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 Indian Border Security Force 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 second part of his prison memoir.
In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most beneficent.
My family was worried because the police was now after me. Soon after the Operation Blue Star, the issue of Babri Mosque was raked up (In 1984, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP) launched a massive movement for the opening of the locks of the mosque, and in 1985 the Rajiv Gandhi government ordered the locks on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in Ayodhya to be removed. Prior to that date the only Hindu ceremony permitted was a Hindu priest performing a yearly puja for the icons there. After the ruling, all Hindus were given access to what they consider the birthplace of Rama, and the mosque gained some function as a Hindu temple).
We held protests in Kashmir and I, along with some of my friends, was again arrested and were released on bail a month later. The period followed with me acquitting other youth who had the fire of freedom in their hearts. Prominent among them were Shaheed-e-Kashmir Ashfaaq Majeed Wani (Allah’s blessing be on him), Mohammad Yasin Malik, Javed Ahmad Mir, Showkat Bakshi, Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat aka Guga, Shaheed Sajad Ahmad Shah (Allah’s blessing be on him), Shaheed Mohammad Abdullah Bangroo, Shaheed Mohammad Ayub Bangroo, Mehmood Sagar, Firdous Ahmad, Nisar Ahmad, et al.
Owing to the frequent arrests, I would often meet these freedom-loving youth in the jails. During most of my detentions, I was locked up in Shergari police station in Srinagar where I had Mohammad Yasin Malik, Mohammad Abdullah Bangroo, Mustaq Sagar, Mehmood Sagar, Showkat Bakshi, Maqbool Elahi and Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat for company.
Our friendship had grown while in detentions and we would frequently meet once we were out of prisons. It was during this time that we met Mohammad Azam Inqalabi (the first chief of armed rebel amalgam United Jihad Council). He would sometimes lend us books to read and counsel us. My meeting circle was growing and we would meet the Jamaat-i-Islami chief and other members of the group or even the former members of other pro-freedom groups like Peoples League and Al-Fatah. Our conversations would focus on finding a path which could lead to Kashmir being freed from the Indian rule. But nothing concrete would come up from these deliberations.
Most people would tell me not to the take the path that I had set myself on. They would enquire to know the reasons behind our will to take on the might of the Indian government. I remember we would be asked frequently would we be able to set Kashmir nation free. A small group of youths have never been able to set free a small nation they would say to dissuade us. Others would say until Pakistan military invades Kashmir nothing would change; only they could set Kashmir free. We would retaliate with a counter question: would Pakistan army take on Indian military once again?
Many people would ask us these questions. Some would even accuse us of receiving money from Pakistan government. These questions and allegations would disturb me as these queries were raised by people who were our seniors in every aspect of life and who at some point in their lives had resisted Indian rule.
Some would ask me that has India stopped us from praying or have they locked our Mosques. They would say there was no ban on prayers or fighting elections then how were we a slave nation. These questions would befuddle me. I would sometimes think that these people had a wrong estimation about the Kashmir nation and people who didn’t have a realization that they were a slave nation would have no understanding of their various social behaviors. To have an understanding of the Kashmir nation was next to impossible.
To be continued…
(Series coordinated by Seerat Yusra)