Sahil Maqbool: Seeing “A Ray of Hope”

Listening and talking to Shri Sahil Maqbool, 44, on 10th June 2014 in Srinagar I experienced a range of opposite emotions: outrage, anger, revolt; calmness, solace, hope and confidence in future. Outrage at the impunity with which police  framed him, put him behind the bars including solitary cell for precious five years;  amazement at triumph of  his undying creative spirit under most adverse situation—denied even a pen and paper, he wrote with a smuggled bare refill more than 160 poems  on the inside of his white jail dress; penned eight books and a Jail Diary titled “Shabistan-e-Wajood, Aik Sahafi ki sarguzisht”  that was adjudged 2nd best book on conflict literature by RSF (Reporters Sans Frontiers, France) and adopted as a reference book by The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC); power of hope for the best in a worst of situations and  undying optimism in darkest of the moments that allowed his creative mind dominate over his traumatized soul; reasoned view on the seemingly reverse play of the destiny  that encouraged him to compare what he gained and what his tormentors lost during the five years of his incarceration—8 books, a jail diary that was to become famous;   power of forgiveness he showed towards his tormentors, and confidence in ever-present truth and light that sustained him through infliction of gross injustice, helplessness, pain, deprivation of all rights, and loneliness, suffering for his wife and child son. All on a mischievously fabricated charge of being a terrorist!

He was wrongfully framed, picked up, grilled by 18 intelligence and police officers, found not-guilty and yet sent to jail, only because of a senior police officer’s one-up-man-ship and unquestionable highhandedness.  That, in capsule,   is the life story of this gifted writer, journalist, an authority on Pahadi language and literature, a regular host of a popular Pahadi radio and TY programme; a soulful and truly nonviolent man of peace and brotherhood. His first book was an Urdu Poetry Collection “Khamosh Talatum” published in 1991, while the Jail Diary was his second one.  He has also written “Tanaza-e-Kashmir, Tareekh Ke Aayeene main” (A History of 700 years of Kashmir conflict); “Qadam Qadam Taazeer” (a collection of Urdu short stories on Kashmir trouble); “Parchanwaan” (A collection of Pahari poetry); his other books include 7 more in Urdu and Pahari.  He said to me “Allah ko mere se yah kam karwana tha, baahar rahkar nahi kar sakta tha, is liye usne jel bhejne ka bandobast kiya. Isi liye maine un sabko muaf kiya jinhone muj par julm kiya. Ishwar ka apna hi tarika hota hai”( God willed me to do this work, which I could not have done at all as a free man. He chose his own way. I have forgiven therefore those who framed me. God’s ways are beyond us to fathom.” Meeting with him stood out as a soul-soothing evidence of undying humanity and human spirit. Shri Sahil, with a huge following on Face Book put up a photo of our meeting with a very cordial gratefulness for the meeting.

As we set down he had asked me enigmatically “Where that is ‘Ray of Hope’ Gandhiji had seen in Kashmir?  Has the earth swallowed it, the clouds shadowed it, and the hills concealed it? What has eclipsed it?! I very much want to see it!” Those who know Kashmir also know the haunting mystic of this statement of Mahatma Gandhi on his Kashmir visit.

After my return Sahil Sahab wrote me back “Now, after meeting you, I see a Ray of Hope” — instead of me telling him the same!