My sons have made me proud: Maqbool Bhat’s mother
FROM THE CRADLE OF RESISTANCE
Trehgam, Feb 10: Digressing from the dusty main road, a curvaceous and highly bumpy street leads to the house of Maqbool Bhat. The ‘cradle of resistance’ is nothing but a modest concrete hut, with sloping roofs.
Welcoming us inside, the frail figure of Maqbool Bhat’s 75-year old mother, Shahmali Begum, makes it increasingly difficult to imagine that the renewed call for Azadi emanated from this very household. Speaking in heavily-accented Kashmiri, Shahmali Begum narrates the journey of Maqbool Bhat from being a simple teacher to becoming the undisputed hero of Kashmir freedom struggle.
“From early childhood, Maqbool used to talk about freedom. Azadi was a new concept then and though we couldn’t understand his ideas, we had faith in him. He attended Varmul College and was a teacher in Srinagar before he left for Azad Kashmir. He was barely 20 then,” she says.
Laying the foundation of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front with the help of Amanullah Khan, Maqbool returned home after four years, only to be arrested and held in Central Jail Srinagar. After escaping from the jail, Bhat crossed the border again. Later, he was arrested from Langate, Kupwara, and hanged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail in 1984.
Reminiscing the night before Maqbool’s hanging, Shahmali Begum says her eldest son, Ghulam Nabi Bhat, went to see Maqbool in Tihar. “Ghulam Nabi wasn’t allowed to leave Kashmir, the state police arrested him. Another son of mine, Manzoor Ahmad, was also arrested the same night. He was 15 then. All the three brothers were in custody that night and these two were released after Maqbool was hanged,” remarks Shahmali Begum, before elaborating on how the Government did not hand over even Maqbool’s body.
“He was buried inside the Tihar Jail premises. None of his personal diaries or belongings was given to us. But he continues to live in our hearts. After him, his brothers carried forward his legacy,” she says.
Pointing to her young, widowed daughter-in-law, Hanifa (35), Shahmali Begum says though the family faced tough financial conditions, their resolve for Azadi was never diluted.
“My husband is a tailor. We could never stop our sons from picking up the gun. Hanifa’s husband, Manzoor, was martyred 12 years ago. He was 30 then, serving as the frontline commander for Kupwara. Today, she has 2 kids to take care of and yet we have never accepted a penny from the Indian State,” she states resolutely.
Shahmali Begum has sacrificed all her sons in the struggle- four of them being martyrs and the fifth one being under detention. Ghulam Nabi Bhat, the eldest, was a part of JKLF too. Killed in mid ’90s in an accident, Ghulam Nabi is survived by an ailing wife and four children.
Another son, Habibullah Bhat, went missing after his class 12th examinations, Hanifa says. Despite frantic searches by the family, he couldn’t be traced and it was much later that the family got to know of his involvement with the armed groups.
After the death of his brothers, Zahoor Bhat, the youngest of all siblings, too crossed the border. “He followed in his brothers’ footsteps. He was in class 10 when he went to Azad Kashmir and got married there.”
Zahoor, who was arrested exactly a year ago while addressing a rally on Maqbool’s last anniversary, is still under detention in Jammu’s Kotbalwal Jail.
Serving this reporter the traditional noon-chai (saltish tea), Hanifa says the family has faced enormous tortures in the past years for obvious reasons. “After my husband’s death, the house was raided several times. They (troops) would come at odd hours and trouble us, knowing well that my parents-in-law are old,” she says.
She goes on to elaborate how Shahmali Begum’s teeth were broken by the dreaded Task Force men of the state police and her sisters-in-law continuously troubled.
Consistently boycotting the elections, the family has been the pioneer of the armed resistance in Kashmir. The call for Azadi, that was to reverberate throughout the valley, was given from this very house. Tears welling up in her old, weary eyes, Shahmali Begum concludes, “Today, when I walk through these streets, people say that my sons have made me proud. I want Azadi. It is the ultimate tribute for my sons.”
Lastupdate on : Wed, 10 Feb 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 10 Feb 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 11 Feb 2010 00:00:00 IST
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