Srinagar: At last,
there is a cause that has found two mainstream political parties
and separatist groups in the Kashmir speaking in one voice. The
ruling National Conference (NC) and the opposition People's
Democratic Party (PDP) have both demanded that the mortal remains
of Afzal Guru be returned to his family, in sync with the
Separatists of all shades have also found common cause in this
demand, bringing unity in their ranks.
In all this, the Congress, a junior partner in the ruling
coalition, has remained silent. This is not surprising as the
Congress-led central government has steadfastly refused to return
Afsal Guru's remains.
Former chief minister and PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed wrote
an emotional letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this
week, saying that the least that can now be done to retrieve the
trust between Kashmiris and the rest of the country is to return
Afzal Guru's body to his family.
Sayeed said the manner in which Afsal Guru, convicted of plotting
the conspiracy that led to the Dec 13, 2001, attack on parliament,
was hanged Feb 9 in Delhi's Tihar Jail, after being "culled" out
of 28 other convicts on death row, had deeply agonized him. Afsal
Guru was buried within the jail premises.
The PDP patron said the secrecy around the execution, and the
denial of a judicial review after the president rejected Afsal
Guru's mercy petition, had caused the trust built between Delhi
and Kashmir over the years to "evaporate".
Minutes after the PDP released Sayeed's letter to the media, Chief
Minister Omar Abdullah commented on his Twitter site that he had
also written a letter to the prime minister Feb 19 demanding that
the mortal remains of not only Afzal Guru but also of Muhammad
Maqbool Bhat, founder of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front,
who raised the demand for "Azadi" (freedom), be returned to their
Bhat had been hanged and buried in Tihar Jail Feb 11, 1984, after
being convicted of killing an intelligence officer.
Omar Abdullah said his rivals in the PDP were playing politics by
releasing the contents of Sayeed's letter to the media; he said
that was what had made it necessary for him to react on the social
Engineer Rashid, an independent legislator who represents north
Kashmir's Langate constituency in the 87-member assembly, has
asked both the NC and the PDP to bring a resolution in the current
session that began Thursday in winter capital Jammu to demand the
return of Afzal Guru's body.
The local bar association, however, has gone further back in
history on the matter than anyone else: In a demand raised during
Wednesday's protests, local lawyers have demanded the return of
the mortal remains of not only Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat but
also of Yusuf Shah Chak.
Yusuf Shah Chak, a local ruler, had engaged with negotiations with
Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 1560s. He is remembered as the last
independent ruler of Kashmir, before the Mughals conquered and
annexed it in 1586.
Chak was imprisoned after the Mughals conquest.
Yusuf Shah Chak died in exile, and was buried in Bihar.
On their part, the separatists have formed the Muttahida
Majlis-e-Mushawarat (MMM) in the wake of Afzal Guru's hanging.
Most separatist groups, whether hardline or moderate, are
represented in the MMM.
The MMM has been announcing schedules of protests over the last
The separatists have united under a joint consultative committee,
with a single point agenda: The return of Afzal Guru's body to the
This is the first time since the 1990s that such unity across
different groups has been seen in Kashmir.
It is quite likely that the NC and the PDP, which have fought
elections in the past on emotive issues, have now got their catch
phrase for the 2014 general elections: "Return Afzal Guru's body!"
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)