Maqbool Butt: Life and struggle

His glory lies in the fact that he was a loner Legacy


I was at my friend’s computer centre, editing a poster of Shaheed Maqbool Butt (R.A.), a young boy in his twenties from Srinagar was also working on other computer. While working he was keenly watching us finalizing the poster bearing a photograph of Maqbool Butt. With some hesitation he asked me. Brother who is this man? I looked at him…surprised; you don’t know this man, I asked. No sir, he replied. ‘He is Shaheed Maqbool Butt, the first Kashmiri hanged by India for demanding 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 carry the legacy known as Maqbool Bhat to you. Similarly once 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 Srinagar café. During discussions the movement of Indian liberation, creation of Pakistan, movements of Algeria, Palestine, Ikhwan Ul Muslimeen of Egypt came up and my young friend seemingly knew much about these movements. Suddenly I posed a question to him. Have you read any thing about Maqbool Butt? His answer was shocking, 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 Butt to these young fellows. This is the story of today’s Kashmir. Our youth have lost connection with our nearest history. Only 30 years have passed since Maqbool Butt was hanged in Tihar jail and of these years we have had an active freedom struggle for 26 years now. Isn’t it ironical that every year since 1988, we have observed 11th February as Maqbool Butt 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 an article to sum up Maqbool’s life and struggle. Millions of Kashmiris admire him as a hero and lakhs sacrificed lives for his dream. But as a matter of fact Maqbool Butt still remains an unsung hero. We the people claiming to follow him know nothing about him. His intellect, his fiery speeches, bold arguments, journalistic abilities, his politics, struggle and martyrdom; we are absolutely unaware of him.  Recently  some young researchers in a pursuit of preparing a document on Maqbool Bhat took up this challenge and tried  to meet some persons who have had connection with Maqbool Bhat.  I had the privilege of watching some videos they had recorded. The friends and companions talking about Maqbool Bhat. I was surprised to know that Maqbool Butt 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 and 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’.
 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. Relentless struggle for freedom was his objective.
    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 worldwide. 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 occupation in Kashmir. Have a good look at me and recognize me full well, I am the enemy of your illegal rule in Kashmir’.
  Maqbool Butt was a good Muslim, seeking guidance from Qoran, 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 Butt’s 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 Butt strived for. Yes Maqbool’s sacrifice has lit 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 dream of freedom , lakhs 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.”
The Writer Can Be Reached At [email protected]