46 years ago, this day in J&K

By Mohammed Syeed Malik. Dated: 2/26/2021 1:01:18 PM

A ‘democratic’ coup to balance a ‘dictatorial’ coup

“His dictatorial overthrow in 1953 had irreversibly shifted the Centre of gravity of Kashmir politics from Srinagar to New Delhi. His restoration in 1975 on New Delhi’s terms made him realize the harsh truth of his diminished public image, notwithstanding the fact of his almost total hold on hearts and minds of his own people until his demise in September, 1982.”

“Even the Aug 5, 2019 drastic action is unable to apply closure to this debate in Kashmir. For good reason, those who have been there and watched history taking shape from 1947 to 1953, from there to 1975 and down to 2019 would prefer to wait and watch for the history’s final verdict.”


46 years ago, the downgraded, truncated and downsized erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir had witnessed a unique historical event when a duly elected chief minister along with his cabinet had to make way for the installation of someone who was not a member of the state legislature nor commanded any legislative support of his own.
That was a ‘democratic coup’, if there is any such term.
Precisely, what took place on February 25, 1975, at the state’s winter capital, Jammu, in effect was the reversal of what had been done 22 years earlier, on August 9, 1953, when a duly elected Prime Minister of the state who enjoyed near total support in the legislative Assembly, was unceremonious dismissed and thrown behind bars.
That was a dictatorial coup of which there are historical precedents, not confined to Pakistan
Who else but the tallest political leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, happened to be at the Centre of both these unprecedented events.
His dictatorial overthrow in 1953 had irreversibly shifted the Centre of gravity of Kashmir politics from Srinagar to New Delhi. His restoration in 1975 on New Delhi’s terms made him realize the harsh truth of his diminished public image, notwithstanding the fact of his almost total hold on hearts and minds of his own people until his demise in September, 1982.
Literally, Kashmir had been New Delhi’s ‘work-in-progress’ from August, 1953, through Feb, 1975 right down to that final blow of the sledgehammer on August 5, 2019 with the abrogation of Art 370 and abolition of the state’s separate constitution along with its downgraded status to a union territory and separation of one of its three regions, namely Ladakh with a Separate UT status.
Sheikh’s reinstallation in Feb, 1975 was no less surprising.
Till it all actually happened, nobody believed that the Sheikh would so easily forsake his own political child, Plebiscite Front, it had nurtured at a great cost to him and his people and groomed as an immortal emotional entity.
The PF was politically strangulated by its creator, in return for something that, in the eyes of his followers, fell far below his stature and their own expectations.
Nevertheless, it is an enigmatic irony that his people stood behind him post-1975 as solidly as before and right until his demise in September, 1982.
This enigma of the state’s history in general and that of the Kashmir Valley in particular remains unresolved as many of its elements defied logic and rationale. Sheikh got an emperor’s funeral with lakhs joining his mourning procession.
Not so surprisingly though, New Delhi’s top brass, from President Zail Singh and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi formed the official component of state mourners who were present in Srinagar on that momentous day.
These events are yet too close in time for the history to give its definitive, final verdict on the men and matters of that period.
Even the Aug 5, 2019 drastic action is unable to apply closure to this debate in Kashmir. For good reason, those who have been there and watched history taking shape from 1947 to 1953, from there to 1975 and down to 2019 would prefer to wait and watch for the history’s final verdict.
Kalhana, in his 5, 000-year old historical record, Rajatarangni, has said that the route to winning Kashmir lies through hearts and minds of its people.
Not easy to say, though, how many in 21st Century, would like to still believe the acknowledged great historian’s spiritual prognosis.

 

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