Sheikhs’ Sell The Historic House, Being Demolished
by: Umar Khurshid
SRINAGAR: It is being seen as the worst form of selling the family silver but the tragedy is that it is happening in broad daylight. The ancestral residential house of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah which is of immense historic importance to Kashmir has been sold by the family and the new owner is demolishing it.
Built post-partition with the help of Sheikh’s brother Sheikh Ghulam Mohiuddin and supporters of the leader, the house belongs to Shere-e-Kashmir’s children – three sons and two daughters: Dr Farooq Abdullah, Dr Mustafa Kamaal, Tariq Abdullah, Suriya Abdullah and Khalida Abdullah, wife of Gul Mohammad Shah. All of them are alive baring Tariq Abdullah. The house was built on 4.5 kanals of land.
Sources in the clan said they had suggested against the sale. But nobody listened to us, one relative said.
The ancestral residential house of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah
A picture that surfaced on the Facebook shows the house being demolished. The man who has posted the photograph has written a brief requiem of the house, suggesting that it should have been converted into a museum.
“The house which should’ve been a museum is now sold and demolished,” Sami Qazi wrote in his brief requiem. “It was this house where big Congress and Muslim League stalwarts visited, it was here Mahatma Gandhi paid visit on 2nd August 1947 where he tasted Kashmiri kulcha and goat’s milk (hosted by Begum Akbar Jehan). Or whether it was Mian Iftikharuddin’s emergency travel to this house from Lahore by car on 3rd Oct 1947 to pickup Sheikh Abdullah to Lahore (after he was released by Maharaja on 29 Sept 1947), unfortunately, his visit failed.”
Qazi wrote that Sheikh lived in this house till 1969 with many historical memories before moving to M A Road. “Despite whatever the politics is, the heritage house should have been preserved for historical reasons. However, majority of Kashmiris don’t have such desire to protect such sites. I’m afraid Mujahid Manzil, Srinagar might have same fate,” he concluded.
The ruined edifice may seem ordinary on the fast glance but hides a treasure of memories and instances in it. Qazi wrote later: “Since Sheikh Nazir passed away, they were hellbent to sell this house.”
The house was built by the Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1925, which once serves as home to the Abdullah family, including former chief minister Farooq Abdullah and Mustafa Kamal, but the house has been vacant since 1969. Sheikh would live on M A Road after he returned to power in 1975. It was GenNext that moved to Gupkar, Kashmir’s new power corridor.
That was the year when Plebiscite Front was launched after Sheikh was jailed. Between then and 1984, when the family began work on the house’s repair, the Abdullahs would occasionally visit the bungalow. The house was initially attacked by grenades as well. In the early 80s, it had been rented to PWD and was the main office of the Projects Construction Organisation that built key infrastructure including the SKIMS, SKICC and the High Court.
The house was set ablaze by some unknown men, damaging it severely. And there’s been no attempt since to repair the building. According to locals the abandoned two-story house stands surrounded by a huge brick wall topped with barbed wire.
Qazi’s post triggered a mixed commentary. Some supported the idea and some opposed it. “They sold Kashmir not to talk of their ancestral property,” Sarwar Naqash wrote. “How very sad to lose such a historic building,” former BBC journalist Andrew Whitehead commented. Maqsood Shahdad had written: “The deal has reportedly been for around 8 crores. It was having about 4.5 kanals of land.”