Maqbool Bhat Friend or foe

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On February 11 it will be 38 years since Maqbool Bhat was hanged and buried in Tihar Jail in Delhi. He was found guilty of murdering an officer on duty during a horribly gone wrong bank robbery in 1966. He killed two government officials of India.

Bhat orchestrated the kidnapping of a CID police inspector called Amar Chand and then shot him. Bhatt was later captured and in September 1968 was awarded the death sentence.

In December of the same year Bhat escaped from prison and crossed over into Pakistan. Bhat's escape from jail was viewed with suspicion in Pakistan and he was arrested and kept in prison for several months.

After reentering Jammu & Kashmir in 1976, Bhat tried to rob a bank in Kupwara. During the robbery he shot and killed a bank employee. Bhat was rearrested and given a second death sentence was awarded to him.

In this article I want to address two aspects of Bhat's actions. Firstly, individual terrorism as a means for political change and secondly, Bhat's perspective regarding the occupation of the western parts of the former Jammu province of State of Jammu Kashmir (PoJK) by the Pakistan army and the state.

It is impossible to cover all aspects of the debate regarding the role of individual terrorism and Kashmiri separatism in a short article, however, I would make an effort to highlight some theoretical and historical facts and realities to demonstrate that Bhat had got it all wrong.

Let us tackle the role of individual terrorism as a means for political change. The earliest account of individual terrorism can be traced back to the Roman era when Jewish zealots known as Sicarii who would dress as common people and use daggers to assassinate Roman officials in public gatherings before disappearing into the crowd. The Sicarii were opposed to the Roman occupation of Judea. Mass persecution of Jews would follow each assassination. Hundreds would be killed, crucified or sent into exile after one single terrorist attack on a Roman official.

Fast-forward to the C19th and we have Tsarist Russia which saw many acts of individual terrorism. Narodnaya Volya, or the People's Will, was a terrorist organisation which used acts of individual terrorism to rid the Tsar. In March 1881, they managed to assassinate the reformist Tsar Alexander II. Russia then entered a period of deep repression, which arguably was one of the factors that contributed to the Russian Revolutions of the early-C20th. The Socialist Combat organisation, founded in 1902 as a supposedly autonomous branch of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, began assassinating government officials including ministers and a governor. Thousands were rounded up and sent into exile while the masses suffered persecution.

More recently the attack on Twin Towers in 2001 by Al-Qaeda, and five coordinated suicide attacks conducted by Islamic terrorists in London in 2005 or other similar incidents have not been able to bring about any reactions against local Muslim populations by the Western states that could have led to the radicalization Muslim populations living in the Western countries. Some still became radicalised, but that is through other conduits and due to broader forces, not because of these pathetic terrorist acts.

Although, 9/11 succeeded in getting the West embroiled in a costly and pointless war, all this has resulted domestically in a loss of freedom and an enormous enhancement of surveillance/the security state.

Neither have the bombing of the Indian Parliament in 2001 or the Mumbai attacks carried out in 2008 by Lashkar-e-Toiba resulted in the fulfilment of Pakistan's desire to 'free' Kashmir.

Acts of individual terrorism fall into the political category of substitutism. An individual or a group of individuals substitute individual acts of terrorism against mass movements for bringing about political change.

It was Lenin, the father of Russian Revolution of October 1917, who refuted his brother Alexander's acts of terrorism and chose to patiently organise the Russian working classes in order to paralyse the Tsarist regime. It worked.

Maqbool Bhat took the route of inflicting terror upon the Kashmiri population by resorting to acts of individual terrorism. Therefore, to claim that Maqbool Bhat "ka Rasta, Humara Rasta (The path of Maqbool Bhat, is our path)" is not only politically wrong but is a criminal pursuit since it prevents, discourages and relieves the masses from the collective action for political change.

Political change that leads to social and economic change or vice-versa does not come about by substituting individual acts of self-centric heroism but through patient and consistent ideological battles and political mobilisation of the masses.

Bhat's perspective regarding the breakup of the State of Jammu and Kashmir was flawed. He openly claimed that Pakistan was the big brother. He failed to recognise the fact that it was the 'big brother' itself had caused the breakup of the State of Jammu and Kashmir by conducting an unprovoked attack on October 22, 1947.

This is a testimony of his allegiance and faithfulness to the concept of the two-nation theory based on Muhammed Ali Jinnah's policy of communal hate that has been loyally cultivated by the Pakistani military establishment among Kashmiri Jihadists ever since.

In 1984, a diplomat by the name of Ravindra Hareshwar Mhatre was kidnapped in Birmingham by Bhat's followers and was later murdered. It was time for Bhat to face his own fate; hence his death sentence was executed on February 11, 1984 in Tihar jail in Delhi.

Today, Pakistan and its proteges in PoJK hail Bhat as a hero who gave his life fighting the Indian 'occupatio' of Kashmir. The fact is that Bhat was fighting the wrong enemy. The real enemy of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is Pakistan and not India.

On October 26, 1947 Maharaja Hari Singh signed an instrument of accession with India. No sooner was the accession document signed between the Maharaja of Kashmir and the last governor General of India, Louis Mountbatten than the Indian troops began to land at Srinagar airport and push the invaders back.

As the Indian Army liberated Rajouri and Baramulla they could see the horrors committed by the retreating Pakistan Army. Out of a population of 13000, only 3000 had survived in Baramulla.

Bhat was intoxicated by the propaganda of Jamat-e-Islami and Pakistan about Jihad in Kashmir and he ended up like the rest: at the end of a noose. Maqbool Bhat was no friend of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. He acted against his own people and collaborated with the enemy. He was our foe.

(Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK. The views expressed are personal)


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