JKLF commander Hamid Shiekh’s prison diary: the making of a rebel

Abdul Hamid Sheikh was part of the HAJY group (acronym for his, Ashfaq Majeed Wani, Javaid Mir and Yasin Malik’s names) regarded as the first group to have launched the ‘armed struggle against Indian rule’ in the late 1980s in Kashmir. He was killed on November 19, 1992, in BSF firing at Aael Kadal area of Srinagar’s Old City. Titled ‘Meri Apbeeti’ or My Story, Sheikh kept a brief diary during his detention in prison in 1991, detailing events that led to his foray into the militant rebellion. This is the first part of his prison memoir.

In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most beneficent.

I will attempt to pen everything that happened to us till 1988. I will only write about incidents I am fully aware of. I had no intentions to chronicle these incidents, but I am doing so only on the insistence of some close friends. From today I will attempt to chronicle these incidents and God willing I would succeed in this endeavor.

I had been arrested several times by 1988. Most of my meetings with pious and freedom loving people happened during my several detentions in jails and police stations. So why was I arrested? There was only one reason: all of us were passionate about the freedom of Kashmir. Even my parents were not spared for this ‘crime’. The police would often raid my house and my mother was also picked and detained in a police station for seven days. During those days I was associated with the Islamic Students League. I was a student and repeated detentions badly affected my education. I could not complete my education. I finally came to the conclusion that the goal that we were trying to achieve was far more important than my education. I was quite keen on pursuing my education as were my parents. My father would often tell me that I could do anything but only after finishing my education. My father had realized early on that the path I had chosen was dangerous. But I convinced made my father that I was the right thing to do. With time I became more and more involved in the freedom movement. I made new acquaintances and my resolve for the freedom struggle only intensified with each passing day.

A picture of the beginning page of Abdul Hamid Sheikh Abdul Hamid's prison memoir.
A picture of the front page of JKLF commander Abdul Hamid Sheikh’s prison memoir.

I had no interest in education now and would only look for opportunities to express my feelings and work to further our cause. In 1984, a shutdown was observed in Srinagar a day after the Operation Blue Star in Punjab. The operation rekindled our memories of (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front founder Mohammad Maqbool) Bhat Sahab’s hanging earlier that year, particularly among those youth who were aware about the activities of Bhat Sahab. Although Kashmir people had no connection to this incident (Operation Blue Star), it was only due to the hatred for Indian government that Kashmir people would always take to streets against any act of oppression in any corner of the world.

This time too, Kashmir people took to streets. Both Sikhs and Muslims participated in a protest rally which was fired upon at Wazir Bagh. Some protesters died in the firing while many were injured. I was hit by a bullet in my leg and remained bed ridden at my home for several days. My family was worried because the police was now after me.

Read the second part of his prison memoir: understanding the Kashmir nation 

To be continued…

(Series coordinated by Seerat Yusra)