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Sheik Mohammad Abdullah and Kashmir

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OKLAHOMA CITY --  The late Margaret  Bourke-White was one of the premier photographers of the last century and her pictures are found in museums and books.

Much of her work was done for Life magazine, and  on behalf of that periodical the peripatetic  Bourke-White travelled  the world. 

She was one of the first Americans allowed to enter the Soviet Union in the 1930’s where she documented the transformation that country was undergoing under its first  Five Year Plan.

Bourke-White interviewed Joseph Stalin during that expedition and obtained a rare photo of the dictator smiling. She also journeyed to the Soviet republic of Georgia where she photographed Stalin’s mother and maternal aunt.

She also traveled to the Indian subcontinent on behalf of Life, and authored a book entitled Halfway To Freedom that detailed the political struggles that were ongoing there as India and Pakistan made their way to independence from the United Kingdom in the late 1940’s.

It has been said that Bourke-White’s success as a photographer  may have served to obscure her talent as a writer who was able to understand foreign nations as demonstrated  in that  insightful  work. 

She wrote of  her interactions with the one of the leaders of Kashmir, Sheik Mohammed Abdullah, and the quality of the constitution of Kashmir  that he had helped put in place. She also  told of  the impressive efforts made in Kashmir to raise the level of literacy  among the citizenry there.

And while Sheik Mohammed Abdullah and his contributions to  India and  the state of Kashmir has been largely forgotten today, one of his descendants, granddaughter Nyla Ali Khan, has  collected  many of his speeches and writings  and other materials in a recently published  work  entitled Sheik Mohammed Abdullah, Reflection On Kashmir.

Khan, who is currently on the faculty of Rose State College, reports that while her grandfather had  served as prime minister of Kashmir and had been involved in politics there from the late 1940s until the 1970’s, no effort had previously been made to collect his writings and speeches.

And while the compilation of those documents constituted a herculean task, Khan asserts that the her work can be said in a sense  to constitute a political history of Kashmir.

Like many, if not most leaders, the sheik was a figure of considerable controversy, but Khan has said that she  has produced an objective work.

And the issues that Kashmir has confronted that include reconciling different ethnic and religious groups, are now matters that many nations, including the U.S., are currently grappling with, and Khan believes that the tolerance and understanding that is found in Sheik Mohammed Abdullah’s speeches and writings is now being echoed by some of the more enlightened and humane leaders in the U.S. and other states.

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Bill O'Brien

Bill O'Brien is an attorney based in Oklahoma City.

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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