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T H E I N F O R M A L WAR

Democratic National Conference also sought the release of Sheikh Abdullah


who, ironically enough, would most likely have opposed their Constitutional
demands. At once, the Praja Socialist Party, a secular formation, gathered stren
gth
in Jammu and called for a dialogue with Sheikh Abdullah. Bakshi bitterly attacke
d
both organizations, and at times used what one observer described as totalitarian
methods to contain them.78
In January 1958, with Bakshi firmly ensconced in office and Jammu and
Kashmir s constitutional relationship with India on relatively firm ground, Sheikh
Abdullah was released from jail. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru s abiding friendship
with his old political colleague may have been one major factor in bringing
about the release; so too may have been the desire to ensure the reincorporation
of Abdullah in mainstream Jammu and Kashmir politics. Behera has suggested,
following Puri, that the release (and, indeed, the fact that Mirza Afzal Beg
was released from jail and allowed to mobilize a pro-Abdullah campaign) was
something of a conspiratorial performance, intended to undermine the Democratic
National Conference Praja Socialist Party mobilization. After achieving that
objective , she has suggested, they could be quietly incarcerated in the name of
safeguarding India s national interests in Kashmir .79
Though this school of thought has considerable currency in Jammu and
Kashmir, it does appear somewhat simplistic. Sheikh Abdullah was after all only
released after the 1957 elections, not before them, when he would have most
hurt the Democratic National Conference s prospects. It is also worth noting that
a third conspiratorial explanation exists for Abdullah s release, inferred from
a statement by the then chief of the Intelligence Bureau, B.N. Mullik, India s
first spymaster: we were sure that he would indulge in such activities as would
enable us to get further direct evidence against him .80 In other words, Abdullah
was released in order to secure the evidence to arrest him yet again.
Whatever the truth, Mullik s observation points to the near-predestination of
what was to follow. Struggling for political space, Sheikh Abdullah was in no
position to seek accommodation with New Delhi. Out of jail after four years,
he did nothing to alleviate Nehru s concerns. In a statement to the press, Sheikh
Abdullah proclaimed that the
expression of the will of the people through a plebiscite is the one
formula which has been agreed upon by the parties concerned and in a
mass of disagreement about details, this common denominator has held
the field so far.
Lest someone should have read this to mean that the field might shift in the
future, Sheikh Abdullah underlined his position. Bakshi could shout from the
top of the Banihal pass that the accession of Jammu and Kashmir was final and
irrevocable , but such claims had no legitimacy for the government was made
up of goondas [thugs], opportunists and thieves .81
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