“People throw up leadership, and circumstances shape it"

Your political life

I was studying in 8th standard, when Sheikh Abdullah was being taken to prison & in those times, for the first time I heard about the Azadi & the struggle, from my teacher. After passing my matriculation I went to Sopore, where I stayed with Master Gulam M Ganie. It was there that my political sense flourished. In1949 for the first time I was arrested in Zachaldara bomb case. In 1953, I was arrested for the second time & this time I was jailed for 6 months, and was fined a sum of five thousand rupees. I became MLA In 1967 & In 1968 I was arrested & sent to central jail again. In 1969, I became a minster & In 1973 I resigned from the ministry. Then I was imprisoned two times In the era of the Sheikh  & after that In the time of Gulam M. Shah, & Jagmohan, I was jailed under the PSA. After 1987 elections when Farooq Abdullah came to power, I was arrested alongwith Geelani sahab, QazI Nisar sahab & Gulam M. SumjI sahab. Lastly, I was arrested In April,1990, & it was my 9th   and the longest  imprisonment. I was released recently after a period of two years.

Q: Your latest Imprisonment

A: I was mentally prepared when I was being taken to jail because the path I chose these things were part & parcel of it. I knew very well my political activities nowadays will make jail my second home & also it wasn’t hidden from me that the Indian government will use its Chanayaki  politics & Machiavellian methods. They were ruthless but all praises to the Almighty who gave me patience to endure all these brutalities. They treating me, Geelani Sahab, Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat, Moulana Abbas Ansari, in a way that civilized world would hardly believe it. Geelani Sahib was beaten so much he bled continuously from his nose from Srinagar to Jammu. Moulana Abbas Sahab was beaten with canes along with my other fellows. It was the most traumatic experience of life when we were kept stark naked In Jodhpur jail.

Jodhpur jail experience

A: I was ill before my arrest, and the treatment meted out in the jail further damaged my health. Actually, Jodhpur jail is the biggest torture centre, a piece of hell. In this jail, along with Moulana Abbas & Professor Ghani,18 more young men were also with me. The staff looked upon us as dreaded terrorists. Nobody talked to us & when anything was offered to us, it was disgracefully thrown at us like we throw the stuff in front of dogs. Thanks to Allah that these 18 young inmates cared for me so much; I can’t thank them enough.

This imprisonment made our bond stronger and we lived like brothers. Moulana Abbas used to teach Quran along with its commentary. Professor Ghani used to teach Seerat-e-Nabi (PBUH). I used to share my experiences, sweet & bitter anecdotes from my life which these young men keenly listened to.

After coming out of jail, what do you feel about the conditions here

I don’t think much has changed. I feel like I have been shifted from a small jail to a vast prison now. I realised this pathetic situation when on the second day of Eid, in Chogul, Handwara, I was kept standing outside in rain, in sick condition, on the pretext of crackdown. You can feel the suffocation and fear in the air of the valley which doesn’t make it less than a prison. But my heart is content on this thing that now we are with our own people who are suffering and we proudly join them in their suffering and grief. And regarding the difference two years ago, I feel that the reach of this struggle has expanded tremendously

About the role of the gun

We never were in favour of violence, rather are peace loving and so gentle that our enemies used to taunt us, considering our gentleness as cowardice. Our youth took up the arms when all the ways of peace talks, resolutions, and discussions were forcibly shut.

When peaceful struggles and revolutions are ignored, the violent ways become inevitable. The aim of taking up guns by the youth was just a desperate knock on the conscience of the word by an oppressed and silenced people.

On leadership

You cannot buy leadership from the market, people throw it up and circumstances shape it. Also, in today’s world a group of leaders is considered better than a single powerful leader. Kashmiris don’t need a single leadership, group leadership has more reach, more variety, and we all know that Kashmir is still suffering from the wrong doings of the so called single strong leader we have had in the past.

On the hanging of Maqbool Bhat

I knew Maqbool Bhat from childhood. We both used to study in Trehgam school. I was In 5th and he was in 3rd standard. We started getting acquainted afterwards up to graduation. We both came from same area, both belonged to poor families. He ignited the fire of freedom in the hearts of Kashmiris and played such a historical role in raising voice against injustice, tyranny and occupation. We all are indebted to his sacrifices.

You are accused of changing your stance

A: It is not a sin to change your strategies according to the circumstances and requirements of that time. I don’t consider it a taboo. Those people who accuse me of this thing, I don’t know what they mean by it as my political life is an open book. Why people forget that I always have raised my voice in favour of Kashmir. I don’t care what people think because the ultimate judge is my Allah. He will judge my actions as only He knows my intentions.

Any message to the nation

 This is not the time to point out differences, but staying united and supporting each other unconditionally. The resilience shown by our people against the oppression is something to be proud of. The sacrifices we have made are tremendous, and we are standing at the cross roads now.

Finally, I would say that resentment against the oppressors is key to end the oppression.

The text of the interview was sent to us by  S.M Iqbal, Sr. Advocate at District Court Shopian. He can be contacted at smiqbal72@gmail.com