Be Your Epitaph

….. and leave some good footprints for posterity



Students of literature know it well, many important poets, novelists, essayists and writers before their death wrote their own epitaphs. Some of them have “summed up their whole life in a few sentences and revealed a lot about their Personality.” Epitaph of John Keats reads: Here is a man whose name was writ on water’. Robert Frosts’ epitaph reads: Had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”  

Some years back on a sojourn with my son to Stratford- Upon- Avon, I visited the Holy Trinity Churchyard to pay homage to the greatest bard of the West- Shakespeare. The epitaph on his gravestone reads:  

“Good friend for “Jesus sake forbear,

To dig the dust enclosed here. 

Blessed be the man that spares these stones,

And cursed be he that moves my bones."

There was a reason for Shakespeare writing such an epitaph but poignancy of this ‘gravestone-writing’ reminded me of our leaders. If our leader was a poet or our contemporary “great” or “lesser” leaders were poets or writers what epitaph would they write for their gravestones. For a minute, from a columnist-of-sorts,   like musician “William Drysdale” protagonist in Jesse Ball’s dystopian novel the Curfew, I turned into “epitaphorist” a composer of epitaphs for gravestones. (Jesse’s the Curfew on many occasions makes one to believe it has been written for us only and his city of C is so close to us).

Epitaph after epitaph for my leaders jostled inside my mind and jumbled   it. Some of the epitaphs that the leaders would perhaps ask me to write on their tombstones would read like: 

 “Don’t call me a traitor- Say! I failed”,   “Here I am buried: Man known for Wrong decisions at right moments”; “I sacrificed a lot but finally greed doomed me”; ‘My People Trusted Me,  I Betrayed them”; “Tell them! On My deathbed - I sought forgiveness of my people- Tell them, If I have another life- I will fight a chivalrous battle against enemies of people;” “Why you buried me here- you should have floated my body  in sea”; “I build mansions and castle on a hundred thousand human bodies- Now  It  is all dark here”; “My story is from rags to riches- but I carried no plundered wealth with me-   I choose perdition’ etc etc.  Like ‘William’ the pianist turned “epitaphorist”- there was no end to epitaphs that I could write for leaders dead and ‘living-dead’.  

Leaders did not write epitaphs for their graves but in their lifetime, only they wrote epitaphs of the political movements that they led. I am reminded of the Plebiscite Front movement. As a student of contemporary history, I see the organizational setup of the Plebiscite Front and commitment of its cadres as forte of the post 1947 political struggle in the state. It was a grassroots level organization with a Mohalla committee in almost every town, village committee   in remotest of remote villages all over the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Every second year the party carried out membership drive throughout the state.    Basic members of the party were in millions.  Through ballot or other democratic methods these members elected delegates for the general council that in turn elected office bearers for district, provincial and central offices. The organization had very elaborate working committee with members from not only Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh but all districts in the state. Only a few top office bearers were supported by the organization and rest of the cadres had to fend for themselves- in true sense it was an organization of plebeians. I have personal knowledge about a larger section of the office bearers and workers of the organization, except a few belonging to the business family it was an organization of working class.  Except B.N. Mullik writing in his book   “My Years With Nehru: Kashmir” that Pakistan financed   Sheikh Abdullah and funded the Plebiscite Front for carrying its activities, there were no allegations against the Front cadres amassing wealth or building mansions or buying hundreds of acres of land under Benami. There were no stories within the Front about rags to riches but there were pathetic stories about some committed workers of the organization dying for  medical care and medicine.

Here I am not alluding to the Plebiscite Fronts for the rags to riches stories of some contemporary leaders and their kin or plethora of allegations against some of them for amassing wealth.  But, I am driving at a point that is relevant to the building up political scenario in the state in the wake of Hurriyat Conference (M) leaders going to Islamabad for asking them to ensure Kashmir leaders as third party to the dispute. Much before analyzing the five going Pakistan, a question crops in my mind. Why the Plebiscite movement fizzled out like a soap bubble. Moreover, how leader of this organization succeeded in writing its epitaph. In late seventies, I had the opportunity of conducting some research about Sheikh Abdullah the then chief minister. In reply to a question posed by a journalist, he said that he initiated dialogue with New Delhi in the wake of fall of Dacca at the behest of Pakistan- as Pakistan wanted to wriggle out of Kashmir imbroglio for some time. He quoted then Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi, Abdul Sattar informing him to partake in governance of the state rather than struggling for plebiscite. 

Here, I am not going to debate on the veracity of the assertion made by Abdullah. But in view of situation in Pakistan, a similar discourse is being orchestrated by a section of the (M) leaders with a different tone and tenor. I will not be shocked, if on their return they make an assertion like the one made by Sheikh Abdullah after Pakistan dismemberment i.e. they were partaking in state’s governance. The indicators of making a similar assertion are already there. Let them not engage a William to write their  but instead  I would humbly suggest them live to the proverb  “ be their epitaph…and leave some good footprints for posterity. 

Tailpiece:  Asking Islamabad for including Kashmir as a party needs a statement with many layers of meaning.

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Lastupdate on : Sun, 2 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 2 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 3 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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