The tale of two hangings


The situation in Kashmir has got into yet another level chaos with a general shutdown and protests called by joint resistance leadership (JRL) and restrictions put by the state administration to foil the JRL move on Friday (February 8), the day Afzal Guru was hanged to death in Delhi’s Tihal jail in 2013. The government-JRL tussle might extend till Sunday (February11), the day another resistance icon Maqbool Butt was hanged in the same prison under similar condition in 1984. Maqbool Butt was hanged to death allegedly for killing an intelligence officer of Jammu and Kashmir police. Afzal Guru was hanged for his alleged involvement in attack on Indian parliament in 2000. Both the sons of Kashmir have acquired heroic stature after their death. But as long as they were alive facing trials and tribulations in and outside courts nobody cared about them. They rather lived with negative image with people associating so many undesirable stories with them. Take the case of Afzal Guru. He became the casualty of apathy, in general, in Kashmir. Right from the day he was arrested and implicated in Parliament attack, he was seen, at least in private interface, as collaborator”, ‘a man who hobnobbed with the enemies to bring disrepute to the‘movement’. Many people in Kashmir believed, though without any material evidence, that the attack on parliament was orchestrated by government agencies and Guru facilitated it. Till he was awarded death penalty, not a single word of sympathy came about him from any political or public corner. The Kashmir High Court Bar Association (KHCBA), which has a good record of contesting cases of Kashmiri youths arrested by security agencies, did never bother to offer him legal assistance during trial. Nor did any political leader ever thought it worth to speak for him. We, rather, were told in private conversations that “he (Guru) is their (New Delhi’s) man”. He was left alone to face the might of one billion people, who had got enraged by the attack on what they called “symbol of democracy”. No lawyer in Delhi agreed to take up his case for known reasons. But what stopped Kashmiri lawyers is still unknown. As a result, Guru, as some legal experts say, was sent to gallows unheard and unrepresented in the court of law.
Incidentally Maqbool Butt too was tried and hanged in an atmosphere of suspicion and doubt. His hanging did not provoke any reaction in Kashmir then. Late Abdul Gani Lone was the only leader who protested against Butt’s hanging. Since Lone’s influence was restricted to some pockets of Kupwara and Baramullah district only, it had no impact on the overall situation in the valley. Maqbool Butt, for a large section of people and politicians, too was seen as a ‘collaborator’. The hijacking of an Indian Fokker plane “Ganga” to Lahore and putting it to flames had created an image of Butt that did not describe him. Ganga was hijacked by Hashim Quraishi and Ashraf Quraishi on January 30, 1971 on its routine flight from Srinagar to Delhi. The plane was set ablaze at Lahore, providing India an alibi to stop over-flights of Pakistan between its east and western parts. A month later Pakistan was caught in serious domestic crises when East Pakistan rose in revolt against West Pakistan’s hegemony, which ultimately ended in emergence of Bangladesh. Pakistan sensed conspiracy in Ganga hijacking and India’s subsequent action of snapping West Pakistan’s air link with its East wing. They cracked down on Maqbool Butt’s National Liberation Front and arrested hundreds of its activists and leaders including Butt and the Ganga hijackers—Hashim and Ashraf Quraishi. The court however found Butt innocent but awarded Hashim Quraishi prison sentence. Butt’s image suffered further when he attempted to loot JK Bank at Langate in 1976 and in the process shot dead bank manager Ghulam Nabi Magray. It were local people who captured Butt (along with his two associates Riyaz and Hameed) and handed them over to police. However when armed struggle began in Kashmir in late 80s, Butt came to be known as its symbol. He was idolized as ‘national hero’ establishing the fact that despite negative image he had during his lifetime, his hanging left deep influence on the psyche of the people, more particularly younger generation, of Kashmir.