Saturday 24 October 2020

Maqbool Sherwani, saviour of Kashmir


Come October, Kashmiris remember the sacrifice of Maqbool Sherwani, a young and proud Kashmiri who sacrificed his life for Kashmir and Kashmiris. Maqbool Sherwani was a Kashmiri Muslim youth and National Conference member, who delayed the march of Pakhtoon tribesmen from Pakistan and rebel forces in Baramulla, in October 1947. By doing this, he played an important role in buying time for Indian Sikh Regiment troops who landed in Srinagar once the accession to India was accepted and signed.

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It was in October 1947, Maqbool, a young man spotted tribesmen planning to invade Kashmir. He realized their intention. He misguided them to a wrong path when asked to guide for road to Srinagar Airport. He was crucified by the angry rebel forces when they realised that he misguided them to delay their march. Maqbool Sherwani is considered as a hero and martyr of Kashmir in India by National Conference and Indian Army. In his memory, at Maqbool Sherwani Auditorium and Mohammad Maqbool Sherwani Memorial in Baramulla, tributes are paid by Kashmiris and government officials. Balidan Stambh monument by Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry also has name of Maqbool Sherwani. Writer Mulk Raj Anand wrote an account of Maqbool Sherwani's story in his novel, Death Of A Hero.

The valour of Maqbool Sherwani is still heard in chivalric tales, fables, parables, and folklore of the Kashmir valley. The separists hate him and his thoughts. A number of youth groups have been formed on his name, as well as several institutions have been operating there which bear his name on their respective titles. An ordinary local Kashmiri youth became their hero. He was their inspiration and still is.

In August 1947, India and Pakistan came into being as two separate nations. Kashmir, a muslim majority state ruled by a Hindu King, Hari Singh preferred to remain independent. And Pakistan wanted to forcibly annex Jammu and Kashmir as it was a muslim majority state, against the wishes of the people of Kashmir. As Jammu and Kashmir and the entire nation mark the Black Day of tribal invasion in Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 by a Lashkars of 20,000 Kabailis (Pakistani tribesmen), tributes from all across the nation are pouring in for the less known martyr--Maqbool Sherwani. He sacrificed himself to save the lives of Kashmiris and to resist invasion on Indian soil.

With the knowledge of the Pakistan government and support of the Pakistan army, Pakistani tribesmen and the army dressed as Kabailis entered Kashmir to forcibly takeover the state and spread anarchy. They looted and plundered. After entering Jammu and Kashmir loaded in trucks and other vehicles, the wild, tall and shabby tribesmen plundered the quiet city of Baramulla on October 26. The attack was so lethal that only 3,000 citizens of Baramulla out of a total population of 14,000 were said to have survived, a fact that Akbar Khan, a Pakistani commander and main perpetrator of the attack, has himself agreed to in his book- Raiders in Kashmir. Their motive was to spread fear amongst the Kashmiris and capture as much territory as possible. And Srinagar airport was the main target. With this they expected Kashmir to fall in to their hands.

Until then Baramullah was a multicultural city, Maqbool Sherwani rode  on his motorcycle and found the Pakistani raiders threatening  killing any opposition and plundering the city. He held public meetings in villages on his motorcycle to unify them and collectively take on the raiders. Seeing a local citizen on the deserted road, the raiders asked him for the route to Srinagar airport. The idea of Pakistan was to seize Srinagar Airport as it was the only means for arranging urgent procurement and deployment of the Indian army in case of immediate action to drive them out. Controlling the Srinagar airport meant cutting off the valley from the rest of India. And it would be difficult for Indian forces to reach Kashmir with the airport in enemy control.

Sherwani displayed his presence of mind and in a convincingly misguided the raiders and directed them to a wrong path that was going to lead them to nowhere. He also led them for some distance astray. However, after wandering on the wrong path for some time and realizing about being misguided, the raiders returned back to find Sherwani and punish him for misguiding them and causing intentional delay. Sherwani was in Sumbal, 35 km away from Baramulla when raiders found him, abducted and brought him back to Baramulla to teach him a lesson and set an example to the locals and Indian patriots.

Realizing they were misled, the angry raiders found him, tortured Sherwani and shot 14 bullets into him. Showing their anger and hatred for Sherwani, raiders mutilated his body and then crucified it before firing bullets on him. His body, nailed to a wooden plank, was tied to two pillars of Khan Hotel, near Regina Cinema and kept hanging for several days as no one dared to come out. The raiders also pasted a note on his head that read--He is a traitor, his punishment is death. His death spurred the locals.

Sherwani died a martyr’s death, which did not go in vain. Kashmiris rose up against the raiders with a new found courage all over the valley as soon as the news of his martyrdom spread like a wildfire. Most importantly, the misguiding of the raiders by Sherwani helped in providing precious time for the Indian soldiers to reach Srinagar and save the airport and the city. The locals attacked, chased and caught hold of the raiders and handed them over the Indian army. The Kashmiris were angry with the raiders for disturbing their peaceful life and the killing of local Kashmiris.

On the other hand time was a crucial factor. The consent on accession was yet to come from Maharaja Hari Singh, without which the Indian army would have been unable to be deployed. After many meetings eventually, Maharaja signed the agreement of accession on 26 October and New Delhi sent the Indian Army to Kashmir the very next day. In the morning of 27 October 1947, soldiers of the Sikh Regiment landed at Srinagar airport after being airlifted from Gurgaon base. Dewan Ranjit Rai, who was martyred in the war with the raiders, he was commanding the unit. When the Indian army reached Srinagar, it was received warmly by the Kashmiris and seen as their saviors. A famous Kashmiri journalist Sofi Ghulam Mohammad shared the anecdote and recalled when they entered the city, there were cheers. They were garlanded. He also recalled the slogans raised by Kashmiris like- You invaders beware, we Kashmiris are ready to fight you and Long live Hindu-Sikh-Muslim unity.

The importance of what Maqbool Sherwani did and his presence of mind and action in the nick of time can be gauged from the fact that when Indian army reached Srinagar, the raiders had already reached the outskirts of Srinagar, just a few kilometers away. And a difference of a few hours could have cost the entire Srinagar and made it more difficult for Indian army to reach Srinagar and Kashmir. For the next ten days, there were intense battles between the Indian Army, raiders and Pakistani soldiers commanding the raiders. Eventually, after taking a lot of casualties, on November 7, Lashkars realized their game was up and the remaining raiders began to flee towards Pakistan with the forceful counter attack by the Indian army.

Sherwani, a bright young man, was an ardent opponent of the Muslim League and the idea of Pakistan. Locals still share the incident of how he, along with his supporters, disrupted a public rally of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Baramulla on 25 July 1944. Sherwani celebrated the pluralistic culture of Baramulla. Locals also share stories highlighting his efforts to promote harmony and religious tolerance. According to a few anecdotes, it is believed that Sherwani kept shouting, Victory for the unity of Sikh, Hindus, and Muslims when he was being executed.

Pakistan has been viewing him as a threat to the promotion of separatism in the valley. During the beginning of Pak-supported insurgency in the valley, pro-Pak forces set ablaze the memorial named after Maqbool Sherwani in 1988. During those days, one could easily hear the slogans of - Maqbool Sherawaniam beol, khudayan gol, meaning may the almighty destroys the seeds of Maqbool Sherwani.

Thoughts of Sherwani are one of the major forces behind promoting peace and national integrity in Jammu and Kashmir. Two weeks after his martyrdom, Mahatma Gandhi paid tributes to him in a prayer meeting in Delhi. Gandhiji shared his story in the meet and remembered him as a true patriot.

But within 48 hours of his cold-blooded murder and sadistic torture, Sherwanis prophecy came true and the invaders ran out of Baramula, with Indian troops in hot pursuit... This was a martyrdom, of which every Kashmiri is proud of. Margaret Bourke White who travelled to Baramulla just after the attack in December 1947 described Sherwani as a sort of Robin Hood character, from stories the townspeople told me. Similarly, Francis Rath, a scholar acquainted with Sherwani, described him as happy-go-lucky guy.

Several public institutions like Maqbool Sherwani Library, Maqbool Sherwani Auditorium, Mohammad Maqbool Sherwani Memorial are witness to his heroism. Mulk Raj Anand wrote his detailed biography and heroic deeds in his book- Death of a Hero: Epitaph for Maqbool Sherwani. The Jammu and Kashmir Infantry has also erected a Balidan Stambh Monument, dedicated to Sherwani. He is remembered as a true Kashmiri and patriot.

Also read: You too can design your home    The Velankanni Basilica 


The Sun you don’t know!

The sun has a diameter of about 1.4 million kilometre (870,000 miles). To put this in perspective, this is almost 110 times the diameter of the Earth. What this means is that about one million Earth’s could inside the sun. The sun accounts for 99.86 per cent of mass in the solar system. It is three quarters hydrogen and most of the remaining mass is helium. The sun will continue to burn for 130 million years and after it burns through all of its Hydrogen, instead burning helium. During this time it will expand to such a size that it will engulf Mercury, Venus and Earth. When it reaches this point, it will have become a red giant star.

The average distance from sun to the Earth is about 150 km. Light travels at 300,000 km per second so dividing one by the other gives you 500 seconds – eight minutes and 20 seconds. This energy can reach Earth in mere minutes, but it takes millions of years to travel from sun’s core to its surface.          Lenova           Simply Click SBI


Picture Post:

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple,
 Kerala, India



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