“For us, Azadi (independence) 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 Azadi.”
The man, who quoted this statement, worked and lived for it his whole life and on February 11 1984, that man was hanged at Tihar Jail leaving his countrymen to work for the same. 29 years since the hanging of Maqbool Butt, Kashmir’s are still deprived of Azadi and continue to be ignorant, face economic and social prejudice and still have an empty grave of the person who made the motto of his life to make Kashmiris independent. The epitaph is there at Srinagar’s Martyrs Graveyard (Eidgah) but the deceased is not resting there in peace. People of Kashmir have a grave ready for their leader but generations have passed over these three decades and yet New Delhi is adamant on giving back the mortal remains of the Maqbool Butt.
Over the years the people of Kashmir have been fighting for the cause shown by Maqbool Butt. Besides the continuous struggle for the Right to self determination, getting back the remains of Maqbool Butt has been the everlasting demand of his family, pro-freedom leaders and the people of Kashmir. Even the pro Indian politicians of Kashmir favoured the demand. As the years passed by the demand is just raised around his martyrdom anniversary. These three decades mean that entire new generation has replaced themselves as youth of Kashmir, most of them yet to born on that fateful day, meaning Maqbool Butt is known to them by reading from books or if the parents cared, hearing from them. But do the youth care about who Maqbool Butt is, his mortal remain in Delhi and do they want it back.
The demand is just heard around 11 February each year with a strike call and few seminars. There is active social campaigning by the youth on the social networking sites but find less audience. Sharing his views on the issue Mohammad Younus, a B.Tech student at IUST Kashmir points out that youth nowadays don’t know about such a great personality saying, “He raised his voice to break the shackles of oppression and was martyred in doing so. Now it is the responsibility of youth of Kashmir not only to take his mission to end but also ensure that his remains are bought back as it is the fundamental and constitutional right of every person. Only a handful of youth know about him and it is painful. Youth need to be taught about such great personality and made sure that they don’t forget that his remains are still out there.” Suggesting that the students and intellectuals not only in Kashmir but outside the state should become more pro active Younus adds, “Rigorous campaigning about the issue will help us and besides people need to work for his cause and make sure his last rites are performed respectfully at home keeping their ideological differences at bay.”
Mufti Arfan Farooqi, a 10th class student at Delhi Public School, saying he knew about Maqbool Butt but cared little for his mortal remains. But the thought of Maqbool Butt’s mother changed his mind. “The anguish and the pain of her mother comes before my eyes, her lasting desire to see his body, one last hug, one last kiss made me feel the importance of body of a martyr of this blood soaked valley”, says Arfan Farooqi. The guilt of selfishness reminds Arfan what if she was his mother and he his brother. Arfan laments that, “Every person who stood for the Kashmiris met the same fate and those who fought are untraceable.” Believing that he has no expectations on this issue from the Government, Arfan says, “I hardly believe that the state or central government will do anything about the issue. They just create illusions for the people and the mute spectating world.” Arfan adds, “Maqbool Butt did his job as a perfect moomin, not caring for the power and money, now it is our duty to give every respect to the man.”
Cohering similar views Bushra Rather, a Science student of Kashmir University, feels Kashmiris failed from saving him from hanging and now failed him by being unable to get his mortal remains back. Anguished and pained for the delay in getting back his remains Bushra says, “It has been like ages and still we are unable to lay him in the soil of which he was proud. We Kashmiris especially youth protest for few days and then resume our routine work whenever such incidents happen. We lack persistence and that has cost us not being unable to bury the Father of our struggle.” Bashing out at government Bushra says, “They kill us at their own will but they have no right to snatch our dead bodies or is that too much to ask in the so called democratic setup.” Believing it is now or never, Bushra urged the youth to be concerned about this matter as this might be the last chance to get the remains as the future generation may not even know him.
Advocating that every person has a right to be buried at his homeland, Daniyal Bashir a Kashmiri Civil Engineering student at Malaysia stresses that, “Maqbool Butt is a prominent figure of struggle and getting his remains back is important for every Kashmiri. They are afraid of handing it over because of the revolt that will happen.” Daniyal feels there needs to be strong on ground work if we want to get back his remains, from social activism to taking on streets. “Mass awareness is must, we can also appeal amnesty international supported by strong protests.” says Daniyal adding that it is useless to expect anything from state or central government.
Recent album by Mc Kash, a famous rapper from Kashmir, Rebel Rebuplik gave youth a chance to know about Maqbool Butt. The cover of album had the stamp of Republic of Kashmir with Maqbool Butt’s picture on it and in one of the tracks was Maqbool Butt’s letter addressing his local aide in Kashmir sent from Tihar jail. These endeavours made sure that Maqbool Butt is still remembered among the local youth.
The general perception of the youth is they feel this might be their last chance as the people tend to forget the ones who laid their lives for the cause, sceptical of the future kids who might not even know who he was. Maqbool Butt may also be given the title of Che of Kashmir, but that doesn’t help, neither for the cause he worked for nor for the respectable grave his family is looking for. Vigorous efforts are the need of hour to get his remains back. Maqbool but did his job and it is we who need his grave here in Kashmir rather than at Tihar Jail as a symbol of resistance, dignity and sacrifice. The grave awaits Maqbool Butt and Maqbool Butt awaits his grave, grave of his cherished land for whose people he laid his life.