Letters of Afzal Guru from his prison cell


Book: The Many Faces Of Kashmiri Nationalism - From The Cold War To The Present Day
Author: Nandita Haksar
Publisher: Speaking Tiger, New Delhi
ISBN: 9385288180
Year of Publication: 2015
Pages: 335
Price: Rs 350

Humra Quraishi

I have written about Nandita Haksar’s latest book …Now I’m writing on this book once again, because as I sat re-reading it to write its review one aspect stood out - Afzal Guru’s letters. These are Afzal Guru’s letters / correspondence with Nandita, and this includes a 10-page handwritten letter which he’d written from his prison cell.

Nah, none of his long and short letters tucked in the pages of this book carry terrorizing offloads or thoughts. On the contrary, they come across as philosophical, humane and emotional.

To quote Nandita from this book,”Though Afzal Guru had lived in the closed and claustrophobic cells of the Tihar Jail, his mind was open, and he continued to read extensively. Tabassum said after Ghalib was born, Afzal would complain “Waai Pyaari my emilehakanh goaph” (O pyaari, I wish I could find a cave to read in). After his imprisonment, Tabassum would tease him”Goaphmileye? “ (have you found the cave now? ), to which he would respond’Zabardastgoaph (Incredible cave!) … Afzal wrote long letters to friends. Sometimes he would make copies and give me one or send it to me through his channels. Most of these letters were in English. In the letters he discussed his ideas about religion and nationalism. Like many other Kashmiri Muslims, Afzal too had become disillusioned by the idea of nationalism and had taken refuge in Islamist ideologies.

For Afzal, both India and Pakistan had betrayed the Kashmiris. He was worried about the radicalization of the new generation. He called it indoctrination and expressed his concern in a letter written from Jail No 2, in Tihar Jail, to a fellow Kashmiri: Our home is in a state of ANARCHY (morally - politically, socially etc) sandwiched between two antagonistic forces. One country is simmering other on indoctrinating the highly volatile kids mobilizing the noble feelings of these uneducated and unaware youth for their own existence and survival. They want to engage the huge army structure with huge budget by a handful of highly motivated people. The other side the Army wants to rest and to have a highly luxurious life. It is this hypocrisy that made few people to change the state of simmering of the pot into boiling State. It got boiled but unfortunately these two countries do not learn rather they do not want people to live in peace. They are living on the threshold of the same boiling stage. I was not alone nor am I. I do not belong to any org. I belong to feelings and ideas (felt globally) by those who are being humiliated and silenced unwillingly.”  

In fact, Nandita’s focus on Afzal through his letters makes him stand out as a well - read man who was talking of ground realities ever so constantly. Another quote:”Afzal was wrestling with the ideas of religion and nationalism.In a long letter written to me on 8 January 2008 he asked : Respected Nandita, when Naga conflict is not Christian, why conflict in Kashmir is branded Islamic. Fundamentally it is political, social and historical in nature. Robert A Pape’s book, Dying To Win, has given a sophisticated analysis of 300 suicide attacks (from 1980 - 2003) out of which 76 were executed by the LTTE. The common cause he says is political and social injustice, oppression and brute policies of the political establishment and occupational powers.”

In this book she also focuses on yet another of his letters in which Afzal Guru writes on the’state’s senseless policies : “The constant humiliation and trauma will ignite the heat of conflict. These policies will cultivate the militant and radical culture towards irreversible end. Police Stations have become terror and slaughter houses. Families of killed people do not go to police station because it is the police station which is spreading the sense of terror into the hearts and minds of people. You may be feeling this exaggeration of state terror but this is a bitter fact of constitutional colony that is Kashmir.”  

She mentions yet another letter of Guru wherein he reasons out why economic packages alone will not solve any of the problems in Kashmir:”Jesus son of Mary (Maryam) (Peace be on them) says man cannot live by bread alone. Economic packages cannot bring peace in Kashmir. The people who are constantly living in the flux of humiliation and fear does not need bread for which Allah has given every person for a single mouth. What people need is a political framework in which they don’t feel themselves vulnerable, humiliated or terrorized …The closure of all democratic means and vents will naturally push the educated youth towards radical wall. Noam Chomsky says if we do not believe in the Freedom of expression for the people we despise we don’t believe in it at all. RSS’s philosophy and its political, social and militant offshoots and offsprings are communalizing and polarizing whole of political and social fabric and this culture of hatred is penetrating the other local institutions as well and don’t exclude Tihar Jail. There is no doubt ISI is also playing its role in this process through its devices of hatred. In fact, is nurturing on anti -India rhetoric.”  

This 335 page book ends with a 10-page handwritten letter of Afzal Guru to Nandita (which she’d received on 8 January 2008) and the sentiments and thoughts contained in his this letter make you sit up and introspect … Because of space constraints I cannot quote extensively from it ; just these last lines from it :”In the end I request you don’t colourize or dress my words in any colour or dress except a purely responsible human concern for humanity …I am in Universe in such a way that I am myself Universe - I live in a space but I am space less.”