By Quayyum Raja

An empty grave in Kashmir

February 25, 2020 - 12:13

KASHMIR - Thousands of innocent man, women, young and children have been martyred and buried in various cemeteries in Jammu Kashmir during the ongoing Independence Movement, but one grave in Srinagar cemetery is awaiting its shaheed since 11 February 1984. The Shaheed is named Muhammad Maqbool Butt, who had been hanged by the direct order of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.  The dead body of Maqbool Butt was supposed to be brought back to Kashmir and buried in this grave, but the callous Indian government buried Maqbool Butt inside Tihar jail. The people of Jammu Kashmir still believe that they would one day be able to get their HERO’S body and bury him in this grave. The sitting prime minister of India was killed by her own Sikh bodyguards six months later when she issued another dictatorial order to storm the Sikh Holy Temple in Amritsar. 

Born on 18 February 1938 in a beautiful town Tirigam, Kashmir, Muhammad Maqbool Butt graduated from Srinagar, Kashmir and postgraduate from Peshawar, Pakistan, where he was a working journalist.  Maqbool Butt was concerned more about the plight of his people than his own professional life and family’s livelihood.  He trained some youths both politically and militarily as he concluded that invaders were unlikely to free his homeland without a struggle.  Maqbool Butt did not accept the restrictions of movement imposed by the Indian and Pakistani armies dividing Jammu Kashmir forcibly between themselves.  He returned to Kashmir, where his young companion Aurangzeb belonging to Gilgit had been martyred by the Indian army. Maqbool Butt along with his two fellow Kashmiris had been arrested by the Indian army. He was charged, tried and sentenced to death in 1966, but 2 years later in 1968, Maqbool Butt and his companions escaped from prison.  Several days later, they entered the so called Azad Kashmir, where they had been arrested by Pakistan. As a result of public protest, they had been released.  In 1976, Maqbool Butt along with young companions Hameed Butt and Riaz Dar reentered Kashmir.  He knew the situation was now more risky as he had  8 years earlier escaped from the Indian prison, where he was about to be hanged. Maqbool Butt gave precedence to the movement over his own life. His daughter and two sons were below the age of 12 years, whom he left to his wife in Peshawar.  Maqbool Butt was by now a popular political figure in Kashmir and he knew his arrest was a matter of days.  Although all three of them, Maqbool Butt, Hameed Butt and Riaz Dar were arrested at the same time from the same place in Srinagar in 1976, Maqbool Butt had been taken to the notorious Tihar jail, New Delhi, while the other two were kept in Kashmir. 

In early January 1984, the leadership of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) told senior party members that India was going to hang Maqbool Butt secretly.  A few days later, the Kashmir Liberation Army (KLA) arrested an Indian diplomat in Birmingham, UK and demanded the release of Maqbool Butt and other prisoners.  India and Britain refused to negotiate with the KLA , which threatened to kill the diplomat if India executed Maqbool Butt.  As part of the circle of the central leadership of the JKLF, it was decided that the diplomat would not be killed , but to my amazement, the diplomat was shot dead just 3 days  after the kidnapping.  The killer and kidnappers escaped and the British Police arrested me and another two Kashmiris.  The governments concerned with the issue were less interested in truth and more in using us for political gains against each other. They just tried to force us to confess and cooperate to meet their respective agenda.  We refused and the British court sent us to prison secretly. We challenged the secret sentences and learnt 10 years later that the British and Indian governments conspired to keep us in prison until death. We challenged this in the European Court of Human Rights, where my co-defendant Riaz was released after 19 and me after 22 years. 

Back to the hanging of Maqbool Butt,  neither his family nor his lawyers were allowed to see him before the hanging. The Indian government ruthlessly refused to hand over his body to his family. Maqbool Butt remains buried inside Tihar jail, New Delhi.  The people of Jammu Kashmir continue their campaign to get Maqbool Butt’s remains released and bury him in the grave awaiting his body. The people of Jammu Kashmir mark Maqbool’s death anniversary every year on 11 of February all over the world and they did it again this year.  If the purpose to hang and bury Maqbool Butt inside the jail and get us sentenced in the UK secretly, was to scare the people of Jammu Kashmir, then, it has badly failed.  Instead, it is now India that is frightened of the empty grave of a SHAHEED Maqbool Butt who has become the Father of the Independence Movement. India is also scared of  every walking Kashmiri child on streets perceived to be Butt’s follower! 

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