Sunday, 15 February 2015

How relevant is Maqbool Butt’s struggle today? Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry

How relevant is Maqbool Butt’s struggle today? Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry as a Chief Guest in a Public meeting of Jammu Kashmir Independence National Alliance in Leeds, UK- 15 Feb 2015

Mr Chairman, friends, sisters and brothers aslamo alaikam and very good afternoon.

I want to express my profound gratitude to organisers of this public meeting to pay tribute to Maqbool Butt. Also I feel incredibly honoured to be here as a Chief Guest.

Apart from that I want to congratulate leaders of NLC and NAP for joining hands to continue their struggle. I wish them all the best; and hope that they will continue with the mission of Maqbool Butt with new determination.

As a Chief Guest I may disappoint some people, because I am not here just to praise and say things which organisers of this Conference may like to hear, and audience appreciate. I want to analyse the situation and see what mistakes we are making. I know nobody likes to be criticised. My aim here is not to insult anyone or belittle anyone. I want to say things that will generate discussion; and it is only through discussion and by sharing ideas we can learn and refine our ideas and strategies.
1/ Status of Maqbool Butt
For past so many years you must have heard many speeches eulogising Maqbool Butt; and you also heard some speeches today. I am not sure if I can add anything that will enhance Maqbool Butt’s position further. He has attained his status that perhaps, no one in future will achieve; and that itself is a huge tribute to Maqbool Butt.

Instead of just praising Maqbool Butt, I am more interested in analysing his struggle and see how we can learn lessons from that to move forward; or take the struggle to the next level.

Starting point is that Maqbool Butt was a human being; and no human being is infallible. We all make mistakes; and it must not be contemplated that if we ask questions about his struggle we have committed a sin.

Allah’s best creation Prophet Mohammed Peace Be Upon Him was very strongly criticised and verbally abused many times by his adversaries. He did not use foul language against any of those people. He did not want to bring him down to their level; and instead he prayed for those people.

As Muslims we are taught to respect those who have died; and only remember their good deeds. Those who criticise Maqbool Butt do not tarnish his status; instead they lose respect among Kashmiri nationalists. Maqbool Butt was still alive when some Kashmiri leaders said he was a ‘murderer’ and a ‘bank robber’. To best of my knowledge, Maqbool Butt did not even care to reply to them. His family also did not reply to them. Now people know the status of those who accused him; and status of Maqbool Butt.

Maqbool Butt was a decent human being with very good morals; and if we are true followers of Maqbool Butt then we should avoid using foul language against other people; even against those people who criticise Maqbool Butt. Our beloved Prophet Peace Be Upon Him said best among you are those who have best morals.

I have seen people using social media and print media in Azad Kashmir to humiliate those who have said something about Maqbool Butt which they did not like. Right of expression is a fundamental human right; and no society can progress by curbing the right of expression.

We need to demonstrate that followers of Maqbool Butt are civilised people. They are tolerant and logical people. They can tolerate criticism, and when they feel appropriate they can reply with logic and reasoning. By using foul language against others you are not enhancing status of Maqbool Butt; or promoting his cause.

For example, we know people of Ladakh are not practically part of what we call struggle; and if someone from there says he doesn’t accept Maqbool Butt as a hero or even a Kashmiri leader, are you going to call him an Indian agent and use a foul language against him? If someone from Jammu says Maqbool Butt is not his hero, are you going to castigate him for holding that view?

What about those people from Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and the Valley of Kashmir who do not want an independent Jammu and Kashmir; of course they don’t follow Maqbool Butt and don’t regard him as a hero. Are we going to call them traitors and use a foul language against those millions of people?

If we adopt this strategy then we are not only doing disservice to Maqbool Butt, but we are also very seriously damaging our struggle for unification and independence of Jammu and Kashmir. For an independent Jammu and Kashmir we need to win minds and hearts of people, and we cannot do that by threatening them and by using a foul language.

Remember, as soon as you use a foul language, you have lost your argument; people will feel that you have no logical points left, and you have resorted to a foul language.
Also remember, for united and independent Jammu and Kashmir we need support of people from all regions. We need support from Ladakh, we need support from Jammu, we need support from the Valley of Kashmir, we need support from Gilgit Baltistan and we need support from Azad Kashmir. How can we gain support from people if we continue to insult them and call them ‘traitors’ and ‘agents’ of someone?
We have to meet people from all sections of Jammu and Kashmir, and give our message politely and persuasively. We have to win their minds and hearts by persuading them that their faith, their identity, their culture and their future will be safe in united and independent Jammu and Kashmir.

2/ My experience in Vienna
Mr Chairman, here I want to share my experience with you. About six years ago I was invited to a conference in Vienna, where I was the Chief Guest. My hosts suggested that we should eat dinner in a restaurant owned by a Kashmiri Pundit, and also invite him for the conference. As customers he met us happily and spoke to us very politely. My guests invited him to the conference and introduced me as a former leader of the JKLF.

As soon as he heard this, it looked as if he had touched a naked electric wire. He looked at me angrily, and addressed my host: we have already suffered too much, and please don’t rub salt in our wounds by holding these conferences. I intervened and politely said, brother I can understand you people have suffered, we Muslims have also suffered because of this proxy militancy; and we are trying to rectify things and oppose militancy which has hurt us all.

He angrily interrupted me and said: you were among the leaders of the JKLF, but where were you when we faced death and fear? Where were you when we were expelled from our houses? Where were you when our sisters and daughters were being kidnapped and faced humiliation? Now after nearly two decades you have come to say that you understand our suffering. No, you don’t understand our suffering, because you are not a victim. Only a victim can understand suffering of another victim. We hold you and other JKLF people responsible for our miseries and suffering. I don’t want to discuss with you anything about politics of Jammu and Kashmir. You have come here to eat, order your food, eat and go. He said this and walked away.

It was very embarrassing for us. I personally felt humiliated, but before I say anything unreasonable against him I need to understand that he belonged to a non Muslim Kashmiri community who were uprooted from their homes because of the militancy which some Kashmiris started with support of Pakistan; and sad fact is that many people from Jammu and Kashmir still proudly talk about it.

We need to understand sentiments and view point of other people before we start criticising them. This Kashmiri Pundit held me responsible for his suffering because I was part of the JKLF, even though I and all others in Britain had no role in that militancy.

Mr Chairman
For peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute, we need to meet and interact with civil society of Pakistan and India. We need to persuade them that Jammu and Kashmir is not a territorial dispute; and it cannot be resolved on the principle of give and take. We should tell them that Jammu and Kashmir is one political entity which is divided by force. Moreover, it is not a religious dispute. No matter what is its future, the former Princely State must remain one.

Furthermore, we need to tell them that India and Pakistan cannot decide future of Jammu and Kashmir by use of force. The Kashmir dispute is holding back progress of India and Pakistan. Only viable solution is that Jammu and Kashmir should be made an independent country.

3/ Kashmiri Nationalist Parties
Whether we like it or not, the fact is we are a divided lot. We people of Jammu and Kashmir are deeply divided on religious, cultural, tribal and ethnic lines. And sad thing is that we Kashmiri nationalists are also divided.

There are so many nationalist parties and all of them regard Maqbool Butt as their hero; but tragedy is that they cannot all unite even for one day, and pay respect to their hero. In same town there could be more than one events take place in a day to pay respect to Maqbool Butt; and at times people refuse to share platform even to pay tribute to Maqbool Butt.

This indicates that our loyalty to our small parties, loyalty to posts we hold and loyalty to our regions is stronger than our love for Maqbool Butt and his mission. In this regard, decision of leadership of NLC and NAP should be appreciated. I hope more parties will either merge with each other or join alliances where they feel comfortable.

4/ Strength of Nationalist parties
No matter what we claim on social media and in our speeches, the fact is that our strength is declining. Many leaders and political activists are disillusioned and they have said good bye to politics of nationalism. Many of them have either adjusted themselves with traditional parties or they have started some employment or business.
There was a time when we were able to bring out 2-3 coaches from some towns like Birmingham, Luton and Watford to go to London for demonstrations. Now if we all try we cannot get 3 coaches to go to London for this purpose.
We seriously need to look at this decline and work out appropriate strategies.

5/ Role of Kashmiri youths

Role of young people is extremely important in any struggle. At one time Kashmiri youths were at the forefront of the Kashmiri struggle in Britain and Europe. It is sad to note that Kashmiri youths in Britain and Europe seems to be less attracted to the Kashmiri struggle; and danger is there will be very few people among the Kashmiri Diaspora to continue the struggle in future. We need to pay immediate attention to this matter and work out a strategy to attract the youngsters.

6/ Nationalism
I know people won’t like this, but in my opinion, Kashmiri struggle has not matured yet. Many of us are still confused about nationalism and Muslim nationalism.
Jammu and Kashmir is occupied by three countries, namely India, Pakistan and China, yet our practical struggle is against India only. If we look at history of Jammu and Kashmir from 15 August 1947, when we achieved our sovereignty, it is Pakistan which has damaged us more; and let me give you brief details:

It was Pakistan which violated the Standstill Agreement and stopped essential supplies to Jammu and Kashmir. It was Pakistan which violated the Standstill Agreement and attacked Jammu and Kashmir. They killed innocent people, looted them, kidnapped women, raped them and burnt houses and shops.

It was Pakistan which restricted our right to independence to right of accession either to India or Pakistan. It was Pakistan which refused to withdraw her troops from the Kashmiri territory under its occupation as demanded by the UNCIP Resolution of 13 August 1948.

It was Pakistan which illegally annexed Gilgit Baltistan and deprived so called Azad Kashmir government with right to present Kashmir case before the International community; and even to interact with people of Gilgit Baltistan and have any say in policy formulation regarding these areas.

It was Pakistan which attacked people of Poonch in early 1950s. In this military expedition against people of Poonch in which many innocent people were killed and many were imprisoned.

It was Pakistan which started Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir in 1965, that resulted in India Pakistan war in which thousands of people lost their lives.

It was Pakistan which signed the Tashkent Agreement with India and practically made the Kashmir dispute a bilateral dispute; and subsequent the Simla Agreement practically took away the Kashmir dispute from the UN Security Council because since that date Pakistan never approached the UN Security Council regarding the Kashmir dispute.

The list goes on, however, I want to mention that Pakistani supported militancy in 1988, which resulted in death of more than 70,000 people, it uprooted around half million people, destroyed property worth billions; and sad thing is people of Jammu and Kashmir continue to suffer.

This is not to suggest that India is innocent party in this matter. To me and my party Kashmir National Party, both India and Pakistan are occupiers and we must struggle against both in respective parts. Also India is responsible for our suffering; and failed to honour their obligations and promises made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Apart from that India is responsible for killings of innocent people and human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir; but unlike Pakistan, India did not promote proxy militancy in areas of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by Pakistan.

7/ Ideology and strategy
Mr Chairman, what we need to understand is that Maqbool Butt believed in the ideology of an independent Jammu and Kashmir. He employed strategies to achieve this goal which looked appropriate under the situation of that time – geo political situation of 1960s and 1970s. Those strategies may not be relevant today. Shaukat Maqbool Butt, whom I very much admire, very frankly and bravely acknowledged this fact in Speakers Corner TV programme on last Monday.

So we need to differentiate between an ideology and strategy. We follow the same ideology, but to advance the cause of an independent Jammu and Kashmir we can adopt different strategies which are more relevant to geo political situation of today.

Furthermore, if our struggle is also against injustice, oppression and illiteracy then we have to adopt strategies that are more practical and appropriate today. I come from district Bhimber of Azad Kashmir. Literacy rate and political wisdom is much higher in Rawalakot than in Bhimber. To eradicate illiteracy if I utilise all my resources to open schools and colleges in Rawalakot, and ignore plight of the people in my own area, it will not be appropriate. I can support efforts of people who want to further increase the literacy rate in Rawalakot, but I should use my limited resources to educate people of district Bhimber that they can also join the fight against injustice, oppression and illiteracy.

8/ Afzal Guru and Maqbool Butt
Some people are working hard to present Afzal Guru as an equal to Maqbool Butt if not higher in status; and it is sad that some people who claim to be nationalists also seem to be part of this campaign.

In my opinion there are a few things common between Afzal Guru and Maqbool Butt. Both struggled against India. Both should not have been hanged, but they were hanged by India without satisfying legal requirements. Remains of both were not given to the families of the deceased.  However, Afzal Guru can never become Maqbool Butt, or even reach anywhere near his status because of the nature of their struggle.

Afzal Guru before his arrest was a member of an extremist Pakistani terrorist group; and was instrumental in advancing a Pakistani agenda in Jammu and Kashmir. Whereas Maqbool Butt presented secular and democratic ideals; and he was not member of any Pakistani party or a group. There seems to be some hidden agenda to present Afzal Guru as an equal to Maqbool to undermine his status and struggle; and we need to watch these foot soldiers who are colluding in the campaign.

Nevertheless, we pray that Almighty grant them a place in Heaven.
One Kashmiri political activist said ‘Unity is needed for the liberation of Jammu and Kashmir, but it is not there because of petty interests; and by making emotional speeches and punching in the air on 11 February on stage in front of around 100 people will not win us independence.’

Mr Chairman, I want to conclude with two quotes: Greek Philosopher Aristotle said:
"To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing."
Khalil Gibran, very famous poet and thinker of Lebanon said:
“Pity on a nation which is divided into number of groups and each group calls itself the nation”
Thank you very much for your patience.

No comments: