The Leader: Maqbool Butt

Nations survive because of that (strong) spirit, that abiding passion for liberty, which according to our Holy Prophet (pbuh), “emboldens one to recite the Kalima-e-Tawheed (the call for truth) before a tyrant, and that too with the conviction that this is the greatest Jihad” (Maqbool Bhat)

Of all the heroes in Kashmir’s struggle for freedom, Maqbool Bhat stands out.  From a Village in Trehgam to the Jails of Lahore and Tihar, He was the first Kashmiri to be jailed in both India and Pakistan.  He chose to be uncompromising on his principle of Independence of Kashmir on the both sides of the divide. He was hanged in Tihar under controversial circumstances on 11 February 1984.

What was more important than his life, were his messages that he left for the people of Kashmir. Those messages are still relevant in the struggle.  He remarked that the struggle of Kashmir is of Kashmiris and its future will be decided by Kashmiris alone. He objected to the parleys shared by two strangers to Kashmir and its people. While it was the people of Kashmir who were being suppressed and suffering from the miseries of occupation, India and Pakistan chose to promote their own interests instead of Kashmir.

For this very reason where he chose to promote Kashmir’s interests, he was treated as an enemy by both countries who allegedly worked for Kashmir’s benefits.  He said to the people of Kashmir “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”.

Since so many years, Kashmiri leadership has been seeking sympathies from nations which are themselves involved in occupations and invasions. This is not only illogical, immoral but also foolish at times. Maqbool wanted Kashmiris to lead Kashmir not delegate their struggle to any ideology or any nation. The fight is of Kashmiris and only they will fight and die for it. He not only talked, he remained steadfast on his words. This eventually led him to the gallows.

Today, we lack a leader who stands with the people and shuns the notion of gaining sympathy through self-pity. When all one observes is a cluster of persons spending most of their energies in politicking, ego, and exaggerating their status in that cluster.

While they engage themselves in muck-racking and trying to become a bigger leader than the other. The people tend to lose their faith in such leadership which is in chaos. The leadership itself is divided, thus dividing the people. While Maqbool stressed on self-belief in the abilities of the people of Kashmir to send waves of change and stress on overthrowing the conflict.

Look at Egypt or Tunisia.  Even though they didn’t have the situation like Kashmir’s, they chose to ignore the calls of pessimism from the people. The people stood up for their nation without the leaders. While as the people remained steadfast with their self-belief, the leadership supported their cause and did not try to hijack it or brand it as their movement. It became a people’s movement and remained people’s movement without somebody painting them different colours.

The people of Kashmir need to revive the spirit of Maqbool. The leaders who position themselves to flag-bearers need to understand the notion of change and involve the stead-fastness of Maqbool in their leadership.  They need to be at the fore-front of the struggle not just give diktats through press statements.

While the grave of Maqbool still awaits his return, Kashmiris need to revive the spirit and legacy of Maqbool in their struggle.

Kahaan tu soya Khabar Nahee

Khabar Nahee Qabar Nahee

Maggar yeh Bandey Nisar Tere

Karor dil hein mazaar tere  (M Yameen)

(Where have you slept, don’t know

There is no news, No grave

But these people will die for you

For in every heart lies your shrine)


First Published on: The Kashmir Walla


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