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Sheikh Abdullah

Sheikh Abdullah




Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, born 5 December 1905  was a central figure in the political evolution of Jammu and Kashmir. As the founder of the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, later renamed the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, he became the first elected Prime Minister of the region following its accession to India. Abdullah’s early political activism was characterized by his staunch opposition to Maharaja Hari Singh’s autocratic rule, advocating for self-governance and democratic reforms.

Born in the suburb of Soura near Srinagar, Abdullah lost his father before his birth and grew up in a family involved in the shawl manufacturing and trading business. His educational journey began at a traditional maktab and continued through various schools, culminating in his matriculation from Punjab University in 1922. Initially aspiring to a medical career, he eventually pursued general science, earning an M.Sc. in Chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University. His time in Aligarh exposed him to liberal and progressive political ideas, significantly shaping his future endeavors.

Abdullah’s political career gained momentum with the formation of the Kashmir Muslim Conference in 1932, where he emphasized a non-communal struggle for the rights of all oppressed groups. Under his leadership, the party was renamed the National Conference in 1939, allowing broader participation from various communities. His role in the 1931 agitation against the Maharaja's rule led to the establishment of a Grievances Commission and an elected Legislative Assembly, though real power remained with the Maharaja and only a small fraction of the population had voting rights.

In 1951, his government held elections for a Constituent Assembly based on universal adult suffrage, although these elections were marred by accusations of rigging. His close association with Jawaharlal Nehru, whom he met in 1937, bolstered his political standing. Nehru's support was crucial in Abdullah's appointment as the head of an emergency administration in 1947, following the Maharaja's accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India amidst tribal invasions.

Despite his early successes, Abdullah's political journey faced significant challenges. In 1953, he was dismissed and arrested on charges of conspiracy, allegedly orchestrated by Prime Minister Nehru. After his release in 1964, he attempted to mediate between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, though these efforts were interrupted by Nehru's death. Abdullah faced further detentions and political marginalization in the subsequent years, particularly during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and the political shifts that followed.

The 1975 Indira-Sheikh Accord marked a turning point in his career, as he agreed to serve as Chief Minister under the Indian Constitution, abandoning the demand for a plebiscite. This accord, supported by the Indian National Congress, reinstated him to power, reflecting the changing political dynamics in Jammu and Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah remained in office until his death in 1982, leaving behind a complex legacy as a key architect of modern Kashmir. His contributions to the region's political evolution are commemorated through various institutions named in his honor, though his legacy continues to evoke mixed sentiments among different communities.

Place of Birth: Soura, Srinagar

Date of Birth: 5 December 1905

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