‘Body’ Politics

Three weeks after he was executed secretly, almost everybody in Kashmir is seeking the mortal remains, a demand rejected by the MHA already. While PDP has written to the Prime Minister for the body, NC claims it is seeking that of Maqbool also. Is Afzal politicized post-execution, Shah Abbas asks

After the chief minister Omar Abdullah formally demanded the mortal remains of not only the parliament attack convict, Mohammad Afzal Guru, but also of JKLF founder, Mohammad Maqbool Bhat last week, a prominent Srinagar based journalist, Peerzada Ashiq posted on his facebook page,

“Omar raises bar, demands remains of Guru, Maqbool Bhat. Now, PDP has no option but to demand remains of King Yusuf Shah Chak, buried in Bihar.”

A day later, the High Court Bar Association (HCBA) infact, voiced their demand for the return of remains of Yusuf Shah Chak, whose body was buried in Bihar in 1591. The demand came at a time when bar lawyers were protesting on the call of ‘MMM’ a ‘joint advisory council’.

The chief minister had only reacted to the letter of the former CM and Indian Home Minister, Mufti Mohammad Syeed’s letter to the prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. Mufti too had demanded the mortal remains of Guru, a few hours earlier on the same day.

The ruling National Conference had already adopted a policy to play the role of the opposition to squeeze its arch rival PDP. But the demand of Guru and Bhat’s remains from additional president of the party surprised almost every one.

It was the present president of National Conference and then chief minister of Jammu and Kashmr, Dr Farooq Abdullah and father of Omar, who signed the black warrant of JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat in 1984.

The heads of both the largest unionist parties are demanding the remains of Guru, hence jointly squeezing the separatists. Separatists annually remember Bhat on February 11, by calling shutdown strike. They had given a weak long call of shutdown when Afzal was hanged on February 9, and buried not far away from the grave of Maqbool Bhat outside jail no. 3, of Tihar jail. Separatists have even formed a ‘joint advisory council’ to lead and call for the protests demanding the return of Afzal’s body.

Though the MHA has already rejected the demand of return of Afzal’s mortal remains, the issue continues to be at the centre-stage of public discourse. Separatists, the unionists, even the chief minister and the former Indian home minister are vouching for the same cause. In the maze of multiple cries, it’s difficult to make out Who is who in post Afzal Kashmir?

India hanged two men in the past three months, the first executions in last eight years. In a departure from past practice, both were done in secrecy. Rights activists worry that the government has set a precedent that could impact the nearly 500 people on death row in India, including four men whose mercy pleas were rejected by Indian president in near past.

Many believe that the government wanted to avoid violent protests in Kashmir, where a separatist campaign had just begun to grow fainter, that would have erupted, had Guru’s hanging been announced beforehand.

But what is happening after the secret hanging of Afzal? Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the head of his own faction of Hurriyat Conference, says “the whole peace process has been derailed”. The state chief minister is demanding the remains of both Guru and Bhat. PDP patron, Mufti Mohammad Syeed says that returning of the body “would….reduce the pain of his family and perhaps open the way for some rebuilding of bridges at the psychological level between Kashmir and rest of the country. It is the minimum that government of India could do to apply some balm to a deep wound.”

Mufti, a former Congress veteran has worked with Dr Singh for more than 20 years. Mufti accused Dr Singh of completely ignoring “the voices of sanity” on hanging. “This unfortunate event came at a time when you as prime minister and your distinguished predecessor Mr Vajpayee had invested a great deal in a peace process that in spite of setbacks had the potential of rewriting the destiny of South Asia,” he wrote in the letter.

The response of the chief minister was prompt and to the point. “I had written to the PM on February 19, asking for the return of the bodies of both Afzal Guru & Maqbool Bhatt to their families,” he wrote on micro-blogging site twitter. “I followed this up with a visit to the PM to make the request in person a few days ago. My Govt, will continue to raise this issue with Delhi.” —

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