Maqbool Bhat anniversary: JRL march foiled amid shutdown in Kashmir
SRINAGAR: On the 35th death anniversary of Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, who was secretly hanged inside Delhi’s Tihar Jail by the Indian state, a public march was attempted in Srinagar and gatherings held in Bhat’s native village to demand his mortal remains, which have not been returned to his family yet. People across the valley observed a shutdown, as they do every year, to protest Bhat’s hanging and to demand his mortal remains.
Government authorities had imposed restrictions in the city to prevent public protests, sealing all routes leading to the city centre Lal Chowk. The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) had called for a public march to Ghanta Ghar in Lal Chowk on Monday. When activists attempted to take out the march from Maisuma, the headquarters of Maqbool’s party, JKLF, to the clock tower at Lal Chowk, they were intercepted by police. Several activists were taken to Kothi Bagh police station and detained there, a common practice adopted by police in Srinagar.
JRL leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were kept under house arrest while Yasin Malik, who also heads the JKLF, was taken into police custody. The trio had given the call for a shutdown and a public march.
At Maqbool’s native village Trehgam in Kupwara, scores of people held demonstrations demanding his mortal remains. Calls were made to continue his struggle for the right to self-determination in Kashmir. Witnesses said that people raised anti-India slogans and assembled in front of Bhat’s house, from where they marched to the nearby martyrs’ graveyard and offered special prayers for all martyrs of Kashmir. The people dispersed peacefully after the prayers.
On Sunday evening, a candle light march was held in Srinagar in memory of Maqbool Bhat. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq posted on his Twitter account: “People of Kashmir pay glowing tributes to Shaheed Maqbool Bhat, hanged in Tihar Jail and buried there, on his 35th martyrdom anniversary. His courage and commitment in espousing the just cause of liberation of his people for which he sacrificed his life will always be remembered.”
Elsewhere in Kashmir Valley, a complete shutdown was observed on Monday. All business establishments and markets remained closed. Government offices recorded thin attendance. Public transport was off the roads and movement of private vehicles was thin. Reports of a complete shutdown were received from Kupwara, Handwara, Kralpora, Trehgam, Baramulla, Sopore, Pattan, Hajin and Bandipora areas of north Kashmir.
Maqbool was hanged after being convicted of involvement in the killing of a bank employee and a CID official. Many Kashmiri lawyers, including former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Beig, maintain that the execution carried out by the Indira Gandhi government was illegal.