Shabir Shah- “The Jail Bird of Kashmir”
‘Jab Tak Suraj Chand Rahey Ga, Shabir Shah tera naam rahey ga’- these were slogans that reverberated the atmosphere in Kashmir in 1990 when Shabir Shah along with his close aide Nayeem Ahmed Khan was arrested on Srinagar-Jammu Highway.
Such was the popularity of Shah, that Kashmir wore a deserted look for couple of weeks amid violence when the news about his arrest spread in Valley.
Shabir Shah according to political analysts is an epitome of Kashmir Freedom Movement who has sacrificed his youth and everything for the Cause which he considers as sacred as the blood of martyrs.
Hailing from Kadipora suburb of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, Shah right from his school days questioned the Indian rule in Kashmir. According to his close friends, he spent maximum time in police stations and gradually he became a popular figure in the district. His popularity spread across Kashmir and he is the first leader who hoisted Pakistan flag in Lal Chowk Anantnag.
“Those days nobody dared to hoist Pakistan flag. These day’s it is a common phenomena here but that time it was dead impossible to do so. The audacity of Shah can be gauged from the fact, he waved and hoisted green flag in broad-day light, taking everyone by surprise. Police immediately arrested him.”
Shabir Shah is called the ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ as he is the only pro-freedom leader from Kashmir who has spent maximum time in different jails of India. He is also the only leader, who attained fame and glory before the start of the armed struggle in Kashmir.
“I still remember the day when Daily Aftab, before the start of the militancy in Kashmir came up with a front page box story with the title ‘Mein Shabir Shah Bol Raha Houn’. Shah had actually called the Editor of the newspaper on landline phone. After the publishing of the story, next day the same newspaper came up with another story about the popularity of Shabir Shah stating that thousands of people throughout the day visited their office and asked about the whereabouts of Shah. He was an icon with so much fame and love, even Indian spy master A.S Dulat confirms it and claims that Indian Prime Minister Narsimha Rao was ready and eager to handover the affairs of Jammu Kashmir to Shabir Shah, an offer rejected by him, said a person who closely knows Shah.
Shabir has played a key role in the formation of All Parties Hurriyat Conference and when it got divided, he was the only leader who left no stone unturned to get the Hurriyat united. “In fact he paid a price for this and was jailed for making such efforts,” said an activist of Democratic Freedom Party, which is led by Shabir Ahmed Shah himself.
Leave aside political sphere, Shabir Shah remained socially active too. If sources are to be believed, Shah has befriended large number of poverty stricken people across Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, he adopted Insha Mushtaq, who lost sight due to pellet injuries during 2016 unrest. Shah, who has close connections with Kashmir Sikh community, helped people in 2014 devastating floods. “He is a force to reckon with, very social, humble and submissive. There are elements who accuse him of amassing wealth, but they should remember, that Shah belonged to a well-to-do family whose grandfather was a landlord and a top bureaucrat,” said a close aide.
Shah is the only separatist leader from Kashmir who has spent maximum time not only in jail, but under house detention as well. His friends believe that he is being targeted for his conviction towards Kashmir Freedom Struggle. They say that Shah is not in the good books of the Government of India as he always try to bring all the divided Hurriyat leaders under one platform. It is just because of his sincerity that he is being targeted by Enforcement Directorate and currently is lodged in India’s Tihar Jail.
People know about his conviction and that is why resent the action of Government of India. They want pro-freedom leaders including Shabir Ahmed Shah should be given political space to propagate their ideas. Recently, his followers staged a protest demanding medical aid for him, but were detained and lodged in Srinagar central jail.