Abbas: Journeys up the Hill

Excerpts from the foreword of Maulana Muhammad Abbas Ansari’s soon-to-be-released autobiography.

AMONG the autobiographies written by Kashmiris, ‘Abbas: Journeys up the Hill’ (originally Khaar-e-Gulistan in Urdu) stands out as an account of a brilliant mind, a statesman, an emancipating leader, and a religious and spiritual head. Steeped in the Islamic values, it is the story of a person – Maulana Muhammad Abbas Ansari – who relentlessly fought for the rights of the people of Kashmir and dedicated his life to unifying the fragmented community of Kashmiris. His was a struggle to liberate his people from the shackles of ignorance, be that illiteracy, political servitude or religious bigotry, enduring political persecution and imprisonment or facing hardships throughout his life with patience and fortitude. Obviously, it is the story of this same struggle and journey – a compendium of innumerable and connected episodes in his life, each of which he has analysed deeply and came to specific conclusions to light the way in our lives. It has much to offer for the learned and the understanding minds.

The world stands to gain even when moral lessons are drawn from fictional tales. What would the results be if we took to learning from real life which is a vastly better guide even when portraying ordinary lives, not to speak of noted and renowned people? Maulana Abbas stands tall among the very few Kashmiri leaders who resisted temptations and blandishments. He maintained a consistent stance throughout his life. He had just one goal: a secure future for his nation and a lasting peace in the region based on justice and fair play.

The outpouring of sentiment on his passing on 25th of October 2022 is testimony to the mass acknowledgement of the Maulana’s unwavering and unblemished record.

The role the Maulana played till his last breath on the political, social and religious spheres is immense. To expect more from a single human being would be an injustice. With a life embodied in his writings, speeches, political and diplomatic tours, religious activities and long imprisonments, the Maulana is counted among those formidable and committed Kashmiri leaders who have the distinction of making productive use of their protracted imprisonment to faithfully pen down observations and events pertaining to their times, which is before us in the form of a book today.

Maulana Abbas Ansari (1936-2022)

Among the many merits of the book, the outstanding features are that Maulana Abbas has written it with creative flair, in a smooth and flowing style, without wavering from the idea. With great mastery, he has used his own personal and political experiences to give an absorbing account of the tortuous and tangled politics of Kashmir during his lifetime. Of particular importance is the point that the author is an eyewitness to a crucial phase in our history and he has put it down in such a novel and vivid style that a reader feels compelled to analyse and reflect. This perhaps is the real purpose of the book.

The highly respected and reputed family the Maulana belonged to had been beset with great dangers when he set out on the rocky journey of his life. For ages, the Muslims of Kashmir, especially the Shia community, had been leading their political, religious and social lives under the tutelage of various religious dynasties, but at a particular point, this led to mutual discord and factionalism, a mortal illness that gradually hollowed out their political and religious structures and foreclosed all paths to their progress. Maulana Abbas not only faced the situation courageously, but being a part of this obsolete system, he also displayed sagacity and foresight. He had realised that fighting against it, he would himself fall prey to factionalism. He was a part of the environment and fighting against it would be tantamount to shooting oneself in the foot. He not only admitted this but also ideologically scrutinised the perils of this blind cult of personality, and proved himself to be truly progressive by his conduct.

Together with highlighting the defects and drawbacks of this blind following, he also raised questions about its causes and basic concepts. In his crusade, Maulana sahib instituted reforms that the society will long remember.

As a result, he had to face bitter criticism not only from his associates and his own organisation but also from the elders of his family, about whom he says that they would have preferred to stay on the other side of the iron curtain even then. Though he has written in detail about the life he had to live and the treatment meted out to him for combating evils and prejudices, remarkably, there is no sign of bitterness or rancour in his words.

Maulana Abbas led several rounds of talks with Indian and Pakistani leaders begining 2004 to seek a negotiable settlement of the Kashmir issue.

Ever since his childhood, after the partition of the subcontinent, Maulana Abbas had seen, in the perspective of the Kashmir issue, a generation betrayed, pacts and promises broken, and hopes dashed to the ground and how, under the cover of a charade of democracy, rulers would be selected in New Delhi’s chambers and foisted on Kashmiris in the name of popular elections. Maulana sahib and this generation continued their struggle under the banner of the Plebiscite Front and the Action Committee and transferred their hopes and aspirations to the next generation when Pakistan had split into two and weakened, and New Delhi had reneged even on the internal autonomy option by giving its blessings to dynastic rule in Kashmir. The United Nations was silent, and even after the Shimla and the Tashkent agreements, the Kashmir issue hung fire. This generation had now totally lost its confidence in pro-establishment parties. It was at this juncture that the People’s United Front and the Muslim United Front emerged under Maulana Sahib’s leadership as symbols of a dream that adopted peaceful means for achieving people’s rights.

The outpouring of sentiment on his passing on 25th of October 2022 is testimony to the mass acknowledgement of the Maulana’s unwavering and unblemished record.

But when it turned out that even this legitimate course was subservient to New Delhi’s wishes, Kashmir’s new generation took recourse to the armed means. After mutual consultations during incarceration, the leadership, when released from jail, formed the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in the wider interests of the movement for self-determination and national unity. Maulana sahib’s autobiography is in fact an extremely scrupulous endeavour to hand over a somewhat detailed account of the vicissitudes of the incessant striving of three generations to a new crop of Kashmiris.

It would not be inappropriate to class the autobiography as a living story of the Kashmiri people’s struggles and their various stages. It is a glimpse of Kashmir’s political history. In this respect, it is an essential reading for those interested in Kashmir and its chequered history.

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