The stolen relic was recovered but the culprits never identified
years have passed since Kashmir witnessed one of the most tumultuous public
agitations in its history following the theft of the holy relic of Prophet Muhammad
(SAW). Rising Kashmir Political Editor, Faisul
Yaseen delves into the circumstances surrounding the momentous episode
which has been shrouded in mystery for the past five decades.
Even 52 years after the theft of Moi-e-Muqqadas, a relic believed to be a strand from the beard of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the mystery of who stole it and how it was recovered after the Moi-e-Muqqadas agitation of 1963-64 remains.
The Moi-e-Muqqadas was stolen 52 years ago on December 27, 1963.
Before its theft, the relic was last displayed at a private exposition on the evening of December 26, 1963, and put back in its place by the senior Nishan Dez, Abdur Rahim Bandey.
Bandey had displayed the Moi-e-Muqqadas to public for the last time on December 20, 1963, the Friday following the Me’raj-e-Aalam.
Senior National Conference leader, Mustafa Kamal said who had stolen the Moi-e-Muqqadas, from whom it had been recovered, and who had really identified its authenticity remained a high-kept secret in Kashmir.
“People who should have known do not know,” said Kamal, the uncle of former chief minister Omar Abdullah.
However, Kamal said there was no need of an investigation into the issue on why it had not been found, who had conducted the theft and from whom the Moi-e-Muqqadas had been recovered.
The senior NC leader said the Moi-e-Muqqadas is kept in a locked wooden box, which has two keys, one lying with the caretaker (Muntazim) and one with someone else.
Kamal said an investigation on who were involved was not in anybody’s interests.
The theft of the Moi-e-Muqqadas had brought entire Kashmir out on streets and the Moi-e-Muqqadas agitation, which was led by Mirwaiz Moulvi Muhammad Farooq, the former General Secretary of National Conference Maulana Muhammad Sayeed Masoodi, former Hurriyat Conference (M) Chairman Moulvi Abbas Ansari and the three-time chief minister Farooq Abdullah, ended only after the relic was recovered on January 4, 1964.
The agitating leaders formed the Moi-e-Muqqadas Baizeyaab Action Committee or the Sacred Relic Action Committee and Mirwaiz Farooq was the President of the Committee.
Later, Mirwaiz Farooq floated his own socio-politico-religious outfit and named it Awami Action Committee after the Moi-e-Muqqadas Baizeyaab Action Committee.
Mirwaiz Farooq’s son and the incumbent Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq said who had stolen the Moi-e-Muqqadas and how it had been brought back continued to remain a mystery even today.
The Mirwaiz, who is also the Chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (M), said with the Moi-e-Muqqadas agitation, people had besides expressing their religious undertones also expressed their political aspirations.
“In Kashmir, whatever the protest is about, it finally culminates into a political movement with people expressing their political aspirations,” he said.
The Mirwaiz, who was once described by the TIME Magazine as Kashmir’s last and greatest hope, said that though 52 years had passed since the Moi-e-Muqqadas had been stolen, people had not forgotten about it.
“The event like July 13, 1931 incident has remained a game changer in Kashmir history,” he said.
The Mirwaiz said the incident was a deliberate attempt to instigate people but added that calling for an investigation into the incident now won’t make much sense.
“People should know who were involved but then there are so many things that have happened over the years like the massacres and other human rights violations,” Mirwaiz said. “That way, the government has to investigate everything since 1947.”
The Moi-e-Muqqadas agitation is considered to be the biggest ever Kashmir has seen with some terming the protests even bigger than the Million Men March of 2010.
When the Moi-e-Muqqadas was brought back, Mirwaiz Umar’s father Mirwaiz Farooq was asked to identify it.
“He (Mirwaiz Farooq) said I had not seen it, and so I cannot authenticate whether it is the Moi-e-Muqqadas or not,” Mirwaiz Umar said.
Syed Mirak Shah Kashani and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, who at that time was in prison, along with some Moi-e-Muqqadas Baizeyaab Action Committee members, later authenticated its validity.
During those days, the general feeling among the masses and Sheikh Abdullah’s supporters was that it was a plan of Bakhshi Rashid, the brother of former Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad to pressurize New Delhi for reinstating Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad as the PM.
Earlier, Bakshi was asked to resign as the Prime Minister under the Kamaraj Plan following which Khwaja Shams-ud-Din took over as the Prime Minister.
It was during Shams-ud-Din’s tenure that the Moi-e-Muqqadas was stolen.
He remained the Prime Minister of Kashmir between October 12, 1963 and February 29, 1964.
During the Moi-e-Muqqadas agitation, thousands of people would come from far-flung areas of Kashmir to Srinagar, hold rallies and protests.
The protestors burnt Regal and Amresh cinemas, which were introduced in Kashmir by Bakshis.
Amresh cinema is the present Regal Cinema and the present Bata Shop building at Regal was the Regal Cinema building.
After the Moi-e-Muqqadas was recovered, the official government statement was that it had not been stolen but displaced by two government employees.
B N Mullick, the former Intelligence Bureau chief, who was close to the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, in his book ‘My Years With Nehru – Kashmir’ has written two chapters, ‘The Holy Relic Disappears’ and ‘The Holy Relic Comes Back’.
In the book, Mullick tries to find out how it had disappeared and how it was found back after elaborate investigations.
However, he does not reveal who had stolen the Moi-e-Muqqadas and from whom had it been recovered and why the culprits had not been punished.
In fact, his book illustrates how the intelligence agencies protected the identities of the people who had stolen it.
On page 141 of his book, Mullick writes, “If the Moi-e-Muqqadas came back, whether the culprit was punished or not mattered little.”
Popular Kashmiri leader and All Parties Hurriyat Conference (G) Chairman, Syed Ali Geelani said, “Kashmir is a slave nation and oppressors carry out such mischief.”
He said it was these people who had stolen the Moi-e-Muqqadas, brought it back and authenticated it.
Geelani said such things are always high kept secrets and this was the reason why even five decades after the incident, people did not know who had stolen it, from whom had it been recovered, and who had brought it back from them.
Historian Ghulam Hassan Munshi termed the theft of the Moi-e-Muqqadas as a conspiracy of the then State government and Government of India.
“Not only who had stolen it but also who really identified it remains a mystery,” he said.
Munshi blamed Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah for maintaining criminal silence over the issue saying after his release, he never tried to find out who had stolen the Moi-e-Muqqadas.
“It was a criminal conspiracy, a big criminal conspiracy,” Munshi said.
Like Munshi, Kashmir’s noted historian Fida Muhammad Hasnain also blamed the government for the theft of Moi-e-Muqqadas.
“Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was involved and B N Mullick, who was the incharge of intelligence, and close to Nehru carried the investigations,” Hasnain said. “According to the official statement, Moi-e-Muqqadas was recovered from the house of some Abdul Rashid.”
Hasnain said Nehru had later suffered because of this theft.
“Hafiz Jalandari in Muzaffarabad read a poem to Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in which he said, the one who stole it, died because of it,” Hasnain said referring to Nehru.
Hasnain said Nehru’s agents including Mullick were involved in the theft.
“May be Nehru had to remove some one from the State government,” he said.
The government at that time ordered investigation into the issue and framed an investigation team under DIG Sheikh Ghulam Qadir.
The then SSP Srinagar, Syed Wali Shah was one of the members of the investigation team.
Both Qadir and Shah have died.
However, the investigation into the case never came up in the court where Ali Muhammad Watali was the then Prosecuting Officer.
According to accounts of many survivors, the government, IB officers and police led by the notorious Ghulam Qadir Ganderbali had tried to cook up a case against the pro-freedom or the pro-Pakistan elements in Kashmir, which is also revealed in Mullick’s book.
“The investigating officers were trying to frame a case like the Kashmir Conspiracy Case against the pro-freedom leaders and pro-Pakistan leaders of that time,” said a retired senior police officer wishing anonymity. “The investigating officers were also trying to frame Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Beg, who, luckily for them, at that time, were in jail.”
During the Moi-e-Muqqadas agitation, the two most popular slogans where ‘Moi-e-Muqqadas Ko Bahaal Karo’ (Bring back Moi-e-Muqqadas) and ‘Asli Mulzim Pesh Karo’ (Present the real culprits).
While the Moi-e-Muqqadas was brought back, the real culprits have not been presented before the people even 52 years after the theft of the relic.
The author can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rising Kashmir is reproducing the article which appeared in our December 27, 2013 edition after 50 years of the theft of Moi-e-Muqqadas.