Hanging At Tihar: From Maqbool Butt to Afzal Guru


Editor’s Desk: On February 11, 1984, a dreaded terrorist and co-founder of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Maqbool Butt was secretly hanged inside Tihar Jail in New Delhi on charges of killing an Indian intelligence officer. Exactly 29 years later, 2001 Parliament Attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged inside the same jail premises on February 9. What could be the similarity? Both hangings incited anti-India passions in the Kashmir Valley.

The hanging of Maqbool Butt in 1984, is believed to have ignited emotional outburst in Kashmir, which led to the surge of militancy in the valley in the years to come. Even the JKLF militants led by Yasin Malik declared armed struggle against India and persuaded others to take up arms just five years after Butt’s hanging. Although later the JKLF gave up arms and has been “peacefully” working towards its goal of “liberating” Kashmir, its leaders are secretly or openly hobnobbing with the terrorists across the border.

Now, comes the bigger question. Will the valley yet again see a surge in militant activities following the secret hanging of Afzal Guru inside Tihar jail. When Yasin Malik sat on a fast to protest Guru’s hanging in Islamabad, the message was loud and clear. There is a need for caution. Malik was joined by India’s most wanted terrorist, Hafiz Saeed. Do we still need further evidence to reach the conclusion that things are going to tough and complex in Jammu & Kashmir in future?

Separatists in Jammu & Kashmir have been demanding the mortal remains of Maqbool Butt for the last 29 years. They hold a protest march on his death anniversary every year and reiterate their demand, while slamming the Indian establishment. Now, a new chapter would be added to this saga with the demands for Afzal Guru’s remains. The situation was different in 1984. But, in 2013, the government may have to face strong pressure from the media, political parties and rights groups to return Afzal Guru’s body to the family, which it cannot afford.

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In 1984, it was feared that Maqbool Butt’s grave would become a martyr’s place if the remains are given to his family or kin. The same thought and logic still exist in 2013. Can India accede to the demands of Guru’s family and friends. Jammu & Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti have added to the woes of the government with the demand that Afzal Guru’s body be handed over to his family. Even JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav has echoed the same voice. Many more political parties and organisations are expected to follow suit. In this situation, it would become highly intricate for the government to take decision that would satisfy all.

Questions have already been raised in the manner Afzal Guru was hanged without proper communication either to him or his family members. The government was accused of playing a brutal joke on the family by delivering Guru’s death warrant to the family two days after his hanging. Blame it on Speed Post or the government officials, the separatists and hardliners now have a point to make their stand vindicated. The situation is so delicate and complex that any government would find itself in a Catch-20 situation while dealing with it.

Afzal Guru was sent to the gallows for the sin he had committed. He definitely deserved no mercy and our President should be hailed for rejecting his mercy petition. The government and judiciary must be appreciated for this bold decision. However, it’s high time the government offer something good to the Kashmiris so that they should not feel alienated from the Indian mainstream.

The focus should be shifted to Kashmiri Youth with more employment opportunities and Omar Abdullah has a role to play here. Instead of blaming the government to escape the wrath of the people, he should focus more on development of the state and work in tandem with the Centre to take things forward. We should leave no stones unturned in making the Kashmiris believe that we support peace and development and they are safe and secure under the Indian rule, while sending a tough message to the terrorists.

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