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When History Speaks

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In one of the lanes of the every busy Wazarat Road is a building, home to one of the political stalwarts of the state. In a room with blue-coloured walls which have several damp patches, Krishan Dev Sethi spends most of his time these days. A member of the first constituent assembly in 1951 and a member of the first legislative assembly as well in 1957, 94-year-old Sethi has seen it all. From independence to accession, from communal riots during partition to rise of militancy, from Sheikh Abdullah and formation of National Conference to Mehbooba Mufti and Peoples Democratic Party. He has been to jail numerous times and has even had to remain underground in a fight for survival. Here he is, taking a trip down memory lane with Greater Kashmir.


I was born in 1925 in Mirpur, which is now part of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and I spent my childhood there. During that time, Maharaja Gulab Sigh invaded Mirpur, but had to deal with stiff resistance from the local populace. I was in school those days, around 14-15 years of age, but could not be a mute spectator to the oppression that I saw. As a result, I along with many of my friends, neighbours, relatives and others, was thrown into jail. It was the era of the ‘Quit Kashmir’ movement.

Mirpur was an economically backward area back then. There was severe repression from the Dogra rulers and the area had a very anti-Dogra sentiment as the people were fed up of feudalism, landlordism and moneylenders. As a result, we all were a part of the resistance and National Conference, led by Raja Mohammad Akbar Khan, Maulana Abdullah, Haji Abdur Rehman and Haji Wahab-ud-Din, was fighting for the people. This was my first interaction with politics.

Shifting to Jammu

While I was in Mirpur jail, partition happened. When the forces came and laid siege around the area, they came in and broke open the jail. Some among the forces were my comrades. Because of me, the non-Muslims inmates were not harmed. They tried really hard that I would stay there, in Azad Kashmir. Even Major Syed Ali Ahmed Shah, an old friend who later served as president of Azad Kashmir, asked me to stay, but I declined.

Then in 1947, I shifted to Jammu. It was a scary period. Communal riots were going on. People were being killed mercilessly. Here, Muslims suffered, while on the other side of the border, non-muslims bore the brunt. At that time, the need of the hour was to bring around normalcy and that is what we tried.

The basis of everything was partition, communal riots, accession,........

© Greater Kashmir