Profile: Dr Ayub Thakur — A conscious voice of Kashmir

Born in January 1948, at Pudsoo Shopian, Mohammad Ayub Thakur did his schooling at Kaprin and Shopian and completed his B.Sc from Degree College Anantnag, popularly known as Islamabad. He spent the next 10 years at Kashmir University.

Ayub was one of the pioneers of nuclear physics in Kashmir. After completing his doctorate in 1978, he was appointed as a lecturer in Kashmir University. Throughout the 1970s he was among the most prominent students of the University not only because he studied nuclear physics, which was then a feat in itself, but also because he took active part in student politics, a sphere of activity viewed with suspicion and hatred by the establishment. Ayub had rightist leanings. In 1974, he founded the Students Islamic Organisation and continued to lead it until 1977. That year he joined the Islamic Jamiat-i-Tulba. Meanwhile he was also elected president of the Kashmir University Students Union and president of the Kashmir University Research Scholars Association. Both were then very active and dynamic student organisations.

As a youth activist, Ayub attended international conferences sponsored by International Islamic Federation of Students Organisation, e.g., at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia in 1979; at Dacca in Bangladesh, and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia in 1980. The subject of the debate at Kuala Lumpur conference was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The conference denounced the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. After the conference condemned the Soviet aggression Ayub rose up and raised Kashmir issue. He informed attendees that Kashmiris had suffered atrocities at the hands of Indian administration and that the Indian state was continuously denying them the right to self-determination mandated by UN resolutions. His power of persuasion resulted in delegates condemning India in the face of protests by Indian members.

This made him a persona non grata with Indian authorities. However, threats that started coming from the establishment didn’t break his resolve. He refused to be browbeaten. On the contrary he proceeded to organise an international conference of youth and students in Srinagar under the aegis of Islamic Jamiat-i-Tulba.  Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was then chief minister of Kashmir.

Sheikh had staged a U-turn in 1975, which catapulted him from a life of political obscurity to that of the CM, forgetting Kashmiris’ right of self-determination. The same person had milked Kashmiris for 20 years in the name of a plebiscite. It was second time that he had become the ruler of Kashmir with New Delhi’s blessings, but without popular mandate. And during his tenures as the ruler of Kashmir, 1947-1953 and 1975 onwards, he did not like political activism in others because political activists openly challenged the Indian narrative on Kashmir. The Indian establishment let loose intelligence agencies and their local minions against those who challenged India’s Kashmir narrative. Ayub was one such person who frequently challenged India’s narrative on Kashmir.

In Ayub, Sheikh perceived a great threat to his political monopoly which he had set up with the help of Indian agencies. So, in order to cripple Ayub, the Sheikh administration arrested and jailed him in July 1980 for six months. Also Sheikh managed to terminate his Kashmir University lectureship in the same year.

Next year in May, Ayub left for Jeddah, where he met another Kashmiri exile, Dr GN Fai, who arranged his visit to King Abdul Aziz University. There he got appointed on a five year contract as an assistant professor of nuclear sciences. At the end of this contract, Ayub declined to extend it despite insistence from the University authorities because he thought his continuance as a tutor in the Saudi University on a very fat salary of Rs 1,25000 would adversely affect his Kashmir mission.

The Indian propaganda machinery has the habit of describing political activists who disagree with their Kashmir narrative as paid agents of Pakistan. When people conduct movements on international level they require support from international organisations and think tanks. Pakistan being a party to the Kashmir dispute invariably supports the right to self-determination movement of Kashmiris. Because of this fact the Indian propaganda mills find it easier to dub such people, Ayub being one of them, as paid agents of Pakistan! Through these methods, they try to fool the international community.

In 1986, Ayub moved from Jeddah to London. There he set up the Kashmir Centre with an objective to bring together non-resident Kashmiris from both sides of Line of Control (formerly Ceasefire Line) so as to work on the international stage towards shaming, embarrassing, and nudging India into honouring its UNSC obligations that it had voluntarily accepted as the fairest way to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

In London, Ayub also set up the World Kashmir Freedom Movement to expose India’s human rights violations against Kashmiris especially India’s denial of the RSD to them; and to garner support for the RSD in Kashmir through peaceful means. He also acted as the chairman of the International Institute of Kashmir Studies. Through these international fora he kept the torch of the Kashmir cause burning.

Back home the ground situation registered convolutions starting in 1983, with the appointment of Jagmohan Malhotra by India’s PM Indira Gandhi, as the Governor of Kashmir. Jagmohan, a man of conspiracies, fuelled court intrigues in June 1984, and March 1986, thereby toppling two governments, one of Farooq Abdullah and the other of his brother-in-law, GM Shah. Common Kashmiris resented Jagmohan’s meddling into what they called internal affairs of Kashmir.  Their resentment reached highest point when Farooq Abdullah and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi entered into an opportunistic power sharing arrangement between their respective parties (the National Conference and Congress) called Rajiv-Farooq Accord 1986.

Ending 1986, Kashmiris rallied under the banner of the  political combination called the Muslim United Front. The MUF decided to take on the NC-Congress alliance at polls which the new government led by Farooq Abdullah announced would be advanced to March 1987, although polls were due in 1989.

The MUF commanded support of the entire Muslim population of Kashmir who constituted the majority.  The NC-Congress alliance not only rigged the March 1987 elections, they also set the police against the MUF leaders and supporters, some of whom managed to flee to the other side of LoC where they procured support, military and otherwise, to launch an armed struggle in Kashmir to force the Indian state to honour its commitments vis-à-vis the future disposition of Kashmir. With the inception of armed revolt in Kashmir the government forces indulged in reprisals against the civilian population in Kashmir. Ayub could not remain unconcerned. In July 1991, he organised an international conference in Washington under the aegis of WKFM, which was attended among others, US Congressmen and parliamentarians of Britain and the European Union.  The conference called for tripartite (India, Pakistan, Kashmir) negotiations on Kashmir dispute. Speaking on the occasion, Ayub urged Kashmiri militants to shun the misuse of force no matter how urgent their self-determination aspirations are. Ayub organised other conferences under the aegis of WKFM, for example, in 1993 at Istanbul in Turkey; in 1995 at Leicester in the UK. Besides a very good organiser he was also a great orator. He was respected by human rights activists around the globe who invited him to conferences where he made them aware of Kashmir dispute. To mention only a few, he spoke at Oxford University, Cambridge University and at the UN Commission on Human Rights.

In 2000, Ayub founded Mercy Universal, a UK-based charity, for extending support to the poor, the sick, and the needy. In 2003, he founded the  Justice Foundation in the UK to advance the Kashmir cause. He was 55 years old when in November 2003, doctors diagnosed him with lung disease. He received treatment in the US where doctors advised him rest. Instead calling a halt to his activities he proceeded to organise a Kashmir conference in London in February 2004. Next month he was no more. He lies buried in London, thousands of miles away from his homeland: the land for whose liberty he dedicated his life and suffered exile.

“Dr Thakur knew Kashmir could move the world only by moral argument and peaceful advocacy to awaken the conscience of leaders and citizens everywhere, as Kashmir has  neither oil nor diamonds to command attention or sympathy,” writes his comrade-in-exile, Dr GN Fai in “The Real Lion of Kashmir”.

Written By: Ashq Hussain Bhat/ Kashmir Reader 04-December-2015

—The author is a political historian. Feedback: ashqhussainbhat@gmail.com

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