February has been a month of tragedies for Kashmiri people. In 1975 the fatigued Plebiscite Front leadership gave up the 22-year struggle terming it `wandering into political wilderness’.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulifkar Ali Bhutto called for a general strike in Kashmir on February 28, 1975 against the sell out. Peoples League had come into being. The young activists vowed to make Bhutto’s call a success. Through posters and leaflets, the activists urged the people to observe total strike on February 28.
Bulla dies in prison: On February 11, 1975 peoples League activists, Abdul Razaq Sopori, Ghulam Hasan alias Kranti and Ghulam Muhammad Kar alias Bulla were hoisting a banner in a Sopore locality. The police swung into action and arrested Ghulam Hasan and Ghulam Muhammad Bulla. Abdul Razaq managed to give police a slip.
Bulla, an epilepsy patient suffered an attack in the torture chamber. Instead of giving medicine to him, he was tortured further and shifted to Central Jail where he succumbed on February 15. The government was forced to appoint Mohan Singh, the then SDM Srinagar as enquiry officer. The commission, however, has not made its findings public till date.
The Valley observed `unprecedented’ strike on February 28 in response to Bhutto’s call. The strike, however, went in vain. When Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah arrived in Srinagar a few days later, he was accorded `unprecedented’ reception.
Maqbool walks to gallows: On February 11, 1984 the JKLF ideologue, Muhammad Maqbool Bhat walked to the gallows in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. He was laid to rest inside the jail. The execution was bad in law.
Noted lawyer and former Finance Minister, Muzaffar Husain Baig drafted a SLP and Kapil Sibal Advocate appeared in the Supreme Court. Giving details, Baig said: “A person cannot be hanged until the concerned High Court confirms the death sentence awarded by the session court. I annexed a certificate from the High Court of Jammu Kashmir stating that Maqbool’s death sentence had not been confirmed. Despite that the petition was rejected the day it was filed by a special bench of the Supreme Court.
The Attorney General of India, who represented union of India, took out a piece of an unsigned paper, claiming that to be the confirmation of death sentence by the state High Court. The court took cognizance of the attorney general’s paper and dismissed the petition without any further argument.”
Kunanposhpora rapes: During the night intervening February 23/24, 1991 soldiers from Indian army stormed Kunan-Poshpora, a hamlet in district Kupwara and raped scores of women. The then district magistrate, SM Yasin now retired; agreed to address a function two years ago on the Kuanan- Poshpora anniversary. He was threatened by a senior army officer. “You should not have done this, he told me. When I responded that your soldiers should not have done this, he left saying: `Dekhtay hain, aap bi yahan hain aur hum bhi… (Let’s see. You are here and so are we)”.
Verghese called on Yasin’s residence but was in a hurry. “DC sahib, yeh kya aaph nay likha hai. Koi rape nahin huwa hai. Yeh kya laga rakha hai? (DC sahib, what have you written? No rape has happened. What are you going on about?),” he told me. My response was simple: “Please don’t say this. I have submitted my report and it has happened.” He didn’t say anything further and left.
Meanwhile the police closed the case as `untraced’ and expected the people to forget the shameful act. But, two decades after the incident, Kashmiri women stood up in support of the survivors. Filed a petition and got the case re-opened.
The legal battle continued for several months. Finally the High Court directed the government to pay compensation to the survivors. It has to be made clear here that the petitioners (the support group for survivors) had not sought compensation. The support group believes that rape cannot be compensated by any means. However, the High Court direction was an acknowledgement that whatever had been stated in the petition is true. The government of India filed a petition in the Supreme Court. The High Court order was stayed. The fight for justice continues.
Meanwhile, five brave women, who formed the heart and soul of the support group published a book Can you forget Kunanposhpora?. The book has given sleepless nights to the authorities.
Zahid Farooq falls:
On February 5, 2010 a student of class 11th was shot dead near Nishat by a BSF party led by Commandant RK Bird. The government ordered a probe. For the first time in history of contemporary Kashmir, the probe was completed within a week and its findings were also made public. The BSF troopers were held liable by the enquiry. They were put on trial. The fight for justice continues.
Afzal Guru hanged:
Four years ago, Afzal Guru was taken to the altar to stave off the prime ministerial challenge of Narender Modi. The hanging, as most of the Indians believe satisfied the `collective conscience’ of the Indian nation. History was repeated. Guru’s body was not handed over to his relatives. He too was buried inside the jail.