Abdul Majeed Pathan: The ramrod who died a recluse

On the day when Hajin was mourning its minor, some kilometres away, funeral footfall was building for a faded romantic, in Sumbal, where he had taken refuge as an ailing recluse some years back. In Abdul Majeed Pathan’s passage, Kashmir lost its chequered history’s notable character who lived by conviction and died by it.

From a swashbuckling hipster riding his swanky bikes and jeeps on Srinagar roads during Seventies to a fading recluse grappling with a chronic kidney ailment inside his countryside cottage in north Kashmir’s Sumbal, Abdul Majeed Pathan passed away as a withered romantic this murky weekend, on March 23. It was the unceremonious demise of a familiar face, who lost everything to the “cause”, until one day, he walked away from everything, leaving behind his cityside sway, his dissenter tribe and his ancestral assets.

His passage revived the trying times for his erstwhile peer group, when the late Pathan would “take the bull by its horns”. But unlike the foreman strategist of yore, he died as a forgotten ascetic today.

“Some years back, when he silently walked away from the city he loved throughout his life, he shocked all of us,” recalls Zameer, Pathan’s friend from Srinagar. “He couldn’t explain it, but then, we know, it was the doomed man’s move to seclusion, driven by the storm he had faced for upholding the cause in his life.”

But before he would turn recluse, Pathan from Magarmal Bagh, Batamaloo had rocked Srinagar of yesteryears with his activism. He rose as a campus activist of SP College and shortly came into limelight for his political crusade.

His arrival came when Kashmir’s first armed group—Al Fateh—was clandestinely shaping up. Soon Pathan, his friends say, became the proscribed outfit’s underground member.

“He was among the first generation of Kashmiris who were forced to pick up arms for reminding New Delhi of its promise to hold plebiscite in Kashmir,” says Pathan’s former comrade. “People like Pathan came from well-off families, who understood the pulse of the times, as a keen follower of latest trends and global politics.”

Then, Kashmir was reverberating with raishumari—right to self determination—slogans. Many youngsters were pressing upon New Delhi to deliver upon its promise made by the first Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru in United Nations.

Later, the fashionable Pathan—a “no nonsense guy” having regular brushes with the law over his political campaign—would become the founding member of Peoples League. The outfit’s members would use multiple platforms to raise the Kashmir issue. “They threw their weight behind plebiscite movement,” says Mushtaq, a former Peoples League member. “But once Sheikh Abdullah binned the people’s movement, dismissing it as the ‘22 years of political wilderness’, the young men of the league felt betrayed.”

Post-1975 Indira-Abdullah accord saw Pathan vociferously campaigning against senior Abdullah’s moves and methods. In one such attempt, he landed in jail. “And later, as a punishment, the government of the day confiscated his ancestral assets and turned them into government property near Jehangir Chowk,” Mushtaq continues. “It valued in crores. But when asked to toe a line in prison, the man stuck to his guns and ended up losing his assets for the sake of his conviction.”

Out of prison, Pathan passed through a personal tempest. His wife died young, leaving him with their two sons. The loss took a heavy toll on him. An idealistic man was now in deep throes of his domestic chaos.

“Pathan’s life story is a classic case of how people suffer in Kashmir for upholding their conviction,” says Rehman, a retired banker who knew Pathan from his youthful days. “The man just lost everything—his property, his promised life and became a jailbird—for the cause.”

But when the likes of him, the banker continues, couldn’t make peace with certain elements at vanguard of the movement during nineties, they chose obscurity over obsessive fame.

He finally walked back to his ancestral address, as a widower. In Sumbal, his forefather’s land, he dwelled a single-storey hut. But Pathan had returned to his roots as a terribly sick man—whose kidneys had given up on him.

While one of his sons was away from Kashmir, earning for the family, his other son became his default housekeeper and caretaker.

But after years of struggle, the heroic Pathan finally fell to his ailing health. And with that, the ramrod of yesteryears passed away as a forgotten recluse.


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