Remembering Dr Ayoub Thakur

Eleven years after his death, very few people know much about this devoted son of the soil

Reform or revolution doesn’t take place all of a sudden. It is due to the sacrifices of the masses, their steadfastness on the cause which they consider as holy, and more importantly due to the efforts of what Arnold Toenybee calls ‘creative minority’ (leadership and intellectual class of the society). It is this creative minority which ultimately transforms sacrifices of the nation into decisive victories. If this minority is really creative, then nations are destined to prosper and march forward on the path of glory. But if nations are unfortunate (like ours) then either that minority is silenced or it compromises with the pace of society, so as to make their "individual" lives prosper at the cost of collective will. 

In our case, that group, which is not only creative and dynamic but also is willing to live for the nation rather than their individual will, has unfortunately always been a minority within minority. And one name that stands taller among that group is the name of Dr Ayoub Thakur. 

Dr. Ayoub Thakur was born on 01-01-1948 in Pudsoo village near Shopian. He did his B. Sc from Degree College Islamabad and M.Sc from Kashmir University in 1972. He completed his PhD in Nuclear Physics from the same university in 1978. Right from his childhood, Dr Ayoub wished to do something big for his motherland. He was of the strong opinion that the youth of the nation can change its destiny. Right from his college days he tried to activate this segment of the society. For attaining these very objectives, he began rallying Kashmiri youth and laid the foundation of Students Islamic Organization (SIO) along with other likeminded youth in 1974. This organisation later on merged with other likeminded oganizations and formed Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), which was lead by Dr. Ayoub himself on a number of occasions. He also became the president of Kashmir University Students Union (KUSU) and Kashmir University Research Scholars Association (KURSA). 

Under the leadership of Sheikh Tajamul and Dr Ayoub, IJT began to attract Kashmiri youth towards itself. Since Iranian revolution had occurred around the same time, they wished to adopt the same model closer home. Due to their endeavors Jamait at that stage began to attract the most intelligent class of the society towards itself. 

As a student leader, Dr Ayoub attended many international youth conferences in Riyadh, Dhaka and Kuala Lampur. In these conferences, Dr. Thakur put forth Kashmiri viewpoint and drew the attention of the world towards Kashmir problem. Finally in 1980, IJT decided to hold an international conference on Kashmir issue in Kashmir itself. This caused stir within the government circles. They banned the conference as well as the organizers (IJT). Leaders and members of IJT were arrested. Dr. Ayoub was dismissed from his job (he was working in university at that time) and he was also arrested. It was during this phase that the relationship between Jamait and Jamaat-e-Islami began to strain. Jamaat had thought that Jamait would act as the feeding centre for mother organization and in the days to come would provide future leadership to Jamaat. But due to proactive role being played by Jamiat in the field of Kashmir cause, Jamaat began to fear that Jamait had been radicalized beyond "limits". This created rift between the two organisations. Jamaat now wished that Jamait should act as its official student wing rather than an independent organisation. This created rift within Jamait. Top leadership of Jamait was not ready to follow this diktat. So finally Jamaat disowned Islami Jamait Talaba and created its own student body (which sometime later took the shape of Islami Teheeek e Talaba and finally reincarnated itself as Islami Jamait Talaba). 

Once Jamait lost the support of Jamaat (and also due to continuous persecution of the organisation), it began to disintegrate. But this didn’t dishearten Dr Ayoub. He continued with his efforts of activating youth of the valley for Kashmir cause. But now environment was totally against him. Government wouldn’t allow him free space, his own organisation had become part of history and his mother organisation had disowned him. These circumstances forced him to leave the state and he moved to Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia he joined the Nuclear Engineering Department of King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah as Assistant professor. However his first and lost love was always Kashmir. But Saudi administration wouldn’t allow him to have this romance with revolutionary politics, lest the youth of "Islamic Kingdom" might also catch these germs and hence vitiate the "peaceful" atmosphere of Kingdom. Finally he came to London in 1986 and started organizing support for the Kashmiri people. In 1990 he founded World Kashmir Movement (WKM). He also founded charitable trusts like Mercy Universal which played an important role in charitable field not only in Kashmir but also in Jammu and various parts of India. 

When he settled down in London, unlike our other "exiled" leaders, he didn’t change his principles and lifestyle. He didn’t own a bungalow but was residing in a simple modest house, which was also his office. In the name of Kashmir cause he didn’t fill his bank balance. His son, Muzamil Ayoub, didn’t pursue higher education out of Kashmir fund (as has happened unfortunately in most of the cases) but from the money he (Muzamil) earned in the form of scholarship. This man had kept a kind of piggybank in his home and to quote his son, "He used to ask even his family members to put something in this box, so as to contribute towards the Kashmir cause". He was always proud of his Islamic and eastern credentials. That is why a person like Prof Ishaq Khan who was sufi at heart (and Dr Ayoub being revivalist at heart) also couldn’t but admire Dr Ayoub when he visited him in London. Allama Iqbal has aptly said about people like Dr. Ayoub: 

“Khaira na kar saki mujhai jalwai Danish-I-Afrang…… 
Surma hain meri aankh ka khaki Madina wa Najaf….” 

How much was this man dedicated towards his mission can very well be gauged from the conversations which he had with his wife for the first and the last time. As per Mrs. Nayeema Firdous (wife of Dr Ayoub) the first thing that he told her was, "I hope that this relationship of ours will strengthen my resolve for the mission for which I had to leave my homeland". And the last thing which he told her (actually he didn’t utter these words but penned them down on a piece of paper because he was in hospital at that time and was not in a position to speak) was: "Please keep on safeguarding the mission for which I was forced to leave my homeland." 

His character can be gauged from the incident which was narrated by his father-in-law, Ghulam Mohammed Wani, who recalled, "Maulana Saad ud din, founder of Jammat-i-Islami J&K after Performing Hajj pilgrimage came to see me. I requested him to pray for me. He in turn told me that I should make this request to Dr. Ayoub (my son-in-law). He told me that I should consider myself lucky for having such a charactered and God fearing man as son-in-law. He told me that he himself requests Dr Ayoub to pray for him." 

Another incident which speaks volumes about his character and clean image is one related to the Indian commissioner to England. When Dr. Ayoub passed away, he (the Indian commissioner) came to his grave to pay his tributes to Dr. Ayoub. When he was asked why he came to pay tribute to Dr. Ayoub as he was their enemy, he replied: "No doubt we had political differences with him. But as far as his personality and character is concerned, it was free from any kind of blemishes. We have confirmed reports that he used to provide monetary help not only to Muslims of Kashmir but also to non-Muslims, keeping aside their religion, sect, caste, creed or ideology." 

Dr. Muhammed Ayoub Thakur proved to be a devoted, selfless, brave and courageous son of Kashmir. Today, eleven years after his death, very few people know much about this devoted son of the soil. And what surprises most is that resistance leadership has failed miserably in documenting life history of these heroes. At the most they issue press notes on their anniversary and think that their job has been done. Can’t we even establish seminar halls, libraries or blood banks in their name? I am sorry to say that we go on naming our institutions after Allama Iqbal etc (I have full respect for Allama and consider him as the real architect of Muslim awakening in sub continent in 20th century. But what’s the fun in naming institutions after people who have thousands of institutions in their name across the world?) but continue to ignore those souls who lived and died for us. This criminal silence on the part of our resistance leadership also speaks volumes about their inefficiency in institutionalizing the movement. 

Let me conclude with these lines from a poem written by Huda Ayoub (Dr. Ayoub’s daughter) for her father: 

“Each person shall always remember him, the pride of man today. 
Most loved, most missed, of whom only praise can one utter and say: 
We thank Allah, for among us this kind and compassionate man did He send. 
Dr. Ayoub was his name, a man so humble, that he bowed his head to Allah until the very end.” 
Dr. Ayoub passed away on 10th of March, 2004. 
(Zahid Fayaz is a student of History having special interest in revivalist movements in Muslim World. Feedback at zahidspeaks@gmail.com)