Pleading a case related to the allotment of chambers to the legal fraternity, a lawyer said: “The Chief Justice of India will cancel the license of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association president, Mian Abdul Qayoom, if I tell him that he (Qayoom) talks about UN resolutions on Kashmir.”
If Mian Qayoom talks about UN resolutions, he has genuine cause.
In fact, he is under an obligation to do so in his capacity as a Bar member. Not only he, but every lawyer who was a member of the Bar in 1987 is under an obligation to uphold the resolutions.
The lawyer (who takes such serious exception to Qayoom’s stand) was, like me, struggling to establish herself in the legal profession in 1987 when, in the garb of strengthening democracy, the government of India installed its puppets yet again on the reluctant Kashmiris. The fraud caused severe resentment, and Kashmir changed.
Though a movement commenced, people, by-and-large, were confused. Even lawyers with political backgrounds attributed the occasional blast to Mufti Muhammad Sayeed who was accused of trying to push the then Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, to the wall through the sporadic bursts of trouble.
But one day, in 1989, a group of lawyers led by senior advocate Nazir Ahmad Ronga approached me in the court cafeteria, and asked for my signature on some papers.
Going through the document hurriedly, I found it to be a resolution seeking the right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. I signed willingly, and joined the group. Within two hours, 180 lawyers had put their names on the document.
Delighted to see it, Jalil Andrabi also signed, hoping that the resolution would change the course of Kashmir history. Though the Bar had over 400 members at that time, very few lawyers affiliated to the National Conference signed.
When the Kashmir Times carried the news in detail the next day, lawyers who had earlier refused to sign passed another resolution endorsing the previous one. With an additional 190 lawyers signing up, the entire Bar, a few exceptions apart, had sought the right of self-determination, irrespective of the members’ religious and political affiliations. They had also resolved to put in tangible efforts to achieve the goal.
I do not know whether the lawyer who said that she could make the Chief Justice of India cancel Mian Qayoom’s license was among the signatories or had preferred to stay away from what some members called “political stuff.”
And I do not regret having signed that historic resolution. I stand by it, and, like Qayoom Sahib, have been writing and talking about the UN Resolutions on Kashmir ever since. The lawyer need not go to the Chief Justice of India to get my license cancelled. I am ready to burn it in Lal Chowk but will never give up my demand for the right to self determination.
Mian Qayoom is an institution and an asset for this nation. He knows what he is talking about, and has paid heavily for it. Unlike some Bar members, he does not change his stand like clothes.
For the information of the offended lawyer, Mian Qayoom has raised and discussed the Kashmir issue in detail in the state High Court, the first time ever the galleries have heard terms like self-determination, UN resolutions, plebiscite and freedom.
During the 2010 agitation, Qayoom Sahib was widely acclaimed for his bold stand in the HC when, in response to a query from the bench, he said “I am not an Indian.”
In 1990, when the on-going struggle gained momentum, the Bar passed yet another resolution which, besides reiterating its stand on self determination, urged all lawyers not to appear on behalf of the government. Though this boycott had an adverse effect on cases, especially habeas corpus petitions, it conveyed a strong message, and the government had to call lawyers from Jammu to represent it.
Lawyers stood by this resolution up to 1996, until Dr Farooq Abdullah assumed office as the Chief Minister and managed to woo some bar members. This was for the first time in six years that the government had a few lawyers from Kashmir appearing for it in the court.
Did the influential lawyer intend to silence Mian Qayoom by her uncalled for intervention? Does she know that the government that appoints the Chief Justice of India is bound by the UN Resolutions on Kashmir to which it is a signatory?
Mian Qayoom’s answer to her merits repeating: “All right, you take this license. We as Bar Association members are not bothered about licenses. Rights of the people, the right of self determination, come first.”