February 2008 News

Baig, Sagar Say The Demand For Return Of Bhat’s Remains Is Genuine

9 February 2008
Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: The Martyrs Graveyard at Eidgah has an empty grave, awaiting the mortal remains of Maqbool Bhat, the founder of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and one of the pioneers of Kashmir’s freedom struggle. Bhat was hanged by Government of India at New Delhi’s infamous Tihar Jail on February 11, 1984 and he was buried in the Jail complex. Since then the people of Kashmir have been clamoring for the return of his remains for a decent burial in his native homeland, which he wanted to become an independent nation. The pro-India politicians and the pro- freedom leaders have unanimously asked the government of India to return Bhat’s remains. “The demand is genuine. Let’s not have any two opinions about it,” says the Deputy Chief Minister and senior leader of Peoples Democratic Party, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, who pleaded Bhat’s case in Supreme Court. “If the Central Government permits that, it will definitely foster some degree of goodwill between Kashmiris and India,” Baig said, “I hope the day will come when the central government will make up its mind to return Bhat’s remains. It is, and should be, the part of the healing process.” The largest pro-India party, National Conference, has similar views. “I don’t think the demand is wrong,” says the NC leader Ali Muhammad Sagar. “The government of India must consider the demand if it is a public sentiment,” Sagar said. Every year the demand for return of Bhat’s remains is made afresh on his Martyrdom Anniversary on Feb 11, the day marked by protests, shutdown, seminars, and other activities. “Shaheed Maqbool Bhat was hanged for his political beliefs, as he was thought to be the architect of Kashmir’s freedom struggle,” says the JKLF chairman, Muhammad Yasin Malik. “India saw threat perception in his beliefs and ideas because he was not only a politician par excellence, but also an intellectual. It is because of this reason that India kept him in Tihar so that he cannot interact with the people of Kashmir. Otherwise there was no case against him in Delhi,” Malik added. People believe that Bhat’s hanging was uncalled for. “If the Indian authorities believed that Bhat’s release would have allowed him to spread the separatist campaign in Kashmir, his hanging did that far too strongly and widely. His death gave a whole new generation of Kashmiris a reason to fight Indian dominance and his hanging came to be celebrated as new resolve and strength of the Kashmiri nation,” says Ali Muhammad Mir, a retired teacher. In Martyrs Graveyard, the grave reserved for Bhat is situated adjacent to some prominent martyrs like Ishfaq Majid, Abdul Hamid, and Muhammad Abdullah Bangroo. According to residents of Eidgah, former JKLF chief Ishfaq Majid laid the tombstone of the empty grave meant for Maqbool Bhat. The gravestone reads ‘Jis Ki Jasad Khak Hukumat-e-Hindustan Ke Pass Amanat Hai Quom Ko Us Ka Aaj Bhi Intizaar Hai’. Legal experts say that it was obligatory on part of India to return Bhat’s remains. Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain of Kashmir University’s Law Department said, “Under the International Humanitarian Law, it was obligatory to return the mortal remains of Bhat to his family. Since India did not comply with this obligation then, they must do it now.” He adds: “The mortal remains of Maqbool Bhat are as important to Kashmiris as the remains of Indian freedom fighters to India.”

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