Kashmir’s ‘first warrior’ dies at 92

Sardar Qayoom’s death grieves separatists, prayers held at Jamia Masjid

SRINAGAR:  Pakistan administered Kashmir’s foundation Prime Minister Sardar Abdul Qayoom Khan Friday passed away after a prolonged illness. Khan shot into prominence in July 1947 when he banded together his friends to form an armed militia and fought pitched battles with Dogra army in Bagh (now in PaK) and parts of Poonch. For triggering the armed revolt in Poonch, Khan came to be known as “Mujahid-e-Awal” (First warrior). The title has, however, been question by certain historians including Khan’s contemporary Ambassador Yusuf Saraf.  

According to Christopher Snedden, author of Azad Kashmir-The Unwritten History, Khan chose to support Pakistani establishment soon after 1949 ceasefire and refused to go with Choudhary Muhammad Ali who was leading a brewing movement for democratization of a local politics in Muzaffarabad. During Musharraf’s rule in Pakistan, Khan was believed to be a part of Track-II diplomacy. Many here believe he came to India in September 2005, first time after 60 years, in order to convince separatists to join the Indian mainstream. But during his stay in Delhi he made noises that contradicted the speculation.

In an interview with Ashima Koul in New Delhi he said, “One should not ignore facts but face them. There is a huge presence of forces in this part of Kashmir [the part controlled by India]. Their simple presence, even if they do not do anything, is the greatest violation of Human Rights. Occupation will always generate resistance. Whether you want it or not, occupation and resistance go hand in hand.”

Columnist Z G Muhammad recalls how Sardar Qayoom would be viewed among Kashmiris. ” Picture of a Young robust man wearing a shalwar-kamaaz, shawl wrapped around his neck, a holster slinging from his shoulder and a gun in his hand spoke many things about a man whose large than life image was a part of my childhood.”

About having earned this title of “Mujahid-e-Awal” Sardar Qayoom in his slender book ‘Muqadama-e-Kashmiri’ writes, “People call me Mujahid-e-Awwal. God has bestowed me this distinction, when the concept of armed struggle was not born in the sub-continent I waged an armed struggle against the Dogra rulers. When both the Muslim Conference and the National Conference were engaged in politics I took arms and fought successfully against the autocratic rulers. I did both the things, I campaigned for armed struggle and also fired first shot. The first bullet that was fired against the Dogra army was by none other than me.” 

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