The last picture of Gulam Hassan Malik, 70, alias Noor Khan, a resident of Uri, who was lodged under Public Safety Act (PSA), at Kotbalwal Jail, Jammu, was clicked on a hospital bed, with his leg tied with a chain. Khan was taken to Government Medical College Hospital, Jammu, for a medical check-up by jail authorities, where he breathed his last.
Khan, a former Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) commander, who gave up militancy after his arrest in the late 1990s, was booked in January on arms smuggling charges under PSA. As the news of Khan’s death reached Kashmir, obituaries started to pour in from different quarters.
But the most unexpected obituary came from the other side of the ideological divide, when Brigadier P S Gothra, formerly Brigadier General Staff with the Northern Command, wrote a moving post describing Khan rescued his father, also an army officer, from a fellow militant group in 1993.
“With Noor Khan it was a unique relation…. Deep pain in my heart resembled as if I have lost somebody very close. Many may wonder why a fourth-generation officer of the Indian Army is feeling bad on reading the headlines, ‘Pro-freedom activist lodged in Jammu Jail passes away’,” P S Gothra wrote.
After Gothra’s father Major G S Gothra, a chief engineer for the Uri hydroelectric project was taken hostage by militants, some NHPC staff and locals approached Khan, who was a state power department employee before joining militancy.
The purpose was to seek Khan’s help to secure the release of Gothra’s father.
After using his network Khan found out that Gothra’s father was held in Dangerpora village in Sheri Valley, Baramulla.
Khan, who was himself a resident of Baramulla’s Narwaw village, took one a local truck driver of the project with him to Dangerpora. By midnight Khan, by putting his life in danger, managed to secure Gothra’s father’s release from his kidnappers. In his tribute, Gothra told The Telegraph that Khan was a man of courage and “dignity”.
After his release Gothra’s father called Khan, who was still a militant, to his office and offered him money, but he refused to take even a single penny.
In 2013, Brigadier Gothra was posted in the same area and visited Khan’s home “to thank him for the good deed”.
Three days before Khan’s death Kothbalwal jail authorities called his family and told them about his illness. “They were only fulfilling a formality by calling us to the hospital. Otherwise, he was already 90 per cent dead,” Khan’s son Irshad told media.