Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, the youngest brother of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front founder Muhammad Maqbool Bhat, in his first exclusive interview to Kashmir Reader, appeals for unity and propagation of the true message of the ‘Martyr of Kashmir’
What memories do you have of Maqbool Sahib?
I am youngest of the four brothers of Muhammad Maqbool Bhat. I was too young that time but in 1982, I got a chance to meet my eldest brother in Tihar Jail. On finding him handcuffed, I asked him Baailal yem hankal kaize? (Brother, why these handcuffs?) “We are fighting for our nation, and for freedom fighters these things are normal”, is what my brother replied.
My eldest brother was hanged by the Indian government and before that my elder brother Habibullah Bhat disappeared when he had gone to meet Maqbool. Later we came to know he too was killed. Then, Ghulam Nabi Bhat and Manzoor Ahmad Bhat were martyred in separate encounters with Indian forces at Srinagar and Trehgam. And I myself have spent almost all of my life in jails. This is what we have achieved till date. We are from a humble background, but we are rich and I feel proud to call myself the brother of martyrs.
What are your views on Afzal Guru?
Maqbool is a creator and Afzal is the creation. Maqbool Bhat laid his life for free Kashmir. He was for adopting the same attitude towards New Delhi and Islamabad. As my mother always said, India hanged Maqbool and Pakistan jailed him. As far as Shaheed Afzal is concerned, he was an active member of the Jammu and Kashmir Student Liberation Front. He too had a firm belief in Independent Kashmir, but now some people have hijacked his cause. Being a Kashmiri, Kashmir should always come first, but priorities have changed for some people now.
How do you evaluate the current scenario vis a vis Maqbool’s vision of the JKLF?
I was a firm supporter of Amanullah Khan. There were some misunderstandings which have now been resolved. I have talked personally to Muhammad Yasin Malik and he is on the right track. But I want to appeal to other great leaders of JKLF, like Javed Mir, that we have to be united so that we can contribute more strongly to the cause, Maqbool’s dream and for Kashmir.
You said that sometimes you feel the Tehreek has been hijacked…
Yes, the Kashmir cause has been hijacked and we are responsible for it. We don’t have a proper literature which can help the new generation to take the cause further. Youths who are of the same ideology should contribute to the cause.
Your opinion on Indo-Pak talks…
JKLF was never against talks. After leaving guns we have always advocated tri-party talks, and Kashmir being the primary party therein, but the Indian government never accepted that. We want relations between the two nations to be better so that the Kashmir issue is discussed between the three. The promised plebiscite should happen.
Often a question is asked: Can Kashmir survive on its own?
Definitely. Smaller nations than us survive. And some economists have noted that we can survive on our resources: on water, for example.
Is there any incident you want to share…
Before his arrest, Maqbool had an opportunity to lob a grenade at a gathering sloganeering in favour of Sheikh Abdullah. But he didn’t, saying that we have a problem with the government, not the people. People might call him Che Guevara or a fighter with a communist ideology, but actually he was not. We all have rights and should respect each other’s thinking. But unfortunately that is not happening now….