Mohammed Abdullah Sheikh (5 December 1905 – 8 September 1982) was a Kashmiri politician who played a central role in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost Indian state. Referred as "Sher-e-Kashmir" (Lion of Kashmir), Abdullah was the founding leader of the All Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Conference (later renamed Jammu and Kashmir National Conference) and the 1st elected Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir after its accession to India. He agitated against the rule of the Maharaja Hari Singh and urged self-rule for Kashmir.
Sheikh Abdullah on a 1988 stamp of India
|3rd Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir|
25 February 1975 – 26 March 1977
|Succeeded by||Governor's rule|
9 July 1977 – 8 September 1982
|Preceded by||Governor's rule|
|Succeeded by||Farooq Abdullah|
|1st elected Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir|
5 March 1948 – 9 August 1953
|Preceded by||Mehr Chand Mahajan|
|Succeeded by||Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad|
|President of the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference|
October 1932 – August 1981
|Born||5 December 1905|
Soura, Jammu and Kashmir, British India
|Died||8 September 1982 (aged 76)|
Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India
|Political party||Jammu & Kashmir National Conference|
|Spouse(s)||Begum Akbar Jahan Abdullah|
|Children||Farooq Abdullah, Suraiya Abdullah Ali, Sheikh Mustafa Kamal|
|Alma mater||Islamia College Lahore|
Aligarh Muslim University
He served as the 1st elected Prime Minister of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir  and was later jailed and exiled. He was dismissed from the position of Prime Ministership on 8 August 1953 and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad was appointed as the new Prime Minister. The expressions ‘Sadar-i-Riyasat’ and ‘Prime Minister’ were replaced with the terms ‘Governor’ and ‘Chief Minister’ in 1965. Sheikh Abdullah again became the Chief Minister of the state following the 1974 Indira-Sheikh accord and remained in the top slot till his death on 8 September 1982.
Abdullah Sheikh was born in Soura, a village on the outskirts of Srinagar, eleven days after the death of his father Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahim. His father had been a middle class manufacturer and trader of Kashmiri shawls.
According to Abdullah Sheikh, his step brother mistreated his mother and his early childhood was marked by utter poverty. His mother was keen that her children should receive proper education and, so, as a child, he was first admitted to a traditional school or Maktab where he learnt the recitation of the Quran and some basic Persian texts like Gulistan of Sa'di, Bostan, Padshanama, etc. Then in 1911 he was admitted to a primary school where he studied for about two years.
However, their family barber Mohammed Ramzan prevailed upon his uncle to send him back to school. He had to walk the distance of ten miles to school and back on foot but in his own words the joy of being allowed to obtain a school education made it seem a light work. He passed his Matriculation examination from Punjab University in 1922.
After matriculation he obtained admission in Shri Pratap College, the leading college of Kashmir. He also went to the Prince of Wales College in Jammu. Then he took admission in Islamia College, Lahore and graduated from there. In 1930, he obtained an M.Sc. in Chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University. During his college days he was an eye witness of the protests of the workers of the Government Silk Factory during the Silk Factory Workers Agitation and the sight of workers agitating for their rights made a deep impression on him and was an important factor in motivating him to struggle for the rights of the people of the Jammu and Kashmir State.
As a student at Aligarh Muslim University, he came in contact with and was influenced by persons with liberal and progressive ideas. He became convinced that the feudal system was responsible for the miseries of the Kashmiris and like all progressive nations of the world Kashmir too should have a democratically elected government.
Abdullah Sheikh and his colleagues were greatly influenced by the lectures of a Kashmiri polymath and lawyer Molvi Abdullah. Molvi Abdullah's son Molvi Abdul Rahim, Abdullah Sheikh and Ghulam Nabi Gilkar were the first three educated Kashmiri youth to be arrested during the public agitation of 1931.
Kashmir's first political party the Kashmir Muslim Conference with Abdullah Sheikh as President, Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas as general secretary, and Molvi Abdul Rahim as Secretary was formed on 16 October 1932. In his presidential address Abdullah Sheikh categorically stated that the Muslim Conference had come into existence to struggle for the rights of all oppressed sections of the society and not Muslims alone. It was not a communal party and would struggle for the rights of the oppressed, whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, with the same fervor. He reasserted that the struggle of Kashmiris was not a communal struggle.
In March 1933 the Muslim Conference constituted a committee which included Molvi Abdullah and nine other members for the purpose of establishing contacts with non-Muslim parties and exploring the possibility of forming a joint organisation. Those nine members were Khwaja Saad-ud-din Shawl, Khwaja Hassan Shah Naqshbandi, Mirwaiz Kashmir, Molvi Ahmad-Ullah, Mirwaiz Hamadani, Agha Syed Hussain Shah Jalali, Mufti Sharif-ud-din, Molvi Atiq-Ullah and Haji Jafar Khan. According to Abdullah Sheikh this effort was not successful because of the unfavourable reception of the idea by the non-Muslim parties. Abdullah Sheikh campaigned to change the name of the Muslim Conference to National Conference, under the influence of among others Jawaharlal Nehru. After a prolonged and vigorous campaign a special session of the Muslim Conference held in June 1939 voted to change the name of the party to National Conference. Of the 176 members attending the session, 172 members voted in favour of the resolution. According to Abdullah Sheikh the support of Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas of Jammu was very important in motivating the members to vote for this change.
As a result of the 1931 agitation, the Maharajah appointed a Grievances Commission with an Englishman B.J. Glancy as President who submitted its report in March 1932. Subsequently, a Constitutional Reforms Conference also presided over by B.J. Glancy recommended the setting up of an elected Legislative Assembly (Praja Sabha). Consequently, a Praja Sabha with 33 elected and 42 nominated members elected on the basis of separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims was established in 1934. Women and illiterate men without sufficient property, or title, or annual income of less than Rupees four hundred did not have the right to vote. Roughly less than 10% (according to Justice Anand only 3%) of the population were enfranchised.
Even after the formation of Praja Sabha in 1934 as recommended by the Commission real power continued to remain in the hands of the Maharajah.
Seventeen years later in 1951, the government of Kashmir with Sheikh Abdullah as Prime Minister held elections to a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal adult suffrage. Sheikh Abdullah's Government had been accused of rigging in these elections to the Constituent Assembly.
Sheikh Abdullah was introduced to Jawaharlal Nehru in 1937 and as he too was a leader of the Indian National Congress was demanding similar rights for people of British India and had formed The All India States Peoples Conference for supporting the people of Princely States in their struggle for a representative government the two became friends and political allies.
He introduced a resolution in the working committee of the Muslim Conference for changing its name to National Conference on 24 June 1938 to allow people from all communities to join the struggle against the autocratic rule of the Maharaja. Meanwhile, he along with his liberal progressive friends, many of whom were not Muslim like Kashyap Bandhu, Jia Lal Kilam, Pandit Sudama Sidha, Prem Nath Bazaz and Sardar Budh Singh drafted the National Demands the forerunner of the famous Naya Kashmir (New Kashmir) Manifesto (which was a charter of demands for granting a democratic constitution committed to the welfare of the common people of Kashmir)
He presented these demands to the Maharajah in a speech on 28 August 1938. The Maharajah was not willing to accept these demands and so he along with many of his companions was arrested for defying prohibitory orders and sentenced to six months imprisonment and a fine. His arrest provoked a public agitation in which volunteers called Dictators (so called because they had the authority to defy laws that was forbidden for normal law-abiding party members) courted arrest. This agitation was called off on the appeal of Mohandas K. Gandhi. He was released after serving his sentence on 24 February 1939 and accorded a grand reception by the people of Srinagar on his return. Speeches were made at the reception stressing the importance of unity among Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Subsequently the resolution for changing the name of Muslim Conference to National Conference was ratified with an overwhelming majority by the General Council of the Muslim Conference on 11 June 1939 and from that date Muslim Conference became National Conference.
Quit Kashmir agitationEdit
In May 1946 Sheikh Abdullah launched the Quit Kashmir agitation against the Maharajah Hari Singh and was arrested and sentenced to three years imprisonment but was released only sixteen months later on 29 September 1947. According to prominent columnist and writer A. G. Noorani, Quit Kashmir was ill-timed and illogical. (See Tehreek e Hurriyat e Kashmir By Rashid Taseer (Urdu) volume 2-page 29 for "National Demands" discussion and see Chapter 12-page 310-313 regarding presentation of "Naya Kashmir" Manifesto to Maharaja Hari Singh. Full text of "Naya Kashmir" manifesto is given from page 314 to 383. English translation of this text is available at Wikisource. Also see relevant chapters from Atish e Chinar regarding 1931 agitation (Chapters 9, 10 and 11) Glancy Commission (Chapter 15) formation of Muslim Conference (Chapter 18) meeting with Nehru (Chapter 23), reasons for change in name of Muslim Conference to National Conference (Chapter 24) and becoming president of All India States Peoples Conference (Chapter 31). His arrest and subsequent release following the Quit Kashmir agitation is discussed in Chapter 34-page 372-389.) 
Head of GovernmentEdit
Head of emergency administrationEdit
Maharaja Hari Singh appealed to Lord Mountbatten of Burma the Governor-General of India for Indian military aid. In his Accession Offer dated 26 October 1947 which accompanied The Instrument of Accession duly signed by him on 26 October 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh wrote "I may also inform your Excellency's Government that it is my intention at once to set up an interim Government and ask Sheikh Abdullah to carry the responsibilities in this emergency with my Prime Minister."
Lord Mountbatten accepted the accession after a meeting of the Defence Committee on 26 October 1947. In accepting the accession unconditionally he wrote, "I do hereby accept this Instrument of Accession. Dated this twenty seventh day of October, nineteen hundred and forty seven". In the covering letter to Hari Singh, he wrote "In consistence with their policy that in the case of any State where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute, the question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the State, it is my Government's wish that, as soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and its soil cleared of the invader, the question of the State's accession should be settled by a reference to the people". Also in his letter to the Maharaja Lord Mountbatten wrote "My Government and I note with satisfaction that your Highness has decided to invite Sheikh Abdullah to form an Interim Government to work with your Prime Minister." The support of Mahatma Gandhi and Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a key factor in getting Sheikh Abdullah appointed as Head of the emergency administration by the Maharaja.
As a consequence, Sheikh Abdullah was appointed head of an emergency administration by an order issued by the Maharaja which was undated except for the mention October 1947 in place of the date. He took charge as Head of the Emergency Administration on 30 October 1947.
He raised a force of local Kashmiri volunteers to patrol Srinagar and take control of administration after the flight of the Maharaja along with his family and Prime Minister Meher Chand Mahajan to Jammu even before the Indian troops had landed. This group of volunteers would serve as the nucleus for the subsequent formation of Jammu and Kashmir Militia. This, Sheikh Abdullah hoped, would take over the defence of Kashmir after the Indian army was withdrawn. This was articulated in his letter to Sardar Patel dated 7 October 1948 in which he wrote, "With the taking over of the State forces by the Indian Government, it was agreed that steps would be taken to reorganise and rebuild our army so that when the present emergency is over and the Indian forces are withdrawn the State will be left with a proper organised army of its own to fall back upon." (Sheikh Abdullah has alleged that most of the Muslim soldiers of the Militia were either discharged or imprisoned before his arrest in 1953. The Militia (dubbed as Dagan Brigade) was converted from a State Militia to a regular unit of the Indian Army on 2 December 1972 and redesignated the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry)
Sheikh Abdullah spoke at the UN Security Council on 5 February 1948 thus: "The (tribal) raiders came to our land, massacred thousands of people — mostly Hindus and Sikhs, but Muslims, too — abducted thousands of girls, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims alike, looted our property and almost reached the gates of our summer capital, Srinagar."
Sheikh Abdullah took oath as Prime Minister of Kashmir on 17 March 1948.
Return to activismEdit
Arrest and releaseEdit
On 8 August 1953 he was dismissed as Prime Minister by the then Sadr-i-Riyasat (Constitutional Head of State) Dr. Karan Singh, son of the erstwhile Maharajah Hari Singh, on the charge that he had lost the confidence of his cabinet (not the house). He was denied the opportunity to prove his majority on the floor of the house and his dissident cabinet minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed was appointed as Prime Minister. Sheikh Abdullah was immediately arrested and later jailed for eleven years, accused of conspiracy against the State in the infamous "Kashmir Conspiracy Case".
According to Sheikh Abdullah his dismissal and arrest were engineered by the central government headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He has quoted B.N. Mullicks' statements in his book "My Years with Nehru" in support of his statement. A.G. Noorani writing in Frontline supports this view, as according to him Nehru himself ordered the arrest. On 8 April 1964 the State Government dropped all charges in the so-called "Kashmir Conspiracy Case". Sheikh Abdullah was released and returned to Srinagar where he was accorded an unprecedented welcome by the people of the valley".
After his release he was reconciled with Nehru. Nehru requested Sheikh Abdullah to act as a bridge between India and Pakistan and make President Ayub to agree to come to New Delhi for talks for a final solution of the Kashmir problem. President Ayub Khan also sent telegrams to Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah with the message that as Pakistan too was a party to the Kashmir dispute any resolution of the conflict without its participation would not be acceptable to Pakistan. This paved the way for Sheikh Abdullah's visit to Pakistan to help broker a solution to the Kashmir problem.
Sheikh Abdullah went to Pakistan in spring of 1964. President Ayub Khan of Pakistan held extensive talks with him to explore various avenues for solving the Kashmir problem and agreed to come to Delhi in mid June for talks with Nehru as suggested by him. Even the date of his proposed visit was fixed and communicated to New Delhi. However, before Ayub Khan could make his visit, Nehru died on 27 May 1964. The Sheikh was enroute to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir when he received the news. He addressed a public rally at Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and returned to Delhi. On his suggestion, President Ayub Khan sent a high level Pakistani delegation led by his Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto along with him to take part in the last rites of Jawaharlal Nehru.
After Nehru's death in 1964, Sheikh Abdullah was again interned from 1965 to 1968. The internment was ordered by Lal Bahadur Shastri and continued by Indira Gandhi. The Plebiscite Front was also banned. This was allegedly done to prevent him and the Plebiscite Front which was supported by him from taking part in elections in Kashmir. Again, he was exiled from Kashmir in 1971-72 for 18 months, during which period the Indo-Pak war of 1971 came to be waged.
After Indo-Pakistan war and creation of BangladeshEdit
In 1971,Bangladesh Liberation War broke out in erstwhile East Pakistan between Pakistan and Bangladesh joined later by India, and subsequently war broke out on the western border of India between India and Pakistan, both of which culminated in the creation of Bangladesh. Sheikh Abdullah watching the alarming turn of events in the subcontinent realised that for the survival of this region there was an urgent need to stop pursuing confrontational politics and promoting solution of issues by a process of reconciliation and dialogue rather than confrontation. Critics of Sheikh hold the view that he gave up the cherished goal of plebiscite for gaining Chief Minister's chair. He started talks with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for normalising the situation in the region and came to an accord called 1974 Indira-Sheikh accord with Indira Gandhi, then India's Prime Minister, by giving up the demand for a plebiscite in lieu of the people being given the right to self-rule by a democratically elected Government (as envisaged under article 370 of the Constitution of India) rather than the puppet government which till then ruled the State.
Return to powerEdit
He assumed the position of Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The Central Government and the ruling Congress Party withdrew its support so that the State Assembly had to be dissolved and mid term elections called.
The National Conference won an overwhelming majority in the subsequent elections and re-elected Sheikh Abdullah as Chief Minister. He remained as Chief Minister till his death in 1982.
Abdullah, described as a six feet four inches (1.93 m) to six feet six inches (1.98 m) tall man, was fluent in both Kashmiri and Urdu. His biography in Urdu entitled Atish-e-Chinar was written by the noted Kashmiri author M.Y. Taing and published after Sheikh Abdullah's death. It is often referred to as his autobiography as Taing claimed that he only acted as an amanuensis. It is based on extensive interviews that Taing had with Sheikh Abdullah and provides valuable information on Sheikh Abdullah's family background, early life, ringside glimpses of happenings in Kashmir at a crucial juncture in its history, and his viewpoint about the political events in Kashmir in which he himself played a central role.
After his death his eldest son Dr. Farooq Abdullah was elected as the Chief Minister of the State.
In 1933 he married Akbar Jahan, the daughter of Michael Harry Nedou, of Slovak and British descent, and his Kashmiri wife Mirjan. Michael Harry Nedou was himself the proprietor of a hotel at the tourist resort of Gulmarg (The writer Tariq Ali claims that Akbar Jehan was previously married in 1928 to an Arab Karam Shah who disappeared after a Calcutta newspaper Liberty reported that he was actually T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) a British Intelligence officer. He claims that Akbar Jehan was divorced by her first husband in 1929.)
The government of Pakistan in 1947 viewed Abdullah and his party as agents of Nehru and did not recognise his leadership of Kashmir. He spoke against Pakistani government in United Nations by comparing it with Hitler's rule, and he also endorsed Indian stand on Jammu and Kashmir. However, there was a change in Pakistan's viewpoint with the passage of time. When he visited Pakistan in 1964 he was awarded a tumultuous welcome by the people of Pakistan. Among the persons who received him was Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas his once colleague and later political enemy who earlier in his book Kashmakash had denounced Sheikh Abdullah as a turncoat and traitor. Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas embraced him and in his speech described him as one of the greatest leaders of the subcontinent and a great benefactor of the Muslims of the subcontinent. President Ayub Khan and his then Foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto discussed the Kashmir problem with him. The government of Pakistan treated him as a state guest. Sheikh Abdullah had the rare distinction of having poems in his praise written by three major Pakistani Urdu poets namely Hafeez Jullundhri, Josh and Faiz Ahmed Faiz who admired his lifelong struggle against injustice and for democratic rights of the common man.
- List of Kashmiris
- History of Jammu and Kashmir
- Kashmir conflict
- Instrument of Accession (Jammu and Kashmir)
- Kashmiriyat – a socio-cultural ethos of religious harmony and Kashmiri consciousness.
- Political Parties in Kashmir in 1947
- List of topics on the land and the people of "Jammu and Kashmir"
- Kashmir Conspiracy Case
- List of political families
- Hoiberg, Dale H. (2010) p 22-23
- Tej K. Tikoo (19 July 2012). Kashmir: Its Aborigines and Their Exodus. Lancer Publishers. pp. 185–. ISBN 978-1-935501-34-3. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
- Guha, Ramachandra. "Opening a window in Kashmir." Economic and Political Weekly (2004): 3905-3913.
- Lamb, Alastair. The Myth of Indian Claim to Jammu and Kashmir: A Reappraisal. World Kashmir Freedom Movement.
- Noorani, A.G. Article 370 : a constitutional history of Jammu and Kashmir (1. publ. ed.). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198074083.
- Rakesh Ankit, "Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah of Kashmir, 1965–1975: From Externment to Enthronement." Studies in Indian Politics 6.1 (2018): 88-102 online.
- Abdullah & Taing 1985, pp. 1–14.
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- Rasheed Taseer (1973) vol2, p29
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- Rasheed Taseer (1973) vol2, p25-40
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- Maharaja Hari Singh's letter requesting Indian Assistance against tribal raids. Satp.org (26 October 1947). Retrieved on 7 December 2018.
- Accession Of Jammu And Kashmir State To India. Text Of Letter Dated 26 October 1947 From Hari Singh, The Maharaja Of Jammu & Kashmir to Lord Mountbatten, The then Governor General of India.
- Acceptance Of Accession By The Governor General Of India. Jammu-kashmir.com (26 October 1947). Retrieved on 7 December 2018.
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- Ankit, Rakesh. "Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah of Kashmir, 1965–1975: From Externment to Enthronement." Studies in Indian Politics 6.1 (2018): 88-102 online
- Guha, Ramachandra. "Opening a window in Kashmir." Economic and Political Weekly (2004): 3905-3913. online
- Abdullah, Sheikh; Taing, M. Y. (1985), Atish-e-Chinar (in Urdu), Srinagar: Shaukat Publications Often referred to as Sheikh Abdullah's autobiography. It has not been copyrighted in deference to Sheikh Abdullah's wishes.
- Hussain, Syed Taffazull (23 November 2013) [first published in 2009], Sheikh Abdullah – A Biography: The Crucial Period 1905–1939, Indianopolis: WordClay, ISBN 978-1-60481-309-8
- Korbel, Josef (1966), Danger in Kashmir, Princeton University Press
- A.G. Noorani (2000), "Article370: Law and Politics". Frontline Volume 17 – Issue 19, 16–29 September, (Discusses illegality of Central Govt and Parliament's Actions in amending Article 370 without concurrence of Constituent Assembly of Kashmir)
- A.G. Noorani (2006), "Nehru's legacy in foreign affairs". Frontline Volume 23 – Issue 15 :: 29 July 11 August 2006 (Discusses Nehru's role in arrest of Sheikh Abdullah and erosion of Article 370)
- B.N. Mullick (1972): My Years with Nehru (Provides evidence of Nehru's role in dismissal and arrest of Sheikh Abdullah. B.N. Mullick was head of Indian Intelligence Bureau at the time of his arrest)
- Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abdullah, Sheikh Muhammad". Encyclopædia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, Illinois: Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8.
- Justice A.S. Anand (2006) The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. Universal Law Publishing Co. ISBN 81-7534-520-9
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- Rasheed Taseer (1973): Tareekh e Hurriyat e Kashmir (URDU). Muhafiz Publications Srinagar Volume 2 gives an account of events in Kashmir from 1932 to 1946 as seen by a local journalist.
- Sandeep Bamzai (2006): Bonfire of Kashmiryat Rupa & Co. New Delhi. ISBN 81-291-1060-1
- Tariq Ali (2003): The Clash of Fundamentalism. Verso Books. London. ISBN 978 1 85984 457 1
- Syed Taffazull Hussain (2009): Sheikh Abdullah – A biography:The Crucial Period 1905–1939. Wordclay. Indianapolis.IN. ISBN 978-1-60481-309-8 (Annotated 2015 edition with 38 References and 650 footnotes is available at http:// books.google.co.in.It has chapters on The Kashmir Committee, Jinnah's first visit to Kashmir, and describes errors of omission and commission in Atish e Chinar all for the first time.)
- APHC: White Paper On Elections in Kashmir (undated): (retrieved on 5 November 2008)
- Hussain Haqqani (2005): Pakistan Between Mosque and Military. Vanguard Books. Lahore. ISBN 969-402-498-6
- Baba Pyare Lal Bedi, Freda Marie (Houlston) Bedi (1949): Sheikh Abdullah: his life and ideals
- Ravinderjit Kaur (1998): "Political Awakening In Kashmir. South Asia Books. ISBN 978-8-17024-709-8
- Brenda M King (2005): "Silk and empire"Manchester University Press ISBN 978-07190-6701-3. Describes Sir Thomas Wardle's role in establishing modern filatures in Kashmir and his dream of making Kashmir a competitor for China and Japan in the international silk market.
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