A brief overview of the political ideas of a Kashmiri imprisoned martyr © Shams Rehman
On Saturday 11th February 1984 at 7.30am Faqira pulled the lever of the gallows in Tihar priosn Dehli and the prison doctor Kundhan confirmed the death of Maqbool Butt at 8.00am in the presence of Mr RL Sethi Inspector General Prisons, Mr AG Kher DIG priosn, Mr RL Shukla superintendent prison, Mr Sk Ghatial Magistrate. At 8.30 Mr Sethi came out of the huge main steel gate of the prison and told media that Maqbool Butt was calm and composed while walking towards the gallows and did not say a word.
Next day Indian papers reported this hanging as of a terrorist. The Indian Tribune referred to what Maqbool said when he was given death sentence by the judge Neil Kantt Ganjoo in 1968 that ‘Mr justice no rope has knitted yet to hand Maqbool Butt’.
31 years on preparations to commemorate his death anniversary are well underway across the division line in Kashmir and amongst Kashmiri diaspora across the world.
Perhaps he is the only martyr for a national cause whose day of martyrdom is not celebrated by any government. Not even by the three Kashmiri governments in the Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK), the Pakistani occupied southern Kashmir (POSK) and Pakistani occupied northern Kashmir (PONK) which are apparently elected by the local Kashmiris (state subjects). Every year the number of ordinary Kashmiris commemorating his execution grow larger and geographically he is becoming the most powerful icon of the Kashmiri struggle India hanged him to crush. He did warn India.
‘If India thinks that with my hanging the freedom struggle will die down, they are seriously mistaken. Actually the struggle will begin after my hanging’.
Left: Maqbool Butt’s mother in Trehgam and Right British Kashmiris in Birmingham with placards made for Maqbool Butt Day
On 11th February 1984 at about 11am I was walking toward sociology department in Karachi University when heard students shouting slogans at some distant in the huge lawn to my left. Although I could not understand what they were saying but I thought instantly that Maqbool Butt was hanged as the previous evening I participated in a protest sit-in outside of the Indian Embassy where I learnt that some British Kashmiris kidnapped and killed an Indian diplomate in Birmingham. That their demands included the release of Maqbool Butt and in retaliation to that the Indian government was going to hang Maqbool Butt.
From a small village in Akalgarh near Mirpur, ‘azad’ Kashmir, all I knew about Maqbool Butt at that point in my life through my Jamar e Islami and Muslim Conference background was that he was an Indian agent. But why India is going to hang its agent? And what these all Jammati and Muslim Conferecneee student leaders were doing there who always maintained that he was an Indian agent? I thought while joining the growing crowd. Now I know at that very moment with these questions the course of my life was changed for ever.
It is a story for another time that how I ended up in the protest demo outside of the Indian airline office in the shopping precinct of inter (now pearl) continental hotel and the beating and humiliation I received from the Pakistani police. The relevance here is that the search for knowing about Maqbool Butt and Kashmir issue and issues of Kashmir which began that day still continues.
In the previous years I have written articles about the life journey and struggle of Maqbool Butt in Urdu and some in English every year since moving to Britain in 1988, this year I have attempted to offer a brief analysis of his political ideas.
While it requires a while book to carryout detailed analysis of a wide range of the ideas he discussed in his letters, interviews and Court Statements , I have presented only a summary of some of his most widely quoted ideas.
It appears that when he crossed to Pakistani occupied (administered) ‘azad’ Kashmir in 1958 as a 20 years old college graduate he like almost everyone who ever crossed the division line from IOK to POK, perceived this side as the holy land and part of Pakistan, the home of Islam – pure and holy country. That is why initially he expected that the freedom of Kashmir was to be achieved with the help of, and for, Pakistan. That is why he offered his services to the Pakistani army in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War. However, soon he realised that Pakistan was like any other country with all normal socio-economic, cultural and political problems and contradictions. Subsequently, he joined Plebiscite Front (PF) and then formed NLF. I am sure the progressive circles in Peshawar including Ahmed Fraz had some influence over the evolution of political thinking of Maqbool Butt.
First challenge after the formation of NLF was to define its relationship with Pakistani rulers. It is said that he had few rounds of negotiations with Pakistani agencies. However, it is a common perception amongst the freedom circles in AJK that these negotiations were failed on the point that Pakistanis wanted to train Kashmiris in their own command whereas Butt was adamant that the Pakistani trainers will have to work under the command of NLF leaders. According to Hashim Qureshi who spent long time with Butt in and outside of prison, Maqbool Butt said I will not ride a horse whose reign is not in my hands.
He was also clearly against the militancy controlling the politics. It is in this context that this quote is widely used by the pro-independent Kashmir activists:
“ We would welcome support from our friends but on the basis of mutual friendship and dignity not on the basis of control and superiority.”
Of course the relationship with Pakistani rulers was never mended and the differences developed to clashes after the Ganga Hijacking. In the trial that followed Maqbool Bhat stated clearly that the relationship with the Pakistani establishment were bumpy from the inception of NLF. In this statement Maqboll Butt also outlined what they were fighting against? Responding to the charge of conspiracy he said:
I have neither prepared any conspiracy nor been a part of any such group. My role is clear all the way through. However it is true that I have rebelled against obscurantism, slavery, Greed of wealth (capitalism?), exploitation, corruption, oppression, and hypocrisy. If the ruling class of Pakistan, which is a product of imperialist system and is represented by the civil and military bureaucracy, call it conspiracy then I have no hesitation to accept it.
Since none of these issues is peculiar to Kashmiri society, it can be claimed that the wider framework in which Maqbool Butt defined his political struggle was not different from the global struggle for social justice including that by the people of India and Pakistan. In his above quote he clearly distinguished the ruling classes from the people of Pakistan.
Obscurantism for which Maqbool Butt used the word ‘Farsoodagi’ needs some attention. Literally it can mean very old or over used and implies ignorance and lack of knowledge and understanding. However, in socio-political context it means adhering to the views and understandings that were product of the material conditions no longer present. In ‘azad’ Kashmiri context I can identify many but to mention only few here including justification of discrimination against women on the basis which can be traced back may be in hunting era i.e. man goes out to earn because world is very dangerous place and women stay in because she is physically weak etc. Also manipulation in marriages, blaming women for domestic violence etc. similarly voting on the basis of baradari and clan affiliations rather than political preferences. There are several other ancient myths, traditions, beliefs and practices that have become obsolete but are used to resist new ideas and knowledge and the forces of development in all aspects of life including economy, education and politics.
The greed in the local context appears to mean the prevailing practices at all levels of society where it seems that the only way to survive and prosper is to cheat, deceive, scam and con others be they friends, relatives, colleagues or dependents and so on. Exploitation is used here in the modern sense of the word which means the abuse of weak for the benefit of the powerful to extract maximum profit for the owner and minimum income for the worker. While it is the primary driving force in any capitalist society if we look around we can see many more heinous and cruel forms in our societies and hardly any legal infrastructure to challenge them.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Chaudhary Noor Hussain and Hafeez Perzada meeting Maqboool Bhatt and his colleagues for a failed attempt to incorporate them in PPP in 1970s at Mangla
Oppression is a clearly political term which refers to the oppressive political practices. The popular uprising against Maharaja system was to emancipate masses from the oppressive practices of the autocratic Maharaja regime, to replace it with responsible government that was defined as elected by the people. However, once Maharaja rule was collapsed and the popular rulers rose to power, no significant change was brought about to reduce the suppression of the ordinary state subjects. I am not sure about the IOK but governance in what is commonly called as ‘azad’ (actualy Pakistani occupied) Kashmir, has regressed to the era of principalities prior to 1819. Today after nearly 70 years of the ‘revolution’ ordinary people who call it Rohla;,Loud Noise would tell that as per the administration and justice and autonomy is concerned the local conditions are gone worse than Maharaja time.
Slaverry, Ghulami is the word used for the occupied nature of Kashmir which formed the core of Maqbool Butt’s political ideology and struggle.
At other places he criticised the baradarism as one of the impediments in the way of progress and freedom.
“liberate your minds from the thoughts of slavery and break the chains of baradarism. Come out of the illusions of baradaries and prepare your self for the freedom, dignity and independence of your motherland Kashmir”.
But what does freedom means in real terms? What a free Kashmir will be like? This question is addressed in the following quote:
“ By freedom we don’t mean merely the end of foreign occupation from the land of Kashmir but to beat the forces of poverty, backwardness, ignorance, diseases, injustice and economic and social disparities. One day we will achieve that freedom”.
If we look at this in the context of the elaboration offered for the above quote, I think, this does not need any further explanation except that freedom for him was nothing without social justice.
Another corner stone of his political ideology and struggle was the national identity. He gave a brief explanation of national identity and its significance in a letter written from Central Prison New Dehli on 2nd May 1980 to Ikram Ullah Jaswal:
“ Several factors contribute in the construction of a national identity. It (national identity) does not come into being through mere claims of someone nor does it dies away only by someone giving up. The construction of a national identity is a blessing of nature and once constructed no power on earth can eradicate it. Therefore for us even the the thought of giving up national identity and the related concept of fragmentation of our country is like a great sin.
Looking at the construction of Kashmiri identity through this perspective shows that several factors were at work in the constriction of Kashmiri as national identity from Satisar to the division of this state in 1947. Ample evidence is available that for the State of Jammu and Kashmir and Tibet Ha’ the identity several factors were at play to construct as national identity for the state was Kashmiri. This process of identity construction can clearly be traced ‘from above’(Maharaja rule) but also ‘from below’ (popular politics). Following the division it has certainly been hindered and at present seems confined to three spaces The Valley and adjacent areas, AJK and diaspora. In Ladakh and Jammu the Kashmiri has reduced to the Kashiri cultural identity and in GB also has serious challenges. However, mainly because of the hegemony of the Indian and Pakistani identity.
Writing about peace in the same letter Mabool Butt states:
“Who in the world would not want peace and stability? However, not differentiating between the peace that prevails in graveyard and the stability of a peacefully flowing life is naivety. The peace that is achieved under the shadows of fear and terror and to achieve which the aspirations have to be slaughtered and mind has to be corrupted is not peace but the message of death.”
Although Mr Sethi, the inspector general prisons told media on the morning of 11th February outside of the gate of Tihar prison that Maqbool Butt did not say a word while walking towards gallows, Mr RS Pathak, one of the three lawyers of Maqbool Butt informed reporters that in his interview with him Mr Butt expressed the desire that his body should be taken to his village Trehgam for burial. Him and the other two layers Mr Muzafar Beig and Mr Mohammed Tufail had power of attorney to receive the body but their request was refused. Maqbool Butt’s brother Ghulam Nabi Butt was detained a day before at Srinagar airport before he boarded for Dehli. He was buried inside the prison compound where he remains imprisoned till this day. The hanging rope killed Maqbool Butt, the physical person but no rope will ever be able to kill Maqbool Butt the idea. The revolutionary died but revolution lives on. With so many deficiencies and limitations, the march for freedom is on.
As his last wish he wrote that no matter how worse the conditions become we have to carry on the struggle for justice and freedom for a real peace rather than accepting the ghulami; slavery and call it peace.