Jinnah’s Last Drive Into Kashmir

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On the authority of an archival document discovered by this author sometime back, it is now clear that Muhammad Ali Jinnah had visited Kashmir at least four times instead of three – 1926, 1936 and 1944- as is generally believed and written about. In the summer of 1927 also, he came to Kashmir for six weeks. The Kashmir administration had failed to inform Maharaja Hari Singh about Jinnah’s presence in Srinagar of which he had come to know through a news report published in the daily Pratap, Lahore on 11 May 1927. The Minister of Police and Public Works, GEC Wakefield was in writing asked to explain the failure to report the development.

During his last visit in May 1944, Jinnah, like in 1936, was accompanied by his sister, Fatima Jinnah. Before driving into the territory of Jammu & Kashmir on 8 May, he made a brief stopover at Gujranwala, Punjab where a small public meeting was also held. He entered the State territory from Suchetgarh on the same day. A joint reception was accorded to him by leaders of the Muslim Conference and the National Conference including Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas, Allah Rakha Sagar and Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad. Abbas recalls the warm reception Jinnah was accorded at Jammu:

“On the 18-mile long road from Suchetgarh to Jammu, there were continuous lines of his admirers eagerly waiting for him. In the city of Jammu, Muslim men and women – old and young, rich and poor, villagers and city dwellers – all were animatedly looking for the arrival of the Quaid-e-Azam, their beloved leader. The route of the procession was decorated so elegantly that even the Hindus admitted that such beautification and a sea of people were not witnessed even at the coronation of Hari Singh and his ancestors.”

The Quaid-e-Azam was taken in a procession to Jammu city in an open car where he addressed a public meeting in the evening during which he attributed the rising of the people of Jammu & Kashmir against an autocratic rule to the injustices meted out to them. He told the gathering that the 100 million Muslims of India would not leave their brethren in Jammu & Kashmir in lurch. The reception accorded to him at Jammu was “unprecedented”. At one point, when his car was unable to negotiate a sharp turn it was physically lifted by the crowd so that it could make the turn. At Jammu, Jinnah stayed in the Dak Bungalow where he met political leaders, especially the youth. Here, he developed a kind of addiction to the hookah of a Muslim Conference leader, Abdullah Bhalli, and almost forgot his favourite cigar.

Next day, Jinnah along with Abbas set out on his journey to Kashmir and had a night halt at Banihal. As per the programme, he had to reach Srinagar the same day but “given the huge number of people who had descended on the Srinagar–Jammu road after trekking forty to fifty kos mountainous trudge to have a glimpse of the Quaid-e-Azam”, the schedule was changed with night halt at Banihal. On 10 May, he left for Srinagar at 2 p.m. The Mirwaiz of Kashmir, Molvi Mohammad Yusuf Shah drove to Banihal to receive him. The road journey of 107 kilometers [66.48 miles] from Banihal to Srinagar was covered in five hours. En-route, there was hardly any spot where people had not gathered in large numbers to greet Jinnah. At Qazigund, thousands of National Conference and Muslim Conference workers accorded warm reception to him and he responded their affection and love with broad smiles.

There were skirmishes and exchange of fist blows also between the workers of the National Conference and the Muslim Conference at Qazigund, Khanabal and Bijbihara. The police report squarely blamed the former for abusing the Muslim Conference workers, when the latter arrived at Qazigund, resulting in fist blows. Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad and Mohammad Amin kept the warring workers of their respective parties at bay. At Qazigund, people in large numbers jostled one another to have a glimpse of the leader. His car could move forward with great difficulty. An interesting development occurred there when two tyres of the Mirwaiz’s vehicle, bearing the registration number 2675 J&K, flattened and he had to board the car of his political rival, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, in which the former’s colleague, Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas was also accommodated. The back windshield of the Mirwaiz’s car was broken but the police could not say how and by whom. The car was reportedly attacked by National Conference workers.

At Khanabal, an enthusiastic crowd of about 10,000 people greeted Jinnah. There was a stampede and many people were run over by a fervent throng. The Muslim Conference had arranged tea for the visiting dignitary at the Khanabal Dak Bunglow and disallowed workers of the National Conference to enter the premises. At this point, the National Conference leader, Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beg, scaled the gate of the Dak Bungalow and jumped inside. He opened the gate and let his workers in, which resulted in a scuffle with the host party. The flags of the Muslim Conference were snatched and torn. At Bijbihara, similar clashes took place between the supporters of the two parties albeit after Jinnah had left the spot. Earlier, the two parties had agreed to an arrangement of positioning their supporters on the two sides of the road. However, as Jinnah drove past, the two groups started abusing and assaulting each other. Muhammad Ismail, teacher of Islamia High School, Anantnag, approached the Assistant Superintendent of Police and the Sub-Divisional Magistrate on spot and identified Amir Sheikh, Assadullah Beg, Rasul Bandi, Hassan Malla, and Habib Nagara as the culprits who assaulted him, tore his clothes and removed from his pocket his wallet containing Rs. 45. An FIR was lodged under No. 10 U/S 147/379 RPC against the accused.

Scenes of ‘emotional welcome’ were also witnessed at Awantipore, Letapore, Pampore, Athwajan, Batwara and Sonawar. On the outskirts of Srinagar city, Jinnah was received by the top leadership of the National Conference including Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq and Mohammad Syed Masoodi.

At Pampore, a private band presented ceremonial salute to Jinnah who made a brief speech thanking people for the grand reception accorded to him. Welcome arches and buntings were erected at Sonawar. Here, the band of Gilania Middle School Sonawar played a welcome song. From Sonawar to the Pratap Park, thousands of people, including foreign tourists, were lined in rows to welcome Jinnah who waved at them. About a dozen cars drove as pilot vehicles ahead of his motor car. A grand public reception was accorded to him at the Pratap Park where the gathering was estimated to be about one lakh. Jinnah entered the Pratap Park from its western gate. After the conclusion of the public meeting, he told Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas that the volume of the gathering could be 70,000 to 80,000. Impressed by people’s warmth, Jinnah described the reception as a ‘royal welcome’. He was also taken to Drugjan where the Muslim Conference presented a welcome address. Both at the Pratap Park and Drugjan, Jinnah made speeches.

The Pratap Park reception was an effort by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to impress the Quaid-e-Azam about his own influence on Kashmiris and win him over to his side as against the Muslim Conference but the latter refused to play the ball. The public meeting began with the recitation of Allama Iqbal’s nationalistic song, ‘Saaray jahan se achha Hindustan hamara’ sung by Pran Nath Jalali. On behalf of the NC, Jialal Kilam welcomed the guest. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah led Jinnah to the stage. Abdullah introduced him to them and spoke of people’s love and regard for Jinnah which, he said, was amply demonstrated by the public meeting. Hinting at his opposition to Jinnah’s political ideology, he said that he would not like to raise debatable issues here. However, he took pains in making the point that the grand reception for the visiting guest was arranged by his National Conference.

In his speech, Jinnah thanked the people of Kashmir for according him a majestic welcome and said that he would never forget their love and warmth for him. He laid stress on communal amity and prayed for their welfare. He sought to refute Abdullah’s claim by saying that the honour shown to him by the people of Kashmir was because of his being the President of the All India Muslim League, and asked the Muslims of Kashmir to close their ranks, recalling that “We have one God, One Prophet, one Quran and one Ka’ba. Let us have one organisation, one platform, one flag and one leader”. At this point, Kilam left the venue in a huff.

For Abdullah, the Pratap Park reception did not have the desired effect. Adding to his discomfiture was the advice that Jinnah gave to him. He asked him to lead the Muslim Conference instead of the National Conference, reminding that he had started his movement for the protection of rights of the Muslims and his support base also comprised only Muslims. He assured him that he would ask Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas to return to his legal profession and the Mirwaiz to religious preaching, and urge them to leave politics. Recalling his personal experiences with the Congress, Jinnah told Abdullah that he had quit that party after seeing double face of its leaders. The Congress, he cautioned him, will “deceive you after its interests are met and you will repent one day.” The speech and advice of Jinnah were not to make any impact on Abdullah other than making him bitter.  

During his stay in Kashmir, Jinnah first stayed in a bungalow at Ishbar, Nishat. It was in this house that NC President, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and leaders of the Muslim Conference, Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas, Mirwaiz Muhammad Yusuf Shah and Allah Rakha Sagar, separately met Jinnah. Abdullah had a long meeting with him on 13 May which began at 5.45 p.m. and lasted till 8 p.m. On the conclusion of the meeting, Jinnah took Abdullah to the garage to show his car which was giving some trouble. Abdullah promised to send someone to inspect the vehicle and a mechanic did actually arrive while the Muslim Conference delegation was still there. About the Jinnah-Abdullah meeting, the official organ of the National Conference, daily Khidmat, reported that no third person was present and neither of the two leaders disclosed the details of their deliberations. Later, when asked what transpired between him and Jinnah, Abdullah replied, “It was a normal discussion on current situation which could have no relation with speculations in the media.” On 5 June, National Conference leaders, Mohammad Sayeed Masoodi and Khawaja Ghulam Mohi ud Din also met Jinnah.

On 1 July, Jinnah shifted to the State Guest House No. 4 where he moved in at the invitation of the Prime Minister, B. N. Rau. However, he curtailed his stay there as no minister paid a courtesy call on him. Hari Singh was in Europe as Member of the Imperial War Council but when he returned on 23 July, six days before Jinnah was scheduled to leave, the Maharaja turned down his request for a meeting on the pretext that he had other commitments and his time was fully taken for the next few days. The Jinnah siblings then shifted to a houseboat, Queen Elizabeth, on the Jhelum at Lal Mandi.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah claims that Jinnah took shelter in the houseboat as a state guest after a public reaction against him that the former generated by responding to his Pratap Park speech and “exposing his arguments on Pakistan’s usefulness for the Muslims.” That, however, is not true. Jinnah had shifted from the Nishat house to the State Guest House on the invitation of the Prime Minister but immediately moved out of it when he felt due courtesy was not extended to him. At the Guest House, he told K. H. Khurshid whom he later picked as his private secretary, that although he was a guest of the State his hosts seemed afraid to see him. Khurshid recalls: “Rau invited him to dinner at his residence and once the formality of the meal was over, Mr. Jinnah noticed Rau looking ill at ease. Why are they afraid? he asked me.” Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas, who accompanied Jinnah from Jammu and met him every second or third day at Srinagar and accompanied him on his return journey, corroborates Khurshid’s account.

In Srinagar, Jinnah attended a reception hosted in his honour by the Aligarh Old Boys’ Association. He met several deputations of political workers, students, religious leaders, journalists and representatives of the minorities. His engagements in the city included a speech, on 17 June, at the historic Jama Masjid. The function was held to observe the Annual Day of the Muslim Conference and the venue was jam-packed with people. Some suggest the number as one lakh. He was warmly greeted by people and his address began at 10 p.m. only after it took a while for the organizers to quieten the cheering crowd. Muhammad Yusuf Saraf claims that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, with his two close aides, watched the proceedings from a nearby house of one of his party supporters. In his speech, Jinnah thanked the people for “the honour accorded to me” and felt confident that Kashmiris had now awakened under the banner of the Muslim Conference. He said that during his stay in Srinagar he met all sections of the people and from them came to know about their problems and hardship. On the basis of what transpired between him and the people who called on him, he observed that “99% Kashmiris supported the Muslim Conference while there were some who felt that they should join the National Conference.” He said that he had not come to Kashmir to support or oppose one against the other group. “It is my duty as a Muslim to advise you correctly as to which course would be proper and ensure your success”, he told the gathering. He said that if the doors of the National Conference were kept open for six years for the non-Muslims and yet they have, as a whole, kept aloof from the party it would be a mistake to keep these doors open again. This, he warned, would divide the Muslims in two camps of the Muslim Conference and the National Conference and bring about tension between them.

He reminded the leadership of the party that Hindus and Sikhs, unlike the Muslim majority of the State, do not demand Responsible Government from the Maharaja. He said it would be a matter of happiness for him if they wanted such a Government. He emphasized that the Responsible Government was not a cake that the Maharaja would present to them and that its attainment required organising “your nation” and improvement in “the educational, economic and social conditions of the Muslims.” There was only one way to do this, he said “and that is unity, solidarity, a single flag, a single platform and an ideal. If you are able to achieve them, you must succeed.”

On 28 May, Jinnah attended a garden party at the Amar Singh Club, Sonawar, arranged by a famous Kashmiri jeweler, Khawaja G. Ahmad Joo.

The Kashmir Government had kept a close watch on people meeting Jinnah. The visitors included government officials against whom C. I. D diary was sent to the Administration. Among such persons were Aga Muzaffar, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Mr. Agha, Registrar Cooperatives Department and M. A. Sheikh of Accounts Department. Begum Zafar Ali, Head Mistress, Government Girls High School who later rose to become a prominent social activist of Kashmir, was also reported against for meeting with Fatima Jinnah on 15 June.

At Srinagar, Jinnah received a letter from Gandhi which Khurshid, as one of his first assignments as Jinnah’s private secretary, was tasked to translate into English. The letter led to Jinnah-Gandhi talks in September 1944. Gandhi, after he had been released from jail on 6 May 1944 due to illness, had offered to meet Jinnah who proposed a meeting at his Bombay house on his return.

Jinnah was still in Kashmir when his close aide and confidante, Liaquat Ali Khan accompanied by his wife, Rana Liaquat Ali, also arrived in the Valley. The couple joined the Jinnah’s and together they visited some tourist places also. They were seen walking on the Bund near the General Post Office one afternoon while Khan was carrying a fly-whisk. In K. H. Khurshid’s Memories of Jinnah, there is a photograph in which besides Jinnah, Rana and Liauqat, is seen a young and pretty girl. The caption of the photograph reads: “The Quaid – a rare moment of relaxation in Kashmir with his daughter, Dina and Nawabzada and Begum Liaquat Ali Khan.” Jinnah is seen in a semi reclining position with his left cheek rested on the right shoulder of his daughter. What is significant about the picture is that it shows that Dina had accompanied Jinnah on his last visit to Kashmir which fact, otherwise, is not known.

The Quaid-e-Azam also had a meeting with Sayyid Jamaat Ali Shah, a Muslim spiritual personality reverentially called as Amir-i-Millat (Leader of the Faithful), while both were in Kashmir.

On his return via the Jhelum Valley Road on 25 July, Jinnah addressed a public meeting at Baramulla which was disrupted by a group of National Conference workers led by Mohammad Maqbool Sherwani. In his speech, Jinnah asked people to unite under one banner to see their misery coming to an end. As the Muslim Conference supporters were raising pro-Jinnah and pro-Muslim Conference slogans, Sherwani, who had sneaked into the public meeting along with some of his supporters, started raising pro-Sheikh Abdullah and pro-National Conference slogans which led to commotion and disruption of the public meeting. The disruption was a deliberate attempt by the National Conference after the party had failed to win over Jinnah’s support during his stay at Srinagar. It was also meant to show him that Abdullah alone was the leader in Kashmir. In the scuffle between the supporters of the two parties, Inayat Ullah Kakroo of the Muslim Conference was injured while Sant Singh Taigh of the National Conference was beaten up. In the evening, the Muslim Conference supporters chased Sherwani who, in order to save himself, jumped into the River Jhelum and swam across to safety. Jinnah also addressed people at Uri and Muzaffarabd.

Sadly for Muhammad Ali Jinnah, his two and a half month long stay in Kashmir failed to bring about reconciliation between the National Conference and the Muslim Conference, the two ideologically opposite political parties of Jammu and Kashmir. The reason was rigidity on either side. While Jinnah was spearheading a movement for a separate country for Muslims of the subcontinent and could not be expected to support a different stand for the Muslim majority Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had mentally thrown his lot with Jawaharalal Nehru and his politics much before the events of 1947 unfolded.

The Kashmir visit of 1944 was very tiring for Jinnah during which he remained awfully busy. On 22 August, after an exhausting tour, he wrote to a friend, “I broke down because of the crushing, gushing affection of the people, from the day I started from Srinagar. I had to pay the penalty for having satisfied them to the utmost of my capacity. But I am glad to tell you that I am almost all right and will soon be able to resume my work.”

Jinnah’s desire to again visit Kashmir in 1947 was not met with favourable response from the Kashmir Government. On the eve of the Partition, while several prominent politicians of India including Mahatma Gandhi, Acharya Kriplani, then President Indian National Congress and Sikh rulers of Kapurthala, Faridkot and Patiala states visited Maharaja Hari Singh, Jinnah’s wish to visit Kashmir was turned down by the latter. In the words of Chaudhri Muhammad Ali, “The Quaid-e-Azam himself wanted to go to Kashmir about the middle of September; he hoped to have a friendly talk with the Maharaja, but the Maharaja did not want him to come.” From August, the situation in Kashmir changed fast. On Gandhi’s intervention, Prime Minister Ram Chander Kak, a votary of an independent Kashmir, had been removed and a pro- India Mehar Chand Mahajan was in his seat. After the Partition, as the situation in Kashmir was fluid with Hari Singh still being undecided about the accession of Jammu & Kashmir with either of the two newly created States, Jinnah asked his military secretary, Colonel William Birnie, to go to Kashmir and arrange for him to spend a couple of weeks there. Birnie returned after five days to convey that the ruler of Kashmir did not agree to his visit. “The turn of events in Kashmir had an adverse effect on the Quaid-e-Azam’s health. At the time of Partition he had been confident of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan because of its Muslim population and geographical situation…Now he felt deceived, and his earlier optimism gave way to a deep disappointment”, writes Ali. One of his close aides quoted him saying, “We have been put on the wrong bus.”

The last year of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s life was “saddened by his despair over the fate of Kashmir”. Till his demise on 11 September 1948, Kashmir emotionally remained nearest to his heart. On his first death anniversary in September 1949, Fatima Jinnah in her broadcast from Radio Pakistan told her countrymen that “the question of Kashmir was nearest to the Quaid-e-Azam’s heart during the last few days of his life. The only news which interested him whether on the Radio or in the papers was regarding Kashmir, he always felt very unhappy that this problem was being delayed.” Next year, on the same occasion, Fatima Jinnah said that the “Quaid-e-Azam died with Kashmir as his constant care.”

 

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