The early years of Maqbool Bhatt’s life, like thousands of other Kashmiris were shaped by the harsh living conditions under the Dogra regime. It was the feudal system of the regime in Kashmir that made him participate in a political action against suppression, occupation and lead the fight for equality, freedom and social justice.
Baba-e-Qaum Shaheed Muhammad Maqbool Bhat, who was the first person to raise his voice for an Independent Kashmir and advocated that the leadership of the struggle must be in the hands of Kashmiris was hanged by the Indian Government on 11 February, 1984.
However, his vision for the future of Kashmir will live forever. Lost Kashmiri History reproduces below a letter from Maqbool Bhat to Mian Sarwar, a political activist in Srinagar in 1981.
From Tihar Jail, New Delhi dated 7th August, 1981
To Mian Sarwar, a political activist in Srinagar
I received your letter of 27th July a few days ago. Believe me, that epistle of love and the attached newspaper clippings have doubled the joy of Eid for me. Not only because of the sincere affection that you have expressed for me, which I shall always treasure but because in my long incarceration this is the first letter that I have received from my homeland upon which malign fate has foisted the oppression and occupation of India.
I have to say that into this desolate dungeon, your letter has brought me a hopeful message of life. You cannot possibly imagine what a man who has been cut off by force of circumstance from his countrymen, goes through. The pain and anguish that this isolation nourishes becomes all the more intense when one thinks of all those who have dreamt of a free homeland and dedicated their lives to the realization of that dream.
Jean Paul Sartre has thus described the (deterioration of the) relationship between tormentors and the tormented:
‘The end of communication is the beginning of all violence; where communication stops, beating, burning and hanging takes place’. For the fulfillment of my desire for my land and my people, I have gone through ‘the beating and the burning’ at the hands of those that deny the truth. Having failed to break my spirit, only ‘hanging’ is left for them to try.
May the Almighty strengthen my resolve and fortitude and bestow upon me the patience that I may not waver in this final test.
I accept your affection and sincerity, but I certainly do not deserve the praise that you shower upon me. To stand up to and defy the standard bearers of tyranny is the greatest honour of humanity. The history of ripping off from tyrants their democratic robes’ and exposing their monstrosity is as old as the history of man. This glorious chapter of our history has been luminescent for centuries. We have never had, nor shall ever have, a dearth of heroes, who as moths embrace the flame, are ever ready to lay down their lives for liberty. It is a different matter that on several occasions during our struggle, we have faced a situation of ‘Yeh Nadaan Gir Gayey Sajdoon Mein Jab Waqt-e-Qayaam Aaya’ (when the test came the fools started praying instead of standing up) because of a compromising attitude of some of our comrades or again because of the machinations of some opportunists. But such temporary phases are common in the history of nations. They can never achieve permanence.
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”.
I have never considered myself apart from this struggle for freedom that our people have embarked upon. In spite of my weaknesses and infirmities, I have tried my best to discharge my responsibilities. In this never-ending conflict between truth and falsehood, those who respond to their conscience and identify themselves with the standard bearers of truth, covet no rewards and desire no praise. This long and trying struggle sees many crests and troughs. The passage of time and unfavorable circumstance may affect its intensity but cannot put an end to it. It is the greatest duty of every upholder of truth to continue this struggle in all its intensity. Negligence can only lead to a state where not only does humanity lose the purpose and meaning of our existence but slows down that current of noble deeds that has sustained prophets and those that revolutionized human life. We can not claim to belong to that category of benefactors of humanity, but in spite of our vulnerability we can benefit by following their example. As long as the gloomy night of oppression hovers over us, we have to go on illuminating the scaffolds and gallows with our heads.
I am convinced that only those who struggle with a firmness of faith, enjoining truth and patience can deliver humanity from a fearful disaster. Pray that the Almighty Allah include us amongst righteous. It is possible that you (may well) be bored with what I have written in a spate of emotions, but you can understand that except for my ideas and feelings, I have nothing that I can bequeath to those who remember me.
You have mentioned your efforts to get my ‘sentence’ reduced; I express my gratitude to you. You have based your efforts on the premise that the ‘crimes’ that I have been accused of are a result of my political convictions. What were these crimes? How were they investigated? How was the case against me framed? And in the process, how were law and justice torn to shreds? Who played what role in this farce? What manipulations took place to get me liquidated? All this shall remain a mystery for now! A whole book is required to narrate the full (story); a letter is all too brief for the task. I am certain that the time shall soon come, when I shall recount the facts of this so-called case (against me) in people’s court. If the local administration feels that the requirements of law and justice have been met, why are the proceedings not being made public?
The press clippings attached with your letter have made me aware of the public outcry evoked by the proposed decision to carry execute the ‘sentence’ against me. Please convey my gratitude to all leaders, eminent citizens, organizations and institutions that have played a principal role in this.
By the grace of God, I am in perfect health. I spend my time with forbearance in this ‘death-cell’, where I was shifted to in the last week of May this year. Since then I have not been back to the security ward where I was incarcerated for the past five years, I feel that the government has not reviewed the decision to carry out the sentence. So things are as they were. Let us see which way the wind blows.
To you, and through you, to all my countrymen, my regards.
Soliciting your prayers,
Mohammad Maqbool Butt