A few days back I was at my friend’s computer centre. Proof reading a book on Shaheed Maqbool Bhat (R.A.). A young boy in his twenties from Batamaloo was also correcting his work on other computer. While his work was being done he was keenly watching us finalizing the title page of the book with a photograph of Maqbool Bhat. With some hesitation he asked me. Brother who is this man? I looked at him…surprised… Baya you don’t know this man…I asked…No sir, he replied. ‘He is Shaheed Maqbool Butt, the only Kashmiri so far hanged by the Indians for asking Azadi’ I replied. The boy was ashamed, I quickly turned to him and said sorry, this is not your fault. This is our fault; we have not been able to bring Maqbool Bhat to you. Before this experience some days back I was talking to a young scribe of Kashmir. He writes for leading English daily and mostly writes on politics. I see him knowledgeable, sincere and accommodative. We were discussing some current aspects of Kashmir issue and politics at a Srinager café. During discussions the movement of Indian liberation, creation of Pakistan, movements of Algeria, Palestine, Ikhwan Ul Muslimeen of Egypt came under discussion and my young friend seemingly knew every thick and thin about these movements. Suddenly I posed a question to him. Have you read any thing about Maqbool Bhat. His answer was shockingly, No….I only know that he was hanged in 1984 and a hartal on 11th February is what reminds us of him, he added. I was ashamed on myself. I took it as my fault. Yes…We have not been able to present Maqbool Bhat to these young fellows. This is the story of today’s Kashmir. Our youth have lost connection with our nearest history.
Only 26 years have passed since Maqbool Bhat was hanged in Tihar jail and of these years we have had an active freedom struggle for 22 years now. Isn’t it ironical that every year since 1988 ,we have observed 11th February as Maqbool Bhat day, but no writer in this part of Kashmir has bothered to look and research into the life and struggle of this man and present his findings to this nation. I must admit that some great articles have been written during these years but it is not possible for article to sum up Maqbools life and struggle. My respected brother Zahir ud Din wrote a book on unsung heroes of Kashmir. It was a sincere and great effort on his part. Maqbool Bhat was not included in this book; he was not an unsung hero now. Millions of Kashmiris admire him as a hero and lakhs sacrificed lives for his dream. But as a matter of fact Maqbool Bhat still remains unsung. We the people claiming to follow him know nothing about him. His intellect fiery speeches blunt and bold arguments, journalistic abilities, his politics, struggle and martyrdom. We are absolutely unaware of him. As a political activist and literally with no knowledge of researching or writing, I recently took up this challenge and tried to accumulate a book on Maqbool Bhat. During my study I was surprised to know that Maqbool Bhat in his short political life showed the statesmanship and maturity, that no Kashmiri political leader has ever shown till now.
With apparently all the ingredients needed for a successful life, after completion of education Maqbool Bhat could have settled for a normal life of comfort and luxury. He loved good living, but more than anything else, he loved dignity. He was a post graduate in Urdu and English literature, had studied law and was editing a daily news paper “Anjaam” in Peshawar in late sixties. For him, dignity could not have a personal meaning as long as his homeland remained denied of a collective dignity He would often tell his friends. 'Freedom cannot be limited and compartmentalized; I however, cannot be made to compromise on my basic belief of a complete freedom for my homeland'. It does not need much of rational analysis to look through the entire personality of the man who said these words. He was a freedom lover, a fighter, but he all the same continues to be the dignified Kashmiri for whom nothing could be pure unless dignified with the spirit of freedom and independence. Continued struggle for freedom was his objective. In a letter to his friend Ikram ullah jaswaal From Central Jail New Delhi, dated 2nd May, 1980 Maqbool wrote ‘Struggle is the best criteria to judge not only who is for and against the truth, but also to expose the hypocrites. Of course eagerness and wish-full (thinking) have a place in life and reasons for it but life can not revolve around this tendency (all the time). Those who love to and are committed to achieving (their goal) know that patience is a necessary quality for success. An English writer wrote somewhere “nothing succeeds like a success, but it is equally true that nothing fails like a failure”.
If the goal is to grab power and leadership the above saying may have a value of Machiavellian prescription, which involves superficial demands and compromises, but the goal of making history requires completely different approach. For history is made by the kind of people who direct their theories and practices towards a fresh approach. They challenge and rebel against the established official people and values. History is rife with examples where heroes have fought tyranny to the last breath.
One cannot, but wonder as to why do life stories of heroes read so similar. There cannot also be any misgiving about the tragic fact that their lives have also followed the same pattern World wide. If dignity could not be attained during a lifetime, the heroes of nations have refused to exist in an undignified atmosphere. They have immortalized themselves by achieving dignity in death. Maqbool Bhat lived a dignified life, by fighting for dignity while alive and dying for it. Maqbool Sahib fought for changing both history and geography of his land. He refused to accept the barriers erected in the name of partition or a communal divide. The glory of Maqbool Bhat lies in the fact that he was a loner. He had to convince an entire people that the cruelties of history and the mistakes of past leaders cannot enslave them for ever. He remained a patriot and never compromised on this. He had a singular distinction of harboring a dream without any external motivation or favor. He himself said in an Indian court ‘I have no problem in accepting the charges brought against me except one correction. I am not an enemy agent. I am the enemy of the Indian state aggression in Kashmir. Have a good look at me and recognize me full well, I am the enemy of your illegal rule in Kashmir’.
Maqbool Bhat was a pure Muslim, seeking guidance from Qur’an, Sunnah and the life of revolutionaries. Addressing a Pakistani court in 1972 Maqbool said ‘I have disliked self-praise but now when my role is being distorted, deliberately, I am forced to claim that at every stage of my life I have not only supported the people's struggle against exploitation and oppression but always actively participated in it. I have consciously chosen this role for myself because I see it as Sunnah of prophets (SAW) and a way of revolutionaries.’
As always happens, legends get recognition after they pass away. It partly happened in Maqbool Bhat case also, but as one of my friends rightly said “Kashmir will be free only when all of us come together and accept what Maqbool Bhat strived for. Yes Maqbool’s sacrifice has lighted the torch that has been guiding thousands of freedom fighters in Kashmir. It is a miracle of his sacrifice that in a land where hardly anybody would go to jail facing the charge of having harbored the freedom dream, lakhs of human beings laid down their lives for the attainment of Maqbool Bhat's dream. He did through death what millions cannot even think of doing during an entire life but still the fact remains “we are yet to explore his legacy, we are yet to know him, and we are yet to recognize the legend.
Many do not know where you are asleep.
There is no news, there is no grave
But for the millions inspired by you
You live in their hearts and minds.”