His name may not have been in play in prevailing political discourse on Kashmir, but Amanullah Khan loomed large as the pre-eminent leader of Kashmiri separatist movement. And in his death, Kashmir has lost one of the most influential champion of its Azadi from both India and Pakistan. Khans life encompassed the lingering conflict over Kashmir right from its beginning in 1947 to the present uncertainty. His imprint was all over it and across the militant-political divide. And certainly, aspects of this long struggle can be held synonymous with his name. He was one of the foremost architects of the Kashmir militancy when it broke out in 1989. It was his JKLF which initially spearheaded the armed struggle, later taken over by Hizbul Mujahideen and the other pro-Pakistan outfits.
Khans tryst with Kashmir began in the forties itself. Though he hailed from Astore in Gilgit, Khan was sent by his father to Kashmir to study. He stayed with his brother-in-law Hashmat Ali Khan in Kupwara, where he also did his primary schooling. He went later to high school in Handwara. And in the matriculation exam he stood first among the Muslims. This got him admission in SP College in Srinagar, interestingly facilitated by the National Conference stalwart Moulana Muhammad Syed Masoodi, who even arranged for him to stay at Mujahid Manzil for nearly six months. It was here that he got into the student activism, emerging as the passionate Pakistan supporter. He was chosen as the General Secretary of the Students Union of the college and was instrumental in organizing many protests on the premises of the school. But it was his protest over the assassination of the then Pakistan Prime Minister Liaquat Khan that sent the local authorities gunning for him, forcing him to leave Kashmir. This was in 1952.
But Khan didnt give up Kashmir cause. In Pakistan Administered Kashmir he continued to pursue the resolution of Kashmir issue by associating himself with Sheikh Abdullah’s Plebiscite Front. In 1964, he was made its general secretary in PaK. But Sheikh’s accord with Indira Gandhi broke his heart. He changed his political tack to pursue independence of Kashmir. Along the way, he was arrested by Pakistan government for being allegedly involved in the conspiracy that led to the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane named Ganga to Lahore. He was, however, soon acquitted of the charges while hijackers Hashim Qureshi and his cousin Ashraf Bhat were made to serve long jail terms. Subsequently Khan immigrated to Britain where he continued his political activism.
But he really shot into political prominence when in 1977 he founded JKLF in Birmingham along with Maqbool Bhat and established its branches across Europe and Middle East. Bhat was later hanged in Tihar jail after JKLF abducted and killed Indian diplomat Ravinder Mhatre in London. But with JKLF, Khan had institutionalised a political ideology that would change the course of Kashmir’s history. So, Khan could verily be called as one of the pre-eminent ideological progenitors of Kashmiri separatist movement. And will always be remembered as one.
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