Sheikh Abdullah: Tragic Hero of Kashmir is the first comprehensive, well-documented account of the life of the charismatic leader, the Lion of Kashmir, who contributed crucially to the making of modern India in terms of territory and more importantly to its founding ideology of secularism.
The story begins well before independence. Kashmir was the scene of a distinctive political transformation in the late 1930s. In contrast to rise of the Muslim League in much of the subcontinent - which was to lead to partition - the most popular party in the valley turned away from communal politics and embraced secularism. On 11 June 1939, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was successful in changing the name of the party he was leading from Kashmir Muslim Conference to National Conference.
The author traces the historic developments that followed this unique commitment to secularism inspired by Sheikh Abdullah. It also paved the way for Jammu & Kashmir to accede to India and resist aggression from Pakistan.
Backed by Nehru's friendship, Abdullah rose to become the first popular Prime Minister of the State, but also the target of conservative and communal forces in India. His demand that the pledge of special status for the State in the accession documents be honoured was described as anti-national, even pro-Pakistani. As revealed in the book, Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel offered to resign on the issue. The letters he and Nehru wrote to Gandhi explaining their differences make fascinating reading.
The intrigue that led to Abdullah's downfall and arrest on 8 August 1953, is well documented as is the role of the Home Ministry's Intelligence Bureau. The elaborate conspiracy case it built up was belatedly rejected by Nehru himself. Drawing upon a wide range of sources, the author takes us through Abdullah's long, tragic periods of detention until he was persuaded to return to Jammu and Kashmir as Chief Minister. He demonstrated his continuing popularity by winning an election before his death in 1982.
At the heart of the troubled, tragic history of Kashmir lies the intriguing, charismatic figure of Sheikh Abdullah. In this moving and empathetic biography, Ajit Bhattacharjea tracks the tumultuous career of a man who symbolized the triumphs and sorrows of his people.
- - Ramachandra Guha, author of India After Gandhi
This is truly perceptive and what is more, sympathetic delineation of Sheikh Abdullahâ€™s personality. I hope it will encourage more studies on a truly remarkable figure in our nationâ€™s public life.
-Prof Mushirul Hasan, Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia