"Freedom and independence is the fate and destination of Kashmiris.
Indian rulers or Pakistani generals and bureaucrats cannot
enslave Kashmir for a long time. I am convinced that my motherland
will see the dawn of independence, and that dreaded line that
divides our hearts (Line-of-control) will disappear one day." -
Shaheed Maqbool Bhat
Whereas peoples of the free world celebrate their
independence days, the people of Kashmir have important days to
remember the lives of its countless martyrs who gave complete
sacrifice for the struggle to further the justice and freedom of
their divided and occupied nation. First and foremost, Shaheed
Maqbool Bhat is remembered and cherished as the pioneer of the
people’s struggle for independence and re-unification of Jammu &
Kashmir. And his death anniversary on February 11, the day
upon which the government of India executed Maqbool Bhat despite
serious judicial irregularities and a last minute mercy plea from the
then President of India, is perhaps the single most important day on
the Kashmiri political calender. February 11 might be the day upon
which India put to death Maqbool Bhat the man, but it is also the
day the dream and struggle of Maqbool Bhat became eternally embedded
in the hearts and souls of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. On this
day the dream, the struggle, and the sacrifice of Maqbool Bhat is
eulogized by the masses with great fervor and public outpouring of
pure dedication and determination.
An onlooker may ask why is it that the life and example of
Shaheed Maqbool Bhat has assumed such a central position in
the ideology and methodology of the struggle for freedom and justice
in Jammu & Kashmir? The reason why is simple yet powerful. It is
said that a person does not truly live unless he advances the
condition of humanity. In the case of Shaheed Maqbool Bhat and his
struggle to awaken his nation towards the fight against oppression
and injustice it would not be an exaggeration to say that he lived a
thousand lives. Not only did he take up the political independence
of Jammu & Kashmir as a goal but he paid deep attention to the
overall condition of the common man and humanity at large. His was a
complete struggle that encompassed reform of
society, promotion of tolerance, and push for economic justice. His
oft-repeated saying indicates that he possessed great depth in his
vision: "It's far better to die in the field in struggle against
illiteracy, poverty and oppression and to achieve the glory of
while fighting against evil forces than to die in bed." Simply put,
it is his ideology of justice and the sacrifice he gave for that
which has
won him eternal love from his people and respect the world over. It
is safe to say that the allegiance of the common people to the path
Maqbool Bhat is unquestionable.
However, 15 years after the death of Maqbool Bhat it pains me
know that this great Shaheed right now would definitely
be turning in his grave and deeply hurt to see what has become of his
beloved country. Violence and chaos appears to have taken over in
such a way that there appears to be no sense or strategy to it and
somehow the people’s struggle for independence has been by-passed.
The course being followed by certain leaders and groupings of
leaders has virtually no chance of achieving what Maqbool Bhat’s and
the thousands of other Kashmiris’ sacrifice was for. As the recent
spectacle of "bus diplomacy" rings
true, the dynamics of the Kashmir problem has become slowly confined
to the very bilateralism between India and Pakistan over Kashmir that
Maqbool Bhat loathed. Furthermore, the ignoring of Kashmiris at the
table can be attributed directly to the position which many of those
who presently claim leadership took as willing benefactors to
Pakistan’s territorial approach in Kashmir.
In addition to knowing about the suffering of his people,
Maqbool Bhat would feel deep pain by observing the lack of direction
and mistaken leadership that has befallen the present movement. For
this reason alone, there is a pain and sorrow that many admirers of
Maqbool Bhat feel weighing heavily upon their souls. This is a pain
in knowing that the present struggle and particularly the present
condition of leadership is far from being on the true path and
example of Shaheed Maqbool Bhat and as such there exists a deep
black cloud of uncertainty hovering over the fate of the people of
Jammu & Kashmir - the very nation which Shaheed Bhat loved so very
much. Maqbool Bhat said that even in captivity a freedom fighter is
liberated as long as he remains conscious of his goal and
principles. For this reason, the uncertainty and confusion existing
in the present political atmosphere in Jammu & Kashmir can be called
a warning sign that things are not on the right track and that in
order for this movement to succeed, the people of Jammu & Kashmir
must reform the present shape of the movement and return its course
directly and solely on the path that Shaheed Maqbool Bhat
paved for his nation.
One thing remains very clear: this movement is not lacking in
the area of sacrifice and dedication of the people. After all,
more than 50,000 Kashmiris have given their very lives for this
cherished goals of freedom. Shaheed Bhat anticipated that terrible
obstacles would be pushed in front of the people of Jammu & Kashmir
if they were to demand their freedom. Indeed, his own lonely
struggle was a taste of this hardship to come and it is a known fact
that he faced terrible police-state oppression from the authorities
of Pakistan and then later was actually murdered by India. Maqbool
Bhat described his struggle: "It is easy to talk about freedom. But
it needs a lot more courage and patience to fight for freedom. It is
a path where every turn is full of tests. You go through such stages
where your own friends on whom you relied, don't want to know you
for their vested interests. They, even, leave you and make alliances
with enemies."
It would be no exaggeration that Shaheed Maqbool Bhat would
be proud of the common people who have demonstrated
such patience. But with the same certainty, I am sure that Maqbool
Bhat would be angered and ashamed of the way in which the leadership
has behaved, specifically how it has bartered away the ideology and
goal of independence by entering strange alliances or adopting
ambiguous demands. To be more specific, I would like to discuss the
way in which those claiming exclusive
leadership have confused the struggle for independence and have
reduced the Kashmir struggle to a squabble between India and
Pakistan - as it is wrongly seen by the outside world now - because
of the way it has been subservient to dictates of the occupiers.
Though these leaders criticize Pakistan and India’s mutual overtures
and bilateral talks it is absolutely true that these leaders who
have played the role of Pakistan and have confused the Kashmiri
struggle by holding it hostage to their communal approaches and
demand for UN resolution implementation. The very "help" they took
from "friends" allowed the hijacking of this struggle. And above
all, these leaders - some of whom were Indian politicians while
Maqbool Bhat was struggling and when he was hung and some of whom
have in the past labeled the Shaheed as an agent and his ideology as
"kufr" - have conspired against Independent Kashmir thought.
Namely, the present APHC Chairman has recently given statements only
two-option self-determination and has ruled out what he called the
"third option" of independence.
Interestingly, some of these same leaders are endorsing a
strike for February 11. One can only guess that they want to
exploit the genuine sentiments in order to fool the outside world
that they command the sole leadership. Even Pakistan this year has
had to make some vague recognition of Feb. 11: a sign that
independent Kashmir is strong in the hearts of Kashmiris. To these
individuals Maqbool Bhat is honored for only the fact that he was
killed by India. But Maqbool Bhat’s contribution was not only going
to the Indian gallows. So to these people it must be said that if
they wish to honour the memory of a person they must honour the
ideology and strategy of the person. Otherwise, it is just a
publicity stunt exploiting the sacrifice of a great martyr they still
have failed to truly understand.
So for the sake of the generations to come and for those who
are currently carrying on the real struggle for the real goal
of independence it is of the utmost importance that they endeavor to
understand and heed the ideology and approach of Shaheed Maqbool
Bhat. Indeed, a re-dedication to the path of Maqbool Bhat will serve
to solve many of the problems currently facing the movement. In
particular, two things must be emphasized: 1) his exactly defined
goal of achieving a re-united and independent Jammu & Kashmir with a
strong democratic and tolerant framework and 2) his strong belief
that the struggle must remain in essence a struggle for the people
and by the people.
On the first aspect, Maqbool Bhat’s goal of the
re-unification and independence of Jammu & Kashmir, most people are
quite clear what this implies and this is well understood by the
masses. Above all many are aware that the solution of independence
is perhaps the only way in which both India and Pakistan can make a
just peace in Kashmir.
Regarding this, Maqbool Bhat was very determined that the struggle
must be a truly egalitarian and unified struggle for national
independence. He was also worried about the possibility that the
struggle could be "hijacked" should the struggle’s goals be made
ambiguous. In his own struggle, Maqbool Bhat refused Pakistani
dictates and decided to struggle alone rather than allow his group
to be used as a tool for a proxy war for different ends. He
emphasized the importance of the goal of independence:
"Any fight without an ideology and without a clear goal can be
hijacked by anyone with bigger power- we want to fight our own
war, we will accept help but not interference".
When asked about the need for Kashmiris to receive
recognition, help, and sympathy from the outside world, Maqbool
Bhat emphasized that this could not be at the cost of loosing the
reigns of the movement:
"We have to first prove that we are capable of running such a
movement. Once we organise our nation help will come to us
without any strings".
Maqbool Bhat was particularly worried that this conflict
would become communalized by foreign conspiracy. Instead he
insisted that the struggle for freedom be based upon the principles
of universal justice. Indeed the following warning of Maqbool Bhat
has come true in a prophetic way:
"Any organisation or individual attempted to carry out independence
movement in Kashmir on the basis of sect and religion will
be deemed as an arch enemy of the nation, because it will lead to
the division of the Motherland - where ethnic, linguistic and
sectarian disputes and clashes will undermine the national unity and
character - ultimate output of which is constant turmoil and
infighting and an ideal situation for foreign subjugators to
continue their direct and indirect rule and oppression. Kashmiris
freedom movement based on sectarianism and religion can't muster
international support whether it is launched at the behest of
"secular India" or Islamic Pakistan. The only way to achieve
national freedom for Kashmir is to demonstrate as United Kashmir
Regarding the rest, I would like to conclude with a strong
request that the present intellectuals as well as the common
people of Jammu & Kashmir contemplate the following advice of
Shaheed Maqbool Bhat- I am sure that its implications are obvious
regarding certain leaders’ erroneous belief that Kashmiris can look
to the outside world
as a saviour:
"I can't be unjust to history, I would like to make it clear to you
that regarding our problems which include wheat or educational
problems to national political independence, until and unless
Kashmiris themselves command and lead it - They will not succeed. It
is the verdict of nature and history even. I'm here to give up this
struggle if anybody from you comes up with a single example from
nation's history, that any other nation of the world had fought, or
lead freedom movement of another. No, never. But unfortunately,
Kashmiri leadership always looked forward to others to organise and
lead their movement (contrary to the wishes and aspirations of common
Kashmiri people). Hence, loosing the image and status of a nation
interested to be recognised as united under
indigenous leadership and command. "
Since the departure of Maqbool Bhat, leadership has become in
many ways a hated word in the minds of the common
Kashmiri who has time and again given sacrifice for the just cause
of freedom but has seen their goal become more and more elusive. Why
is this? Perhaps it is because while the sacrifice of Bhat has been
honored, his ideology and methodology has not been held as the
standard for leadership. Maqbool Bhat believed that the Kashmiri
leadership’s role was to serve the people and to live by example. He
would never ask his people to do something he himself was not
prepared to do. Is there a leader or any leaders today that can come
close to this great person when all one observes is a group of
individuals spending most of their energies in politicking, ego, and
exaggerating their importance?
With my critical and even harsh analysis above, a reader may
accuse me of being too cynical and demanding of the
leadership. But with the level of supreme sacrifice that the people
of Jammu & Kashmir have offered in the last 50 years, we should all
expect impeccable leadership despite the conspiracies hatched by New
Delhi and Islamabad. Some may say that such a servant of the people
like Maqbool Bhat can never emerge again in Jammu & Kashmir. To this
I conclude with a hopeful challenge to
every political activist and every free-thinking Kashmiri who hopes
for the freedom of his nation. People have matched the sacrifice of
Maqbool Bhat, but have they endeavored to emulate the strategy of
Maqbool Bhat?
I propose that such a leadership can emerge if they dedicate
themselves to upholding true justice and understanding the complete
picture that this father of the nation painted with his own blood.
And it is for the purpose of keeping the dream alive that February
11th is so very important.
Perhaps we will have to wait for the children of today to
grow but the struggle is far from being over. I conclude with a
prayer that the following words of the visionary, Shaheed Maqbool
Bhat, will come true:
"Political and economic liberation of our nation demands incessant
struggle and commitment, even lives be sacrificed so that
next generation could follow our steps and could live an honourable
life with a dignified way - and after death we would re-appear with
different names and characters to continue the just struggle."