Police remove Afzalís epitaph but put it back fearing protests

In an incident that could have fomented more unrest in the valley, the J&K Police removed the black marble epitaph on the empty grave reserved for Afzal Guru at the Martyrs' Graveyard in Kashmir's main Eidgah in downtown Srinagar. But when people resented, they quickly replaced it with a new one.

Though Sub Divisional Police Officer M R Gunj denied any police role in the incident, sources said a decision to remove it was indeed taken. "When the news about removal of epitaph started making rounds, the police decided to put it back," an officer, on condition of anonymity, told The Indian Express.

The epitaph at Afzal's grave Behesht-i-Shuhdaye Kashmir went missing on Tuesday night despite the heavy presence of the police and the paramilitary forces around the graveyard. Sources said the original one had been broken and so a replacement was ordered. It was placed at the same place within a few hours.

But in haste, the J&K Police failed to come out with an exact replica of one placed by Afzal's sympathisers. The new epitaph is also made of black marble, but the writings are painted on it and not engraved.

On Tuesday, an epitaph demanding return of Afzal's mortal remains was put up at an empty grave reserved for him in Srinagar.

It was placed there with the consent of Afzal's family. This is second empty grave at Martyrs' Graveyard. The first one was kept aside for JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat in 1990. Bhat was hanged on February 11, 1984 and buried in Tihar Jail like Afzal Guru.

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