Kashmir heard first anti-Abdullah slogans here
Dust flies and floats in air as labourers salvage bricks from the rubble of the razed portion of historic Regal Cinema here, being demolished to pave way for a new commercial building. As the walls of the cinema collapse and hit the ground, memories of first anti-Sheikh Abdullah slogans and mass resentment against 1975 Accord come alive.
Cinema halls in Kashmir were shut with the advent of militancy in 1989.
“Regal is not like any other cinema of Kashmir as people have lot of memories attached to it,” said 52-year-old Ashiq Hussain. “I remember, in 1980s when a movie, Lion of Desert, featuring Anthony Quinn as Omar Mukhtar, was screened here, a group of young boys stood up in the middle of the movie and raised slogans against National Conference founder Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.”
This, Hussain said, was the beginning of resentment against the 1975 Indira-Abdullah Accord. “As the movie ended, young boys and students of Sri Pratap School and College took out a protest rally at Residency Road chanting anti-Sheikh slogans,” he said.
Hussain said people compared Omar Mukhtar’s struggle against Italian colonial rule with that of Sheikh’s pact with India. “The protestors termed Sheikh a traitor. It was for the first time that I heard anti-Sheikh slogans,” recalls Hussain.
Hussain’s friend, Farooq Ahmed, then a teenager and now a teacher, said as the protestors marched towards Ghanta Ghar (clock tower), they brought down all the portraits of Sheikh erected at various points.
JKLF Chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik, who was part of the protests, said screening of the movie was banned after massive protests against Sheikh. “I even showed Lion of Desert to then Jamaat-e-Islami leader M Y Shah, now Hizb chief Syed Salahudin, on VCR,” Malik said. “The movie played a significant role as far as Kashmir’s freedom movement is concerned as it inspired and motivated youth, especially educated lot, to join the movement with greater romanticism and idealism.”
He said the pioneers of Kashmir movement like Ishfaq Majeed, Javaid Mir, Nadeem Khateeb, Firdous Shah and many others were part of the anti-Sheikh procession.
Senior separatist leader Nayeem Ahmed Khan, who was part of Islamic Students League in 1980s, was also on the forefront of the protest march. “The building holds an importance in Kashmir’s freedom movement as screening of Omar Mukhtar triggered mass resentment against Sheikh,” Khan said.
JKLF (H) chairman Javaid Mir said: “I was also present on the occasion and saw students and others cursing Sheikh Abdullah for betrayal.”