeing to her prosecution. “Muslim opinion,” Mullick notes, “in Kashmir valley would not excuse him from dragging this lady, who was known as ‘Madr-e-Meharban,’ to the courts” (qtd. in Gundevia 86-94).

Mullick, in his intransigence and determination to close the chapter of Kashmiri self-determination and autonomy, argued that without Akbar Jehan in the trial the prosecution would be unable to corroborate the charge of seditious conspiracy leveled against her, the Sheikh, and their political colleagues. He insisted that without the prosecution of Akbar Jehan, they would “miss one of the main connecting links with Pakistan and this would greatly weaken our case; but on this question Bakshi would not budge; and Pandit Nehru [Prime Minister of India] also agreed that the Sheikh should not be prosecuted.” The Intelligence Bureau and the Ministry of Home Affairs [India] were in a state of perplexity and uncertainty over how to proceed in this rather difficult situation, because they had moved mountains to prepare a “proper charge-sheet.” But, to their utter dismay, they were categorically told that, “he [Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah] should not be put on trial.” The Intelligence Bureau, however, persevered, in its attempt to bring Akbar Jehan and the Sheikh to book. Not one to be easily slighted, Mullick disparagingly goes on to note, “when the case opened, he [Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah] would address the court in commanding tones, assumed a haughty posture, and said he would expose the prosecutors” (Ibid.).

If, as the prosecution claimed, Akbar Jehan was indeed complicit in her husband’s pro-Pakistan “espionage activities,” why did the government of India not indict her? Historically, governments have not been deterred from indicting and prosecuting those considered “criminals” by respect for the gender or maternal obligations of the accused. Mullick’s vitriolic outbursts, rancor, and vicious endeavors to vindicate the unwarranted incarceration of the Sheikh and his political colleagues proved futile, as Prime Minister Nehru was averse to detaining a leader against whom no substantive evidence could be garnered. The evidence fabricated by Mullick and his cohort was fragmented, contradictory, and could not hold water. India, a young nation-state in the late fifties and early sixties, sought the approval of the international community and could not brook the corrosive criticisms of world powers and intergovernmental organizations.

During the ignominious Kashmir Conspiracy Case, the Ministry of Home Affairs [India] and its intelligence agencies worked assiduously to not just indict Akbar Jehan, the Sheikh, and their trusted colleagues, but to get them harshly convicted as well. While attempting in brilliant legalese to counter the allegations leveled at the leader, Mirza Afzal Beg, the Sheikh’s confidant and loyal lieutenant, distressingly recounts that every word the Sheikh spoke after his unlawful arrest in 1953 and his rearrest in 1958 was held against him and misconstrued as treasonous.

Beg, in his eloquent defense of the Sheikh and Akbar Jehan, pointed out, “Now, Sir, he is describing his own tale to his children. Does it amount to spreading hatred against the Government? . . . If a father tells his children: Depend on God if you have no home to live in, depend on God if you have no bread to eat in the evening, does it mean that he is indirectly telling them to annex the State to Pakistan?” (Beg, Sheikh Abdullah Defended 38). The sarcasm in Beg’s persuasive appeal cannot be lost on a discerning reader. It might be hard to comprehend the vicissitudes of the lives of political personages who have dedicated themselves to a cause, but in the world of realpolitik, idealists and visionaries continue to be besieged by adversities.

I return to the historical and political narrative of 1971. In 1971, the Sheikh set up a proxy candidate, Shamim Ahmed Shamim, to contest the parliamentary election against Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, who was the Congress candidate for the Indian parliament from Srinagar constituency. Shamim was a hard sell, because the political workers of the Plebiscite Front did not trust the man. But the Plebiscite Front had been outlawed, so no one from the cadre could be fielded as an electoral candidate. After a lot of discussion at 3 Kotla Lane, New Delhi, where the Sheikh and Akbar Jehan were in detention, Shamim was accepted as a candidate. It was decided that Akbar Jehan would go to Kashmir to campaign for him. Her trip to Kashmir was kept a closely guarded secret.

She was absolutely certain that the government of India would obstruct her travel, but, surprisingly, their flight from New Delhi to Srinagar was uneventful. Shamim received them at Srinagar airport. Close acquaintances recall the utter looks of disbelief on the faces of the Intelligence Bureau operatives at the airport on seeing Akbar Jehan. Shamim drove them to a public rally at Khanyar, next to Dastagir Saheb’s revered shrine. The supporters gathered at the rally simply could not believe that Akbar Jehan was in Kashmir, campaigning for Shamim. The bugle of electioneering had been sounded; Kashmir was electrified. This was no ordinary election.

Akbar Jehan made a passionate speech telling the electorate that India’s time of reckoning had come. From Khanyar they drove to the family house in Soura. While showing me photographs taken on that occasion, my cousin, Iftikhar remembers that within hours thousands of people and the entire press corps arrived. That was when “Grandmother” officially announced the support of the Plebiscite Front to Shamim’s candidacy. She worked tirelessly, speaking at multiple public rallies every day. The electorate was ecstatic and charged. The opposition candidate, Bakshi, was unnerved. His insecurity came through loud and clear when he cancelled his tour of Muslim dominated areas of India, where he had been scheduled to campaign for the Congress.

Prior to Akbar Jehan joining the fray, Bakshi was almost certain of a landslide victory in Srinagar. During the course of campaigning for Shamim, her cavalcade was on its way to Charishareef in the Kashmir Valley when workers of the Plebiscite Front, who had been roughed up by the police, begged her not to proceed because they feared for her life. Iftikhar admits that he was terrified. Shamim thought it would be wiser to return to Srinagar, but Akbar Jehan vehemently disagreed with him. She was determined to march ahead. Charishareef was tense. They went inside the shrine of the legendary saint Nur-ud-Din Wali, flag bearer of Kashmir. As those who had accompanied her stepped out of the jeep to go inside the shrine, a huge boulder landed on the vehicle, destroying the windshield.

A pitched battle was fought by the workers of the Plebiscite Front against antagonistic forces, comprising Bakshi’s workers and operatives of the Intelligence Bureau. After Akbar Jehan made a short speech, they drove back to Srinagar in the same vehicle. The murderous attack on Grandmother sealed Bakshi’s fate. He lost by a huge margin to Shamim, who then was a political greenhorn. Kashmiris, for the first time after 1953, had sent a clear message to India. Lauding Akbar Jehan’s pivotal role in this particular election, the Sheikh tells the reader that after having chosen Shamim as their proxy candidate, it was incumbent upon them to convince the people that Shamim enjoyed the support of the Plebiscite Front. “We,” the Sheikh proudly says, “chose Begum Sahiba for this purpose and so arranged for her quiet journey to Srinagar. Braving the extremely inclement weather in Srinagar, she carried out the election campaign against Bakshi so vigorously that Shamim won the election and Bakshi had to bite the dust.” This tremendous electoral battle “was symbolic. A man [Bakshi] who had ruled continuously for seventeen years in Kashmir was defeated by an anonymous man . . . . This development infused a new spirit into our people” (The Blazing Chinar 470).

Akbar Jehan and the Sheikh were constantly subjected to pressures of all kinds. Although the machinations of the government of India in Jammu and Kashmir, and the collusion of the puppet regimes installed by it in the state, coerced some of their supporters to maintain an unwilling silence and others to resign themselves to their miserable lot, Akbar Jehan and the Sheikh maintained their conviction to withstand those pressures.

The significance of Akbar Jehan’s role on the political landscape of Kashmir remained undiminished in the days to come. After Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad’s abject defeat at the hands of a rookie, Shamim Ahmad Shamin, in the parliamentary election of 1971, which was a feather in Akbar Jehan’s cap, her political acumen and clout were feared by the opposition. Subsequently, she was officially banned from entering the state. The exile of the Sheikh in Kodaikanal in 1964 and later in Delhi in 1968, and the restrictions that his conscripted existence placed on her, did not decrease either the Sheikh’s or Akbar Jehan’s verve and political zeal. His ability to think primarily about the larger objective never failed to bring dividends. Perhaps it was Akbar Jehan’s proclivity to not seek personal credit for the accomplishment that not many political analysts have delved into her work in the parliamentary elections of 1971 and later in the state assembly elections of l977. I recall her always displaying tactfulness while dealing with various kinds of people from different environments. Akbar Jehan, for the most part, did not forget that she was “not primarily dealing with ideas,” on the contrary, she was “dealing with people through whom those ideas have to filter” (Roosevelt, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life 142).

The overwhelming victory of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and his political organization, against all odds, in 1977 was a sore spot for Mufti Sayeed, President of the Congress Party’s state unit at the time. The 1977 elections were a landmark event in the history of Kashmir, with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s NC eradicating the Congress presence in the Valley and capturing an indisputable majority in the Legislative Assembly, 47 seats out of 75. The strength of the Congress was reduced to a mere 11 seats, greatly diminishing its hitherto fabricated larger-than-life presence in J & K. The political ideology of the Jamaat-i-Islami, purportedly pro-Pakistan, was unable to importune the electorate and secured just 1 seat. The fairness of the 1977 election has been highlighted by many political analysts: it offset the preposterous elections held in J & K between 1951 and 1972. Democratic elections, the installation of a representative government and the forging of a political space that accommodated multiple ideologies contributed to the creation of a non-repressive, relatively stable political atmosphere.

In the short tenure as Chief Minister in 2015, he made a couple of attempts to claim ownership over Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s undeniable contributions, but he always fell short. There is a world of difference between leaders and politicians, one that even Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s loyal cohort would be hard-pressed to deny.

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Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She can be reached at nylakhan@aol.com.

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