Eleventh February is remembered as Maqbool Butt’s death anniversary. Every year demonstrations are held in many parts of world. His followers and the people of Kashmir demand the return of his remains from Tihar Jail, where he is buried, to Kashmir. Kashmiri groups, on both sides of the dreaded line of control and all over the world, remember him well. After five years Young men in early twenties, and some younger than that crossed over to Pakistan-held Kashmir in late eighties to return as armed guerrillas and started the armed movement in Kashmir. Yasin Malik was one among them who crossed over and returned as an armed guerrilla. He gave up arms in the year 1994 and opted for non-violent struggle to fight for the self-determination of Jammu and Kashmir. Malik was born in 1963 in a modest Kashmir household of Maisuma in the centre of Srinagar. He is married to the artist Mushal Malik. On a February morning, a few days ago, The Kashmir Walla Editor, Fahad Shah went to Yasin Malik’s house in Maisuma and talked to him about Maqbool Butt.
Excerpts from the interview.
What is Maqbool Butt’s ideology as per you?
Maqbool Sahib wanted to give Kashmir an independent map. As Kashmir has a powerful civilization, history and it has been as a country, Maqbool sahib had that dream. He would pursue that dream. He was intellectually very rich, a statesman, a politician, and a great freedom fighter.
When did you first time heard of him?
I heard about this person when it was the day of his hanging. I was a young boy then. I read about it in a newspaper. I tried to enquire who he was. Next year in 1985 there was a strike and we played a big role in it as we were students that time. Maqbool Sahib is the first and only person in the history of Kashmir who has been hanged for the Kashmir dispute, on the basis of a politically motivated judgement.
However in 1975 when Indira-Abdullah accord takes place at that time he was a political leader of two organisations. But at that time he feels that my nation needs a soldier to put life in the Kashmir dispute. He crossed border and came here (Kashmir). He was arrested and put in jail, in a death cell, for seven years. Then he was hanged to death and buried in the Tihar Jail. Indian State felt that he was a single voice so now we have put it off but his hanging became a great inspiration especially for the youth of Kashmir. Maqbool Butt was born in every house. For freedom struggle, he is a beacon light and he will remain a beacon light. He will become father of nation for all times to come.
What impressed you to join Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front only?
I was not at that time in JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front). I was in Students League. I joined JKLF later in 1988. I was a student at SP (Sri Pratap) College. I was general secretary of Student’s League for many years. I joined JKLF in 1988 when we started armed struggle.
He suffered at the hands of both India and Pakistan. Do you think both the countries didn’t want his ideology to flourish?
I told you that Maqbool Butt was an intellectual, a statesman, a freedom fighter. States always feel uncomfortable with these kinds of people. But he was a great human being too; I was myself in the Tihar jail in the same death cell. When I heard from people, even from the jail staff, he had become an inspiration for jail staff also. He has many well-wishers in Pakistan. He is now the most respected person among the people there. In India also, he has many well-wishers. He is known as the much respected freedom fighter.
Today the JKLF is divided into parts. Why did that happen when the founder is same?
I don’t think JKLF is divided. It was divided when Amanullah Khan Sahib’s group was separate but now the reunification took place.
Was there any role of National Conference party when JKLF started armed rebellion?
I will write my autobiography, I will give all the details of how armed struggle started.
…are you writing your biography?
Yes I am writing.
Maqbool Butt was not welcomed by Pakistan. When you went there for training as a JKLF cadre, what response you got?
It is not true that he was always unwelcomed. The prime minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had many meetings with him. He was a respected person. But as you know sometimes state doesn’t feel comfortable with you.
…how did Pakistan saw you?
They saw us as freedom fighters.
Maqbool Butt believed religion should not decide the politics of Kashmir. Do you believe same?
That is what our religion teaches us. Our religion doesn’t teach us to spread hatred. We are Muslims. We have right to follow our own faith and here in Jammu and Kashmir other faiths who are living here have right to follow their own faiths. So this is what our religion teaches us. In this matter we are following our own religion… (Phone rings)
…so it’s the religion which teaches it. JKLF never believes that people should be divided on the basis of religion?
It is not matter of division. I say the people who are living here, they belong to different faiths. We as Muslims have right to follow our own faith and other people who belong to other faiths they have right to follow their own faith. This is what our religion teaches us. So in this matter we are following what the prophet Muhammad (saw) told us.
Maqbool Butt’s remains are still in Tihar Jail. What is your party doing to get them back?
Every year we are demanding his remains. On this 11 February we are again going for demonstrations all over the world. So the demand is same. People in Kashmir want his remains back.
Mabool Butt was for freedom of Jammu and Kashmir from both India and Pakistan. What will you choose if there will be Plebiscite and you have to choose only between the two of the nations?
Our stand is very much clear, we want independent Kashmir. Simultaneously we want let the people be given a free choice whether they want to go with India, go with Pakistan or want to remain as independent. What the people will decide we will accept their verdict wholeheartedly.
Seeing Butt’s love for all religions he would have never said Kashmiri Pandits should leave. Still JKLF and you personally are accused of killing and migration of Kashmiri Pandits. Did that happen?
We still believe Kashmiri Pandits are part and parcel of Kashmiri society. They have every right to live here. More than 7000 Kashmiri Pandits are presently living here. It is unfortunate that many people got migrated from this place. I have personally visited migrant camps in Jammu and Udhampur. I hope and have faith that they will come back and live in their own homes with respect and dignity.
Do you think killings happen in 90s as they call it “genocide” and state reports say that 209 Kashmiri Pandits were killed?
I have said many times. In Delhi also when they accused me, I said if you have just one point proof I will give up the politics. So without going now into what they say and what they said lets speak now the good things. The good thing is we want them back and they should come back.
Is Maqbool Butt your idol?
Maqbool Butt is the inspiration for the Kashmiri youth. He is the only person who was hanged for the Kashmir cause. He will remain the inspiration for the Kashmiri people.