PM’s Vision of Naya Kashmir

K.N. Pandita

In his opening speech at the 3rd Round Table Conference on Kashmir in New Delhi on April 24, 2007, Prime Minster Manmohan Singh said that he was repeating the vision of Sheikh Abdullah’s Naya Kashmir.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah released Naya Kashmir, the manifesto of National Conference, in Sopor convention in 1944, which Pandit Nehru had also attended. It set forth the political philosophy of NC and its roadmap of governance after assuming state power. Officially drafted by a leftist ideologue, namely B.P.L.Bedi and his wife Freda, it was the brainchild of the left wing in NC. Well informed sources have confirmed that the draft was actually written by Niranjan Nath Raina, a staunch Kashmiri Pandit leftist who, during his studentship at Allahabad Unviversity, had picked up communist ideology from Ashraf Ali, the head of the Minority Group of Congress housed at that time in Anand Bhavan, Allahabad. Raina was the Srinagar District Secretary of NC at the time of drafting Naya Kashmir. The Manifesto was oriented along leftist ideology. Its activists received solid patronage from the Sheikh.

It was on their behest that the NC flag carried the symbol of the plough on red background. Naya Kashmir attached great emphasis to two of its programmes on priority basis namely land to the tillers, — a programme on which the Union government including Nehru had many reservations — and debt liquidation. Naya Kashmir became a password for NC rank and file and the Sheikh swore by it when he came to power in 1947.

From 1952, after he had fully implemented the land to tillers and debt liquidation programmes, the Sheikh gradually distanced himself from the manifesto. For the rest of it, he became lukewarm and finally the Naya Kashmir manifesto was consigned to oblivion. Nobody in NC talked about it. Most of the leftists in NC were disillusioned with the organization and questioned its real intentions. Many left it. Even Niranjan Nath Raina, the architect of Naya Kashmir said in a televised interview around 1976 that he and many of his comrades had joined NC just because of the exciting programme of the party as stated in Naya Kashmir outlining the future policy of the organization. But that did not happen and when the Sheikh returned to power for the second time in 1975, he seldom talked about it leave aside taking in had the unfinished task.

Actually the Sheikh had two visions of Naya Kashmir, one before the land reform of 1949-50 and debt liquidation and the second post-reforms when he met with Adlai Stevenson in 1952. The Prime Minister did not elaborate which of the two visions did he want to pursue for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

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