Met PM, Asked for Bodies of Maqbool, Afzal: Omar


JAMMU: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has made a strong push for the return of the body of Afzal Guru to his family by meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with this request.

Omar made public today his meeting the Prime Minister a few days ago and his writing a letter to him earlier on February 19, hours after opposition PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed released a letter he wrote to Manmohan Singh demanding the body of the Parliament attack convict be returned to his family for proper burial.

As the Afzal body row brought the arch rivals together, the National Conference leader said he did not make his meeting the Prime Minister and his letter public since he wanted to avoid “playing politics” on the issue.

Afzal was hanged and buried in Tihar jail premises in Delhi on February 9 and there have been demands from his family that his body be returned to them.

“I had written to the PM on the 19th of this month asking for the return of the bodies of both Afzal Guru & Maqbool Bhatt to their families,” Omar tweeted on the microblogging site Twitter.

Omar said he followed this up with a visit to the Prime Minister to make the request in person a few days ago. “My Govt will continue to raise this issue with Delhi,” he said.

“I had hoped to avoid playing politics with the body of Afzal Guru but that seems to be impossible to avoid with the Mufti Sayeed letter now.

I guess I should have played politics by making the letter public immediately but am glad the PDP has joined in support now,” Omar said in a series of tweets.

Maqbool Bhat, the founder of JKLF, was buried in Tihar jail after he was executed on February 11, 1984. He was convicted of killing a police officer.

Responding to the demand of Afzal’s family for return of the 43-year-old convict’s body, a day after his hanging, Omar had said he will discuss with the Centre the implications of such a move.

Omar, who had slammed the execution, also said it was a “tragedy” that Afzal was not allowed to meet his family before he was hanged and not allowed a “final farewell”.

Asked about the official position of the ruling National Conference on the hanging, Omar said,” Obviously we would have it rather had not happened.”

On Afzal’s family not allowed to meet him, Omar said, “I cannot reconcile myself to the fact that his (Afzal) family was not allowed to see him before he was killed or executed. That to my mind, on a human level, is the biggest tragedy of this execution.” 

Meanwhile former Chief Minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Patron, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has also written a letter to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in which he has reiterated demand of his party to return mortal remains of Mohammad Afzal Guru to his family for proper burial and last rites.

“I request you to take necessary measures to accommodate the wishes of the people of the state and a majority of them in the country to have Afzal Guru’s remains returned to his family for last rites and try to retrieve whatever little can be of the trust of the people in Kashmir”, the PDP patron said in an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister.         

“I am writing to you not to seek any concessions for the state but am suggesting a way out to restore to some extent the prestige lost by the country in the entire sequence of events around the hanging. It would also reduce the pain of his family and perhaps open the way for some rebuilding of bridges at the psychological level between Kashmir and rest of the country. I have already said that the return of Afzal Guru’s remains to his family is the minimum that government of India could do to apply some balm to a deep wound. Needless to mention the denial of a decent burial in accordance with the religious practices of the deceased has created anxiety within the community even outside the state in rest of the country”, the letter further reads.

Addressing the Prime Minister, Mufti said the people of state would view their status in India through the hanging off Guru apart from setting a negative reference point in history.

“I am writing this letter after an agonizing fortnight that in my opinion witnessed all the efforts at rebuilding a relationship of trust between Kashmir and rest of the country almost evaporate into thin air. The manner in which Mohammad Afzal Guru was executed in secrecy and very obvious unholy haste is not just another hugely negative reference point in our painful history but it could have the potential to redefine the very nature of how the people here would view their status within the union. And I am deeply anxious about its possible fall out on our younger generations who had been struggling to come out of a nightmarish experience of life marked by blood and tragedy”, the letter reads.

He said an overwhelming majority of people here and most of the secular, liberal public opinion in the country have expressed their reservations about the quality of trial Afzal received. “While it is too late now to mention that beyond its academic and historical significance it is the events that preceded and followed the hanging that have become such a sore point the like of which I have not witnessed in my fifty years of public life. The fact that the feeling of pain and anger did not erupt the way some had perhaps apprehended may not be construed as an absence of it. I had since the very beginning pleaded for commutation of the death sentence keeping all the factors in view. But even though your government has been seeking advice on matters when things look bad as in 2010 when an all party conference was convened, you completely ignored the voices of sanity on Afzal’s hanging”, it further said. 

“The sad facts of the run up to the hanging will unfortunately stand out for their peculiar characteristics that don’t convey to J&K a message of being equal partners in the idea of India, much less showing any sense of accommodation or respect for the sentiments of a majority of its residents. Never in a democracy of our size and quality is a convict culled out of a queue from serial number 28 and sent to gallows. Never is a dying convict denied a last meeting with his family. Never is a condemned man denied what is now established as a last chance to seek judicial intervention after spending 12 years in jail. The people of Kashmir felt he was hanged because the noose fitted only the neck of a man of Afzal’s description and given the sad history of state’s association with the union they easily relate themselves with his fate”, said Mufti addressing Singh.

“This unfortunate event came at a time when you as prime minister and your distinguished predecessor Mr Vajpayee had invested a great deal in a peace process that in spite of setbacks had the potential of rewriting the destiny of South Asia. It happened after the people of the state had reposed their faith in democratic methods and processes even in the face of odds and the failure of the establishment to respond in a matching measure. The result is an uneasy, forcibly implemented calm and an internalized anger; ingredients for an unpredictable future”, he added.

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