Anantanag: Violence against Jamaat-e-Islami followers in the valley in the aftermath of the hanging of former Pakistan prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto remains one of the darkest and understudied chapter in pro-India political parties’ role in organised violence in J&K.
Dozens of homes of Jamaat workers and followers besides other properties were burnt and looted this day in 1979 by National Conference goons, a few supporters of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and a few preachers.
Jamaat organiser (Nazim) for Arwani area and chairman of Jamiat-ul-Sualihaat Ghulam Muhammad Dar recalls the horror of the day.
His account is as follows:
The 4th April 1979 event had a background which led to violence on this day. Some clerics and religious scholars had already vitiated the atmosphere and flared up the tensions against Jamaat-e-Islami. Nayi Duniya newspaper used to publish articles which create hate against JEI. Then government headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah too harboured deep hatred towards JEI as he felt that this organization with a strong cadre base was a threat to him.
At about 9.20 am, a news bulletin announced Bhutto’s hanging and also reported about attack on Jamaat office in Anantnag. Only two hours later people from several areas tried to march towards Arwani village but were stopped at the bridge by the locals. Stone pelting ensued but the attackers couldn’t enter the Jamaat stronghold. The rioters returned in the evening. A senior police official also arrived and was apprised by the elders about the threat to Jamaat followers. He assured them of security.
When he was leaving through Shirpora locality he saw many people from Frisal had already assembled there. The police official asked them ‘are you up to something?’
Jamaat estimates properties worth Rs 38 crores and 35 lakh rupees were destroyed at the time.
The loss was Rs 1.65 crore in Jammu.
Residential houses (burnt) 1245
Houses damaged 466
Jamaat offices 24
Jamaat-run schools 45
Among other things cars, scooters, factories were also burned.
—(Source Wadi e Purkhar)
Next day, the rioters besieged the village on all sides. The villagers after a meeting at the local Jamia mosque decided to defend the two main entry points, one at Hassanpora bridge and another at Kharpora bridge. As the number of rioters swelled the locals set the Hassanpora wooden bridge on fire to stop the advance of the attackers. But they were able to penetrate from the other bridge.
Then they started setting everything on fire. The houses, granaries and cow sheds were ablaze. No one could figure out why we were tortured like this. The attackers did not even spare the Quran saying it was a ‘Maududi Quran’. The memories of the day bring tears to our eyes even now. After this incident when the maternal uncle of my five-year-old daughter came to visit us, he tried to take her in lap, but she responded by saying, ‘Uncle why are you trying to comfort me now after setting everything we had on fire.’”
After the violence, which lasted six days, Sheikh Abdullah visited the village and told us: ‘Shall I invite a hanging for myself by acting against these rioters?’ Home minister of India, while passing through the highway, saw smoke arising from Arwani side but he was told that it was simply a forest fire. He insisted on coming here and assessing the situation himself. He was stunned. The next day, an Indian newspaper ran the headline ‘Kashmir government goes on casual leave on April 4’. The main role in the violence was played by mullahs of the time. Communist leader MY Tarigami too was behind this violence. As our granaries had been torched, many of us were unable to sow crops the next season.
One of the rioters from Marhama village was seen carrying a stone grinder looted from the house of a JEI member. When asked why he was carrying such a heavy thing he had said a local preacher from ‘had announced that heavier the loot the greater the reward in the hereafter’. The said preacher had been leading rioters in Bijbehara town and Arwani.
The houses of Jamat activists and sympathisers also were not spared by the rioters. Among the popular Jamaat activists whose house was looted and torched included the house of Advocate Ghulam Nabi Hagroo of Sarnal, Ghulam Muhamad Shakir and others while those in Bibehara town and its villages included those of Habibullah Jan, Ghulam Qadir Tak, Noor Muhamad Nazmi and Advocate Sultan of Khiram (later killed by army and Ikhwan). It was NC workers, a few henchmen of Muftis and a local preacher Qazi Ahmadullah who were instigating and leading the mob in Islamabad town. I hold no animosity towards the people who attacked us as they were ignorant and instigated by the state. Many top leaders of Jamaat, after visiting the affected areas, announced a general amnesty for the rioters. More than 450 houses were burnt in Arwani alone. Jamaat later helped all people irrespective of their political affiliations to construct new houses so did many other people. The government only provided a few tin sheets and timber to each household.
Orchards spread over hundreds of kanals belonging to renowned Jamaat activist Abdul Razak Mir (Buchru), a former MLA from Kulgam, had been damaged. Buchru was killed by ikhwanis (government-sponsored militiamen) during the mid-nineties.
Abdur Rahim Sankaar, a Jamaat activist from Arwani was killed in the attacks. In Sopore, a Jamaat member had been killed and beards of several Jamaat men were shaved off. In the frenzy, Noor Ahmed, a man associated with Qadiyani sect, from Watoo Nasnoor village of Kulgam, was killed by a mob. Bachru, Redwani, Tarigam, Panzgam, Dogripora Mool Chitragam, Zainapora, Prichoo, Pinjoora, Arwani, Khiram, Nanil, Kanilwan and Bijbehara bore the brunt.
Another eyewitness, Abdul Salam
Rasool Imam of Bijbehara flared up passions by saying ‘Benazirai meinz kus laagi, moal hai morhai’ (Benazir, who will marry you off now…your father has been murdered). In our locality of Malikpora Arwani, a shop of an Ahmadi was looted. While setting the shop on fire an attacker yelled at him. ‘Cze banawath bae Mohamadi (I will make you a Mohmadi) and emptied his safe of all cash.
District Anantnag Jamaat chief Ahmadullah Parray recalls:
On April 4, I was working as a teacher in a Jamaat run school in Chota Bazar, Srinagar. Late Khazer Mohammad Magrabi, a prominent poet of that time, was also working there. A procession protesting Butto’s hanging and comprising both Shias and Sunnis passed by the school. When they reached near the school they shouted anti-Jamaat slogans. The crowd tried to set our school ablaze, but it was Khazer Saahab because of whom we could manage to leave the premises and shut the school. Next day I somehow managed to head towards Islamabad. I saw people from my village there. I decided to head towards my native village at Khiram (in Bijbehara) I saw people fleeing their homes. In another village of Sirhama the situation was to some extent alright but due to large scale violence one of the youth I met told me he had hid all Jamaat literature and religious books under the thatched covering of the boundary wall at his home. Another Jamaat member, Mohammad Maqbool Shah of Srigufwara, had buried the money belonging to Jamaat in the ground.
The violence appeared a collective conspiracy of NC and its opponents including Congress, mainly Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s workers from Bijbehara and Home Shalibugh. It was a ploy to uproot Jamaat from Kashmir.
Sheikh Abdullah had appealed people from Delhi that they should express their emotions (against Bhutto’s hanging) peacefully.
The animosity was brewing after we protested Sheikh’s accord with Indira Gandhi. He got our schools or educational wing, Shaub-e-Taleem, banned for almost two years. In Zainapora, some of our members had been provided refuge by the Kashmiri Pandit community inside their homes.
Then Ameer Jamaat Saad-ud-din Tarbali announced general amnesty and no cases were registered.
Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, political commentator
Resentment against Jamaat had been brewing since 1977 election when it had fielded candidates against the NC from nearly all constituencies, even from Ganderbal, the safe seat of Abdullah family. In April 4 NC found an opportunity to take revenge.
After huge devastation of Jamaat properties, Sheikh issued a poster, Kafara, in which he appealed to the people to compensate the losses suffered by Jamaat, although it were mainly his workers only who were involved in the violence and loot.
Tarigami denies having any role in riots
CPIM leader and MLA Kulgam, M Y Tarigami vehemently refuted the allegations levelled against him
“There is a difference between a fact and an allegation. It was a mass resentment against Bhutto’s hanging across the valley. There was even an accusation against a section of Jamatis who had distributed sweets on Bhutto’s hanging, I don’t know whether this is true or not. It was this perception which ‘Unfortunately’ instigated people against Jamatis who were targeted. I have also faced jail and the first victim of Sheikh sahib’s promulgated PSA act. I gave an affidavit in the Supreme court of India that if the government had acted it would have contained the violence to larger extent. I did protest peacefully against the Bhutto’s execution for which I hold no remorse but it is against my conscience to burn down someone’s house. I tried to save many houses of my neighbors and I consider this as an elementary duty of a sensible person. Though Jamaat and we have disagreements on many issues even now but nevertheless this act was condemnable. All the charges against me are baseless and false. I still consider Bhutto’s execution as a judicial murder but a saner element will never think of committing an act of arson against its political opponents”, says Tarigami.)