Srinagar: The former Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was on Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s mission Kashmir in Pakistan to explore possibilities to work out a peaceful settlement of Kashmir dispute but Nehru died while Sheikh was in Pakistan, former APHC Chairman and Muslim Conference leader, Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat writes in his autobiography ‘Beyond Me’.
In his 264-page book published by Gulshan Books Kashmir, Bhat writes that the war between India and China – the most humiliating war to recount amid noises ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ eventually brought Jawahar Lal Nehru’s ivory towers tumbling down in pieces to earth.
“Nehru’s sense of history was sharper than a few others around. He understood that belligerence against the neighbouring China and Pakistan at the same time could spell a disaster in the entire region and thus in deference to Anglo-American diplomatic persuasion as well preferred a strategic dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir dispute. The dialogue happened to produce no solution as usual,” he writes in the book that he has dedicated to Qurat-ul-Ain and her mother Tasleema and that encapsulates his life upto 1987.
The book divided into 15 chapters is being released at a simple function in Srinagar on Friday.
Bhat writes things changed when National Conference (NC) founder, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was released from captivity.
“The cage broke and the Lion of Kashmir, perhaps tamed to a purpose, was out. The Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru invited him to Delhi as his special guest. Did the guest entertain any idea that he might be assigned a mission to visit Pakistan to explore possibilities in an ice-breaking and de-freezing exercise whether a peaceful settlement of the dispute on Kashmir could be worked out? Abdullah’s yes spoke a volume,” the Hurriyat leader writes. “His visit to Pakistan was an event that could mark the turning point, given that he enjoyed belatedly the goodwill of the Indian Prime Minister.”
He writes that to his surprise, Abdullah and the members of his delegation in Pakistan discovered a propitiously forward-looking political environment and more interestingly a will on the part of the leadership in Pakistan to accept any solution that could please the people in Kashmir.
“This was a bright prospect for him to live with and to move fast. He would, therefore choose to get back posthaste to Delhi and report progress to the Prime Minister of India,” Bhat said.
However, he writes that destiny blocked the passage to Kashmir settlement.
“The next meeting with the Prime Minister of India would never materialize, could have hardly crossed Jawarhar Lal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India in 1964 fell to a stroke and passed away to his next abode – a death blow to Abdullah’s mission,” the veteran Hurriyat leader writes. “No political pundit could predict that a war will break out between India and Pakistan just the next year in 1965, his death and Abdullah’s mission notwithstanding.”
‘Beyond Me’ ascends and conquers as Bhat talks in smiley and metaphors, writes philosophically, spiritually and for the intellect with the Islamic and Persian influence quoting Quran and Rumi.
GEELANI’S ELOQUENT SILENCE
In the book, Bhat credits the silence of Syed Ali Geelani for taking him closer to Islam.
He writes that for learning Persian, he had been anxiously looking for a tutor.
“I knew a teacher proficient in Persian, Syed Ali Shah Geelani of a village Duru in my immediate neighbourhood,” the Hurriyat leader writes. “He lived in a single-storey house, a simple, modest home of a simple, modest teacher.”
When he proposed Geelani to teach him Persian at his home, he agreed.
Bhat mentions how he was drawn toward Islam when he realized that Geelani, who would not join the Imam and fellow Muslims in chanting ‘Awrad’ in the Masjid evoking an outburst from the traditionalists.
“Geelani’s silence was more eloquent than speech and the traditionalist’s outburst more euphoric than a victory scored in a battlefield,” he said. “This offered me an opportunity to get closer toward understanding Islam and I took upon myself to study Islam.”
The Hurriyat leader writes that it was after this incident that he read books by celebrated scholars like Abul A’ala Mawdudi, the founder leader of Jamaat-e-Islami and as a consequence got to know a little about Islam as a complete way of life, the divide between radicalism and traditionalism, notwithstanding.
“I hold Mr. Geelani, my simple modest teacher in high esteem,” he mentions in the book.
Bhat, who is known for his juicy rhetoric and catchy sound bytes, remembers the first lines of his speech that he delivered during the debate as a student in S P College after his English teacher, Prof S M Lateef urged him to participate in it.
“United Nations Organisations, with peace as its principal aim, is a symbol of universal togetherness…” Bhat writes in the book about it decades after which Kashmiris continue to pin hopes in futility on the United Nations in resolving Kashmir issue.
FAROOQ, MUFTI AND ALMA MATER
In the book, Bhat writes about the golden jubilee function of S P College, where he along with two of his super seniors, the former chief minister Farooq Abdullah and the then chief minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had been invited as the prominent alumni to attend the function and the three sat together in the first row.
The Hurriyat leader writes that toward the end of his speech he touched Kashmir.
“I remember vividly saying we feel concerned – all of us as a matter of fact, about our future, the future of roses in rows in my front constitute the future of Kashmir. We owe a duty to our conscience and to our people as well particularly to the roses in bloom to resolve to move together toward working out an acceptable, honorable and a durable solution of the dispute on Jammu Kashmir in larger interests of peace and stability in the South Asian region,” he mentions and remembers how the students erupted into a youthful applause.
However, Bhat writes that Abdullah’s speech drew a blank, which he could sense and turned to the student audience saying in a roaring voice, “We are no slaves – no slaves of anybody. We shall not accept slavery in any form and at any level, come what may.”
The Hurriyat leader writes, “Freedom is a waking dream, a catchy slogan, a street roar, and a weapon to maul Indian arrogance in Kashmir. Whoever can spell out the portents of this waking dream earns applause, even without asking for it. Farooq Abdullah too got it, and got away with it.”
He writes when Sayeed spoke at the last, he was not lost in amour or in deceit as he spoke on education in Kashmir absolutely in a traditional chief ministerial way – no politics, no problems – separatists or unionists, particular or populist.
G M SADIQ AND THE RULES
Bhat writes about his meeting with Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq when he was the Minister for Education and a post had fallen vacant in the department of Education. After giving Bhat the audience, the Hurriyat leader writes, Sadiq while parting said pithily, “I heard you; the rules must prevail.” Bhat got the job and was appointed as a lecturer in Persian.
TEACHING IN BUNKERS
The author remembers the days when at his first teaching job in Poonch, he taught students in bunkers and writes that pluralism and Poonch were bound to go together.
BAKSHI AND BUILDING CASTLES
He refers to the speech of the former Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad in Poonch in which he said there would be no solution in the backdrop of US envoy in India, Prof Galbraith, who had a deeper understanding of the dynamics determining relationship between India and Pakistan and then possessed a thoroughly keen insight of the hazards of Indo-China conflict concealed and thus put in a diplomatic exercise toward resolving the dispute on Kashmir in the backdrop of 1962 Indo-China War.
Bhat writes, however, Bakshi dismissed the envoy’s ideas as un-workable and remarked rather sarcastically that professors were generally accustomed to building castles in air, not knowing that no castles come up in air.
The author writes Bakshi’s visit to Poonch was his last as a PM.
“Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, the undaunted Prime Minister of Kashmir, floundering through his choice at a critical stage in his political career, fell to a tactical arrow struck adroitly by the then Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru in the year 1963,” he mentions.
The veteran Hurriyat leader writes how in 1963, Hazratbal relic was sacrilegiously displaced, shockingly insulting to the collective conscience of Kashmir.
“The people rose – each one of them rose in terrible cold days and nights of winter as if in revolt to shake off disdainfully everything Indian. As a matter of fact, entire Kashmir was thrown up in revolt spontaneously with an unprecedented outcry against the blatant desecration,” Bhat writes.
FOUR-MONTH 10-DAY PM
The author writes that after Bakshi’s fall, Shams-ud-Din, an heir dormant, credulously innocuous and in sharp contrast to the outgoing PM, succeeded him to rule just for four months and 10 days to literally retire to a political oblivion.
THE LAST PM, THE FIRST CM
The Hurriyat leader writes that Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq, who was elevated to the highest office as Prime Minister of Kashmir, was the choice of Jawahar Lal Nehru and at the top under peculiar circumstances would change to the joys of Nehru the designations of ‘Sadder’ to ‘Governor’ and of ‘Prime Minister’ to ‘Chief Minister’ to facilitate the process of fuller integration of Kashmir with the Union of India in flagrant violation of a written document which they call ‘Instrument of Accession’ let alone their promises they would make time and again verbally.
The Hurriyat leader refers to autonomy as a hollow slogan, never intended to be honoured in observance – a hoax in a word.
“G M Sadiq was the last Prime Minister and the first Chief Minister in Kashmir – a combination in parts to represent yesterday’s separate identity and tomorrow’s merger of identity with whole of India – G M Sadiq was reckoned as a gentleman with conviction, truthful and liberal with an aristocratic orientation, a democrat fallen to authoritarianism and a disciplinarian even in sensitive matters in life,” he writes.
ON MAHMUD GAZNAVI’S PATH
Remembering his youthful adventures, Bhat writes about one of those adventures of walking the distance from Poonch to Gulmarg through the icy-rugged mountain passes of Pir Panjal region.
“The guide would lead us along a trodden track – the track Mahmud Ghaznavi had taken to conquer Kashmir along with one of his most celebrated scholars Abu Reehan Alberuni, the author of ‘Attahqeeqa Ma’al Hind’ – In Search of India,” he writes.
PRAISE FOR PANDITS
Bhat is very passionate about the intricately-woven Kashmiri Muslim and Pandit society and the amount of lavish praise that he has for his Kashmiri Pandit teachers, colleagues and friends is exemplary.
The Hurriyat leader refers to the former Union Water Resources Minister and State Congress chief, Saifuddin Soz, a professor of economics, as a gentleman with an ambition, an individual in the group to watch and a teacher with an aptitude to rise to higher positions in life.
“Prof. Soz rose to higher positions in the department of education and thenceforth in politics too, ascended to higher positions by any standards – ‘MP’ and minister in New Delhi. Ultimately, as the head of state Congress, he might have to retire gratified or not is difficult to foretell. I wish he could unlearn the lesson that economics teaches, ‘The more you have, the more you still want to have,’” Bhat writes about the senior Congress leader. “As colleagues in the neighbouring colleges at Baramulla and Sopore, we could develop a working homely relationship despite divergent views on some specific issues. I love his children as much as I do my own.”
The veteran Hurriyat leader refers to Sopore as a place that epitomizes resistance against excesses.
“No browbeating can break the nerve of the town’s people. No gagging can force silence. No glibness, either can sweeten their tempers,” he writes about the apple-rich town often referred to as ‘Chota London’ in Kashmir.
RADIO KASHMIR AND ADBI MARKAZ KAMRAZ
Bhat also credits Radio Kashmir Srinagar and Adbi Markaz Kamraz for developing his literary and cultural tastes.
“Radio Kashmir Srinagar, besides safeguarding state’s interests represented similarities in taste and excellence as well along with Adbi Markaz Kamraz in the fields of art and literature, historicity of events, cultural inclusiveness and promotion of languages,” he writes.
The author refers to his friendship with Farooq Nazki, Somenath Sadhu and Pushkar Nath Bhan who he writes could overpower him to buckle under and do the talking and writing for radio but only occasionally.
“Farooq had already engaged me through a contract to do a talk on ‘Zaingeer’ in a historical perspective,” the Hurriyat leader writes. “I wrote on subjects like ‘Aakashik Basekeen’ – the dwellers on skies, ‘Lu’sewun Tarkh’ – the setting stars, ‘Armstrong Zooni Paith’ – Armstrong on moon, Sopore – My Town, Ghalib, anecdotes from Sadi Gulistan and did the talking too on occasions.”
Referring to an Adbi Markaz Kamraz conference, Bhat writes that he remembers the grandeur with a longing to relive in imagination time and again the ‘Sheikh-ul-Aalam conference’ that highlighted the contributions of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani in the field of spiritualism as well as material wellbeing that drew a galaxy of scholars, poets, artists to participate, touch upon delicate issues, read papers, deliver lecturers, and recite verses and wake the audience to subtle and even dormant dimensions of spiritual life.
PRAISE FOR JINNAH
Bhat has high praise for the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
“Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader who carved a state out of a state – a historic achievement to earn an appellation of honour as the ‘father of nation’. The ‘Baba-i-Qaum’ in his career as the champion of Muslim cause, galvanized them to an ideologically-oriented political movement and won them a homeland – Pakistan in the backdrop of the subcontinent irony,” the Hurriyat leader writes.
He writes that he was dismissed on flimsy grounds that he constituted a threat to the state’s security, years before he could retire under rules.
“I lost the job to stone-blind rulers’ caprice and malice, to their degraded sense of revenge and to their rank malevolence – the evil doers who contrived the dismissal in the backdrop of the ‘Babri Mosque’ dispute of Uttar Pradesh in Kashmir to propitiate gods at the altar of power in Delhi. How could a professor be transfigured into a threat to the state’s security? How could the nine of us – a professor, an engineer, five teachers, a veterinary stock assistant and a forest guard, spread all over the valley – south and north – break apart the state’s security apparatus?” he questions.
MUF’S MEETING WITH G M SHAH
Bhat refers to a meeting of the Muslim United Front (MUF) at the residence of Hakeem Javed with Ghulam Muhammad Shah and Ghulam Nabi Kuchak, who represented the dismissed rulers or the Awami National Conference (ANC) while Hakeem Ghulam Rasool and he represented MUF for working out a joint strategy.
“Strange indeed are the styles in politics – snakes marrying rats and bulls chasing lizards,” he writes.
KASHMIR POLITICS IN SECOND VOLUME
Bhat writes that politics in Kashmir is unfortunately inextricably linked to the civilizational conflict, which he wishes to take up in a perspective in the second volume of ‘Beyond Me’.
MUNDANE NOT HIGH PROFILE
The best feature of Bhat’s writing is that he delves into the nitty-gritty of the mundane. He writes how childhoods are overburdened with education and assimilated but in the process losing beauty and innocence.
Born to Habib and Bakhti, Bhat says he was born to ‘Love’ and ‘Luck’, the meaning of the names of his parents.
He terms Kashmiris as sharp as William Wordsworth.
“They are suppressed and yet sharp, perhaps sharper than many around,” he writes in praise of his countrymen.
Basing the writing on his memory, Bhat has done a wonderful job and even remembers his first day in college, and the lesson in learning etiquettes for using a wrong impression in Urdu.