Mohammad Sultan Bhat
(May 27, 1945 – August 13, 1996)
A Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) worker since he was 15 years old, Mohammad Sultan Bhat had contested assembly elections twice. Within nine years after he lost the election by a whisker, he was assassinated.
A resident of Khiram, Sultan acquired education up to his middles in his village and then moved to Bijbehara for matriculation. Soon after his BSc, he was appointed a government teacher but Sultan resigned and joined Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) for bachelors in law, a degree he completed in 1971. His father and his brother, both government employees gave him the absolute authority to decide about his future. This was despite the fact that they had married him in 1964.
Baptized into Jama’at by his relative and landlord Noor Mohammad in Bijbehara during his student days, his friend Ghulam Mohiuddin had predicted his rise in the party.
His friends saw him changed after becoming a lawyer. “He was more inclined to the Jama’at and had matured a lot,” remembers Mohiuddin. “It seemed as if Aligarh (AMU) had embedded a religious scholar in him.”
When his party felt him experienced, expressive and knowledgeable, they encouraged him in politics. In 1972, Sultan contested and ended runner up with 5285 votes.
Later, Sultan joined District Court in Islamabad and emerged as a reputed member of the Bar. His colleague Abdul Majid said his ideology neither came in between his practice or his relations with people. Back home, he would preside over the Friday gatherings.
As Muslim United Front (MUF) took off, Sultan faced difficult times because Jama’at was supporting his candidature but not Qazi Nisar. Even Congressman Mufti, according to his another friend, was interested against his participation and had offered him the job of a Naib Tehsildar. According to Sunaullah Lone, Sultan’s brother-in-law, when he finally got the mandate, he invited Qazi for the first public lecture.
There were also some other offers to him so that he will remain out of fray. According to one of the close aides of Mohammad Sultan, “Mufti (Sayeed) offered him job of Naib Tehsildar and Rs 20000 so that he will sit out of elections. Even his father and brother had agreed on this but when he was consulted he clearly refused. He told his father that you should give all my property to my brother because I have been dependent on him for so long time but don’t tell me to sit out of elections.”
Sultan was positively responded by the people. “Earlier, there was a divide between people on basis of ideology,” Mohiuddin said, “He helped them come closer.”
“We used to leave before dawn on foot to reach people,” said Lone, his relative and Chief Polling Agent. “We had only one jeep that would carry only five people. All others would foot the distance.” Lone said people participated in huge numbers.
A day later when polling was at its peak, a police party led by a DIG (Deputy Inspector General of J&K Police), according to Ghulam Nabi Sumji reached the Degree College Islamabad, and stopped counting for Bijbehara. “They said there has been proxy voting at various places,” Sumji said. “Amid commotion in the counting hall NC candidate Ghulam Nabi Shah came and took hundreds of ballots and tore them apart with his teeth in full public view.”
Election Commission of India (ECI) ordered re-poll at three places – Old Bijligar, Peershah Mohallah and Goriwan (1). When counting resumed, Sultan lost by 100 votes. “Had there been no re-poll, we would have won,” Lone said. “They bribed people and declared false results.”
Back home, Jawaid Ahmad, his nephew, found him calm. Within days he was back to business in the court. He lowered his profile, set up Khatejat-ul-Kubra Trust and would remain busy. His relations with Jama’at were tense but unbreakable.
In 1995, he shifted to Srinagar and started practicing in High Court. His associates believe he felt unsafe and had planned migration with his family.
On Saturday, August 13, 1996, he came home. Sonaullah had cautioned him that “some Ikhwanis (pro-government civilian militia) from Islamabad have arrived” to Srigufwara, in Khiram neighbourhood. “Some friends had told me that soldiers were asking about his schedule to return,” Lone said. Despite being cautioned he refused saying, “let us see what will happen.”
“In the night at around 11 pm loud knocks were heard on the main door, Jawaid said. “Before we could respond they broke it open and at least 20 gunmen started calling for Mohammad Sultan.” They took him away.
Next morning, the family approached local garrison. “They assured they are searching for him,” one family member said. “Then a neighbour whose brother was an Ikhwani approached us asking to arrange Rs 2.5 lakh rupees so that she manages his release.” The family took a few hours to arrange the money and hand it over to her. “But she came back with the news that he has been killed. His body was found in a nearby Bewora village. He was shot in head,” his nephew, Jawaid remembers.
By Aakash Hassan