Maqbool Bhat on the ‘Ganga Hijacking Trial’


When Maqbool Bhat and six others were put on trial by the Pakistani authorities for the infamous Ganga Plane Hijacking, he was kept at a Lahore prison. The following extract – translated by poet and writer Huzaifa Pandit – is from the booklet – Main Kaun Huun (Who am I). Written while on trial for the Ganga Plane Hijacking case from the ramparts of Lahore fort prison, the booklet is an important declaration of the Kashmiri right to self-determination and a rebuttal of the two-nation theory that allows Kashmir little role and agency.

Call it a coincidence or a strange cruel twist of fate that I am being tried as a criminal by this special court, and by a special order has been tasked to try me for a few such allegations levelled against me which are not only fabricated but also distant from the farthest sense of truth. Rather if they are termed as the inventions of enemies of the freedom of my nation, and a cruel joke played with the people of Jammu and Kashmir engaged in seeking freedom, such an assessment would not be far from the truth.

The Pakistani authorities who have made me and my companions stand trial in the rows of criminals, and the circumstances under which this trial has come into existence have already been judged by history. The judgment pronounced by history is so clear and self-explanatory that there is little need of explaining it further or prefacing it. When I look at this trial and its proceedings in the light of this unambiguous judgment, I cannot help but feel some joy and consider it a great honour for me and my companions. The decision pronounced by history has drawn a clear line of distinction between us and the hypocrites who have ganged up against us. Posterity will harbor no false ideas about us, and this description about such groups comes to be proven:

And when they meet those who believe, they say, "We believe"; but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say, "Indeed, we are with you; we were only mockers." [But] Allah mocks them and prolongs them in their transgression [while] they wander blindly. (Holy Quran, Sahih International)

The cruel joke that this gang had been playing against the oppressed people should have yielded just one just result – they ought to be imprisoned in such dungeons that no thought of freedom ever crosses their mind. Indeed, I have not conceived of any conspiracy not participated in one ever. My character has always been steadfast and above suspicion. But, yes I have always been a strong votary of rebellion against decay, capitalism, exploitation, tyranny, slavery, and hypocrisy. If the ruling class of Pakistan, which is firmly entrenched in expansionist and imperialist colours, represented by the bureaucracy and armed forces, prefers to label it ‘a conspiracy’, I have no hesitation to accept it.

It is hardly a surprise to me. History provides testimony that whenever any movement has arisen in history against exploitation and slavery, the rulers who exert a vice like grip on authority and administration, have always chosen the word ‘conspiracy’ from the dictionary of law to address it. But, this is also an indisputable truth that the tussle between the tyrannizer and the tyrannized has always been eventually decided in favour of the latter, and the edifice of tyranny can never withstand the revolutionary force of the oppressed people. It always crashes down to the ground when confronted with the might of fervour. I have always despised self-praise, but when my untainted and honourable character is deliberately being sought to be tarnished, I am compelled to declare that I have always stood for truth and justice at every turn of my life. I have not only sympathized with the masses engaged in a fight against tyranny and oppression but also been their active ally and scribe. I have deliberately chosen this role for myself as I perceive it to be the legacy of prophets and revolutionaries. My belief in this role and the success it proclaims for mankind has never wavered.

I wish to bring into the notice of this honourable court that even though ostensibly only six people have been formally charged, but in reality, it is aimed at suppressing our movement, and create severe hurdles in the ways of its proponents. It seeks to tire them and compel them to withdraw and surrender. The conspiracy theorists in Pakistan bureaucracy must understand this truth clearly that no matter whatever be the fate of me and my companions by the time this trial ends, yet their real intent will always be frustrated, they stand to gain nothing except shame and humiliation. If movements for freedom were thwarted by decisions of courts, no nation in the world would ever have achieved freedom. If it were possible to stop the march of civilization and democracy by court proceedings, then no revolution from the inception of the earth to this time would ever have occurred. The decisions for human advancement and freedom are not pronounced in any servile court of law, but in the mighty courts of historical evolution. These servile ritualistic courts are themselves indebted to the systems and regimes that are sought to be replaced by the movements for change and freedom. This explains why such decisions of courts are struck down as null and void when seen in the light of history.  

Translator’s note:

Writing within the context of a liberation struggle, as Barbara Harlowe points out in her seminal study of texts produced under duress – Resistance Literature often evokes consequences which extend far beyond the mundane censorship and penalties like imprisonment. Many times, producers of resistance literature have to pay for crossing forbidden lines by the supreme price of life. Mohamad Maqbool Bhat, a proud citizen of Kashmir, an ideologue of Kashmiri freedom movement and the founder of erstwhile NLF (National Liberation Front) is one such author who was put to death for his writing by hanging on trumped-up charges in retaliation of assassination of an Indian diplomat Ravindra Mhatre. His death by hanging on 11 February 1984  is widely seen as a decisive moment that pushed an already restive Kashmir into the arms of militancy – a mode of resistance advocated by Bhat himself. The life and works of Maqbool Bhat, therefore, deserve attention not only to highlight his contribution to the movement but also to understand the genealogy of the movement – the contexts and practices that determined his life.

Cover Page of Main Kaun Hun

This extract from the booklet – Main Kaun Huun (Who am I), is a small gesture towards such a study. Written while on trial for the Ganga Plane Hijacking trial from the ramparts of Lahore fort prison, the booklet is an important declaration of the Kashmiri right to self-determination and a rebuttal of the two-nation theory that allows Kashmir little role and agency. The extract which comprises the opening sections of the statement was chosen keeping not only the tenor of the book in mind but also to provide a glimpse into the personality of Bhat. In it, Bhat emerges as a fearless voice, firm but without the artifice of rhetoric, intuitive and a keen student of history. His rejection of the Pakistani establishment has been borne out by the fact, that this book stands banned in Pakistan and Pakistan Administered Kashmir. However, its relevance extends far beyond the power of the written word to subvert censorship. Rather, my interest in the passage was spurred by the fact that it seems to foreshadow his judicial murder. Reflecting on the role of the judiciary, Bhat argues that in totalitarian states, the judiciary is just an extension of the executive and only functions to serve the vested interests of the deep state. His assertion of the primacy of collective aspiration over any legal framework forms the bedrock even today of the Kashmiri struggle and therefore proves him to be an ideologue vested with great foresight. Besides, his assertion of his character as above suspicion reflects he grasped the fact that the deep-state seeks to rule by demonizing and stereotyping ideologues as scheming and treacherous people out to destroy the nation. His declaration of his character refutes the claims of ‘terrorism’ that are attached to rebels in Kashmir, and point out to the world that the struggle of Kashmir is part of the universal struggle between tyranny and prosperity, lies and the truth, disbelief and faith, resignation and hope.

A concluding word as to the process of translation. I have largely followed the text in its sequence of sentences, but at times I have split sentences to retain the flow of writing. The translation attempts to retain the forceful flavor of his writing, where he challenges and rejects the authority of the law that tries him. Hence, I have not departed much from the phrasing of the original, but only rephrased to retain the effect and maintain clarity. One such instance is the phrase istim’aari nizam ka parwarda Pakistani hukumran tabqa literally ‘Pakistani ruling class nourished by imperialist world order’ has been translated as ‘If the ruling class of Pakistan, which is firmly entrenched in expansionist and imperialist colours’. I felt the import of parwarda which evokes the sense of paternal care and concern will hardly be conveyed by nourished. I chose, therefore, to rephrase it as entrenched in expansionist and imperialist colours to evoke the sense of formality and distinction that a flag confers. Also at times I have chosen to translate giroh literally group as gang to heighten the effect of a lumpen lawless tribe that sets out to victimize and betray unsuspecting innocents. Similarly, murawaja literally traditional or in some senses formal has been translated as servile as an adjective for courts to bring out effectively the contrast between worldly courts and the larger courts of history and evolution. ♦

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