Yusuf Buch: Journey From Manhattan To Muzaffarabad 

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97 years old, icon and most recognisable authority on Kashmiri resistance struggle, Ambassador Yusuf Buch died on Friday, May 24, 2019 at 5.44 p.m. at his residence in New York City. Akhtar Husain, his nephew informed me about his demise around 6.00 p.m. and the management of Waterside Plaza, his residence also contacted me few minutes later as these were the instructions given by Buch Sahib to them to contact me in case of any emergency. I immediately made preparations to leave for New York City to make sure that all logistical issues are taken care off.

Mian Maqsood Sahib of Makki Masjid, Brooklyn, New York (one of the largest mosques in New York City) had already contacted Al-Rayaan Muslim Cemetery which is adjacent to the Makki Masjid. Sardar Sarwar Khan Sahib, former advisor to the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir along with Mian Maqsood Sahib were fully in charge of all the arrangements relating to funeral and transfer of body to Muzaffarabad.

Buch Sahib had already signed the contract with Makki Masjid on May 22, 2009 and had paid all the expenses to cover funeral charges, cemetery costs, etc. Buch Sahib was very particular even with minute details in the contract which he signed with the Masjid, i.e.,  how to transfer the remains to funeral home; basic arrangements for funeral; ritual washing – Ghusal and embalming; supervision for funeral service; hearse to cemetery; ‘square-peg’ pine casket, etc., etc. He had even mentioned in the contract that “Dr. Fai has signified that he will make himself available for consultations on any question that may arise.”

Buch Sahib concluded the contract with this words, “These are the earthly considerations relating to my life’s end. But its greater reality will be in the transcendental dimension. In that context, my soul derives comfort from the belief that the participants in my funeral — whether few or many – will be performing an act of the kind that is known to have earned the pleasure of the beloved Founder of our Faith. Its reward lies only with God.”

The Janazah prayer of Buch Sahib was held at Makki Masjid, New York city on May 27 which was attended by a large number of people – a cross section of various ages and ethnic backgrounds. The Janazah followed by a glowing tributes paid to Ambassador Buch’s dedication and commitment to the cause of Kashmir. 

Anwar Husain, Buch Sahib’s nephew took us back in time. If I may, to many decades ago, to a time when India had just gained its independence. The subcontinent had been partitioned, and Pakistan had come into being. Events unfolded, and Yusuf Sahib was one of those selected in an exchange of prisoners between India and Pakistan. He was packing some belongings, and his sister… my mother, suggested that he pack a sweater or two. It was late summer, she said, and soon the leaves would turn. Yusuf Mamoo answered that there was no such need as the dispute between India and Pakistan would be resolved in a couple of weeks and he would be back home. In a way, those few weeks are still to be over. The dispute over Kashmir lingers, with no sign of abatement. For my Mamoo, the ‘couple of weeks’ turned into sixteen years of exile. From here – New York City, he would apply year after year for permission to visit home. He was repeatedly denied, and turned his focus to the issue of Kashmir.”

Anwar added that Yusuf Sahib’s ambition upon graduation had been to teach. At the time he imagined that all he needed to decide was whether to teach literature, or philosophy. But life took him along a different path, and he devoted himself to the cause of his people. He never wavered. False revolutions, and ‘springs’, came and went. But he stayed true to his ideals. He knew that enduring solutions take work and preparation, and do not spring from a smart-phone screen.

“This was a man who lived independently till the age of 92! Apart from having someone visit every few weeks to tidy the apartment, he took care of everything himself, whether it be meals, shopping, dry-cleaning, or other chores. Then came the last five years, and those were hard. The fatigue in his bones became overwhelming. The displacements in memory were too acute. He used to say that he displayed bad taste in living so long.

Dr. Manejeh Yaqub, grandniece of Buch Sahib expressed her emotions in these words: “In the passing of Ambassador Yusuf Buch, Kashmir has lost a formidable indigenous voice of reason and rationale.

Dr. Manejeh continued: “In all his letters, emails and conversations, with me over the next 4 decades his profound love and affection for each member of the family always shone through. Ironical that he never truly had a family that he lived with most of his life, but he never ceased to provide family values and guidance to his extended family. His relationship with his brothers also bore the stories that one can derive history from. All three of them shared love for  English literature, Persian poetry, playing chess, and intellectually opining on various world matters. In being witness to their conversations one could learn an ocean of information. Whether it was Saadis romanticism, or the tragic symbolism of Keats, or opinions about the socio political situations anywhere in the world, the conversations were astute, deep thinking and full of questioning and learning from one another.”

Dr. Manejeh narrated: “Last week, as we drove from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad via Murree and Nathia Gali to fulfill his last wish, to be buried in Azad Kashmir, I felt like I knew the region fairly well, although I had never been there before and he had not visited in about 20 years, his conversations captured every detail with such visual beauty, it became a part of my living memory which gave me a strange sense of being acquainted with the region. He came back to finally rest at the place he deeply loved, as a revered hero that shall inspire generations to come. Beneath a pine tree,  besides his mentor (Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah), adjacent to his dearest counterpart Khurshid Hassan Khurshid, with two Chinar trees in the back, surrounded by snow capped mountains and a library/reading room full of books and newspapers, with people of all ages learning from them right besides. Rest In Peace and absolute power my dearest Uncle Yusuf. Your guidance helped shape my identity and in me, you shall live until I do, and I know far longer than that in so many stories of courage and brilliance,” Dr. Manejeh concluded.

The people of Kashmir will never forget the selfless contribution and the tireless efforts of Ambassador Yusuf Buch. His efforts will remain forever a milestone in the history of Kashmir struggle. With the passing of such a noble soul, who was a symbol of humanity and a champion of human rights, it is the end of an era.  We will miss him a lot!

 


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