Maqbool Bhat’s Letter to Akraam Ullah Jaswaal

From Central Jail New Delhi, dated 2nd May, 1980
To Akraam Ullah Jaswaal, a Plebescite Front activist from Azad Kashmir

Dear Jaswaal Saib,

I received your letter some time ago. A number of reasons kept me from writing a reply. I apologise for any concern this delay may have caused. The significance of correspondence between friends can not be denied. Once again, I am extremely sorry for my inhibition to write for many years. The reason, however, has never been that I had forgotten you. I hope you will not take the following explanation as an excuse. We often find ourselves, despite the desire, unable do what we want to do due to the unfavourable conditions. To describe and explain this aspect of prison life requires writing a book, but the saying that ‘a prisoner is not supposed to be able to choose’, explains our condition in prisons quite well.

You may find it surprising that it took me years of knocking at the judge’s doors to win access to some writing material. You have rightly pointed out that I do not write about the misery of the (present) conditions around me. Not that I can not write, but because crying about the harshness of conditions is not my style. This letter is primarily an acknowledgement of your letter for which I am sure you will have been awaiting anxiously.
As for my feelings on receiving your letter it may look poetic but it was like a breath of morning breeze in a suffocating atmosphere. It revived all those delightful memories of the immortal relationship between us that can be rightly called as the most valuable common wealth of human life. I am hopeful that despite ‘personal’ reasons described in your letter you will continue writing letters to me at least for my sake, as these letters are the greatest gift I can have here in prison. What the officials do with these letters does cause worries but it should not put off committed friends like you.

Coming back to your letter. I have read it again and again not only because it was from you but also because I wanted to get the picture between the line. It transferred quite a lot on the paper out of pain and sympathy. However, what you wrote may be of great value when judged wisely and rationally under the existing conditions. For those who are involved passionately in changing these conditions and are determined to do so at any cost may have different criteria of judging and monitoring the current events. Of course eagerness and wish-full (thinking) have a place in life and reasons for it but life can not revolve around this tendency (all the time). Those who love to and are commitment to achieving (their goal) know that patience is a necessary quality for success.

An English writer wrote somewhere that nothing succeeds like a success, but it is equally true that nothing fails like a failure. If the goal is to grab power and leadership the above saying may have a value of maccavlian prescription, which involves superficial demands and compromises but the goal of making history requires completely different approach. For history is made by the kind of people who direct their theories and practices towards a fresh approach. They challenge and rebel against the established official people and values. Here are some points about this breed of people. Did Aristotle not have to drink poison? Did the messenger of (Allah) in his time jump into the fire of Nimrod? Did Jesus (Christ) not have to kiss the gallows (the cross), which was erected by the rulers of the time? Did our prophet (pbuh) show signs of desperation and anxiety when he was tortured and stoned in the markets of Taaeif? Did Gotham Buddha ever compromise with Brahaminic exploitations?

Take a look at the (rights) movement of Martin Luther King, the ideologies of Marx and Engles and the rise of anti-colonial movements for national liberation. Did any of these people compromise with the establishment values in their times?

There are several examples in history, which suggest that those who laid foundations for the (revolutionary) movements did not physically survive beyond the initial stage of maturity of their ideas. But that does not underestimate their role in the success of struggles in the light of their ideas. As for their historical role they remain the founding fathers of such struggles. This topic is too big to be covered in the space of this letter. Suffice to say that those who love an identity and chose to devote their life for (a cause) can not even dream of giving up let alone actually giving in. The simple reason is that giving up one’s identity staggers the whole process of evolution of man’s qualities, belief and commitment and may have consequences for the humanity (as a whole).

We should be wary of the time when man becomes slave for compromising on a belief and gives up the path of sacrifice and devotion. The human beings will then become walking corpses and society will become their graveyard. With this in mind your suggestion can be viewed in mildest terms as unacceptable.

You know that national identity takes shape by many (influential) factors and through several historical process es. It does not take form out of mere claims nor vanishes if some (individuals) give it up. It is a gift from nature. Once established no power on earth can dismantle it. Therefore, it is unthinkable and sinful to even think of division of our country, which as has a direct bearing on giving up our national identity.

Historical facts stay firmly rooted in history on their own merit and cannot be altered by the frailties of some individuals. However, being unable to cope with demands of history’s course of action and opting out for opportunism and superficial actions by individuals or parties due to their frailties is a separate issue. Who knows better than yourself that under no circumstances can we be compelled to join that kind of people.

As for peace, who in the whole wide world does not wish peace and tranquillity (in our region)? But not being able to distinguish between the peace and calm in a graveyard and the peace and tranquillity of blooming life is a sign of naivete. The peace and tranquillity at the cost of just aspirations and wishes (of our people) overshadowed by constant terror and fear is no peace. To dream of such ‘peace’ is a mere corruption of mind. Indeed arguing for such peace is asking to accept the death of aspirations.

As this letter has gone too long, the topic has to be ended here. Worries about me should not occupy your mind too much. Just pray to God as whatever he will decide about me will in the long run prove to be best for all of us.

I am sorry to hear about the difficulty you are going through in your personal life. I pray to God to ease your problems as nothing else can be done from afar? The news that our respected friend Muhammed Zaman Abbasi has passed away is extremely disturbing. May God almighty bless his soul and award him heaven and give courage to his grieving family. Please express my condolences to all the family.

It also saddens me to know that respected Mir Hadayat Ullah had a heart attack but I am pleased that he is watching his diet and does not keep too much on his mind. This should improve his health. Give my sincere regards to Ansari saib, Bashir Tabbassam saib, Sufi Zaman saib, G.M. Mir saib, Muhammed Saddique baba, Dr. (Farooq Haider) saib and all other friends.

I received a letter from Dr. Saib in February and replied to his clinic address but did hear from him since. Convey my salaam to dear Naseem Lone and Nazaki Saib. I am aware of the former’s sensitive nature and have had experience of it myself. As for saying that ‘Koonj Bichhar Gaiee Daaroon Lubhdi sujnaa noon’ (a heron has been separated from the flock in search for the beloved) is surely an expression of his sensitivity and points to a painful situation. Tell him that the actual tragedy, however, begins when ‘Daar Bichhar jaey lubhda munzal noon’ (the flock looses the way while searching for destination).

Pray to God to protect us from besieging into such a tragedy. Give my regards to Hashim and Ashraf. Delay in Hashim’s appeal is becoming cause for concern for me. Please write to me about it in detail. Send my salaam to Dr. Bassat c/o Naseem Lone.

And finally! Do not think pessimistically that we have no friends. Those who are faithful and committed have the support and solidarity from whole of the universe and its creator. I am not being philosophical here but speaking out of my experience and consciousness.
I have to stop here as the space and ink are running out. Also this heavy letter will give reason to the ‘Khudahee Faoujdaars’ (the soldiers of god – sarcastic remark about postmen) to call it ‘beyrung’ (without postage stamps) and initiate an attack on your pocket. I do not wish that to happen. Enclosed is a paper for dear ‘Islamabad Saib’. Please arrange for it to be reached to him. In fact it is a reply to his old mail I did not respond to.
You are right that I have reached a stage in life where my hair is going grey but what do I do about this heart which is continually teeming and blossoming youthful aspirations? As far as Darvaishaana style is concerned, this is your imagination. I do not even claim to have such attributes, never mind adopting them. The buzurgee (old age) and darvaishee (humble living) are specifically for your self. Physical ageing is an unavoidable process (of nature). What we need to seek from God is that he may not weaken our aspirations and ambitions with the weakening of our bodies.

Give my regards to all friends and your family members.
Lots of love to children.

Yours brother
Mohammed Maqbool Butt.

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