Kashmir will observe a shutdown on Monday to mark the 35th death anniversary of a Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) founder Muhammad MaqboolBhat, who was hanged in New Delhi's Tihar jail on this day in 1984.
Shahmali Begum, mother of MaqboolBhat, says at her Kupwara residence that this day (Maqbool's hanging anniversary) has again come in her life.
Asserting that hundreds of youth in Kashmir who laid down their lives in the past 30 years of armed struggle were "also my sons", the aged woman said: "Age-wise, I am advancing towards the grave, where my sons are waiting to welcome me. But I wish to see the dawn of freedom in Kashmir".
Shahmali said she heard through radio a day earlier that her son would to be hanged at 7am the next day.
"It was Saturday," she recalls.
"A pall of gloom descended on our family. I wished to see him once before his hanging, but I was helpless," she said, reiterating that "there are hundreds of Maqbools in Kashmir, like my son".
"His hanging anniversary always gives me same emotions and reminds me of the night before he was hanged," she said.
She said her eldest son, GhulamNabiBhat, was on way to Delhi to see Maqbool in Tihar but wasn't allowed to leave Kashmir.
The state police arrested him at Srinagar, she said.
"My another son Manzoor Ahmad was also arrested the same night. All the three brothers were in custody, but two of them were released after Maqbool was hanged," Shahmali said, lamenting that the government did not even gave the family Maqbool's body for the last rites. "When my another son was killed in a gunfight, the then commanding officer of task force 'Gulbadan Singh' came here (to our house) and interrogated us. My two teeth were broken during the interrogation, which always reminds me of the cruelty of forces on us," Shahmali said, showing the broken teeth.
No one was allowed to see Maqbool before his execution and he was buried inside the jail premises. MaqboolBhat's sister Mehmooda recalls: "We went to Srinagar airport to catch a flight to Delhi to see Maqbool, but the police did not let us proceed".
MaqboolBhat's niece Midhat, 16, said: "They did not return any of his belongings from Tihar. I wish they had allowed us to take some soil from his grave, returned his personal diaries and facilitated us to visit the grave." The eldest of Shahmali's sons, GhulamNabiBhat, was a part of JKLF. He was killed in mid-nineties in an accident and is survived by an ailing wife and four children. Her another son, HabibullahBhat, went missing after his class 12 examination, Mehmooda says. Despite frantic searches by the family, he couldn't be traced and it was much later that the family got to know about his involvement with armed groups, she recalls. After the death of his brothers, ZahoorBhat, the youngest of all siblings, too "crossed the border."
"He followed in his brothers' footsteps. He was in class 10 when he went to Azad Kashmir and got married there." He later returned to Jammu and Kashmir. Zahoor, who was arrested a year ago while addressing a rally on Maqbool's anniversary, is still under detention at Jammu's Kotbalwal jail. "He was brought two days back to police station Trehgam (Kupwara) where we urged the authorities to let our mother to meet him as she is suffering from a heart disease, but they denied," said Mehmooda. "At least on the occasion of Maqbool's 35th death anniversary, the police should have allowed our mother to meet Zahoor. No one helps us to plead his case in court, but I am enough to fight for his release," Mehmooda said.
"Today, when I walk through these streets, people say that my sons have made me proud. I want Azadi. It will be the ultimate tribute for my sons," Maqbool's mother says. Maqbool was hanged on February 11, 1984, more than 16 years after a court in Srinagar sentenced him to death on charges of murdering an Indian intelligence official Amar Chand way back in 1966.
Pertinently, the Joint Resistance Leadership has called for complete protest shutdown in Kashmir on Monday to mark the 35th death anniversary of Bhat and to press for return of his mortal remains.
POLICE TO IMPOSE SECTION 144 IN DOWNTOWN, MAISUMA
Meanwhile, an official said restrictions under section 144 which bars assembly of four or more persons at a particular place, shall remain in place in Downtown and Maisuma on Monday.
A police source said that section 144 will strictly remain in force in downtown areas that include MahrajGunj, SafaKadal, Nowhatta, Rainawari and Khanyar while as similar restrictions will remain place in Maisuma area of civil lines.