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A Warrier with Conviction
by R C Ganjoo Bookmark and Share

The first Kashmiri Muslim, Major Mohammad Afzal Khan in Indian British Army who fought IInd World War but remained unrecognized face at his home land. It was he who raised first voice at annual meeting of the National Conference in Srinagar Sept 24, 1949 to annex Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) to India. For his demand he prompted Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in a meeting who was sharing dais with other dignitaries.

Khan joined as a sergeant in IInd World War (1939-46) and served in Persia, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, North Africa, Italy Greece and other Metatarsi islands. While in Italy he managed to contact the Indian National Army of Neta ji Subhash Chandra Bose. At the same time from war zone Afzal kept himself in touch with Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah when quit Kashmir moment was in full swing in July 1946. Major Afzal in 1946 went on leave to Kashmir and got a chance to accompany Jawaharlal Nehru and Shah Nawaz Khan of INA fame to the valley. This infuriated the authorities and he was convicted and fined Rs 300. He could not go back to his post in the Army instead plunged into the Quit Kashmir Movement

Afzal Khan born in November 1920 was the founder member of All India Kashmir Committee in branches in Shimla and Bombay and a staunch follower of late Ali Brothers. Khan was the first Kashmiri to own and drive a Ford car from Bombay to Srinagar via Rawalpindi Jhelum-Valley road later converted this car into a minibus carrying passengers from Srinagar to Islamabad and back early as in 1926

During the communal holocaust of 1947, Khan experience in World War-II was valued here when played a pivotal role in organising peace committee in Kashmir to ensure communal harmony. He arranged busses for carrying the Indian Army contingents to the forward areas to combat the tribal attack from Pakistan. Before Indian Army could reach Srinagar he organised National House Guards and organised training for them. He was captured twice by the enemy but managed to escape each time with full data about the enemies strength and location. His responsibility during  this period was to protect telephone lines and telegraph service at Baramulla, Sopore, Ganderbal and Sumbal contact with emergency operational headquarters in Palladium Talkies Lal Chowk Srinagar.

Later he went to Lahore to join late Bakshi Ghulam Mohamad and late GM Sadiq who were running Kashmir publicity committee outside the state limits. He also attended 1947 find annual session of the All India States Peoples Conference at Gwalior.

After the Gwalior conference Afzal was engaged with Kashmir moment, organising receptions of well known leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan, Munshi Muhammad Din, Acharya Kriplani and Gandhiji's first visit to Kashmir when Sheikh Mohd Abdullah was serving nine years imprisonment in Badarwah jail, Jammu.

During emergency 1947- 48 Afzal was commissioned as major when Sheikh Abdullah became Prime Minister in Kashmir National Home Guards which came to be known later as J&K Militia. On 10th May 1947 in special ceremonial parade at Lal Chowk he was presented a honour the official Regiment colour of the present J&K Light infantry by Pt Jawahal Lal Nehru. He was in charge of law and order and jails Srinagar City. He organised and commanded the J and K Home Guards Special security officer of the late Prime Minister and attached to late Bakshi Gulam Mohammad the then deputy prime minister.

After the arrest of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1953, he became the political victim. He was detained and forced to cross and re-cross the cease-fire line twice from each side. He was arrested a number of times and had to spend nearly 16 years under detention in various jails and interrogation centres in India, as well as in Pakistan.

He was the first detunu from the state to present a habeas corpus petition before Supreme Court of India in 1955. He was released in 1967. In Pakistan when Martial law was in force there too, he was arrested. But Lahore High court revoked his detention cum-restriction order and came back to Srinagar in Dec 1962. He had also undergone one month's hunger strike in Multan and Montgomery Jails against rough and abolition of 'c' class calls for political prisoners in Pakistan.

Afzal's life remained tumultuous throughout with miseries, suffering in jails and torture in police custody. At the fag end of his life he was receiving Rs 300 as freedom fighter 's pension from the Government of India. but turned down a pension of Rs 200 from the state government. He was awarded TAMRA PATRA on 26 January 1973.

When this journalist met him in 1984 at his residence Basant Bagh Mandir, Srinagar Afzal suffering from multiple ailments in feeble voice but with strong feelings was critic against Sheikh Abdullah for his double speaking standard. In white trousers and military serge shirt which he never shed till his last breath on Dec 18, 1990, was not provided medical facility by Sheikh Abdullah family. Disappointed with the corrupt system Afzal told that free flow of funds to Kashmir corrupted politicians and people of the state. Since 1964 Afzal devoted himself to the cause of political sufferers, freedom fighter, the dependants of martyrs and the Jail reforms. His only grudge was that his services during the freedom struggle were never recognized, when Sheikh Abdullah regained power in 1975.

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26-Oct-2019
More by :  R C Ganjoo
 
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