By Yasin Malik
wilight of November 30 brought a really sad news for me. The man who was dragged into dungeons for being the father of my revolutionary friend, besides being himself a foot soldier of the Kashmir freedom struggle bid one final adieu to all of us. In Abdul Kabir Sheikh’s passing, Kashmir lost a true humanist who suffered massively for upholding the cause. To me and many others, he was chacha – uncle.
I first met the imposing Kabir Chacha in 1985 when I was a Tala Party activist. I met him in jail and quickly understood that there was something special about him. His demeanour amply conveyed that he was a man of substance and someone who would always side with the just.
His son, Abdul Hameed Sheikh who was among the first to go for arms training to Azad Kashmir, was a dear friend and comrade of mine. And I remember how stoically Chacha gave shoulder to his coffin after he was martyred.
In the late eighties, he would encourage a bunch of us revolutionary minds that included his son as well. As the days when we decided to go across were drawing closer, he stood by us and reinforced our faith in the cause. I was often amazed by his courage in the face of adversity. He suffered at the hands of Indian forces but never gave in. His stance was unflinching. He believed in the cause.
In those early days of the armed movement, when we were yet to unveil the weapons and were still busy making plans and strategies about how to take off, we would often meet him at his Amira Kadal dry fruit stall. He had already gained quite a bit of popularity as a philanthropist who was always at the forefront of community service. He was always resolute and proud of us.
Kabir Chacha had understood the futility of the elections and New Delhi’s treachery after we decided to participate in the 1987 rigged elections. Not only were we cheated but New Delhi and its local stooges started hounding us. We were rounded off and jailed and tortured. That was when Chacha and all of us understood there was just one solution to it and that we had to make a strong, unmistakable statement.
When I, Hameed Sheikh and others came out of the jail, he endorsed our decision to go across for training and arms procurement. And, naturally, he suffered for it.
When he and his wife were arrested and tortured in a police lockup, we had to show off the gun and send a message to the local police. That event became a watershed.
Back in the day, a certain slogan that concluded at ‘kabirana’ became popular. The Indian forces thought it was something chanted in praise of Kabir Chacha and they would repeatedly raid his house and whisk him away. But that, or anything of that sort, never broke him down. He stood his ground and marched on.
Even as his jail stints brought miseries to the family, he remained uncompromisingly loyal to the cause for which his son and many others laid down their lives. He knew the path Kashmiris had chosen wasn’t a bed of roses and he was prepared for every hardship and misery that came his way.
While I was in jail, Kabir Chacha took another role in the service of the suffering people of his motherland who had stood up to the might of India. He established Hilal-e-Ahmar Committee with braches all over Kashmir to serve the people and take care of their day to day needs. These committees were formed at mohalla levels as well with volunteers running them and people contributing whichever way they could to help each other. Chacha would collect relief from various parts of the Valley and distribute it among the needy through various subunits of the committee. It played a vital role in averting a major crisis that could have arisen out of shortage of goods, especially edibles and medicine. The spirit and camaraderie of the masses was something that sustained us all and strengthened our faith and belief.
When I came out of the jail, I saw the man unchanged, carrying the same tireless spirit for social welfare. This despite all the troubles he had to be through. He had become a caretaker of countless unidentified bodies that the criminal conflict management of India regularly threw around. The job he had undertaken demanded immense courage and mental strength and for that, Kashmir will always remain indebted to him.
Today, as he left us with all these memories, I’m reminded of his tireless marches down to Eidgarh during the late eighties. That place was a temporary hideout for us and he would serve us meals and boost our morale.
In his demise, I feel, he has taken a part of me with him.
Rest in Peace, Chacha!