A Leaf from history: Neela Butt & the Kashmiri freedom struggle

Viewing Azad Kashmir as the base camp of the freedom movement of the State of Jammu Kashmir, one has to admit the undeniable importance of “Neela Butt”, a tall majestic hill with a heavenly view, near Dhirkot. According to legend, this is the place where the initiators of Kashmir’s freedom struggle gathered and late Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan (former President and PM AJK), later popularly known as Mujahid e Awal,  fired the first bullet. Hence, bestowing this location with deep historical significance for the Kashmiris. It would be no exaggeration to name this location the heart of the freedom struggle. In this perspective, every year Kashmiris reach Neela Butt in mammoth gatherings on 23rd of August, to not only renew and reassure their commitments with the freedom struggle but also to pay homage to those who have devoted and sacrificed their lives in the process.

The strategic location of Neela Butt was also of dire importance to the struggle. The Mahraja’s forces could be intercepted from all sides of this high point and their movements could be monitored. Mahraja’s forces were also stationed at Kohala and Bagh. Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, himself admits that if they had not intercepted this area it would have been much more challenging to start the struggle.

But it is well known that the entire struggle was not so convenient for the freedom fighters, the initial supply of weaponry was taken from the Dhirkot Jail. These were items confiscated from the people of the area to avoid retaliation to the Mahraja’s forces. Other than guns, they included materials such as axes, knives and such tools used by the local population and peasantry. Facing the well equiped enemy with a humble supply of weaponry in a treacherous terrain, the freedom fighters still maintained what they called the ”sanctity” of the movement. The fighters in Sardar Abdul Qayyum’s command were bound to respect the women and children of the enemy. They also believed that this sanctity is a contributor in the success of their struggle.

 In 1994, Sardar Abdul Qayyum khan while talking about the history of the struggle, relates an incident while crossing the river Jhelum in the darkness of the night in September 1947, his men lost about two packs of ammunition in the water. The next morning Sardar Abdul Qayyum ordered them to retrieve the ammunition but they hesitated as it would be impossible to find it by now. But their leader reiterated the order, they went to the river and as the swimmers bent down to feel for the ammunition, miraculously the first hand got hold of it and the supplies were retrieved.
In another incident, the Dogras had hirred a dacoit from Barsalla, to assisnate Sardar Abdul Qayyum. Fortunately, for the freedom fighters they captured him and were willing to execute him. But to their surprise, their leader had ordered to forgive and release the assassin.
It is known that later  Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan had turned towards negotiation, he believed that the time for “jihad” had passed and international disputes can only be solved through consistent dialogue. The struggle for Kashmir took many historical passages but one of the most significant is its birth-place Neela Butt. The struggle which was not only a movement for the freedom of Kashmir but also the completion of Pakistan.

Hasnat Sheikh is a student of law, he takes part in politics and is also interested in literature , poetry and history. He tweets at @hasnatsheikh

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