February 2002 News

Kashmir valley shuts down to commemorate JKLF founder

11 February 2002
The Asian Age

Srinagar: Kashmir Valley was shut on Monday to commemorate the execution of the JKLF co-founder, Maqbool Butt. Shops and other businesses remained closed here and most other parts of the Valley whereas only skeleton transport plied on the roads. The strike call issued by the Hurriyat Conference and supported by several other secessionist outfits outside the conglomerate met with a failure in Butt’s home town Trehgam and its neighbourhood in frontier Kupwara district. Reports said that the troops went round Kupwara bazaar at the weekend asking the people not to pay any heed to the strike call. Similarly in neighbouring Handwara where shops and other businesses were shut in the morning, troops came out to force their reopening. Most traders quickly obeyed the order, police sources said. Hashim Qureshi and his supporters in the Jammu Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party were while on way to Trehgam stopped by the police detained briefly and then escorted back to Srinagar. The authorities described the action as “a precautionary measure” taken to avoid trouble in the otherwise politically sensitive and strategically volatile area. Hanged in Delhi’s Tihar jail on February 11, 1984 on charge of murder, Butt, the journalist-turned guerrilla was a staunch supporter rather ideologue of independent, sovereign Jammu and Kashmir state. It was precisely because of his strong political feelings about the future dispensation of his home state that landed him in prison in Pakistan as well, before sneaking back into India in 1975. He wanted to reconstruct on the Indian side of the state Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front, the outfit he and colleagues had launched in 1960s with a view to start guerrilla warfare to “liberate” it. Butt soon fell into the police dragnet when he and two others-Riyaz and Hameed- raided a bank at Langeat in northwestern Kashmir Valley to loot it at gunpoint. The bank manager, Gulam Rasool, was shot dead by one of Butt’s accomplices. After spending a few months in a Srinagar jail, Butt was shifted to Tihar following an Indian Airlines plane was hijacked to Lahore by half a dozen Kashmiris led by one Hameed Diwani to demand his release. The Pakistani authorities somehow overpowered the skyjackers and returned the plane and the passengers to India unharmed. This was unlike in 1971 when Hashim Qureshi, then an activist of the JKNLF, and his cousin Ashraf Qureshi, torched an IA Fokerfriendship forcibly taken to Lahore by them while on routine Srinagar-Jammu flight. [After their initially being received gladly by the Pakistani authorities and welcomed as heroes of the Kashmiri “freedom struggle” by public in the neighbouring country, the two Srinagar youth were arrested from Murree hills on charge of being the enemy agent. So were Butt and a dozen of his comrades in the JKNL and its political wing the Plebiscite Front. Back in India, senior intelligence officials, though at later stage, confirmed the hijacking drama was planned by Butt and his colleagues but executed by them to serve their own (Indian) national interest. India had quickly banned Pakistan from using its airspace to fly between its then eastern and western wings, which helped to great extent in the creation of Bangladesh.] The then chief minister, Sheikh Abdullah, quickly agreed to the shifting of Butt to Tihar jail for security reasons. In February 1984, a hitherto unknown group Jammu Kashmir Liberation Army abducted and subsequently murdered Indian diplomat, Ravendra Mhatre, in Brimingham after New Delhi refused to concede the captors demand of freeing Butt. Incensed by the crime, the centre after quickly removing the legal impediments in the case, hanged Butt in Tihar. He had earlier been convicted and awarded capital punishment by Srinagar’s district and sessions Neel Kanth Ganjoo on charge of murdering a CID official, Amar Chand, in Baramulla way back in mid-1960s. The trial was held in camera but weeks after the conviction, Butt along with two others managed to escape from the Srinagar Central Jail in December 1968. He soon relocated in Pakistan. Ganjoo was shot dead in point blank by the JKLF militants along Srinagar’s busy Hari Singh High Street in 1990. They also torched his house in vengeance.


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