Heroes Of Kashmir: Ghulam Nabi Gilkar

Zahir-Ud-DinHeroes of Kashmir, July Comments

After Saad-ud-Din Shawl, Gilkar was the first Kashmiri to strive for the rights of his people. It started with the launch of All Kashmir Muslim Uplift Association in 1925. Two years later, Gilkar was once again out on the streets to protest issue of illegal state subject certificates. This time Gilkar founded the State Subject Protection Committee. According to Muhammad Din Fouq, Gilkar acted as the vice-president of this committee. Gilkar was only a student when he founded these associations. On May 8, 1930 when Munshi Naseer-ud-Din and Moulvi Bashir Ahmad Vakil hosted the rasm-e-qul of a lady at Kachgari Mohalla to formally launch the freedom struggle, Gilkar achieved the distinction of being the first person to join the duo. Gilkar became instrumental in persuading Sheikh Abdullah to join the freedom movement.

Gilkar became an active member of the Reading Room party which was launched during the above mentioned meeting at Kachgari Mohalla. The activities of this party gave sleepless nights to the Maharaja. To curb the activities of the newly launched party, the government pasted a notice on the door of the Jamia Masjid, Srinagar. The notice prescribed punishment for using places of worship for political purposes. The Reading Room party discussed the notice with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in chair. The meeting decided to ignore the notice. The meeting also decided to remove the notice from the door of Jamia Masjid. The participants expected Sheikh Abdullah to volunteer for the act, but he did not raise his head. Finally, Gilkar offered himself for the job. He removed the notice and crushed it under his feet.

On April 19, 1931, the Holy Quran was desecrated at Jammu on the occasion of Eid. Gilkar and his
associates registered protest and pasted thousands of posters in the city of Srinagar. Soon after, a huge rally was organized in the Jamia Masjid where Sheikh Abdullah delivered a fiery speech. Incidentally, it was his first political speech. Later, Gilkar organized a series of processions forcing the government to order an enquiry into the desecration.

After the incident of July 13, 1931, G N Gilkar, Sheikh Abdullah, Chowdhary Abbas, Mistri Yaqoub and Gowher Rehman were detained at Kohi Maran (Hari Parbat) Fort. Sheikh Abdullah was reluctant to enter the dark room. Gilkar, again, took the lead and went inside. “If death awaits us in the darkroom, then let me die first,” he said. After his release from Kohi Maran Fort, Gilkar addressed a mammoth gathering. He said, ” If I die or get killed, bury me at a place which will serve as a thoroughfare for Mujahideen after liberation of Kashmir. Mysoul will get the much needed solace by their plod.” (Kashmir Ka Siyasi Inqilab, Vol 4, Page 329).

When the Muslim Conference was converted into National Conference, Moulvi Abdullah Vakil,
Sheikh Ahmad Din of Banihal, Ghulam Ahmad Ganaie of Bhaderwah opposed it. Gilkar, Moulvi Abdul Rahim and Muhammad Yusuf Qureshi mustered support from the masses against the conversion. Later, Gilkar played a significant role in the revival of Muslim Conference along with Muhammad Yusuf Qureshi. Gilkar contested two elections for a berth in the Praja Sabha on Muslim Conference ticket and got elected on both the occasions. Later, the year when the Government of India ousted the Nawab of Junagarh, the Government of Pakistan approached Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Ahmad of Qadiyan and authorized him to take appropriate measures with regard to Kashmir. Mirza called Gilkar to Lahore. Several rallies were held at Rattan Bagh, Lahore. Besides Gilkar the rallies
were attended by Mufti Zia-ud-din Poonchi, Advocate Chowdhary Rahim Dad, Master Mir Alam
Kotli, Ammanullah Khan of Khor Pattan, Professor Muhammad Ishaq Qureshi and Syed Muhammad Abdullah Qadri. Suggestions put forth by the concerned persons were discussed threadbare and a plan of action was chalked out. It was during these meetings that the issue of forming an ad hoc Azad Kashmir government was discussed. Mufti Zia-ud-din Poonchi was told to announce the government but he refused. Syed Muhammad Abdullah Qadri also refused. Finally, Gilkar came forward and declared the government. In his first presidential address, Gilkar said, “With the end of the British rule, the Maharaja Hari Singh’s claim to rule the state (by virtue of the Sale Deed of Amritsar) has also come to an end.” Kashmir was sold to Hari Singh’s grandfather Gulab Singh for 7.5 million Rupees. Now the people have formed an ad hoc government with its headquarters at Tradkhel. From October 4, if Hari Singh or any other person claims to govern the state, he shall be punished in accordance with the laws framed by the ad hoc government. The people should follow the laws made by the ad hoc government from now onwards.” This speech was reported by all the Pakistani newspapers on October 5, 1947.

In 1947 when veteran leaders refused to announce Azad Kashmir government, Gilkar once again proved his mettle. He became the first president of Azad Kashmir on October 4, 1947. On October 6, 1947 Gilkar came to Kashmir and discussed the issue with Sheikh Abdullah in an exclusive meeting which lasted three hours. It was decided in the meeting that Sheikh Abdullah would meet Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. But, as ill luck would have it, Gilkar was arrested. After 13 months of detention he was released on January 13, 1949 and pushed back into Pakistan in exchange for Brigadier Gansara Singh. Immediately, after reaching Pakistan, Gilkar launched a newspaper “Hamaara Kashmir” and highlighted the problems of the Kashmiri migrants. He also became a strong advocate of independent Kashmir. He contested presidential elections against K H Khurshid but lost. For his straight forwardness, Gilkar was imprisoned several times for criticizing the Kashmir policy of the Government of Pakistan, but he continued his struggle. Gilkar lived from hand to mouth in his worn-out Rawalpindi house. In this house Gilkar authored a master plan for beautification of Srinagar in 1970. It was published in an issue of ‘Aayeena’ in the same year.

Gilkar was straightforward and blunt. He criticized Pakistan for its Kashmir policy. Even though he lived from hand to mouth in Pakistan, he did not compromise his political stand and his honour. He was invited to grace a function held to celebrate the Independence Day of Pakistan on
August 14, 1968 at Mirpur. In his address, Gilkar said, “August 14 and 15 are auspicious days for the people of Pakistan and India, but for Kashmiris these days are most inauspicious. Our slavery started from here.” Syed Rasool of Rainawari, also present at the function, saw many raise a brow.

According to Syed, Gilkar one day told his wife to cook Saag (a Kashmiri vegetable). On that day he desperately wanted to talk to a Kashmiri in his mother tongue. Gilkar breathed his last next
morning (July 18, 1973) at Rawalpindi. Kashmiris heard about the tragic news from Radio Pakistan. Next day Ghayibana Namaz-e-Jinaza (funeral
prayer in absentia) was offered at Pathar Masjid. Thousands of people participated in the funeral prayer, which was led by Sheikh Abdullah. On July 20, a condolence meeting was held in Gilkar’s ancestral house at Fateh Kadal, Srinagar. Representatives of all the political organizations participated in the condolence meeting and paid glowing tributes
to his memory.

About the Author


Zahir-Ud-Din is a founding member of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. He's also a senior journalist and an author of numerous publications.