The Legitimate Desk
The strong voice for the freedom of Kashmir from both sides fell silent forever on April 26 when the founder of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Amanullah Khan passed away at Rawalpindi hospital after his brief illness.
Khan was born in the picturesque Astore area of Gilgit on 24 August 1934. He was bestowed with a vibrant calibre and was dynamic ever since his childhood. His father Jumma Khan sent him to study in Kupwara, living with son-in-law Hashmat Ali Khan. He studied in the local primary school and, later, went to Handwara for high school.
In the year 1977, khan was the founding leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, one of the first pro-independence political platforms.
He was bright as a student and stood first among Muslims in the matriculation exam and got admitted to the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar. Pertinently, National Conference leader Moulana Masoodi served as his sponsor. By this time, Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India and Sheikh Abdullah had become the Prime Minister of the Indian side of Jammu And Kashmir State. The western districts of the state administrated by Pakistan including his birth place Gilgit along with Baltistan had passed to Pakistan control. Khan was a staunch supporter of Pakistan even though admired Abdullah. But Sheikh’s return to political mainstream in 1975 following his accord with Indira Gandhi alienated Khan. “I was shocked at Sheikh Abdullah’s u-turn,” he would state in an interview. He went his own way, altering his political tack to follow the goal of independence of Kashmir and rose against its merger with Pakistan.
On academic front, he obtained a Degree in Law in 1962. He is said to have supported himself through his education.
Amanullah Khan was a prolific writer as well. Khan has written two books, Free Kashmir (English) and my autobiography (in Urdu), and about 3 dozen booklets and pamphlets in English and Urdu about different aspects of the Kashmir issue and the Freedom Movement.
He was also an active traveller and lobbyist and had visited over 20 countries to lobby for his cause including attending the UN General Assembly and held many press conferences there.
Khan came into true limelight in 1971 during famous hijacking of an Indian Airlines Fokker F27 Friendship aircraft named Ganga. The plane flying from Srinagar to Jammu was hijacked by two Kashmiris Hashim Qureshi and his cousin Ashraf Bhat and flown to Lahore. The hijackers demanded the release of the political prisoners belonging to Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Front, led by Khan. The passengers and crew were released and the aircraft was burnt on February 1, 1971. Khan was arrested for being a part of the hijacking conspiracy but soon let off after protests broke out in Gilgit, his hometown. Pakistan accused him of planning the hijack with India. He was later acquitted of the charge.
Amanullah Khan had famously remarked – “I am not an enemy of the people or the state of India or Pakistan (except Kashmir) but only of the governmental machinery which has kept his motherland under subjugation and of those politicians who deny to Kashmiris their inherent and pledged right of self-determination.”
Political watchers state that Khan and his mentor Maqbool Bhat were never what we like to define as the mass leaders, but they did captivate Kashmiri youth, the lava of anger inside whom was at peak on account of the failure of electoral process due to mass rigging of elections in 1987. Khan was perhaps the key to transition from ballot to bullet policy. In one of his interviews, he stated: “Our armed struggle started on July 31, 1988, by blasting three government buildings in Srinagar.
His death was widely mourned. When Khan passed, the condolence meeting organized by JKLF at Abi Guzar office was widely participated by diverse parties and number of activists. It concluded with JKLF chairman, Muhammad Yasin Malik, thanking everyone for their condolences over Khan’s death and stated –
“Despite some ideological differences, the way the resistance camp, including its armed constituents, unanimously showed their love and affection for Aman sahib and expressed condolence at his demise is a healthy and positive sign for the freedom movement,” he said. “It has once again proved that we are one for the liberation of our land from Indian occupation.”
From dynamism in polity, vibrancy in activism to active lobbyist and founding strong political platform like JKLF, the death of Amanullah Khan is definitely a big void for pro-freedom polity.
The story first appeared in print edition of May 04.