By Dar Wasim
During his trial in August 1968 at Srinagar, Maqbool Bhat stood up and told the court: “I have no objection in accepting all the charges levelled against me but remember I am not the agent of your enemy. Look at me! I am your enemy; I am the enemy of your colonial mindset. Have a good look, I am your enemy.” Kashmir has given birth to many leaders in this long trail of occupation. They have arrived and left behind memories for the Kashmiri public. Maqbool Bhat will remain etched in public memory till eternity. He will continue to inspire generations across the world to fight for freedom, peace, and justice. He was the only leader who stood tall and challenged the might of India when no one else did. He was a man who kissed the gallows with a smile, because the future of his land shone in his eyes. In his moment of death, he felt the fragrance of that dream.
Born to a peasant family in the Trahgam village of Handwara, Maqbool Bhat did his bachelor’s in history and political science from Kashmir University and later completed his masters from Peshawar University, Pakistan. In those days, when the literacy rate of this region was not more than 5%, he could have easily got a good post. But destiny, for a person of Maqbool Bhat’s stature, meant something else.
He was brought up at a time when a revolt against feudalism and slavery was on. It left an impact on his life and he stood up for something which was yet to be achieved. A quest for freedom was sown in him during the highly repressive era of the Dogras. Later during his studies, Maqbool Bhat had understood the repression implicit in the status quo, which led him to the track of resistance. During this struggle for freedom, Maqbool Bhat became an inspiration for the people, especially youth, who followed in his footsteps. In the Pakistan side of Kashmir, Maqbool Bhat opposed the rulers for sidelining the struggle with money and power. This gave birth to the plebiscite front and he started a full-fledged campaign for independent Kashmir with the help of Amanullah Khan. During the campaign for a free and undivided Kashmir, he was thrown out of Pakistan. This reminds us of Robert Thorpe, who was also thrown out by Maharaja Hari Singh for his unstinting stand against tyranny. Bhat was also not spared by the beneficiaries of the status quo in the Indian occupied Kashmir. The demand of plebiscite was dumped and the leaders of the plebiscite front became stooges of India.
However, like the great leader, Nelson Mandela, in South Africa, Maqbool too did not give up on his commitment and stood firm. The struggle for freedom from poverty, hunger, and occupation was paramount for him. India tried every opportunity to rope him in, as it did with the rest of the leaders. But India failed in its attempt. Maqbool Bhat was arrested and executed in 1984. Indira Gandhi set aside all the rules and executed him secretly. His family was denied a last meeting and his body was buried in Tihar Jail. India had the false hope that the ray of resistance had been extinguished. Kashmir was, it appeared, settled for all. On that day India only hanged itself, not Maqbool Bhat, as his vision started to gain popularity. It doomed India in Kashmir.
The flag-bearers of Maqbool Bhat’s great vision were Ishfaq Majeed, Burhan Wani, and many more. The generation of Ishfaq Majeed gave a very tough fight to the Indian occupying forces and shook its roots to the core. An era of disobedience and armed resistance started. The Kashmir issue was reborn and the historic promise of plebiscite gained acceptance. Indian legitimacy in the state died completely, except for naked, brutal repression.
In the recent past we have witnessed uprisings in 2008, 2010, and 2016. A complete rebellion against the occupation is on. Now we see the educated and technocratic Kashmiris following the footprints of Maqbool Bhat. The huge shift in the understanding of the people lies in the vision laid by the late leader. Burhan Wani too followed his path and met with a similar fate.
Maqbool Bhat inspired and will continue to inspire us for all times to come. The vision of a powerful perfect leader either ends in glory or at the gallows. But the gallows were a glory for him. He knew it from the beginning that he might not live to see the dawn of freedom and he chose the gallows. But he ignited a dream; the dream of a perfect visionary. The difference between a soldier and a general lies in their understanding of the vision about their dream – Maqbool Bhat was a perfect general of this dream and Burhan Wani was a perfect soldier – although both are martyrs.
Leaders like Maqbool Bhat already envisioned what we will eventually see – freedom, freedom, and freedom.
Dar Wasim is a blogger from Kashmir and can be reached at @payami_ on twitter.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Unmasking the Conflict: Making sense of the recent uprisings in Kashmir’, edited by Idrees Kanth, Leiden University, The Netherlands and Muhammad Tahir, Dublin City University, Ireland.