When Ashfaq returned from Pakistan, he was greeted with flower petals, slogans and “Wanwun” in the soul of Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar. Women and Men sat roadside to get a divine glimpse of the returned braveheart. These young men flanked Ashfaq’s vehicle wanting to cross over with a warning “Either you take us to the other side or we jump into the river.” He made a thoughtful decision that day that saved lives and led to an emergence of an enlightened opinion.
The greatest human endowment is the ability to reframe and reinterpret a difficult circumstance in a more enlightened and more empowering way. Blaming our circumstances for the way we feel is nothing more than excusing ourselves in handling any problem, we must have the courage to assume a major of responsibilities for whatever situations we are In and then realise that we also have the capacity to use the set back to our advantage. Life’s biggest setback also reveals life’s biggest blessings.
The patriot was not born that day. The school days were no less rebellious, out speaking the Indian state barbarism, out crying the Indian genocide in Punjab and the North Eastern States. He often entered into arguments with the conventional mind-sets for being critically analytic. On a certain day he refused to join his parents to offer the funeral of Sheikh Abdullah. At this young age, this rebellious streak startled close associates including family and friends. But he as my aunt, his junior in the school recalls was born to be a torch bearer. She talks of a passionately enthusiastic Ashfaq, who was marvellous at studies too. “He was an inspiration to almost everyone in the school” my aunt recollects.
Being closely associated with the resilient pillars of Resistance struggle like Dr. Qazi Nissar and the cognoscenti like Shakeel Ahmed Bakshi he sauntered his way down to one of the greatest uprisings of Kashmir struggle, The Rise of Muslim United Front in 1987. It was during this time he along with the committed ideologue of Islamic Students League, Shakeel Bakshi and others pledged not to consume or use anything Indian and he lived on his oath and all others he made. He was vigorously involved in the struggle to change, as an active campaigner. Subsequently, the massive deceit in the elections transited this reformist into a cynical rebellion. Indian Agencies reacted to the mass movement by caging all the stalwarts of the MUF uprising including Ashfaq Majeed Wani resulting in a comprehensive disillusionment towards the functionality of the conventional politics, as John Carre mentions “this new world requires a new politics.” It was just a commencement of the struggle that had just started to find support and acceptance on International plateform. Ashfaq too was thrown into prison for nine months after subjecting him to torture.
The rebel was inaudible during his jail days, but it was that favourite Buddhist strategy to build willpower-one that has been used by many cultures over years to create enormous amounts of inner strength and resolve. It is the vow of silence, Staying quiet even for shorter periods of time builds willpower, because you exert force on your will by not giving in to the impulse to talk. The time of silence was over, it was the time for action as he believed “it’s action and only action that changes things” and when he was released on parole he said something remarkable “the government made two grave mistakes as far as Kashmir is concerned. First they acceded to India and secondly, they let me out on parole.”
What followed will always be recounted whenever we write history of our own. With the rising dissatisfaction against the Indian Rule, due to the denial of the promised right to self-determination, unwarranted arrests, human rights abuses, consistent treason of democracy, Wani crossed over to develop into one of the initiators of the armed struggle in Kashmir. The movement commenced by Ashfaq saw it’s symptoms on the Kashmir streets and especially in the mazes of Srinagar, Hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians marched on the streets of Srinagar in 1990 demanding an assured plebiscite. Among others who joined him in JKLF were Abdul Hamid Shaikh, Javed Ahmed Mir and Mohammed Yasin Malik (Popularly known as HAJY group). Subsequently, in 1989, figures beyond count, mostly young Kashmiris joined JKLF and a full-fledged Crusade against the Indian Rule began. An official figure claims that 10,000 Kashmiri youth crossed over for obtaining arms and returned to fight the Indian oppression in Kashmir.
Ashfaq was martyred on 30 March, 1990 at the age of 23. The news struck Srinagar like wildfire or a hurricane or a tornado. The Srinagar streets burst with wails and slogans. The early morning gossips were solitarily of Wani’s last encounter with the Indian forces. “Our hero is no more!” people wailed everywhere, in the streets and from the rooftops of their houses. “Death to the enemy” women mourned. Men came running to each other’s houses and gathered in clusters, arranging vehicles to bid a farewell at Eid Gah. Thousands of people started marching towards his funeral procession to bid adieu to the patriot. Women sang traditional folk to say Goodbye “Alwida Sane Ashfaqo”. Militants fired in the air, as a mark of respect to their slain commander. On his Chauhram, people from the whole valley flocked Eidgah Srinagar despite Curfew to pay tributes to one of the greatest hero of the Liberation Struggle.
There are constantly these one liners doing rounds on social networking in Kashmir speaking of question papers after Azaadi. Some of the questions in all messages remain the same “What was the impact of 2008 mass rallies?” I am not assured what the questions would be. But I am definite, whenever we start writing the History of our own, Ashfaq will certainly constitute an important section and the sagas of his heroism will be recited to every folk in all the primary schools.
The author is a founder member at ‘The Kashmiriyat’ and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org