Sec 370: What Nehru really felt about Sheikh Abdullah

Extract from the Book *My Years with Nehru – Kashmir* written by B N Mullik, the Director of IB.  This is extracted from Pages 101 – 103 of the book. The extract talks of how bitterly Nehru talked about Sheikh Abdullah and his betrayal of Nehru & India. Still Nehru went ahead and finally dropped the Kashmir Conspiracy case against Sheikh Abdullah which gave a fresh lease of life to the Abdullah family. Previous extract from the same book on Mridula Sarabhai can be read here. Mullick refers to an incident with Sardar Patel which I have underlined. The background to that is: Mullick when he was a Junior Officer had submitted a report to Sardar talking positively about Abdullah. The Secretary had routinely made a copy to Nehru who had immediately circulated it to all Indian Embassies. All before Sardar had even seen it. Sardar was upset as he differed with the conclusions. Still to Mullick’s surprise he later made him Director superseding 30 others.

Then suddenly to our utter surprise Pandit Nehru started talking bitterly against Sheikh Abdullah’s communalism. He traced the Sheikh’s history from 1930 onwards and mentioned how he had started his career with the Muslim Conference, which was an out and out communal organisation. He said that as a result of pressures from outside and also seeing the development of the States People’s Movement in the rest of India and for purely tactical reasons and probably under the advice of some of his more liberal followers, the Sheikh had converted the Muslim Conference into the Political Conference to give it a non-communal appearance. At this time Pandit Nehru suddenly looked at me and enquired whether I had not come across some information of possible British connivance in that movement. I replied in the affirmative. He continued his talk against the Sheikh and mentioned all his communal -activities throughout the period he had acted as the National Conference leader. It was the Pakistani aggression which had mellowed him a little for a short time, because the tribals had committed gruesome atrocities on the Muslim population in the valley. But, as soon as he became the Prime Minister, he came out in his true colours once again and started his anti Hindu activities. In contrast, he praised Bakshi and Sadiq for their completely non-communal outlook and said that these two were really secular-minded persons who required all support from India. Pandit Nehru said that all trouble in Kashmir was due to the Sheikh’s communal outlook and it was he who was not allowing the State to settle down to peace and stability. The Sheikh always talked about the rights of the Muslims forgetting that the Hindus also formed nearly 35 per cent of the population of the State and he never showed any consideration for them. Pandit Nehru mentioned that politically he and the other Indian leaders had to go along with the Sheikh for a considerable period and they had also helped him and played him up hoping that by coming in contact  with secular India, where Muslims and Hindus and persons of all other denominations were living together and enjoying a peaceful life, Sheikh Abdullah would be able to get rid of his communalism; but communalism was a disease with him and he could never get rid of it and his entire outlook and behaviour was based on the fact that Kashmir valley had a Muslim majority. Therefore, he was not at all surprised that the Sheikh had conspired with Pakistan to overthrow the non-communal and secular Government of Bakshi and Sadiq. What Pandit Nehru said was factually correct and was similar to what Sardar Patel had stressed to me in 1949. At the end, he wished G.S. Pathak a success and concluded by saying that he himself was allergic to these protracted political trials and he suggested that every effort should be made to expedite it.

Pandit Nehru’s sudden outburst against the Sheikh came as a great surprise to us, including Sri (Lal Bahadur) Shastri who had known him the longest and was one of his closest associates in the political field. He and I came back together to his place, and on the way, Shastri expressed much surprise at the vehemence with which the Prime Minister had spoken against the Sheikh’s communalism. He felt that the Prime Minister had suppressed these feelings in his heart for a long time and ultimately they could not be contained any longer and had suddenly burst out. Pandit Nehru had hoped at this time that Sheikh Abdullah would change but all his hopes had been dashed to the ground.

When the Chinese attacked India in October/November, 1962, Sheikh Abdullah wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, which the latter snowed to me some time afterwards. In this letter, there was not one word of regret or expression of sorrow at what the Chinese had done; instead there was a sermon directed at the Prime Minister about the mistaken policy which India had been pursuing in respect of Kashmir and Pakistan and the need of India, Pakistan and Kashmir unitedly working for peace in the subcontinent and the world. Though not openly expressed, it was quite apparent from the tone of the letter that there was an undercurrent of pleasure in India’s humiliation. After I had read the letter, Pandit Nehru asked me what I thought of it. I replied that the Sheikh had not in any way changed his views, nor had he expressed the slightest sorrow at India’s humiliation, nor had he condemned the Chinese for their outright aggression. We also knew through our contacts in the jail that the Sheikh was not only disparaging India but he was denigrating the Prime Minister himself in most violent terms. Moreover, the Sheikh was talking in the same way as the British and the Americans were doing. Hence, I advised that no notice should be taken of this letter. Bakshi Saheb, when he was consulted, was of the same view. So, nothing was done.* (Footnote reproduced below in italics)

*At this time the Prime Minister was under considerable pressure from the British and the Americans to resolve India’s differences with Pakistan. Though not spelled out in so many words, the plain intention was that the extent of aid to be given to India against China might depend on India being able to repair her fences with Pakistan and concede her demands, however unreasonable they might be. So, to counter this pressure, Pandit Nehru was probably considering whether it would not be preferable to make up with Sheikh Abdullah. When the British and American representatives made similar suggestions to Morarji Desai, the latter bluntly told them that aid or no aid, India would not accede to the unreasonable demands of Pakistan.

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