Beyond Gallows Afzal's hanging is not just an event, but a history in itself

Sometimes, letters speak more than volumes of books. On Saturday, February 9, I was one amongst the millions- shell-shocked on hearing about ‘surreptitious’ execution of Muhammad Afzal Guru in Tihar Jail. I had never seen the man but suddenly I struck a bond with him – a deeper bond. Perhaps millions across the state struck a bond with him with same intensity.  My eyes soaked and my heart mourning, I stumbled across a bunch of published letters sent from death cell by Muhammad Maqbool Butt, founding leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front to his friends, compatriots, comrades and family members. These letters provide an insight into fortitude, foresightedness and courage of conviction of this giant of a man, an ‘intellectual’ and a Spartacus in his own right.    In early seventies, my teacher at University Father Mcmohan had told me about the iconic figure that “he was a genius student at St. Joseph School Baramulla, I looked forward for doing something extraordinary.” 

In July 17, 1981 letter, from death cell he wrote to his friend, “The greatest manifestation of humanity is to rise against bondage and oppression, to fight against despots, to tear apart façade of democracy of the usurpers and expose its monstrosity. People organizing themselves against oppression are as old as human history and it has been a scintillating chapter of our own history. In our land, there has been no lack of lovers of freedom ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause of freedom in the past nor there will be in future…It is my belief, in the battle of truth and falsehood, those who identify themselves with the standard-bearers of truth do not crave for recognitions and decorations.”

In this letter, he shares with his friend how ‘justice was torn to shreds’ during his trial and how a ‘drama’ was enacted to see him guillotined. The hanging of Muhammad Afzal Guru seemed replicating of the ‘macabre enacted’ twenty-nine years back in the same jail. The execution of Guru has not only caused anger in Kashmir but it has caused ripples almost everywhere. Score of articles by eminent lawyers, analysts and journalist have not only questioned the fairness of the trial but see it also as ‘judicial murder’. Guru’s hanging as a journalist puts   has not only   “exposed the rotten under-belly of the country’s justice delivery mechanism but has afresh raised many questions about the 2001 Parliament attack in which all the   unidentified attackers were killed. In fact, it has cast doubts on the official narrative’ that many so far saw as sacrosanct.  Stating how, ‘the Indian security paraphernalia used Afzal Guru as reliable bait in sharpening their counterterrorism strategy.’

On the 2001 Parliament attack Seema Sengupta wrote  in Arab News on 13 Feb, that “she learned from a very trustworthy insider well versed with clandestine missions that this politico-strategic game plan aimed at maneuvering domestic as well as international opinion has its origin in the dramatic 1999 Indian Airlines plane hijack and was vetted by hard-liners sitting within the Bharatiya Janata Party as well as its saffron mentor organizations”.   In his autobiography under chapter ‘Pakistan Proxy War’ the then Home Minister L.K. Advani  counts diplomatic gains after the 2001 Parliament attack that had seen massive  army build up on India and Pakistan border. He subtly suggests that during his visit to USA he succeeded in pushing Pakistan to wall.  To piece together the whole story it would need investigative journalists like Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, who gave a ‘blow-by-blow’ story of the 1995 Al Faran Kidnapping.

True, all of us are in mourning but this mourning like many other mournings in the past provides us an opportunity as people and to leaders as captains of the ship to introspect- how to stall the future bereavements. Looking dispassionately at our sixty-fix year struggle for ending political uncertainty with all its barrage of miseries, I believe that overwhelmingly our leaders right from the Plebiscite Front days never ever  behaved as able captains to steer  the ship out of rough seas. In fact, instead of leading the people to their cherished destiny our leaders presented themselves as interlocutors. Scores of testimonies testify this premise. In 1964, Sheikh Abdullah despite being on a strong wicket instead of dictating a resolution of Kashmir opted for the role of an interlocutor. History testifies, in May 1964, he visited Islamabad not as a leader of Kashmir but as Jawaharlal Nehru’s interlocutor that too with a “devious” proposal of confederation – inviting a pooh pooh.. leading to compromise after compromise and ultimately to total surrender.

   In 1993,   when the Hurriyat Conference was born, Kashmir had once again become part of global narrative. The United States after a gap of thirty-two years had renewed its interest in Kashmir and out and out was supporting right to self-determination for people of the state. Notwithstanding, annoyance in New  from Rabin Raphel to Clinton with one voice   called for resolution of Kashmir and the Hurriyat that drew all its strength from the militant organization failed to build a Kashmir narrative and instead it assumed the role of an interlocutors. Its role as interlocutors was more manifest after Pervez Musharraf toyed with idea of four-point formula that with all its clichés and jargons was nothing but maintaining status quo. It was disappointing to note that in 2006, some   leaders wittingly or unwittingly took role of interlocutor on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Let me reiterate that interlocution is not the role that leaders leading the people’s movement are to undertake – they have to lead the people with clarity of thought and purity of mind. Here, I am reminded of an article, “the tragedy deepens” by Edward Said that could serve as a guiding star to our leaders in a bizarre situation we are caught up. ‘It is only mass movement that has been politicised and imbued with a vision of participating directly in a future of its own making, only such a movement has historical chance ending………”