Dr. Ayyub Thakur was probably one of the few souls who saddled the cause of Kashmiri sufferings upon his shoulders with great bravery. A true son of the soil, he had the privilege of being the first nuclear scientist hailing from Kashmir. Not only being a philanthropist and a social activist, but he also was the beacon of intellectual activism in Kashmir. Being one of the very few visionaries, he propagated the cause of Kashmiri struggle to self-determination on an international level.
He lectured and debated intensively on the topic of Kashmiri nationalism throughout the universities and think tanks around the world, including the elite universities like University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and in UN forums.
Throughout his years as a student, Dr. Ayyub Thakur had the passion in him to comment on social and political controversies without any evasions, which had made Kashmir a grave dispute since the partition of India and Pakistan. During the 1970’s, he started his political journey as a student leader at the University of Kashmir. After rallying with Kashmiri youth of his time, he then founded the Jammu & Kashmir Students Islamic Organisation in 1974 and continued to be its leader till 1977.
His honest credentials also made him lead the Kashmir University Research Scholars Association and Students Union at the University of Kashmir.
In 1980, Dr. Thakur made Kashmir a flashpoint by highlighting Indian atrocities at the Kuala Lumpur Conference. Like many political researchers and commentators of Kashmir, he critiqued the validity of accession, due to its half-hearted implementation, and harnessed support of Kashmiri youth for the right of self – determination, according to UN resolutions. His only crime was that he wished to resolve the Kashmir dispute through a diplomatic resolution, but it found vehement criticism from Indian State actors during those times, and they imprisoned him through the notorious Public Safety Act. During his five month imprisonment, he was subjected to various forms of torture, but that never lessened his conscience against his adversaries.
Due to various considerations, Dr. Thakur had to bid his motherland goodbye, and he then immigrated to Saudi Arabia where he worked in King Abdul Aziz University, as an Assistant Professor in 1981. After a brief stint there for six years, Dr. Ayyub Thakur finally left for Great Britain where he chaired the International Institute of Kashmir Studies, and finally took over as the President of the World Kashmir Freedom Movement in 1990 – an amalgam of Kashmiri expatriates working for the cause of Kashmiri nationalism, outside the borders of Kashmir. Throughout its inception, it had organised conferences where members of British Parliament, American political scientists, and members of European Parliament debated the sufferings of Kashmir, aiming to find a resolution by pressing through a tri-partite dialogue between India, Pakistan and Kashmir. Dr. Ayyub Thakur played a pivotal part in these developments by organising landmark conferences.
Dr. Ayyub Thakur was an example of great integrity. As a Muslim humanist, he became a trustee of the Mercy Universal, a charity based organisation in United Kingdom, which aimed to grant funds against poverty in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kashmir and Somalia. He also rallied for unifying both parts of Kashmir through galvanising a political atmosphere, and believed that the current Line of Control could be converted into a zone of emotional unification for the grief riddled families across the border.
Dr. Ayyub Thakur had also been subjected to intense criticism by the Indian State and politicians, including ultra-Hindu nationalists like L K Advani. He was also repeatedly harassed and accused of financing extremist activities, which Dr. Thakur clarified as: “I will be the last person to misuse my presence in Britain by violating any British law. I am prepared for any inquiry under the British law. Mercy Universal’s accounts are thoroughly scrutinized by independent auditors in Britain, who painstakingly examine thousands of documents and amounts spent on our projects not only in Kashmir but in India where people have suffered because of natural and man-made disasters, namely in Orissa and Gujarat.”
One of the greatest contributions of Dr. Thakur was that he remained a firm critic of the Indira – Abdullah Accord, which was drafted in 1974. He could see Sheikh Sahib’s weakening vision of an independent Kashmir, right from him being an emancipator of Kashmiri people in 1930’s, to a chief minister under an Indian Dominion, that too, with Sheikh Sahib’s entire struggle inside a prison cell for many years.
I had a chance to meet Dr. Ayyub’s son, Muzzammil in London, and he told me that his presence in media debates and interviews, by speaking against human rights violations in Kashmir, was taken as a ‘hostile point’ against the Indian State.
Nevertheless, that has been a reason for all who have tried to propagate truthful realities of the Indian State in Kashmir. It is high time that India respects the contributions of all people, who speak out for the dispute, and aim to contribute towards resolving it peacefully and through strategic negotiations. If the state of India and its political parties, aiming to mend the dispute think that electoral frays define the Kashmir resolution, then let there be a referendum, and the final fate would be accepted by every Kashmiri, no matter the ideology.
Dr. Thakur’s honest ideology can be defined in his own words: “I am a Kashmiri who yearns for peace in my homeland. Thousands of Kashmiri men, women and children have sacrificed their lives for the sake of Kashmir of their dream. I am sure their dream will come true one day. I am also concerned about the suffering humanity in Kashmir. I find satisfaction in the charity work that Mercy Universal is doing for the poor, sick and needy in Kashmir. Nobody can stop me in this task.”
In March, 2004, at the age of 55, he died after a continual lung illness in London. He was laid to rest thousands of miles away from his homeland. However, it is our duty, as Kashmiris, to salute our heroes who devoted their worldly life for the freedom struggle. Dr. Thakur was indeed one of them, and certainty the most passionate advocate of them – a great leader and a vision maker of his people.