Bulla, the martyr

A family in apple town Sopore has been waiting for justice for the past thirty-seven years. On February 15, 1975 one of its members was subjected to extra-judicial execution. The government also ordered a probe but the findings have not been made public till date.
Hectic political activity was going on in February 1975. The people who fighting for Izzat aabru ka muqaam (honour and dignity) for Kashmiris were about to end their 22 sala siyasi awaragurdi (22 years of political wilderness).

The controversial Indira-Abdullah accord was signed on February 24 by Kashmir’s tallest leader, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Indira Gandhi.

Before signing the accord, Sheikh Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Beg issued a series of statements wherein it was mentioned that New Delhi had agreed to restore pre-53 status. Amid massive protests, the Plebiscite Front Council discussed the terms and conditions of the accord and ratified it on February 15. A few members opposed it. Sofi Muhammad Akber and Advocate G N Hagroo were two of them.   

Indira Gandhi shocked Sher-e-Kashmir on the day the Accord was signed. She informing the Parliament about the accord on February 24; something which she was not supposed to do as per an unwritten agreement between the duo.
Sheikh Abdullah received the shocking news at Jammu and expressed his reluctance to go to Raj Bhawan where he had to take oath as chief minister of the state. According to Shabnam Qayoom, Indira Gandhi when informed about Sheikh’s reluctance, urged the governor, LK Jha to allow Mir Qasim, who had submitted his resignation, to continue as chief minister.  Gandhi also urged Jha to tell Qasim to follow her directions on Nedous Hotel Issue.  The lease of the hotel had expired recently and the government had plans to lease it out to another party. This, according to Shabnam, forced Sheikh to sign the accord.

According to Qayoom, Mir Qasim persuaded Sheikh to attend the function. He agreed and later accused the media of misinterpreting some of the clauses of the accord. “I will apprise the people of the terms and conditions of the accord soon. No mention has been made about my correspondence with the Prime Minister”, he said.

 Sheikh’s correspondence with Indira Gandhi has been published by Shabnam in his Kashmir ka Siyasi Inqilaab, Vol 5. However, Sheikh has not made even a passing reference in his autobiography, Aatish-e-Chinar.  The correspondence reflects Sheikh Abdullah’s desperation.

Justifying the accord, Sheikh writes on page 837 of his biography:  “It was not a deviation from the basic stand. It was change of strategy. We shifted our struggle from streets to the table.”   

Days before the signing of this accord, the conscious people registered protest against the `sell out’. Ghulam Muhammad Bulla who had association with political activists like Fazal Haque Qureshi, Nazir Ahmad Wani, Farooq Rehmani, Musadiq Adil and others also came out to give vent to his feelings. After registering protest, Bulla hoisted a Pakistani flag in Sopore chowk on February 11.

 Late in the evening on February 15, 1975 a police van came to a screeching halt in Sopore’s Nowhamam area. An ill fated family was called out only to see one of their beloved members lying dead in the van. The hysterical relatives were silenced with rifle butts. The body was finally carried to a graveyard near Degree College and laid to rest by eleven persons in a grave dug by the police.

It was the body of Ghulam Muhammad Bulla who had been tortured to death in police custody. It was wrapped in a shroud and had been washed in the central jail, Srinagar where Bulla had been lodged for a couple of days after his arrest.

The incident evoked severe reaction in the apple town. Thousands of people defying curfew restrictions came out and raised slogans against the police. The government responded by appointing the then SDM, Srinagar as enquiry officer. The police, however, restrained people from appearing before the commission. The findings of the commission have not been made public till date.  The SDM offered compensation to the aggrieved family. The family rejected it. Incidentally Bulla happens to be the last person to be killed in custody in the pre accord era.     

The quest for justice continues to this day. People close to the family want a case of murder registered against the guilty.  Bulla’s associates, however, believe that his sacrifice did not go in vain. The Accord failed to silence the pro-freedom voices. In twelve years, the people of Kashmir resorted to guns to enforce their rights and Sher-e-Kashmir’s organization as almost wiped out.

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