Maqbool Bhat is easily the preeminent icon of Kashmir's movement for Azadi. The story of his life and death has fired up the imaginations of generations of Kashmiris as, indeed, have his ideas and ideals.
Maqbool Bhat was born in Trehgam, Kupwara, on February 18, 1938. While studying for a Master’s in Urdu at the University of Peshawar, he worked as a sub-editor with the Pakistani newspaper Anjaam to meet his financial needs. In 1965, he plunged into revolutionary politics, establishing the Plebiscite Front, Azad Jammu Kashmir, along with Abdul Khaliq Ansari of Mirpur and Amanullah Khan of Gilgit. He later also co-founded the National Liberation Front, which was meant to act as the armed wing of the Plebiscite Front. For his staunch advocacy of Kashmiri nationalism, he suffered imprisonment and torture in both Indian and Pakistani jails. On February 11, 1984, Maqbool Bhat was hanged in India’s Tihar Jail and secretly buried there.
The following is the speech he delivered at the 1969 Convention of the Plebiscite Front in Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu Kashmir.
Our fundamental philosophy is that we must fight for independence irrespective of whether someone grants us permission to do so or not. Bear in mind that we have assumed a great responsibility and so we need not bother whether any entity supports or opposes our struggle. We believe it is our duty to fight for our independence. We might not get permission from Pakistan to do so but I believe that once we prove our mettle, demonstrate that we have the capacity and capability to fight for our country’s independence and remain armed with a firm resolve to pursue our mission, it is unlikely that the Pakistani establishment would become a hurdle in our road to freedom. You complain that Pakistan does not trust Kashmiris. I think the Pakistani government is not sincere regarding Kashmir. The biggest reason for this is our failure as a nation or as a party to prove our capabilities, our
To support my argument, I would like to provide three examples. When the Algerians started their war for independence, they initially faced opposition from all Arab countries. Only a person whose home is destroyed is motivated to fight, the one living in peace or unaffected by war does not. It is a matter of common observation. So, when the Algerians started their war of liberation, the Arab countries did not support them. In fact, the Arab states opposed them. Some Arabs even stood with the French against the Algerians. But when the Algerians took to the battlefield, they did so without bothering to calculate if Iraq was going to support them or not, whether Shah Saud was going to be on their side or not, or for that matter if the government of Morocco was going to provide them refuge or not. The Algerians showed that they were ready to kill or get killed. It did not matter whether the Arabs would shoot at them, or show enmity or support them. When the Algerians stood in the battlefield, the same Arabs who had earlier opposed them felt compelled to follow them, to extend them their support and to reserve funds in their national budgets for the Algerian struggle.
We also have the recent example of Fatah, of the Palestinian people. You know that when Al-Fatah started its struggle, it was opposed by all Arab countries. They were opposed by Egypt’s president Nasir, King Hussain of Jordan and Lebanon. At one point, only one member of Fatah was in Israeli custody whereas some four hundred of its fighters, Mujahideen, were lodged in a Jordanian prison in Amman. But when a nation rises, governments are unable to create impediments in its path. The only necessary condition is that a nation must be willing to realise its aspirations and to fight its war of liberation.
If you join our struggle today, it is quite possible that you will land up in prison. Today two people might be imprisoned. Tomorrow ten would be put behind the bars. The day after, there would be thirty. Then there would be a hundred and later, two hundred. If two hundred people end up in jail and despite that ten other people are ready to jump into the battlefield, the Government of Pakistan would be forced to aid and support us. You are mistaken if you believe that you would gain the trust of anyone by making political speeches or passing resolutions. If we demonstrate that we can fight our war of liberation, have the ability to fight a prolonged war, I strongly believe that the Government of Pakistan might not want to support us in the first place but it would be morally obliged to extend its support. It would be pressurised by the people of Pakistan to support our struggle.
My submission to you is that you cannot convince a country to support you in a war by mere words, by pleading, seeking permission or by begging. Only by plunging into the battlefield can you expect to gain support from other nations. The logic is simple: if I do not exhibit any intention of occupying my own house then my neighbour is not ever going to help me to take control of it. When I force my entry into the house, my neighbour might be obliged to help me. But as long as I am not ready myself, not willing to stand on my own, nobody is going to help me. I am asked, “Sir, how is it going to be possible?” My answer is that you jump into the fray. You enter the field and then you can see for yourself if anyone supports you or not. For one’s identity, you need to do a lot of bargaining. When our nation stands united and collectively jumps into the field, my firm belief is that not only Pakistan but every nation which values the freedom of other nations will be ready to offer you aid and support.
Here, a member of the audience asks a question: You would require capital to fight Kashmir’s war of independence. How are you going to get the financial resources? Who is going to provide you the resources?
Maqbool Bhat replies: I have already submitted to you that the war of liberation cannot
The views, opinions and perspectives presented in this translated speech are Maqbool Bhat's own.