Each month in Jammu Kashmir’s tempestuous political history tells us of nail-biting stories of death and despair but the month of February has distinctive inference in the great Himalayan Country of Jammu Kashmir. Many imperative political and non-political events transpired in the month of February. Some are still remembered and others elapsed with the merciless waves and tides of time but there is one date, which the people of Jammu Kashmir are not likely to disremember or forget for centuries to come. It is on February 11.
On this day in 1984, a well-known Kashmiri revolutionary was sent to the gallows in India. On this day he became the legend of Jammu Kashmir for the present-day political history. He is now known as “an icon of political resistance” for many Kashmiri political groups across the divided Himalayan Country. His name is Maqbool Butt.
He was the very first political warrior who got the death sentence for the ongoing liberation struggle and due to his grand and noble stature among the masses across Jammu Kashmir, the forces of denials and cynics are dubbing his political philosophy and patching it for their own trivial interests.
Many of his political comrades and innovators of the resistance movement in Jammu Kashmir are no more alive and unfortunately, the younger generation cannot find much in written form to understand his political ideology. All those who had the opportunity to meet him remained faithful to his ideology unto the last breath of their life.
His political character, visionary approach and passionate wisdom made him a charismatic and so dynamic personality that his name enshrines aloud and higher than the Himalayas in the echoes of resistance across Jammu Kashmir.
His chronicled statements in the courts of Pakistan and India, speeches and contents of the letters to his family and friends which he wrote from the prisons are ample to understand his political wisdom. In the 1970s while facing the charges of conspiracy against Pakistan at Lahore Special Court he made it very clear by stating that “Call it a coincidence or tyranny of the conditions, I have to stand today in this special court under a special order to defend the charges which are baseless and false. More appropriately these charges are the creation of a mind that is enemy of the freedom of my country and a cruel joke with the people of Jammu Kashmir who are fighting for liberation.
History has given the verdict against those conditions and self-acclaimed rulers of Pakistan who have made me stand in this witness box. This verdict of history is so clear that no further explanation is needed. It has drawn a clear line between us and our hypocrite opponents. I take this proceeding as a compliment for myself and my comrades as future generations will have no confusion about our identity.”
In the above statement, he drew the distinctive line between the mass resistance in Jammu Kashmir and propaganda of Pakistani establishment by calling them “enemy of freedom of my country and hypocrite opponents”. He further left it to history to judge his political character and made it clear to future generations of Jammu Kashmir to have no confusion about their political identification. He clearly aligned himself with the freedom movement of his people instead of surrendering himself at the mercy of mighty powers.
During the same hearing at Lahore Special Court, 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, capitalism, exploitation, corruption, cruelty, and hypocrisy. If the ruling class of Pakistan, which is a product of the imperialist system and is represented by the civil and military bureaucracy, call it conspiracy then I have no hesitation to accept it.”
This part of the statement was very much connected to his political philosophy where he attacked all sets of exploitation and considered both capitalism and imperialism as the root cause of all the wrongdoings. By calling Pakistani rulers “a product of the imperialist system” he connected himself with the international movements against slavery and exploitation across continents to overthrow colonialism and capitalism by achieving national liberation and establishing the form of governments free from all kinds of exploitation.
Maqbool Butt knew that a revolutionary movement can only be successful when it is connected with the other movements across the globe having the same political ingredients. The 1960s and 70s were incontrovertibly the decades of national liberation and fight for social and economic justice across the continents. Therefore, it was obvious for a visionary like Maqbool Butt to be influenced by the great revolutionaries of the world like Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, Ahmed Bin Bela, Yassar Arafat and others, who were winning against colonialism and capitalism.
Therefore, while making his statement in Lahore Special Court, Pakistan, he profoundly declared “during martial regimes, the armed struggles of Palestine, Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba and other African countries were presented as negative. The military rulers of Pakistan never supported a peoples’ armed struggle in Kashmir. They hated it as much as the Muslims of the early period hated pig meat. It is this hatred of military rulers towards peoples’ armed struggle, which has made me and my comrades the target of brutal torture and humiliation.”
By inter-connecting the mass resistance in Jammu Kashmir and across the globe, he raised his stature from being a nationalist to a progressive internationalist who cared for and supported the international movements for liberation and justice. And considered the resistance in Jammu Kashmir as the part and parcel of international movements against slavery, subjugation, exploitation and imperialism.
Thus very rightly highlighted the “clash of classes” by challenging the ruling class of the region and categorically thrashing the class bonds between the ruling class of the region and across the globe.
His political philosophy and his profound ideological connection with the history of resistance and international movements is very much clear in this part of his own statement; “during human history whenever exploitation and slavery are challenged the ruling classes have always relied on the word ‘conspiracy’. But the history proves that in the fight of oppressed against oppressors, eventually the former won and the oppressive structure is crushed by the revolutionary struggle of the people.
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.”
This statement was made by Maqbool Butt when cold-war between two rivals was at peak across the globe and revolutionary camp was winning national liberations by aligning themselves with the Soviet Union. Revolutionaries were not only overthrowing colonialism but they were also dumping off the rotten “government systems” in their respective countries. Therefore, Maqbool Butt challenged to the judges of the court in Lahore by saying that “If the struggle for freedom was to be stopped by the court rulings there would have been hardly any free nation on earth today.
If the evolution of civilization, democracy and freedom was to be prevented by the existing judicial or administrative system no revolution would have taken place from the beginning of history. Decisions about the movements for welfare and freedom of people are not made in the existing courts, instead, it is the process of human history which gives the verdict on these government institutions. For the courts, themselves are the product of the system that these movements are aimed to change.”
He was undoubtedly a practical man and not only the man of words. He believed in guerilla warfare to execute his political ideology because he was living in an era when Guerilla Warfare was used as a tool of resistance. He was well connected to his period of time and took all the necessary steps which were the norms of his time. He knew the paradigms of his political struggle and executed all the necessary measures to promote the concept of freedom among the suffering people of Jammu Kashmir.
He was also well aware that the road to freedom always has impediments and is not an easy task rather a rocky road ahead. Therefore, he advised his nation by saying that “It is easy to talk about freedom. But it needs a lot more courage and patience to fight for freedom. This is the path where every turn is full of tests.”
He was a courageous warrior not only in political spheres also in the legal ones while defending the charges against him in Indian and Pakistani courts. When an FIR was lodged against him at Police Station Panzala, Indian held Kashmir (F.I.R. 38/66) charging Maqbool Butt with the murder of Amar Chand (a CID officer) and an agent of enemy (Pakistan), Maqbool Butt courageously replied to Judge Neil Kant Ganjo that “he accepts the charges of being an enemy of India for the reason that it had occupied my motherland; Mr Justice “Call me an enemy I will accept the charges but remove the word agent as it is a disgrace to my political struggle for the liberation of my motherland”
He is also referred to as saying ‘If Indian authorities of occupation think that by hanging me they can crush the Kashmir struggle they are mistaken. The struggle actually will start after my hanging.”
He always not only encouraged his companions rather warned them of opportunists within their own ranks by saying that “You go through such stages where your own friends on whom you relied, say no longer know you, of course for their own vested interests. They, even, leave you and make alliances with enemies. The struggle is the best criteria to judge not only who is for and against the truth, but also to expose the hypocrites. It is not for freedom fighters to complain about the difficulties they face.”
After his arrest in Indian occupied Jammu Kashmir in 1966, he forthrightly argued to the court questions. When asked by the court that he had illegally crossed over the ceasefire line from POK without lawfully obtaining the entry permit, he replied “he did not think it necessary to obtain a permit for moving around in his own country because to him the State of Jammu Kashmir is one country whether it is occupied by India or Pakistan”
When asked by a journalist during the last days of his life about his successes and failures he unequivocally replied that “one cannot evaluate the failures and successes during his lifetime, if that was the case then Karl Marx and Jesus Christ would have been two failed leaders because they both had very little following during their life.”
He left a very solid message for his nation by declaring that “it is my faith that the dawn of freedom will fall in my country and the line of division will be trodden upon. This will be the time when facts about my life will come out. Only then I will get justice and this will be done in the court of history. That day my people will know the reality of the allegations, by both the Indian and Pakistani rulers against me, of being an agent of India or Pakistan.”
It is now up to the younger generations of this divided Himalayan country of Jammu Kashmir who love to carry his portraits while chanting for “Azadi” whether they understand the real meanings of “Azadi”, Maqbool Butt sacrificed his life for? If they understand, then they definitely need to rebel against obscurantism, slavery, capitalism, exploitation, corruption, cruelty, and hypocrisy.
To him, Azadi never meant only a liberated land, rather he stood for the real Azadi where his people could have that real freedom as many nations on the face of the earth have. He was not an adventurist or Mujahid as many still perceive him but a visionary political leader who stood firm for the idea of human freedoms based upon justice and equality.