Who is Maqbool Butt?
Maqbool Butt said in a Special Court of Pakistan: “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 peoples struggle against exploitation and oppression but always actively participated in. I have consciously chosen this role for myself because I see it as Sunnah of Prophets (pbuh) and it is a way of revolutionaries. I have no doubt about the success of this role and the welfare it brings for the people. I cannot refrain from bringing this fact to the notice of this court that apparently only six persons are implicated; the actual motive of this case is to crush our liberation movement.”
Maqbool Butt was born on February 18, 1938 in Trehgam, Kupwara. Even now this place seems to be a hundred years behind with sandy roads, no running water and darkness in the absence of electricity. In these harsh living conditions the pioneer of the Kashmiri Freedom Struggle was born with ideas that were no different than the ideas of other great revolutionaries like Che Guevara, Bhagat Singh and Ho Chi Min.
The Maharaja’s tyrannical feudal system in Kashmir ignited a fire of justice, equality and freedom in his heart and he started to develop his ideological belief that Kashmir should be an independent country as it had been historically and that the whole of South Asia would benefit from such a solution to the dispute. The event that brought Maqbool Butt and the Kashmir Issue in limelight in Kashmir, South Asia and at international level was the hijacking of an Indian Fokker plane ‘Ganga’. Maqbool Butt masterminded the hijacking and chose me for the hijacking and I along with my cousin Ashraf Qureshi hijacked an Indian Airlines plane on 30 January 1971 (Ganga) en route from Srinagar to Jammu and brought the plane to Lahore, Pakistan. The Indian Airlines flight was carrying thirty people including crew members. After landing on Lahore Airport we demanded the release of about two dozen political prisoners of the Jammu Kashmir Nationalist Liberation Front (JKNLF) in Indian prisons, political asylum in Pakistan and guarantee from the Indian Government that there relatives in Srinagar, will not be hurt in anyway.
We and Maqbool Butt were firstly praised as heroes and freedom fighters, but when Pakistan learned that we demanded an independent and sovereign Jammu and Kashmir, which included Pakistan Administered Kashmir as well, Maqbool Butt, Ashraf, I and hundreds of other members of JKNLF were arrested and interrogated in Shahee Qila, Lahore and Dolayee Camp Muzaffarabad. Later six of us were tried in a Special Court of Pakistan under the charges of collaboration with the Indian intelligence services. They were Maqbool Butt, G M Lone, Mir Abdul Qayyum, Mir Abdul Manan and the two hijackers me and my cousin Ashraf Qureshi. The case started in December 1971 and after a long trial in which 1984 prosecuting and 1942 defence witnessed were called was concluded in May 1973.
Maqbool Butt submitted for this case a statement which is arguably the most detailed reflection of his political ideology, excerpt: “I can say without any hesitation that I have not designed any conspiracy nor have I been a part of any group of conspirers. My character has always been transparent and unambiguous. However, I have done one thing and that is the rebellion against ignorance, greed of wealth, exploitation oppression, slavery and hypocrisy. If the ruling class of Pakistan that is a product of imperialism and represented by the bureaucracy and military dictatorship of this country views this as conspiracy then I have no hesitation in accepting the charge”.
Maqbool Butt said in the court: “That freedom and independence is the fate and destination of Jammu Kashmir. Indian rulers or Pakistani generals and bureaucrats cannot enslave Jammu Kashmir for a long time. The so-called courts and their verdicts and decisions did not matter in the past history of national movements and they can’t prevent them in future, otherwise the history of nations would be different from todays. If it would be possible to eliminate the evolution of human civilization, culture, democracy and freedom through traditional kangaroo courts, world history would have been void of all revolutions brought about from Adam to date. National movement’s decisions can never be made in traditional courts, rather their evolution is bound to take place whereas the courts are part and parcel of the system against which the popular movements gain momentum and as a result of that the historic process continuous and the so-called decisions stand obsolete”.
Maqbool Butt along with his students Ashraf and Hashim Qureshi.
After his release Maqbool Butt once again crossed over to the Indian occupied Kashmir in May 1976. Within a few days of crossing they were spotted and arrested by the Indian forces. In 1978 the Indian Supreme Court restored death sentence on Maqbool Butt and he was transferred to Delhi’s Tihar Prison. After eight long years in prison Maqbool Butt was hanged on February 11, 1984 in haste to avenge the killing of an Indian diplomat in Birmingham by then a group ‘Kashmir Liberation Army’.
Maqbool Butt still remains imprisoned in the world’s largest democracy. India was so afraid of his true ideology that they buried him in Tihar prison and still have not returned his mortal remains. The way Maqbool Butt was hanged and his burial was a total abortion of Gandiji’s India’s democratic values, human rights and civil liberties which she claims to hold in high regard.
Maqbool Butt was not a romanticist who just believed in Freedom and gave his life for it. He was an intellectual who had the ability to tackle very complicated problems in such a simple way which bewildered others. His ideology included the social and economic aspects of an Independent and sovereign Jammu and Kashmir. He enjoyed children’s company. He was at his happiest with children. Whenever he found the time he was either playing with them or teaching them about the meaning and benefits of true freedom. Dr. Farooq Haider once said that he remembered his answer to one child who asked him how to be free.
Maqbool Butt told him, “When you can make yourself believe that you are free, you are free.” About Azaadi, which had become a popular word on the streets of Srinagar after his martyrdom but of which no one knew what it actually meant for Kashmir, he said: For us, “Azaadi means not just getting rid of foreign occupation of our beloved motherland but also to remove hunger, poverty, ignorance and disease and to overcome economic and social deprivation. One day, we shall achieve that Azaadi.”
Maqbool Butt also said: “The oppressed one comes out victorious in his fight against the oppressor and the building of oppression has to come down sooner or later because of the revolutionary struggle of the masses of the people and I always stood by the side of downtrodden in their fight and struggle against the exploiters. For me this case against us is not unusual at all. During human history whenever exploitation and slavery are challenged the ruling classes have always relied on the word ‘conspiracy’. But history proves that in the fight of oppressed against oppressors, eventually the former wins and the oppressive structure is crushed by the revolutionary struggle of the people.”
Hashim Qureshi is the Chairman of Jammu Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party. He blogs at hashimqureshi-jkdlp.blogspot.com.