Row Over Sher-e-Kashmir Title To Sheikh Abdullah

6 December 2015
Times of India
M Saleem Pandit

Srinagar: The political scuffle between the ruling People's Democratic Party and the opposition National Conference took a curious turn on Sunday when the Jammu & Kashmir government's general administration department declared there was nobody with the title of 'Sher-e-Kashmir' in reply to an RTI question, leaving the Abdullah family chaffing and the PDP perplexed. Sheikh Abdullah, the founder of the National Conference who thrice served as the head of government in Kashmir and is the progenitor of the first 'political family' of the state, was referred to as Sher-e-Kashmir by his followers, a term that has endured and become the patriarch's most widely accepted epithet. Several institutions including hospitals, stadiums, roads etc., are named after Sher-e-Kashmir. The official revelation that there's no record of such phraseology for Sheikh Abdullah has led to calls by NC to immediately confer the title officially on inarguably the most charismatic mass mover the state produced since 1947. 'If chief minister Sayeed is serious about acknowledging Sheikh's contributions, then he should issue an order and confer the title officially,' said Nasir Aslam Wani, NC provincial chief, adding, 'Why should the CM wait for the NC to come to the power for this?' Wani said his party suspects GAD acted on behalf of the PDP-led government by not factually replying to the RTI. The query was filed by a Jammu activist Deepak Sharma. 'GAD has replied in a way which demeans the Sheikh. The NC will dig into whether GAD replied factually to the RTI question or on behalf of the PDP,' Wani said. Joining the debate, state Congress chief GA Mir said his party would support a proposal that confers the 'Sher-e-Kashmir' title on Sheikh Abdullah. 'Sheikh Sahab was undoubtedly the tallest leader of the state and his contributions are unforgettable. He should've been conferred the title earlier by his party, National Conference, if none existed in official records,' Mir said, adding that the government should have no difficulty in making this official. PDP acknowledges Sheikh as 'Sher-e-Kashmir', but its partner BJP wants the issue to be discussed in the assembly first. A top government and PDP official Naeem Akhtar said, 'Sheikh Sahab is accepted and acknowledged as Sher-e-Kashmir by the people. I feel he should have been given the title officially by the previous NC governments... I am not able to say why Sheikh Sahab was not officially given the title... I will have to look into what actually happened.'

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