Buch, as I see him

Some time back, I had written there was no Edward Said on our side.  My lament was more out of concern rather than critique.  I believed that an intellectually stimulating discourse on Kashmir was missing, instead so far it had been  pathetically routine and blatantly ‘de- intellectualized’ projection of the Kashmir cause that did not do justice to our heroic freedom struggle.  I had written as I believed that Said was the best Palestinian voice in the West, who had very forcefully through his books, articles and lectures articulated the Palestine cause in the West and in fact changed the Western discourse on Palestine.  It was his book “The Question of Palestine” written in 1977-78 and published in 1979, that had put the Palestine issue to serious debate in the intellectual circles of the West.  The fact is in the sea of literature on the Kashmir dispute there is not a single internationally acclaimed book by a Kashmiri that could play a role similar to that of Edward Said’s works.

I was reminded of another great Palestinian who has been articulating the Palestine cause very forcefully in the world when a researcher working on Kashmir asked me if there was any one like Ghada Karmi of Kashmiri origin in the West.  Ghada Karmi is a leading Palestinian author, academic and writer.  This Jerusalem born author was brought up and educated in England.  She is author of many well received books on Palestine.  I am yet to read any of her works.  I have read some reviews about her memoir “In Search of Fatima”, a Palestinian story that was published by Verso Press in 2002.  I had no stock answer for the researcher but two names that are recognized as the Kashmir face in the West, more particularly in the United States, instantly came to my mind – one in his mid eighties and another in his mid fifties.  The man in mid eighties is Kalashpora Srinagar born Muhammad Yusuf Buch popularly known as Ambassador Yusuf Buch, and the other person is Dr. Ghulam Naibi Fai, a Budgam born former Temple University, Pennsylvania, USA communication scholar and teacher.  Fai Sahib as he is popularly called by Kashmir Diaspora is published on Kashmir in the American mainstream press.  Both Buch and Fai were exiled for their political beliefs one in 1947 and another in 1980.

The story of Yusuf Buch is perhaps known to a few in his homeland.  On its tenth International Peace Conference, Ambassador Buch was honored by the Kashmiri-American Council at an impressive ceremony in Washington DC for his life of courage, conviction and unwavering commitment to the rights of the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir.  A plaque was awarded to him at the ceremony which paid high tributes to him.  He would have been better known in Kashmir had people like Shameem Ahmed Shameem who have had longer interactions with him in seventies written their memoirs.  In the words of a Pakistani writer Mr. A.R. Siddiqi; “During the period between 1949-1950, there were at least three bright young Kashmiri activists who held out a lot of promise to emerge as exponents of their case at the intellectual level like Ghada Karmi.  They were Yusuf Buch, Mehmood Hashmi and Agha Shaukat Ali.  They had all the makings of committed revolutionaries endowed with the gift of persuasive speech and simple, well-reasoned writing and, above all, the advantage of youth.”

These three young Kashmiris undoubtedly could have emerged as Kashmir voice in the world in the vein of Edward Said, but in the words of Siddiqi; “However, none of them quite came up to the level expected of them as Kashmiri freedom fighters and thinkers.  Mehmood Hashmi did write a book or two on the early stages of the Kashmir tragedy; Yusuf Buch settled to become a speech-writer and back-stage support for Pakistani delegates to the UN, rising to ministerial rank under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; and Agha Shaukat Ali was lost to the soulless routine of professional public relations.”  Another Kashmiri that did hold promises of emerging as an international voice of Kashmir was Khurishid Hassan Khurshid, Srinagar born Secretary of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.  Siddqi writes about his this friend, that ‘he lost his true place as a writer and intellectual after he became President of AJK.’

 Ambassador Yusuf Buch who worked for twenty two years as an advisor to the United Nations Secretary General, is yet to write his memoirs or a book on Kashmir.  However, some of his published articles in the internationally acclaimed journals and newspapers as well as presentations made by him at the various international conferences do provide an insight into his understanding of the Kashmir problem.  Buch who as young boy had, along with his father and two brothers Muhammad Amin Buch and Ghulam Naqashband, seen and heard Abdul Qadeer in 1931 asking people to pull down the mansions of arrogance and palaces of suppression, writes about Kashmir problem in an article published in the Dawn; “The long history of the Kashmir dispute is tragic demonstration of the fact that recriminations can be endless and absent in judicial authority, no matter how powerful in logic and compelling in equity, they hardly decide anything.  The great suffering and pain born by the people of Kashmir as well as the heavy cost inflicted on both India and Pakistan by persistence of this dispute should beckon us away from the sterilities assiduously pursued so far.  They should drive us to identify helpful courses of action which can potentially elicit agreement from the parties concerned.”

Yusuf Buch does not believe that there exists a power rivalry between India and Pakistan to which Kashmir could be kept hostage.  Calling power rivalry between India and Pakistan as a cliché – a thoughtless journalistic invention – in another article he writes; “Why should Pakistan take up rivalry with a country almost seven times larger than itself in population and even more so in area?”  The invention of rivalry he writes “played its own, hardly negligible, role in blocking a clear understanding.  It belittles India without magnifying Pakistan.”  His asking to drift away from the futilities pursued in past speaks about his pragmatic approach grounded in the history for the resolution of the problem.

While the majority of Kashmir writers and leaders looked at General Parvez Musharraf’s four point formula for the resolution of Kashmir problem as a great way forward, Buch looked at it as ‘if not frivolous but irresponsible.’  About Musharraf’s out of box four point formula he wrote in an article; “They seem to have been conceived in a mood which dispenses with clarity and advanced in a style which cares little for coherence.  In fact, they do not bear even a faint imprint of serious, focused discussions with his own quite competent Foreign Office, not to speak of leaders of the public thought.  General Musharraf likes to talk of an "outside the box" solution; surely "outside the box" does not mean contrary to the principle.  To compromise that principle, to waver on that stand seems singularly ill-advised; it amounts to throwing away what, in a world of ordered international life, is a priceless asset.  It would be so even if it got some return from India.”

Seeing negative implications of the General Musharraf’s what he calls ‘as half-baked and misdirected efforts blurred further by what he pronounces as weird statements of Pakistan’s accidental President’, he sounds optimistic about change in the thinking of Indian intelligentsia about Kashmir.  In yet another in article he writes; “As against these developments, a far healthier one is the evolution and greater visibility of thoughtful Indian opinion on the Kashmir issue.  Since the fall of 2008, a number of articles have appeared in the mainstream Indian press written by respected scholars and journalists who do not support India’s official intransigence.”
Whether one agrees or disagrees with his political outlook, the writings and speeches of Ambassador Yusuf Buch are a part of Kashmir’s political literature that could be seen as good as Edward Said’s works on Palestine.  His works on Kashmir need to be compiled, researched and preserved.

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)