I thought it would be about Ghalib his son – about his future. I thought it would be about the family affairs – a word of advice for his wife. A dying man’s routine testament for the family. I had no reason to disbelieve the reports in newspapers on same lines about the last letter written by Muhammad Afzal Guru before he was hooded and noose put around his neck to add yet another chapter of injustice and hideousness to the scarlet history of Kashmir. That is how an ordinary mortal’s last letter before walking to the gallows would read like.
The letter written by the great son of the soil on February 9, 2013, at 6.25, one hour and thirty-five minutes before the hangman “touched his feet” and pulled the levers to ‘murder justice’ to ‘satisfy collective conscience’ of a particular mindset belied my ill-conceived ideas. Instead it spoke volumes about his beliefs and conviction. The brief letter says loudly that he had transcended fear of death and understood the very essence of standing by the side of the truth and the right cause and attaining martyrdom. Every word of the letter stirred me down the spine – perhaps it did so with every one of us to whom it was addressed. “Let all of us stand by the side of truth and may our end also come on the truth”- this sentence of the letter shook me to roots like an earthquake of higher magnitude shakes the skyscrapers.
This sentence reminded me of last words of William Tyndale “Lord! Open King of England’s eyes”. Tyndale betrayed by his friend, was ‘tried for heresy and treason and in a ridiculously unfair trial and convicted’. ‘He was then strangled and burnt at stake in a prison yard’. His prayer was answered three years later, in the publication of King Henry VIII’s 1539 English “Great Bible”…… I see no ostensible reason for remembering the last sentence of Tyndale buried deep somewhere in my subconscious. His story has nothing to do with me- it is of no relevance to people Afzal Guru’s last letter is addressed to but still Tyndale’s lost words with a different phraseology bothered me continuously: Lord! Open our eyes and those of our leaders.
This prayer in sync with that of Tyndale perhaps is an expression of a deep felt feeling and belief that perpetuation of our political uncertainty and sufferings have more to do with our leaders failing to take right decisions at right moments than any other factors. Moreover, our own failure, as people to choose right leaders for steering our boat caught up in a morass of faux pas’ of leadership in 1938 and then compounding these indiscreet decisions in 1947 by endorsing the actions of the feudal autocracy against which people had raised banners of revolt. Most tragic part of it was that this leadership not only endorsed action of these leaders but also joined hands with them to push people of the land into yet another phase of uncertainty and sufferings. To undo the mistakes of the past the historical forces that always work silently at critical junctures of a nation’s history provide one after another opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and to rewrite the destiny of the people.
The 1953, political developments had opened a major opportunity for Kashmir leaders to undo the past mistakes but again for suffering a hazy a political vision and lacking a definite goal this opportunity was also missed not in 1975, but right in 1964. In 1964, “Nehru woken up by the China War, and put on a high alert by his own fading health, wanted to resolve Kashmir.’ India at that time was open to all alternatives including plebiscite for entire state but as one can make from two days meeting between Sheikh Abdullah and the advisory committee appointed by Nehru for the purpose – it was Sheikh who dithered- by trying to be more loyal than king.’ The missed opportunities as always happen in such cases ended up in political fiasco of 1975.
It is hard reality in the post 75 scenario more particularly after 1977, with every leader and quasi-political and political party directly and indirectly partaking in the electoral politics state major political narrative had been relegated to the pages of history. In 1987, the historical forces once again threw up opportunities for undoing the past political fiascos. This time it was not the traditional leadership but the combatant youth that made their voices heard. There can be no denying that people of the state made huge investments in terms of sacrifices and sufferings unprecedented in the past to resurrect their political narratives.
The post 1990, situation threw up a new a class of political leadership to undo the political fiascos of the past and to steer people out of the messy situation they have been pushed into by the earlier leadership. This motley leadership of varied statures and backgrounds- called the conglomerate has been now on the central stage for past twenty years. Looking dispassionately at the history of the conglomerate- I am amazed, if it has anything to its credit that could be considered as contribution in strengthening the people’s narrative and deconstructing the dominant discourse. Instead of deconstructing the dominant discourse, for past many years by delegitimizing the UN resolutions, right to self-determination and plebiscite that provides edifice to the movement it is supposed to be leading , it has been strengthening what Eqbal Ahmed calls as “ the myths and methods of all oppressive institutions.”
Instead of mooting ideas like creating “parallel hierarchies” for discrediting the regimes that pursue anti-people polices, introduces laws violating human rights and deny freedom of expression to the people it has been encouraging divisive politics. During past twenty years, the combine not only suffered three to four divisions but also trapped in deep intra-conflicts threatening yet another fragmentation.
There have been many outcries for unity by leadership; some have been boisterously louder after the execution of Muhammad Afzal Guru…Time well only tells how sincere these calls are- but my belief the letter from the gallows will work as catalyst for a change.