A towering political figure and the founder of the National Conference, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was bestowned the moniker ‘Sher-i-Kashmir’ for his many endeavours at improving the erstwhile state. He is the father of Farooq Abdullah and the grandfather of Omar Abdullah

The old medal on the left and the new medal on the right. ANI

A fresh row has broken out in Jammu and Kashmir after the administration replaced the image of former chief minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah on police medals with the national emblem.

The order of the Principal Secretary, Home Department, RK Goyal, read: “It is hereby ordered that in modification to Para 4 of the Jammu & Kashmir Police Medal Scheme, the Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah embossed on one side of the medal shall be replaced with “The National Emblem of Government of India” and the other side inscribed with the J&K State Emblem shall be inscribed as “Jammu and Kashmir Police Medal for Gallantry” and “Jammu and Kashmir Police Medal for Meritorious Service’ in case of Gallantry/Meritorious Medal, as the case may be.”

Instituted in 2021, the medals are awarded on New Year, Republic Day and Independence Day in two categories: gallantry and meritorious.

The move by the administration comes two years the announcement of a change in nomenclature of police medal for gallantry and police medal for meritorious service.

“It is hereby ordered that the words ‘Sher-i-Kashmir Police Medal for Gallantry and Sher-i-Kashmir police medal for meritorious service’ wherever appearing in the government order No.332 (P) of 2001 dated 01.08.2001, as amended from time to time, shall henceforth be read as ‘Jammu and Kashmir police medal for gallantry and Jammu and Kashmir police medal for meritorious service,” the order read.

That order came days after the government dropped the birth anniversary of Sheikh Abdullah from its official list of holidays and months after the abrogation of Article 370.

But who is Sheikh Abdullah? Why has this move spurred controversy and why does it matter?

Let’s take a closer look:

Sher-i-Kashmir’

Explained Why Jammu and Kashmir is replacing Sheikh Abdullahs image on police medals

File image of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Sheikh Abdullah. Twitter @AfsnownJuni

In 1947, Sheikh Abdullah was a towering political figure in Jammu and Kashmir. He served as the first elected prime minister of the erstwhile Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Rejecting Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s two-nation theory, Sheikh Abdullah threw his support behind the accession of the then state to the Union of India.

The former National Conference founder was given the moniker ‘Sher-i-Kashmir’ for his many endeavours at improving the erstwhile state.

Sheikh Abdullah is the father of NC chief Farooq Abdullah and the grandfather of Omar Abdullah.

Why this matters

The BJP has constantly attacked the ‘dynasty rule’ of the NC and PDP, accused them of corruption, nepotism and ‘choking’ the development of the state for their own benefit.

Meanwhile, the NC has accused the government of trying to ‘erase’ its history and identity and belittle its achievements.

NC cries foul, BJP hails move

Decrying the move, NC spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar termed the move “erasing of the history” and said Sheikh Abdullah would continue to rule the hearts of people in Jammu and Kashmir, News18 reported.

“With due respect to National Emblem, these attempts to erase our history, identity and icon show nefariousness of those running the show. People of J&K have struggled on many fronts to be where they are now. They fought oppression, autocracy. No one can change that. Not by replacing or changing names. Sheikh Abdullah will continue to rule the hearts of people of J&K, no matter what they or their masters do,” the NC leader added.

NC provincial secretary, Sheikh Bashir claimed the decision was taken to ‘defame the founder’ and called the move unfortunate.

“This decision is taken to defame National Conference and Sheikh Abdullah. The Governments in J&K did this to recognise his contribution post his death. He took historic decisions,” Bashir said in a statement.

NC spokesperson Tanvir Sadiq tweeted:

Senior BJP leader and ex-Deputy CM Kavinder Gupta, supporting the move, said that all such symbols of servitude should be scrapped, News18 reported.

“The separatist mindset that Sheikh Abdullah propagated has been ended. The era when Aurangzeb, Akbar, Shahjehan were touted as great rulers despite being vandals is over,” Gupta said.

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