Under solitary chinar tree at a corner of Srinagar's lone Christian cemetery at Sheikh Bagh, Kashmir's well-known separatist leader Shakeel Bakshi, heading the Islamic Students League (ISL), on Thursday was seen busy wiping off heaps of fallen leaves and dust over the grave of Robert Thorpe, a Briton who died in Kashmir on this day in 1868.
Bakshi, sporting free flowing beard, might be heading an organisation vouching Islamic struggle, but he is highly motivated by writings and struggle of Thorpe, who was married to a Kashmiri. Bakshi is observing 144th death anniversary of Thorpe.
"We cannot forget and betray people who highlighted our suffering when there was no Press and no media. We are indebted to him," said Bakshi, while washing the epitaph to have the engraving clear on the stone, which says 'He gave his life for Kashmir'.
Bakshi, who was among pioneers of the ISL in 1982 with members like Yasin Malik (now JKLF chief), Ishfaq Majeed (a slain militant commander) and Nayeem Khan (moderate Hurriyat leader), described Thrope as "first guest martyr who laid down his life for the people of Kashmir".
"Thrope through his books opened the dark belly of the then Dogra Raj before the world. The miserable conditions of Kashmiris attracted attention of Europeans and others because of his writings. He was thrown off the cliff at the age of 30 from Sulieman Teng hill," said Bakshi, adding "he was first to raise voice against the brutal monarchy in Kashmir."
Robert Thorpe's 'Kashmir Misgovernment' was first book to write about miserable conditions of Kashmiris and invoked a wave of sympathy for people living in then out of bound areas of the Valley. The book attracted the Dogra rulers' wrath.
"Those who read him were motivated by his writings," said Bakshi.
Bakshi claims Thorpe is still popular in the hearts of people and has motivated many separatist leaders. "Many are still getting motivated by his writing. Thorpe lives in our hearts," said Bakshi, who prayed for peace of Thorpe's soul at the grave.