After Sheikh Abdullah removed him from the post-1947 Jammu rehabilitation scene, Krishan Dev Sethi—the comrade who recently passed away at the age of 93—was sent to Rajouri where his Muslim rehabilitation efforts made him a captive of games they play. Here FPK recreates one of the astounding statecraft dramas that Sethi mentioned in his book, ‘Yaad-e-Rafta’ and in his weekly ‘Jidd-o-jihad’ pieces.
In Sheikh Abdullah’s “Naya Kashmir”, when a man from Tral suddenly came as a courier, the conspiracy theories restarted rearing their ugly heads in the region which had freshly bled in partition pogrom.
Braving bone-chilling cold and militarized thoroughfare, comrade Inayatullah had come from Pir Panjal, with a word for Abdullah.
Seeking an immediate audience of the leader, he informed him how his comrade was made captive in a Rajouri fortress.
Since the incarcerated man was Abdullah’s key party man from Jammu, he dialed his “friend” Jawahar Lal Nehru and asked him to ensure the release of Krishan Dev Sethi—who had migrated from Mirpur to Jammu after the year 1947 drew new bloodlines in subcontinent—within next 24 hours.
But behind that sudden arrival and Sheikh’s curt action was the ‘rabid mindset’ shaping up in Rajouri — where comrade Sethi was deputed on a prized-cum-punishment posting by his leader.
The chronicle of conspiracy starts soon after Sethi arrived in Jammu as a young Mirpuri who had previously fought pitched battles with feudalism and imperialism.
In Jammu’s shifted sands, he couldn’t make peace with slaughter spirit and sought his leader’s audience for striking a change on the ground.
But his rendezvous with the emergency ruler ended on a sour note.
“People are migrating and this is not good,” young Sethi informed Sheikh who had arrived in Jammu with a destitute rehabilitation plan soon after rioters achieved their objective of changing the Muslim-majority province’s status.
“Why should I intervene,” Sethi was shocked with the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir’s curt reply,
“Muslims of Jammu have never accepted me as their leader.”
But in the murderous mist and mood, the comrade kept batting for brotherhood. However, his role as pacifist didn’t go well with the pawns, purveyors and powers of the day. Despite being cautioned by his friend Allah Rakha Sagar, Sethi informed Abdullah about the precarious situation and requested him to hold Muslims back in Jammu.
The next day, Abdullah removed Sethi from Jammu’s post-massacre rehabilitation scene and deputed him as rehabilitation officer, Poonch-Rajouri. His punishment posting was the highest grade job of Rs 420-600 back then.
Shortly as the disheartened comrade left for his new assignment, Sheikh sent Chaudhury Ghulam Abbas and Allah Rakha Sagar to Mirpur and brought Brigadier Kansara Singh, Sajail Singh and others to Jammu.
With this stark shift, Sethi understood the “Naya Kashmir” blueprint.
In Pir Panjal, he shortly received a postcard from his banished friend, Sagar.
“You talked to Sheikh Abdullah and he sent us to Mirpur,” Sagar informed Sethi. “If only Sheikh had intervened, many of us would’ve stayed back in Jammu itself.”
But while Jammu city saw Muslim figures and commoners being banished to Mirpur and other parts, Sethi ensured Muslim rehabilitation in Rajouri.
However, for being a proactive rehabilitation officer, he soon faced conspiracy theories. A fictitious letter in this regard only went on to expose the shrewd statecraft attempting to cut short his efforts.
The letter carried a gratitude note from communist China for comrade Sethi’s efforts to rehabilitate Muslims and thanked him for sending arms and ammunition for movement.
A brainchild of internal squabble in National Conference, the letter was brought to Indian army’s notice by Labour Commissioner of Poonch, Ghulam Qadir Banday.
Soon Sethi was dragged out of his official residence as a handcuffed captive and interned in Major General Misri Chand’s fort residence in Rajouri.
His charges included rehabilitating Muslims and advocating Hindu-Muslim harmony in Pir Panjal. During nights, a prison officer of Kashmir militia would deliver an open threat that he would be shot dead in case he tries to run away.
It was then his comrade, Tral man Inayatullah started traversing the mountains and the manned routes to arrive in the snowbound valley to inform Abdullah about his party man’s arrest.
After Abdullah informed Nehru, General Yadunath Singh and Sarabhai were shortly sent to take the captive comrade out of the fortress.
For arresting Sethi, Major Misri was demoted, while police officer DN Koul was transferred and bureaucrat Uday Chand was prematurely retired. Before dismissing them, Abdullah would grill the erring sleuths for making a fake letter ground for the comrade’s arrest.
Soon as Sethi was back to his business as usual, the conspiracy theories became a raging cabinet matter.
In the unfolding pattern, the name of the man who would soon arrest and succeed Abdullah in a coup de theatre surfaced as the brain behind the fake letter.