The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has annoyed its coalition partner by demanding the return of the mortal remains of Muhammad Afzal Guru who was hanged in Delhi’s Tihar jail on February 9, 2013 in the Parliament attack case, and like Muhammad Maqbool Bhat, laid to rest inside the prison. During his visit to the Valley a few days after Guru’s execution, a senior journalist said that New Delhi would not want a political shrine in Kashmir, and ruled out the possibility of Guru’s body being returned, even as rumours were rife that it would. Two years have passed and the journalist has been proved right, but has that made any difference? While it has strengthened what is known as the the `separatist camp,’ the pro-India camp has had to pay a heavy price. The execution has almost erased the National Conference and the Congress from the Valley, and Congress legislators have now taken to coming forward to apologize for it.
The Sher-e-Kashmir was a popular leader in Kashmir, with millions of hearts beating for him during his lifetime. A stampede during his massive funeral procession claimed several lives. He was an Indian to the core although the Indians never believed him. The Kashmiris accused him of betrayal, but would root for him nevertheless. With his death, the scene changed in Kashmir, and the government now has to deploy policemen to guard his grave. The only visitors the site attracts are National Conference leaders and members of the Abdullah family on his birth anniversary on December 5. And even they forget him for the rest of the year.
The Sher-e-Kashmir’s grave has failed to bind the people of Kashmir to the Indian Union. In fact, it incites `separatist’ tendencies. On the contrary, scores of people visit the Martyrs’ Graveyard at Eidgah for a glimpse of the empty graves reserved for Muhammad Maqbool Bhat and Muhammad Afzal Guru, these being more important in contemporary Kashmir than the mausoleum of the Sher-e-Kashmir who, till the late 80s, was considered the saviour of Kashmir. Returning Bhat’s and Guru’s mortal remains is important for a decent and proper burial, besides a host of political reasons, and the government of India must do so with honour and dignity. Refusing this moral obligation brings India no laurels.