It was May 10, 1944, 73 years ago, when the founder of Pakistan and the President All India Muslim League, Muhammad Ali Jinnah arrived in Srinagar.
Jinnah, who arrived in Srinagar via the Banihal Cart Road, was accorded a rousing reception by the leaders of National Conference and the Muslim Conference – at Qazigund.
Leaders of the Muslim Conference and the National Conference received Jinnah at Qazigund. There were thousands of people in the welcome procession, the then weekly newspaper Kahlid has reported. Those who received Jinnah at Qazigund included Bakhshi Ghulam Mohmmad, Moulana Aminuddin Qureshi and others.
According to Khalid, after having lunch at the Dak Bungalow in Islamabad, Jinnah stepped out into the lawns of the Dak Bungalow where an estimated 10,000 people were waiting to have a glimpse of him. Scores were injured in the rush as he appeared. The crowds later reorganised and accompanied him to Srinagar.
The photograph of a letter seeking permission to hold a congregartion in Quaid’s honour
Along the route to Srinagar, portraits of Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal, the Quaid-e-Azam and Anwar Shah Pasha were placed amid the decorations, and people stood on both sides, waving at his cavalcade. Jinnah shifted to a decorated car of National Conference for his travel from Khanabal to Srinagar. Those with him in the car included Choudhary Ghulam Abbas, Molvi Yousuf Shah and Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad. The entire road including the car was decorated with red flags of the NC. “The village peasantry proved it that the only party that can be trusted is the NC,” Khalid news story’s second heading said.
Jinnah with Kashmiri alumni of Aligarh University in Srinagar, 1944.
Jinnah’s caravan stopped briefly at Bejbehara, Awantipore, Lethpora and Pampore before reaching Srinagar. He briefly talked to people. The gatherings at all these places were massive, according to Khalid. In Pampore, it reported, roads were literally inundated by people and a huge delegation of NC leaders had come from Srinagar to organize and join the welcome.
Accompanied by Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq and Maulana Masoodi, Sheikh Muhamad Abdullah received the Jinah at Batwara, the gateway to Srinagar city.
The journey from Khanabal had taken 11 hours, Khalid reported.
Snapshot of “Khalid” newspaper
At around 6 PM, Jinnah reached the city centre where a function had been organized at the Pratap Park. An estimated sixty thousand people were waiting for him at the colourfully-decorated venue.
The massive gathering at the Pratap Park roared its support as Jinnah appeared on the stage along with Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and other leaders. A shower of flowers and rose-petals from the crowd greeted him, according to Kahlid that had devoted its front page to the event in its issue of May 12, 1944. The newspaper was edited by Sadruddin Mujahid. “The welcoming slogan session took five minutes,” the newspaper reported. Interestingly, the newspaper editor, a senior NC leader, was also part of the welcome at Pampore.
In its report titled Partap Park Mai Shahaana Istaqbal, Khalid, reported, “Today on May 10, Mr Jinnah reached Partap Park Srinagar. The Park was jam packed by an audience of almost 60,000 people which included Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. To welcome the guest (Jinnah) people raised slogans like Allah-u-Akbar, Inqilab Zindabad, Mr Jinnah Zindabad, Sher-e-Kashmir-Zindabad.”
It is said that Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah repeatedly used the phrase “popular leader of Indian Muslims” for the Quaid-e-Azam during his inaugural speech.
The newspaper quoted Jinnah saying: “I thank you for the rousing reception. This was not for Jinnah. It was for the Muslim League. You have not honoured me. You have honoured the Muslims of India.”
“We wanted to have a huge welcome but the time constraints prevented it,” Khalid quoted Sheikh saying in his brief inaugural speech. “You are no stranger in Kashmir and Kashmir is known to you as you have earlier visited…I do not want to rake up issues worth debate at this time.”
During his stay Jinnah met leaders of different political parties including the Yuvak Sabha of Kashmiri Pandits, addressed public meetings, interacted with groups of people and visited tourist resorts of Gulmarg and Pahalgam.
Jinnah was also invited by Maharaja Hari Singh to his palace. Initially, it is said, the Quaid had reservations, but after consulting his colleagues, he decided to accept the invitation.
Later, Mirwaiz Molvi Yusuf Shah also hosted a dinner in Jinnah’s honour.
Jinnah also addressed the annual session of Muslim Conference in Jamia Masjid Srinagar.
Available evidences suggest that roads leading to Jamia Masjid were filled with people as tens of thousands had come to listen him. It was probably June 17, 1944. It is said that it took 15 minutes for Jinnah to begin his speech amidst the huge sloganeering and cheering.
During his sojourn, Jinnah had a series of interactions with the intellectual class of Kashmir in various clubs as well.
Jinnah had entered Kashmir through Banihal Cart Road and after spending two and half months in Srinagar, he left through Jhelum Valley Road on July 25. The 1944 visit was Jinnah’s last visit to Kashmir. He had earlier came as visitor somewhere before 1928 and then again in 1936. During his second visit he had pleaded a case of conjugal issues in a local court and won it.