Fresh demand for remains of the first one hanged and buried in jail


In the Srinagar's martyrs' cemetery, an open grave catches the attention of any visitor. It has been reserved for Maqbool Bhat, with the hope that his remains will be brought to Kashmir some day.

Maqbool Bhat, the founder of pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and pioneer of militancy in the state, was the first to be buried inside prison after execution, long before Ajmal Kasab.

For nearly three decades, Bhat's relatives and party colleagues have been seeking his mortal remains so that these can be buried in the cemetery. And now the demand has come up again. "They were ready to hand over Kasab's body to Pakistan," said Bashir Ahmad Bhat, vice chairman of Maqbool Bhat's JKLF. "We have been demanding the return of his remains for years. Why these double standards?"

A resident of Trehgam in the border district of Kupwara, Bhat was buried on the premises of Tihar jail after he was executed on February 11, 1984. Though Bhat's brother, Ghulam Nabi, wanted to get his body back to Kashmir, he was arrested in Srinagar before he could have left for New Delhi. Bhat's lawyer Muzaffar Hussain Beig, now senior opposition leader in Kashmir and formerly deputy chief minister in the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led coalition government, too had sought the remains.

Bhat, who was in Pakistan, returned to Kashmir in 1966 with plans to lead an armed movement. He was arrested in the killing of a state intelligence official. After being sentenced to death, he was lodged in Srinagar jail, from where he escaped with a fellow prisoner and went back to Pakistan.

Some time later, Kashmiri separatists hijacked an Indian Airlines flight in 1971and set the aurcraft on fire at Lahore airport, letting the crew and passengers go. The hijackers were arrested in Pakistan and so was Bhat, because of his leanings.

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