By Dr.GhulamNabi Fai
“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.” Ambassador Yusuf Buch wrote to the Imam of Makki Masjid, New York on May 22, 2009.
On Friday, May 24, 2019, Kashmir lost an iconic personality, an intellectual par excellence and a thinker in the person of Ambassador Yusuf Buch. He was not keeping good health lately and had returned to his residence from a hospital three days before his death.
Ambassador Buch was a captivating personality, a person with farsightedness, judgment and judiciousness. A legendary and eminent diplomat and truly a living encyclopaedia on Kashmir who rendered his services for upholding the human and political rights of the people of Kashmir. He was certainly one of the most recognizable experts on the subject of Kashmir.
The nation of Kashmir honours his illustrious life of courage and salutes his commitment and dedication. We all pay tribute to his inspirational spirit and pay homage to his life in exile for he dedicated his energies for the freedom of his homeland, Kashmir.
Ambassador Buch was born in Srinagar in1922 when Kashmir was still ruled by a feudal prince under the suzerainty of British colonial power. At the end of his scholastic career, passed a competitive examination to win a place in what was called the government’s superior service. Soon he became a political prisoner as he was vocally among the opponents of the feudal ruler’s decision to accede to India and to obtain India’s military intervention against the people’s rebellion. This led to his being exiled to Pakistan through an exchange of political prisoners in 1949.
Buch Sahib came to the United States in 1953 as a winner of an International Essay Contest sponsored by the United Nations. Later ran a Free Kashmir Centre in New York from 1957 to 1972. He was the member of the Cabinet of Z. A. Bhutto, the Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1972 to 1977. He was also appointed as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Switzerland in 1977.
Because of the long years of close acquaintance with the United Nations became the background to Buch Sahib’s appointment to the cabinet of the Secretary General of the United Nations from 1978 to 1991.
I remember Buch Sahib becoming very passionate while narrating to us the final wish of a dying Kashmiri martyr who said on July 13, 1931, (Aaseeynibooupaninzimadari. Woinchouthuhundfarazaathmadadkarun) “We tried our best to do what we could, now it is on your shoulder to move the movement forward.”
His message to the people of Kashmir is general and to the youth in particular was to hold on to the cause, despite the oppression of the occupying forces. The repression cannot be the reason for apathy towards Kashmir cause. Participation in the freedom struggle should become the second nature of the Kashmiri youth.
Elaborating his experiences in world affairs, Ambassador Buch said, “The alternative to chaos in international relations – and in the global mind itself – is a world order governed by rules and principles and the test of the strength, indeed the reality, of these rules and principles is that they should play a commanding role in the settlement of international disputes. All the major principles essential for international sanity are attracted by the Kashmir dispute: the two major ones are the sanctity of international agreements and the self-determination of peoples.
He was absolutely firm in saying that the world powers do not have the right, nor the slightest moral authority, to pronounce what should be the solution of the Kashmir dispute in the sense of the final disposition of the territories involved. They have a compelling duty to deliberate upon and recommend how a just solution can be achieved.
It was Sunday, January 21, 1990 when I had my first meeting with Ambassador Yusuf Buch at his residence in New York City. I just knocked on the door at 10 Waterside Plaza. The security guard sought the permission from Buch Sahib and he let me in. After greeting me, Buch Sahib offered me a cup of coffee.
We spent a few hours together. I was very impressed to see a self-less, highly educated diplomat of Kashmiri origin in the Cabinet of the United Nations Secretary General. He was informed, statesmanlike, poised, and engaging. He told me that will of the people of Kashmir must prevail whenever the parties – India and Pakistan – reach a final settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
It is here during this meeting that Buch Sahib insisted that I must remember the following:
- Never ever be late to a meeting. Be on time.
- Dress up with neat and clean clothes. People you meet with will think more highly of you.
- Never ever exaggerate the events in Kashmir. Why to exaggerate when the facts are on our side!
- Highlight that Kashmir dispute is the only international dispute where the solution to the problem was suggested by the parties concerned – India & Pakistan. It is often forgotten that the Security Council, and its Commission, did not themselves conceive the ideas and prepositions which were embodied in their resolutions. Had they done so, there would have been an element of imposition, however benign, and India, never betraying any lack of ignorance, would have questioned why she should have to abide by principles originated by others. Actually, however, the two governing principles of the agreement the Council obtained – one, the decision of the status of Kashmir according to the people’s will as impartially ascertained and, two, the demilitarization of Kashmir prior to that ascertainment – were exactly those that formed the common ground in the submissions made to the Security Council by the parties (India & Pakistan) themselves even when they made conflicting allegations about each other’s conduct.
While meeting a senior official of the United States State Department who suggested to consider LoC as an international border, Ambassador Buch told her that the suggestion that partitioning the State of Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) be the basis of a settlement of the dispute. This suggestion may have some attraction for the ignorant and the unwary as well as for those who wish to settle the dispute on India’s terms in a disputed form. First, as the LoC does not run through Kashmir -– the Valley falls entirely on one side of it – the suggestion seeks to gift the territory in dispute, lock, stock and barrel to India – and to dismiss the respective claims of either Pakistan or Kashmir with an air of third party impartiality. Second, it purports to partition a mythical entity, the State of Jammu and Kashmir, while it seals the fate of an actual living people, the people of Kashmir. Third, it is obviously mistaken about the LoC. This Line does not represent any kind of provisional border negotiated at any point between India and Pakistan; on the contrary, it is but a glorified term conferred on the Line demarcated in 1949. That Line, truthfully described as what it was – Ceasefire Line – was drawn under the aegis of the United Nations Commission preparatory to the withdrawal of forces by the parties and the holding of the plebiscite jointly agreed by them. It was meant to keep the fighting stopped while the parties proceeded to further steps towards conclusive peace. Most people in the Valley look upon the LoC as the Line of conflict; few can imagine that any peace loving person or group or state would wish to perpetuate it.
When a United States Senator asked Buch Sahib how to find a solution of the Kashmir dispute. Buch Sahib had the clarity of vision about the future of Kashmir. There were no ifs and buts in his approach. He was bold enough to say it loud and clear that “A principal source of confusion in approaches to the problem is the heterogeneity of Jammu and Kashmir; the so-called state consists of as many as five regions, each with its own ethnicity and orientation. No solution will have any democratic validity or justice which does not allow each region to decide its future without being under the pressure of another. Considering this, the modality of a single plebiscite lumping all the regions together needs to be replaced by another method of consulting the popular will in each region. Actually, this involves no radical departure from the course of action envisaged in the proceedings of the United Nations; in fact, a representative appointed at an early stage by the Security Council itself, Sir Owen Dixon, had proposed a regional plebiscite.
Buch Sahib told me once that a clarification is necessary here. Because, the question can be raised as it is raised vociferously in India as to what is so sacrosanct in United Nations resolutions that a member state is bound to carry them out even to tis detriment. This is taking a position which, apart from its appalling global implications, forgets that what is involved here is not implementation or non-implementation of United Nations resolutions. What is involved is the fulfilment or breach of international agreements. Once two parties signify their unreserved acceptance of proposals jointly submitted to them regarding their mutual dispute, they enter into an international agreement governing the settlement of that dispute. The agreement becomes more binding when the right of a third party – herein Kashmir – are involved. There can be no two opinions that adherence to, and fulfilment of, international agreements is one of the essentials of a stable international order. Nothing but chaos would be the world’s lot if this principle were cast aside.
He told Dr. A. R Meer, an eminent Kashmiri American physician that the principles and instruments that Kashmiris invoke for the redress of the wrongs inflicted on them were not conceived and inspired solely by their religion. They call for adherence to principles which are recognized by the UN Charter as basis to a peaceful and stable world order. The documents the Kashmiris rely upon were not drawn in mosques. They were composed by western hands in the Security Council of the United Nations.
He also underscored the importance of United Nations’ Charter for the settlement of Kashmir and other international problems. The Charter is not a scripture or a book of morals, but a multilateral treaty as binding on the largest or most powerful member states of the world organization as on the smallest or weakest. The sanctity of international agreements must remain one of the bases of a sane and stable international order. The Kashmir issue involves that principle most pointedly.
He was very resolute to say: Yes, we have made errors, we have miscalculated, we have not organized our campaign with the care it should have been. We can correct our mistakes. But we cannot forsake our goals. Those have been sanctified by the blood of our martyrs and the tears of the bereaved among us have put them beyond compromise.
Buch Sahib never compromised on the basic principles of the Kashmir dispute. When he was laid to rest at the compound of the mausoleums of MirwaizYusaf Shah and K.H. Khurshid, former presidents of ‘Azad Kashmir’, in the Capitol City of Muzaffarabad, his headstone reads: “Ambassador Muhammad Yusuf Buch resisted the Indian occupation of Kashmir till his very last breath and never compromised.”
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 the freedom struggle of Kashmir. 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!
(Dr. Fai can be reached at: 1-202-607-6435 or email@example.com}
Theology of Presence
Amir Suhail Wani
“O you who believe! Remember Allah With much remembrance”: Al Quran
To believe is to be in a state of presence. Presence, though not the climax, but is, one of the most cherished states and authentic manifestations of belief. To let God stay far away in the realm of abstraction and beyond-ness not only dilutes the spirit of worship, but it brings under scrutiny the very notion of belief. Religion, in its finest form, aims at invoking in man the spirit of presence, so that the believer may feel and experience the himself in presence of divine and may thus be able to envision a living and existential relationship with his creator and his object of devotion. Religion, even in its basic etymological connotation invokes the sense of “connectedness and attachment” with the object of devotion. It is in the very essence of man that he wants to be greater than what he is and when submitting before the divine, the individual, finite and subjective ego undergoes an existential, psychological and spiritual transformation of unique nature which expands its contours beyond those of physical perimeters. In any act of worship, the subject envisages the object of devotion as infinite and it not only pays homage to that infinite by bowing to it, but it very much desires to expand its own finitude under the radiance of that eternal infinite. This is what is meant by the philosophical benediction that “make me Thou, not an it”.
This human urge of finding means of self expansion by submitting before the divine is the greatest expression of human will and self sacrifice. But this spirit is rendered meaningless and antithetical when religion, in its state of decline, reduces to mere theology. In this reductionism, God remains no longer a living reality in the life of believer. He is rather replaced by a set of axioms and statements which fail to stimulate and satisfy the deepest spiritual yearnings of man and this deepest spiritual yearning is nothing but an aspiration to come in living contact with the divine and transcendental. Islam and for that matter most of the religions strongly condemn the deistic notions about God for it leaves absolutely no scope for religious indoctrination and creates an unimaginable void in the realm of Transcendence. It is in response to nuances like these that the notion of presence assumes multifold importance. It is not only prayer but our entire life that demands, by virtue of its spiritual dimension, that we live perpetually under the spell of divine. Thus religions teach us not merely to pray and thus make prayer a part of our life, but they come to turn our entire life into a sort of prayer. This transformation of life itself into prayer is what has best been embodied by Islamic teachings which reiterate time and again that all acts shall be done according to the law/s prescribed by God and at the beginning and end of each of our activity, the name of God shall be invoked. Not only this, the orations we recite at various instances from entering a washroom to starting our prayer are nothing but a beautiful way of making God a perpetual and living presence in our lives. None of our activities shall be divorced from Transcendent and while we are bodily constantly engaged in acts of world and matter, our heads, hearts and souls shall be perpetually turned to the divine. This act of remembering God in world of forgetting paves the way for “discovering God through material representations”. The highest form of this discovery is prayer and within prayer itself it is dua that marks the height of living relationship between God and believer. The purpose of prayer, as has been narrowly appropriated lately is not merely to make God change his mind and to bring our naive desires to fruition. Prayer is in fact the testimony of our living and real time relationship of servitude and dependency on God. Thus when God asserts “If My servants ask you regarding Me, I am indeed Near. I answer the call of those who call upon Me when they call. So let them answer My call and let them believe in believe in Me–in order that they be truly guided.”, he makes us understand in most emphatic and explicit way that he is very much existentially related to us and responds to our prayers. This response to prayer shall not be seen as the fulfilment of our prayers in material realm (which is true on its own), but it shall invoke in us the existential quest and inspire us to awaken our slumbering spiritual sensibility so that we may truly feel that God is indeed responding to us as our creator and as an object truly worthy of our devotion and worship.
This notion of presence has been subjected to double irony. The religious centric people lost sight of this appeal and dedicated their energies in confining and codifying God in their formulae of logical atomism. They rigidly tried to fix God in their self made definitions made out of untenable language as if trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. While as the role of this intellectual cum theological process can’t be belittled, but their overemphasis on making God comply to their abstractions and creating an unsurpassable chasm between the creator and creation surely set them on too rigid a path. The aftermath of this theorization of God not only created uncompromising hostility among different religions, but within the same religion it gave birth to unending clashes, unforseen intolerance and created such shameful examples that served the purpose of latter day anti religious forces. The second threat, and that is more dangerous, to this “theology of presence” has come from movements like new age spirituality, occult practices and pseudo spiritual shopping malls. Whereas traditional religion and traditional metaphysics taught us to see this world as a reflection and reverberation of transcendental realm, the new age spirituality has tragically represented the divine realm as an “extended expression” of human realm and this immanent universe. This has been sort of shifting the frame of reference and with this shifting of frames, the meaning of spirituality and metaphysics is inverted on its head. This misplaced mysticism and consumerist spirituality is far dangerous than no spirituality at all. In absence of spirituality, one may set out to discover the genuine and true spiritual traditions, but the presence of fake and pseudo spirituality creates a halo effect around man and his genuine thirst and quest is buried under the garb of this “materialistic spirituality”.
There are no palatable solutions to this malice that has invaded our religious obligation of perpetual presence and taught us to be satisfied with rituals without knowing their meaning. What one can do is to read, if one can, the religious scriptures and try to get to the roots of these scriptures. Look out for commonalities among scriptures and try to make a sense out of these commonalities. Another suggestion is to read the authors like Rene Guneon, Frithjof Schoun, Martin Lings, William Chittick and others of their class. What is special about these authors is that they speak about traditional metaphysics in contemporary idiom with an insight that is both inspiring as well as awakening. Finally we must note and note it seriously that life is not a profane activity sprinkled with events of sacred prayers, rather life is sacred as a whole and the existential realisation of this axiom is fundamental postulate on which all religions stand.
(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kathua verdict: fact, fable and fiction
Finally some relief has been accorded to the family of the victim, Asifa by the trial judge Mr Tejwinder Singh by convicting and punishing the guilty. But it is too little if not too late. The investigating agency has undoubtedly done a commendable job in piecing together the evidence against the odds and succeeded in obtaining conviction for criminal conspiracy, gang rape, poisoning and murder of 8year old Asifa on 17th of January 2018 in Rasana village near Kathua in Jammu. Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India. The National Crime Records Bureau of India suggests a reported rape rate of 2 per 100,000 people, much lower than reported rape incidence rate in the local Indian media. However, Times of India reported the data by National Crime Records Bureau unveiling that 93 women are being raped in India every day. Every year 7,200 minors are raped as the statistics suggest without unreported ones. Rape is, surprisingly a weapon of punishment in India. In 2014, in Jharkhand village elders ordered the rape of a 14year old. The husband of the woman who was assaulted sexually was told to carry out the rape. As the woman’s husband dragged the girl to a nearby forest, villagers only looked on. Earlier West Bengal village reportedly ordered the gang rape of a 20 year old woman for falling in love with a man from another community. Even in case of Kathua, two BJP ministers stood in favor of the accused. Sexual crimes being committed with impunity not even sparing foreign tourists led to issuance of rape advisories like women travelling should exercise caution when travelling in India even if they are travelling in a group, avoid hailing taxis from streets or using public transport at night. India feels like it is going through an upsurge of sexual violence against children and after several incidents including Asifa’s, received widespread media attention and triggered public protest. The Prime Minister condemned it and UN Secretary General, Antonio Guiterres said “guilty must be held responsible” describing the incident “horrific”. This led the Government of India to reform its penal code for crimes of rape and sexual assault. As such India’s cabinet approved the introduction of death penalty for those who rape children. The executive order was cleared at a special cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Modi. It allowed capital punishment for anyone convicted of raping children under the age of 12. India’s poor record of dealing with sexual violence came to fore after 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus. The four men involved were sentenced to death. The Supreme Court maintained the death sentence of the convicts; Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh. Rejecting their appeal Justice R Banumathi said the men committed “a barbaric crime” that had “shaken society’s conscience”. It is worthwhile to mention that the death penalty to the said persons was given in the year 2013 while as the executive ordinance came in April 2018 after Asifa’s incident and of a 16year old girl in northern Uttar Pradesh by a member of BJP, Kuldeep Sengar (ironically, victim’s father was arrested and thereafter killed by the Kuldeep’s supporters.) Prior to 2012, there was no single law specifically dealing with children as victims of sexual offences. Then came Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act in 2012, India’s first comprehensive law to deal specifically with child sex abuse and surprisingly the number of reported cases of child abuse rose by nearly 45% the next year.
The new amendments enable a court to hand out a death penalty to someone convicted of raping a child under 12, even if it does not result in death. In countries like China, Egypt, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan, rape is punishable with nothing short of death by hanging, beheading or firing squad. Despite the changes to the law and arming Indian courts, there is reluctance to carry out the death penalty. Is there anything wrong with the collective Indian psyche that deters even courts from putting curbs on sexual crimes against even minors? One feels disgusted for the punishment not being exemplary in Asifa’s case when on trial crimes like gang rape and murder were proved. The court was saddled with the law and verdicts of Supreme Court where death penalty awarded was not interfered with and also its observations emphasizing the gravity of such crime with its impact on the society. Do the laws also have a fiction value? When do we really implement them? Is something more needed to shake society’s conscience? It is more likely that the convicts in this case will go in appeal to the higher court against the judgement. The verdict of the lower court also calls for a counter appeal by the prosecution seeking enhancement of punishment to death of the convicts.
(A leading lawyer and eminent poet, author contributes a weekly column. He can be reached at: email@example.com)
Let’s Become Environmental Protectionists!
Dr. Shahid Amin Trali
It’s very alarming to find the unending disturbances to our environment. Man’s foul play with the nature is not going well with the present as well as our future. The environmental problems are mounting towards a bigger trouble in future but we are yet to recover from deep hibernation/sleep mode. This menace of pollution has existed for centuries but increased at an alarming rate after industrial revolution in the 19th century. Pollution is one of the biggest global killers, affecting over 100 million people. The world’s population is ever increasing and the treasures of the resources are getting overexploited.
There is greater need that we must promote better and efficient use of resources. Mass production of plastics, which began just six decades ago, has accelerated very rapidly—most of it in disposable products that end up as trash. If business goes on as usual, plastic pollution will double over the next thirty years. That would mean there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Plastics have several health hazards, both for humans and animals. Not just that, it is detrimental for the environment too. We must encourage the reduction, recycling and re-use of wastes as raw material for new products. Our younger generation is highly creative and all they must be given is ample support and opportunities. We must promote ‘Jugaad’ creation, the idea of using the waste to make something novel and save resources. We need to set examples from our home places and re-use what we would easily throw away and conserve for a future. What we cannot recycle let us try not use them. Let’s promote paper products as they break down better in the environment and don’t affect our nature as much.
Learning to be more environmentally friendly is not that difficult task than we think. We must start by living with a greater awareness of the resources that we use in our daily life. For example we must turn off the lights as soon as we leave a room in our homes and offices or even schools and colleges. We must be environmental friendly when it comes to building our homes and buildings. Trees are necessary for us to survive. We must plant small trees around our home, don’t cut them unless it’s necessary, work with local environmental groups to plant more trees and educate others about the beauty and benefits of trees.
Water needs to be conserved. Few ways to conserve water are – take short showers, keep the running tap close while we brush our teeth, recycle water in our home, use water saving appliances etc. More good ways to contribute will be consume less energy, buy recycled products, and create less waste and many more. We must refrain from open burning as backyard trash and leaf burning releases high levels of toxic compounds. We must use public transit as much as possible. Let us walk more and drive less to conserve fuel and prevent auto-emission. Let’s use bicycles and scooters for shorter distances to save resources.
Cleanliness leads to cleanliness. We can easily find that a dirty place adds to its dirtiness. When we come across a fresh place, we think twice before turning it bad and dirty. It is sad when we think for our clean homes and hardly care for the roads, hospitals, educational institutions, offices, markets etc. Our mindset has to undergo a big overhaul that our public property is our own property.
India is one of the three worst offending countries when it comes to environmental performance. Corporate leaders have started joining the race to save the planet. Being environment-friendly, eco-friendly, going green are huge claims referring to goods and services, laws, guidelines and policies that inflict reduced, minimal, or no harm at all, upon ecosystems or the environment. But the attempts need to be strong and concrete. Small and medium sized companies in particular generate a lot of pollution and need awareness and support policies to safeguard the environment.
Individuals, organizations and governments need to join hands to protect our environment. Let’s educate others about the significance of living an environmentally friendly life. The more we will share an awareness of the richness of the environment, the more we can do together to protect it. Environmental love and care must receive an all time attention and priority. Let’s go beyond the model building exercises for safer environment and turn them into reality. Organizations must appreciate and reward the employees for their environmental care.
The Philippines recently has taken a unique and wonderful initiative. The island country passed a law under which every student there has to mandatorily plant ten trees in order to get their graduation degree. The law if it is implemented properly will ensure that over 175 million trees will be planted every year. The law will be applicable for college, elementary, and high school students as well. Our education system must owe greater responsibility towards environment and find some unique strategies to safeguard it. Let’s go green and pledge to protect our environment. (The author is Assistant Professor, ITM University Gwalior, Youth Ambassador, International Youth Society. He can be mailed on: firstname.lastname@example.org)