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Kashmir: Bhat’s ‘Beyond Me’ captivates, jolts the reader

Shujaat Bukhari, Faisul Yaseen

THE former Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was on Indian Prime Minister JawaharLal Nehru’s mission Kashmir in Pakistan to explore possibilities to work out a peaceful settlement of Kashmir dispute but Nehru died while Sheikh was in Pakistan, former APHC Chairman and Muslim Conference leader, Prof. Abdul GaniBhat writes in his autobiography ‘Beyond Me’.

In his 264-page book published by Gulshan Books Kashmir, Bhat writes that the war between India and China – the most humiliating war to recount amid noises ‘Hindi-ChiniBhaiBhai’ eventually brought JawaharLal Nehru’s ivory towers tumbling down in pieces to earth.

“Nehru’s sense of history was sharper than a few others around. He understood that belligerence against the neighbouring China and Pakistan at the same time could spell a disaster in the entire region and thus in deference to Anglo-American diplomatic persuasion as well preferred a strategic dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir dispute. The dialogue happened to produce no solution as usual,” he writes in the book that he has dedicated to Qurat-ul-Ain and her mother Tasleema and that encapsulates his life upto 1987.

The book divided into 15 chapters is being released at a simple function in Srinagar on Friday.

Bhat writes things changed when National Conference (NC) founder, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was released from captivity.

“The cage broke and the Lion of Kashmir, perhaps tamed to a purpose, was out. The Prime Minister of India, JawaharLal Nehru invited him to Delhi as his special guest. Did the guest entertain any idea that he might be assigned a mission to visit Pakistan to explore possibilities in an ice-breaking and de-freezing exercise whether a peaceful settlement of the dispute on Kashmir could be worked out? Abdullah’s yes spoke a volume,” the Hurriyat leader writes. “His visit to Pakistan was an event that could mark the turning point, given that he enjoyed belatedly the goodwill of the Indian Prime Minister.”

He writes that to his surprise, Abdullah and the members of his delegation in Pakistan discovered a propitiously forward-looking political environment and more interestingly a will on the part of the leadership in Pakistan to accept any solution that could please the people in Kashmir.

“This was a bright prospect for him to live with and to move fast. He would, therefore choose to get back posthaste to Delhi and report progress to the Prime Minister of India,” Bhat said.

However, he writes that destiny blocked the passage to Kashmir settlement. “The next meeting with the Prime Minister of India would never materialize, could have hardly crossed JawarharLal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India in 1964 fell to a stroke and passed away to his next abode – a death blow to Abdullah’s mission,” the veteran Hurriyat leader writes. “No political pundit could predict that a war will break out between India and Pakistan just the next year in 1965, his death and Abdullah’s mission notwithstanding.”

‘Beyond Me’ ascends and conquers as Bhat talks in smiley and metaphors, writes philosophically, spiritually and for the intellect with the Islamic and Persian influence quoting Quran and Rumi.

In the book, Bhat credits the silence of Syed Ali Geelani for taking him closer to Islam. He writes that for learning Persian, he had been anxiously looking for a tutor.

“I knew a teacher proficient in Persian, Syed Ali Shah Geelani of a village Duru in my immediate neighbourhood,” the Hurriyat leader writes. “He lived in a single-storey house, a simple, modest home of a simple, modest teacher.”

When he proposed Geelani to teach him Persian at his home, he agreed. Bhat mentions how he was drawn toward Islam when he realized that Geelani, who would not join the Imam and fellow Muslims in chanting ‘Awrad’ in the Masjid evoking an outburst from the traditionalists.

“Geelani’s silence was more eloquent than speech and the traditionalist’s outburst more euphoric than a victory scored in a battlefield,” he said. “This offered me an opportunity to get closer toward understanding Islam and I took upon myself to study Islam.”

The Hurriyat leader writes that it was after this incident that he read books by celebrated scholars like AbulA’alaMawdudi, the founder leader of Jamaat-e-Islami and as a consequence got to know a little about Islam as a complete way of life, the divide between radicalism and traditionalism, notwithstanding.

“I hold Mr. Geelani, my simple modest teacher in high esteem,” he mentions in the book. Bhat, who is known for his juicy rhetoric and catchy sound bytes, remembers the first lines of his speech that he delivered during the debate as a student in S P College after his English teacher, Prof S M Lateef urged him to participate in it.

“United Nations Organisations, with peace as its principal aim, is a symbol of universal togetherness…” Bhat writes in the book about it decades after which Kashmiris continue to pin hopes in futility on the United Nations in resolving Kashmir issue.

In the book, Bhat writes about the golden jubilee function of S P College, where he along with two of his super seniors, the former chief minister Farooq Abdullah and the then chief minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had been invited as the prominent alumni to attend the function and the three sat together in the first row. The Hurriyat leader writes that toward the end of his speech he touched Kashmir. “I remember vividly saying we feel concerned – all of us as a matter of fact, about our future, the future of roses in rows in my front constitute the future of Kashmir. We owe a duty to our conscience and to our people as well particularly to the roses in bloom to resolve to move together toward working out an acceptable, honorable and a durable solution of the dispute on Jammu Kashmir in larger interests of peace and stability in the South Asian region,” he mentions and remembers how the students erupted into a youthful applause.

However, Bhat writes that Abdullah’s speech drew a blank, which he could sense and turned to the student audience saying in a roaring voice, “We are no slaves – no slaves of anybody. We shall not accept slavery in any form and at any level, come what may.”

The Hurriyat leader writes, “Freedom is a waking dream, a catchy slogan, a street roar, and a weapon to maul Indian arrogance in Kashmir. Whoever can spell out the portents of this waking dream earns applause, even without asking for it. Farooq Abdullah too got it, and got away with it.” He writes when Sayeed spoke at the last, he was not lost in amour or in deceit as he spoke on education in Kashmir absolutely in a traditional chief ministerial way – no politics, no problems – separatists or unionists, particular or populist.

Bhat writes about his meeting with Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq when he was the Minister for Education and a post had fallen vacant in the department of Education. After giving Bhat the audience, the Hurriyat leader writes, Sadiq while parting said pithily, “I heard you; the rules must prevail.” Bhat got the job and was appointed as a lecturer in Persian.

The author remembers the days when at his first teaching job in Poonch, he taught students in bunkers and writes that pluralism and Poonch were bound to go together.

He refers to the speech of the former Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, BakshiGhulam Muhammad in Poonch in which he said there would be no solution in the backdrop of US envoy in India, Prof Galbraith, who had a deeper understanding of the dynamics determining relationship between India and Pakistan and then possessed a thoroughly keen insight of the hazards of Indo-China conflict concealed and thus put in a diplomatic exercise toward resolving the dispute on Kashmir in the backdrop of 1962 Indo-China War. Bhat writes, however, Bakshi dismissed the envoy’s ideas as un-workable and remarked rather sarcastically that professors were generally accustomed to building castles in air, not knowing that no castles come up in air.

The author writes Bakshi’s visit to Poonch was his last as a PM. “BakshiGhulam Muhammad, the undaunted Prime Minister of Kashmir, floundering through his choice at a critical stage in his political career, fell to a tactical arrow struck adroitly by the then Prime Minister of India, JawaharLal Nehru in the year 1963,” he mentions.

—Courtesy: RK