Sheikh Abdullah’s 30th death anniversary passes almost unnoticed

September 8th, 2012 - 5:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Sep 8 (IANS) On his 30th death anniversary Saturday, few people came to pay homage to Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, who led the struggle against Maharaja Hari Singh and championed self-rule. It was difficult to remember that there was a time when people waited for hours together to catch a mere glimpse of the man, once hailed as the Lion of Kashmir.

Over four dozen security vehicles dotted the road outside the mausoleum of the National Conference (NC) founder on the banks of the Dal Lake in Hazratbal area of the city Saturday morning.

The Sheikh’s son, union minister Farooq Abdullah, and grandson, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, accompanied by members of his council of ministers, paid homage to the founder of the NC who once ruled the hearts and minds of millions of Kashmiris.

Thirty years ago, a record over half million mourners joined the funeral procession, which had taken 16 hours to cover a distance of eight kilometres.

In 1982, for the first time, both the president and the prime minister broke protocol to join mourners. A sea of weeping and wailing Kashmiris carried their beloved leader to his final resting place.

It is difficult to believe the magic of the late Sheikh has now dimmed.

Life across the Valley continued normally Saturday, and most locals remained oblivious to the death anniversary of the man credited with awakening the masses against autocratic rule and ushering in landmark agrarian reforms.

Under the Sheikh’s leadership, Jammu and Kashmir became the first state in India to undertake historic land reforms, giving ownership rights to tillers and ending absentee landlordism in the state in the 1950s.

“The magic of the late Sheikh might have passed, but his contribution to the awakening of Kashmiri masses cannot be wished away. Despite the fact that his legend has been compromised over the years, the fact remains that he is still the reference point on Kashmir politics,” said Ghulam Nabi, 72, who passed by the mausoleum of the leader Saturday and saw the tight ring of security around it, as banners of the ruling NC flew.

The heavy presence of VVIPs was all there was to show that it was an anniversary, and that a great leader lay buried here.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at sheikh.abdul@ians.in)

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