Kashmir’s Mandella, Dr Muhammad Qasim Completes 24 years behind bars
By Advocate Abdul Mateen, The Milli Gazette Online
Published Online: Feb 06, 2017
Srinagar (5 February, 2017): Dr Muhammad Qasim, chairman Muslim Deeni Mahaz and husband of Dukhtran-i-Millat leader, Asiyah Andrabi, completed 24 years in prison today (5 February, 2017). He is a militant thinker and scholar who has lost half his eyesight and has been advised surgery by doctors. He is taking medicines regularly for his chronic intestinal ailment. His heart disease is a matter of serious concern for his family and well-wishers.
Dr Muhammad Qasim was born in 1967 in a middle-class family at Zaldagar in Srinagar. His father was a well-known handicraft exporter. He was the youngest of five children. He was only 13 years old when his father passed away in 1980. It was a great shock for the family as all the five children were still studying at that time. Livelihood was the family’s main problem before the family which had two showrooms in Srinagar. Muhammad Qasim’s elder brother, who was only 18-year-old at the time, shouldered the responsibility of the family so that Muhammad Qasim and their three sisters could continue their studies but due to his young age and inexperience, business started declining.
In 1983, Qasim completed his matriculation from the Modern Islamia High School and immediately after giving tuitions to some local children to financially help his family. In 1985, the police department sought applications from youth for the recruitment for the posts of sub-inspectors. Qasim appeared in the selection test for the said post. He was asked to pay Rs 25000 as bribe for the selection but he was not in a position to pay the amount. His application as a result was rejected which was a great shock for him. Years later, in 1993, after his arrest, DD Saklani, an advisor to J&K Governor, came to him at Papa-2 interrogation centre thrice to convince him for taking part in the elections.Saklani not only assured him success in the elections but also offered him a ministerial berth should he join politics. On another occasion, in January 2002, at Talab Tiloo interrogation centre in Jammu, the same offer was repeated by some intelligence officers but on both the occasions without giving any thought to their offers, Qasim rejected them and preferred to stay in jail.
Qasim described the year 1987 as the turning point for him. In his autobiography, Bebasi (Helplessness), which is yet to be published, Dr. Qasim saysthat for the first time that year in his life he felt actively inclined towards Islam and the book of Maulana Ashiq Ilahi, Marne Ke Ba'd kya Hoga (what will happen after death) played an important role in framing his mindset.
In 1987, Qasim completed his B.Com degree from the Islamia College and in order to appear in the exams of ICWA, which were going to be held at Delhi, he started preparations for the entrance test.During that period, Qasim met a well-known militant leader, Muhammad Abdullah Bangru, who had returned to Kashmir after receiving guerrilla training in Afghanistan. In 1990, Qasim was appointed as spokesman of the Hizbul Mujahidin (HM) outfit. He did not give up his studies but changed his subject and chose Islamic Studies instead of ICWA and with that he also started his writing career. He regularly wrote for the local newspapers and his columns were published in various newspapers and journals. He used to write the column “Kadwa Sach” (Bitter truth) for the Srinagar daily Alsafa newspaper.
In October 1990, Qasim married, Asiyah Andrabi, now chairperson of Dukhtran-i-Millat. While continuing his studies, he completed the degrees of Maulvi Fazil, MA, M.Phil and PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Kashmir. Teaching and preaching became his full-time engagement. He started giving sermons in different mosques, and also raised his voice against social evils and apostasies which were flourishing in society. Alongwith these engagements, he also worked for a permanent solution of the Kashmir problem according to the wishes of the people and used his oratory skills and pen for this end. Hundreds of his essays on various topics were published in local dailies as well as in magazines elsewhere. Besides this, he authored a number of books, e.g.,
i) Insan ka ta'aruf
ii) Da’I, Da’wat Aur Mad’u
iii) Maslaki Masajid Aur Tafriq bainal Muslimeen
iv) Kashmiriyat aur Ittihad Bainal Muslimeen
v) Maslaye Kashmir ki Shar’ee Haissiyat
vi) Aqeedah-e Tawheed aur Bharti Intikhabaat main shirkat
vii) Al-Tawhid (in English)
viii) The Status of Sunnah
ix)Tahrik Ihyaa-e Khilafat
xi) Wiladat say Adalat tak
xii) Tafseer Ashan al-Hadith
xiv) Wahi aur Aqal
xv) Bang, etc.
In 1993, along with his wife and infant child Muhammad, Dr Qasim were arrested at Srinagar airport while returning from Delhi. After 13 months detention, his wife and the infant son were released but he was kept in jail under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
Since there was no specific charge against Dr Qasim except that he was vocal in his speeches and writings. Therefore BSF men and intelligence agencies employing severe torture in the notorious Papa-2 interrogation centre forced Dr. Qasim to sign blank papers. Later, he came to know that he has been implicated in the conspiracy of the murder of one Hardai Nath Wanchoo.
In March 1999, when he was released on bail, he launched the religious organization Muslim Dini Mahaz. During this period, at the invitation of the Muslim Parliament of UK, he visited London. He also visited Saudi Arabia at the invitation of WAMY and Pakistan to meet some of his relatives. On his return, he established teaching centres at Raj Bagh, Hazratbal and some other places.
In July 2001, the TADA Court at Jammu honourably acquitted him and his two companions in the above-mentioned case. But the court verdict did not suit the ruling establishment which appealed against this judgment in the Supreme Court of India. In January 2003, the Supreme Court acknowledged that there is no evidence against Dr. Qasim and his two companions and the case is solely based on their confessional statements but the apex court still sentenced them to life imprisonment.
Dr Qasim’s political views
Dr. Qasim’s political views regarding Kashmir are based on historical realities, justice and logic. He does not consider the Dogra ruler Hari Singh as the legal representative of the Kashmiri people, hence he rejects Singh’s decision of accession to India. Qasim holds that the Indian National Congress with the help of Shaikh Abdullah created an atmosphere which forced Hari Singh to reluctantly sign the document of accession which was not only against the principle of partition but in every aspect defied the wishes of the Kashmiri masses. At the same time Dr. Qasim does not accept the history that Indian forces landed in Kashmir only after the document of accession was signed by Hari Singh. He quotes Alastair Lamb, an authority on Kashmir, who said in his book that the Indian forces were already in Kashmir and they welcomed their companions on 27 October, 1947. He asks the Indian rulers, who demand the Hurriyat Conference leadership to prove its representative character, what about Hari Singh? Was he an elected representative of the Kashmiri people? Then how his decision of accession was accepted? If as a ruler he had a right to take such decision, what about the ruler of Junagarh? Why the latter’s decision to accede to Pakistan was not accepted by the Indian rulers? Dr Qasim mentions another relevant aspect of this so-called accession: Hari Singh signed the document of accession at a time when the public movement against him was on its peak and he was forced to quit Kashmir and he signed the document only after quitting Kashmir.
According to Dr. Qasim, the issue between the people of Kashmir and the Indian rulers is basically over the history of Kashmir. The universal truth about the Kashmiri history repeat itself and once it repeats itself in these times, India will be forced to quit Kashmir. Qasim advocates that while taking the history of Kashmir into consideration, this issue must be solved according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people as was promised by India's first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru from 1947 till his death in 1962. Nehru had repeatedly pledged before the world, Pakistani rulers, Indian parliament and people of Kashmir that India will respect the wishes of the people of Kashmir to resolve this issue. He used to say that as soon as peace is restored in Kashmir, its people will be given the right to decide their future. Dr. Qasim argues that demanding plebiscite in Kashmir is in fact to demand the Indian rulers to fulfill the promises of their first prime minister regarding the future of Kashmir.
Dr Qasim is disgusted with the political leaders of the state. He says it were Shaikh Abdullah, Ghulam Muhammad Bakhshi and Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq and then Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad who gave the political shield to the Indian military in Kashmir. Qasim says that for mere power and personal interests, the state’s political leaders mislead the Indian government about the ground realities in Kashmir. He says that it is not a problem in Kashmir but the problem of Kashmir which the Government of India should address. He blames the state leaders for misguiding the Indian government that the present situation in Kashmir is due to the unemployment problem, which is why the Indian leaders are announcing economic packages and job schemes. While appealing to the Indian rulers, Dr Qasim says that the Kashmir problem is of political nature and therefore, it must be solved according to the wishes of the people as economic packages cannot heal political wounds.
Dr Qasim raises an important question when he says that in the last seven decades the Indian rulers with all their efforts have failed to win the hearts of the Kashmiri people. Although billions have been spent in Kashmir, the situation is that ordinary Kashmiris are not ready to allow any Indian political leader or an Indian army personnel to enter his house. There is a yawning gulf of hatred between India and Kashmir which is widened every single day due to the brutalities of the Indian forces.
Dr. Qasim says that in the core of their hearts, the Kashmiri political leaders from Sheikh Abdullah to Farooq Abdullah were not Indians but only pretended to be so because of their lust for power. If Kashmiris are given the right of self-determination, I am of firm belief that Farooq Abdullah will cast his vote in favour of independence and not in favour of India, says Dr Qasim.
Dr Qasim says that Mughals ruled Kashmir for 167 years against the wishes of the Kashmiris, Afghan for 66 years, Sikhs for 27 years and Dogras for about 99 years but they all failed to win the hearts of the Kashmiri people. Dr. Qasim agrees with the famous historian Pandit Kalhan that Kashmiris cannot be won over by sword. Since the Indian rulers have failed miserably to win the hearts of the Kashmiri people, their rule over Kashmir will not last long. When Indian rulers will accept this bitter truth, they will allow the Kashmiri people to decide their future.
Dr. Qasim also agrees with the opinion of Raj Mohan Gandhi that to solve the Kashmir issue fairly it is necessary for the Indian leaders to educate their people about the historical realities of Kashmir. In this context, the Indian print and electronic media has to play a vital role.
Dr Qasim further says that all attempts until now from the so-called accession of Hari Singh (1947), Nehru-Abdullah agreement (1952), Shastri-Ayub agreement (1966), Indira-Bhutto agreement (1972), Indira-Abdullah agreement (1975) to the Vajpayee-Nawaz agreement (1999) failed to solve the Kashmir dispute because they failed to take into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Qasim says that even if today an agreement is signed regarding Kashmir between Modi-PPP or Modi-Hurriyat Conference where the wishes of people are ignored, it will be one more attempt in futility.
In his books, Dr. Qasim asks the Indian government to show a sense of wisdom, farsightedness and political vision and should understand and acknowledge the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. He says, the solution of the Kashmir issue alone can make relations between Pakistan and India cordial which, in turn, will pave the way for the Subcontinent's peace and prosperity.
Dr. Qasim put forward a three-point formula for changing the Kashmiri freedom movement into a self-reliant movement:
1) After taking the militant organisations into confidence, the Hurriyat Conference and other political organisations should set a bottom-line on the Kashmir issue;
2) The Kashmiri political organisations should not accept monetary help from any government or agency; instead they should raise funds locally;
3) They must snap all relations with intelligence agencies of Delhi and Islamabad.
When Dr Qasim put forth these suggestions before political and militant organizations, Hurriyat Conference and other outfits declared them as mere imagination. But after 9/11, both his friends and foes acknowledged his farsightedness. They are now talking about an indigenous movement which he foresaw in his famous book Masla-e Kashmir ki Shar’ee haisiyat (June 2001) that one day Pakistan government will take a U-turn from its traditional stand on Kashmir which later became obvious in the shape of Musharraf’s four-point formula. Although people considered 9/11 responsible for this U-turn, Dr. Qasim has discussed in detail the reasons why the Pakistan government took to this U-turn.
It was due to his political farsightedness and practical vision that he was sentenced for life in a fake case in which he was sentenced on the basis of forced confession but without any proof or witness. He is the only Kashmiri scholar and political ideologue who has been sentenced for life solely on the basis of his political views despite the fact that the TADA court had acquitted him saying that the confessional statement was extracted without following the norms for recording a confessional statement and that it was recorded under duress. It is also a unique case in the history of TADA courts where a lower court acquits somebody but the apex court sentences him for life.
For the last 24 years, Dr Qasim is languishing in jails for his political views. His family, wife and little children are suffering and his well-wishers are worried about his deteriorating health.