|Biographical detail : ||The lion of Kashmir.
A champion of Kashmir’s struggle for freedom against the repressive Dogra raj, Sheikh Abdullah, in the 1930s and 1940s, thundered at a doomed social order and an economic system resting on inequity, injustice and exploitation. Without being a firebrand revolutionary, he worked the system as a consummate behind-the-scenes insider who influenced everyday events through connections and friendships.
Being a mass preacher and public teacher, Sheikh Abdullah inspired the masses for their redemption through a socio-economic programme. His idea of ‘Naya Kashmir’ plan – Kashmiriyat a political rather than a religious statement – was his fiercely egalitarian worldview.
Sheikh Abdullah became active in politics since his student days. He founded the Muslim Conference party in 1931 and urged self-rule for Kashmir.
He opposed splitting India into Hindu and Muslim states. He spurned overture to join Pakistan after India got partitioned in 1947. Sheikh Abdullah became prime minister of Jammu & Kashmir (1947 -53).
Sheikh Abdullah resisted repeated Indian effort to integrate his state fully with India. In 1953 he denounced India's treatment of Kashmir and demanded the right of self-determination for the people of Kashmir. A small but influential group misled Nehru into believing that Abdullah was jettisoning the national interest. Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest on 8 August 1953 was a monumental folly. He was dismissed as prime minister and jailed by India for eleven years, accused of corruption and planning independence.
Sheikh Abdullah was later interned from 1965 to 1968. He was exiled from Kashmir in 1971 for 18 months.
Sheikh Abdullah returned to mainstream of Indian politics in 1975 after accord with Indira Gandhi, then India’s prime minister, by giving up demand for plebiscite. Sheikh Abdullah was rewarded with the job of chief minister of Kashmir, which he held until his death.
He wrote his autobiography Flames of the Chinar.
A warm and generous person, Sheikh Abdullah like most public figure was riven by contradictions and ambivalence. He exaggerated and indulged in the fantasy of azadi. He raised expectations which he could not fulfil; hence the great fall and the charge of betrayal.
Once, people encountered his voice everywhere, the key to his phenomenal influence in his lifetime. He made his mark not only by his oratory but also by his incredible energy. With his death, however, his reputation declined rapidly.