Poems and Tales

Mother Writes to the Lion of Kashmir, Long Deceased

5 August 2019

Dear Sheikh Sahib, daring son of Kashmir’s soil.

They tell me, you’re buried on the left bank
of Naseem lake, with views of the Hazratbal
shrine, which you rebuilt, your tomb guarded
by India’s paramilitary troops.

I tell them this represents one of those
paradoxes history keeps throwing up:
the same people who banished you from
Kashmir for long years now guard your tomb,

and the same people whose “Lion” you were
are disenchanted with you for selling out
to your paymasters in New Delhi who
also bankroll your son and his —both dare

not even sigh while India’s troops, shielded
by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act,
immunize themselves even for rape
as they brutally suppress a Vale of Saints.

Gone days when the refrain
Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah
answered our sovereign plea
Azadi Ka Matlab Kyah?

To be honest, and I wouldn’t be
anything but, in my heart of hearts,
I always sung the refrain
Jamhooriya Jamhooriya.

Sheikh sahib, aap ko Jannat naseeb ho,
a flourish of your pen decreed all
of Kashmir’s land, owned by Dogra
dynasty, the rightful property of tillers.

You bent the Arc of History firmly
towards Justice, earned yourself the title,
“Lion of Kashmir,”
and a weary banishment.

Now, 70 years later,
broods of Dogras — their heads spinning,
helmets flaunting swastikas,
their blood boiling, their lathis raised

to reclaim Kashmir, her flora, fauna,
rivers, peaks, her pashmina goats
our flesh and blood — invoke
#ZameenJihad, corrupting yet again

the letter and spirit of #IslamicJihad
into Hindutva’s pet pogrom to reprise
Kashmir’s ancient Hindu history, to
compel us Return Home to Hinduism,
rashly spun as #gharwapsi.

I am surrounded this afternoon
by my children,
their children and theirs.
I tell them,

Kashmir strikes at the heart
of Hindu nationalist idea
of what India is —
Akhund Bharat

undivided Hindustan
from Afghanistan to Myanmar,
—some maps drench in orange
even South East Asia —
I tell my children and theirs and theirs,

Go forth, keep fighting for Azadi
not because
we’re humiliated, maimed and killed,
but because
we’re humiliated, maimed and killed.

I tell them, Soar, wage a real jihad,
a kalum is mightier than a Kalashnikov.
India is not phakladd mulk or zaleel
koum. India needs Azadi from Kashmir
as much as if not more. Sheikh Sahib,

I’m sorry if all this makes you turn
in your grave on the left bank
in Jannat. Respectfully, Maryam,
Mother of Jesus and all the world,
Hebrew Home, The Bronx.

By Rafiq Kathwari / @brownpundit


  • Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah: (1905-1982), one of the most important political figures in Kashmir’s modern history. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s First Prime Minister, exiled the Sheikh to South India for 18 years.
  • Azadi Ka Matlab Kya? What Does Freedom Mean? The defining slogan of a popular insurgency that erupted in 1989 in Kashmir, encapsulating years of disenchantment against Indian rule. During the preceding 52 years, the slogan rhymed with the refrain Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah.
  • Jamhooriyah Jamhooriyah: Democracy, democracy
  • aap ko Jannat naseeb ho heaven be your destiny
  • Dogra Dynasty 1846 -1952 Hindu Dogra Rajput dynasty that formed the royal house of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • #ZameenJihad: war to reclaim land
  • Kalum: Pen
  • phakladd mulk: land of stinks
  • zaleel koum: despicable people
  • Jannat: paradise