Great escape

Kh Ghulam Naqui was born to Kazim Ali of Zadibal in 1924. According to his elder brother, Ghulam Rasool Alamgeer, Naqui was sharp and fond of horse riding. He had his initial schooling from Imamia School (Zadibal) and graduated from Amar Singh College, Srinagar.

He wanted to move to Aligarh to pursue a degree in law. His parents, however, denied him permission. Determined to go to Aligarh University, Naqui stole some money from his house, wrote a note for his parents seeking pardon for stealing the money and left for Aligarh along with his friend Ali Muhammad Vakil.

 When the duo returned from Aligarh, the first war between India and Pakistan was going on. An underground organisation was launched, which attracted hundreds of youth. They were trained in handling and use of arms. According to Rashid Taseer’s Tehreek-e-Hurriyat-e-Kashmir (Vol. 4, page 132), the organisation was named Hyderi Column.

However, information about the organisation reached the police and a few members were arrested. Ali Naqui and Ali Muhammad Advocate (son of Muhammad Saber of Maisuma) were also taken into custody. Both were awarded three years of rigorous imprisonment. However, they managed to escape from the jail.  

Naqui describes the incident in his autobiography: “It was early 1951 when we thought of escaping from the jail, since we were left with no hope of release from jail. During the period we were not given special class. We were allotted work in the workshop and weaving department of the jail.  

During this period we brought out a rod of soft steel, some one metre in length. We kept it in an abandoned bathroom in our compartment hidden under the firewood, which we were given for heating up the quarter stove of our room.
We actually used the stove to convert the iron bar into a hook.  During the night when all the windows were closed we would heat up the rod in the middle and bend it on the steel fencing of the iron bed. We bent the rod in the middle to give it a U-shape. We then turned its ends of the size of a standard brick used on the top of the boundary wall of the jail. We gave it another bend and made it of a fork type hook with its ends turned to fit the roof bricks of the main boundary wall.

 Our room was the only portion of the lengthy barrack, which had a first floor. A staircase, which opened on the front of barrack and led to the upper story, was always locked and its keys were in safe custody with the jail superintendent. The upper most rung of the staircase joined the ceiling of the abandoned bathroom of our compartment.

We unnailed the upper wing planks of the bathroom ceiling by using the trowel and transplanter, which we had been provided by the jail authorities to plant flower beds in the compound of our barracks. We removed the nails from the planks and put them back in place.

 It was early April 1951 when we decided that it was the ripe time to attempt the escape. March and April are the spring season in Kashmir. This period of the year witnesses heavy rainfall in the Valley. We were awaiting a day when it would be raining continuously as this would facilitate our plan.

 The security in the jail was not upto the mark. There was a gallow structure in the outer compound. The wardens were always scared of it and would say that the ghost of the convicts who had been hung there visit the place during the night. They would not, therefore, stay for the whole period of their duty (3 hours) in the compound, especially when only one warden would be on duty.

 The rains would, all the more, be contributing to relaxation of the wardens on duty. On April 19, 1951, Wednesday, it rained from morning till midnight and we prepared ourselves to escape at 9 pm  we brought out the hook from its hiding place, tied the ropes to it, and also wrapped bandages, with pieces of cloth, around it to avoid any sound when it would touch the wall.  

 We waited till midnight and ensured that the only warden who was on duty had checked the window bars of our room and after having a round of the compound, went to have a smoke in the inner Verandah of the hospital of the jail. Since, we were now 3 years in jail we had thoroughly observed the movements of the wardens during night especially during the period of midnight to 3 AM. They were quite lax and would not stay at their place of duty in the rear compound. We were even familiar with the sound the various iron gates of the prison produced when they used to be shut or opened. At night even the sound of the locks when checked to ensure they were shut could be heard from our room.
At about 1 am we ascended to the first floor of our compartment through the upper wing of the bathroom ceiling. The upper room, which used to serve as the office of the manager of the jail printing press, had two windows opening towards the rear compound of the Jail.

These windows had only glass panes and no iron bars or grills. We shut one of the lids of one of the window and bolted it leaving the other lid open for escape. The window was just at a height of ten feet from the compound. We put through one place of rope prepared from our bed sheets through the pane less opening of the window thus getting down on the floor of the compound. Both of us descended into the compound perspiring profusely despite the down pour. Covering a distance of approximately thirty to forty yards upto the boundary wall, we threw the hook on the wall. It did not, however, stick two to three times. At last we threw it with a silent cry of “Ya Ali” and it got stuck to the top of the wall, approximately 22 feet high. My companion pulled it and ensured that it had stuck properly. He climbed the wall meticulously taking no serious effort to reach the top of the wall. He lay down on the top of the wall to provide me ample time to climb. I then caught hold of the rope and ascended with comfortable ease and came down in the open on the other side of the wall. My companion also came down. We found ourselves just near the lunatic asylum situated on the outskirts of the jail. As the hook had stuck to the top brackets of the wall we gave it a jerk and it came down leaving no traces behind. We were bare footed and had tied our shoes to the other end of the rope. We collected the hook and put on our shoes and coats.

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