Afzal gets a 'grave' in Valley; kin want body


The family of Afzal Guru Tuesday rejected Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's offer to allow them to visit his grave in Delhi's Tihar jail, saying they would accept nothing less than the body itself. The family also rejected Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's offer to fly them to Delhi.

In Srinagar's martyrs' graveyard, space was reserved for Guru next to the unoccupied grave of Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, the founder of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front who, like Guru, was hanged and buried in Tihar almost exactly 29 years ago.

The tombstone that was put up for Guru was similar to the one erected for Bhat in 1990: "Mohammad Afzal Guru. One whose mortal remains are lying with the Government of India and people are waiting for its return".

JKLF vice-chairman Bashir Ahmad Bhat told The Indian Express, "The circumstances in which they (Bhat and Guru) were martyred are the same and our demands are also the same. All these years, we have demanded the mortal remains of Bhat sahib. Now we are demanding the body of Afzal sahib."

The martyrs' graveyard started in downtown Srinagar in 1990, coinciding with the birth of militancy in the Valley. The first grave was reserved for Bhat, buried in Tihar six years earlier. The cemetery houses the graves of senior separatist leaders Abdul Gani Lone and Sheikh Abdul Aziz, several top militant commanders, and Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's father Moulana Mohammad Farooq.

Afzal's cousin Yasin Guru told The Indian Express on Tuesday that the family wanted the body for the last rites. "The home minister says we can offer prayers at his grave in Tihar jail. We can offer prayers for Afzal anywhere... we are already offering prayers for him here."

Yasin said letters had been sent to the deputy commissioner of Baramulla and Tihar jail officials demanding that Afzal's body be returned. On Omar's offer to fly the family to Delhi, he said, "We will bear all expenses ourselves. We do not need any help from the chief minister."

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