Srinagar: On the ninth death anniversary of slain Hurriyat Conference leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz, even his hometown witnessed routine life on Friday, unlike in the past when at least Pampore would shut to remember the once supreme commander of Al-Jihad outfit and executive member of Hurriyat Conference (Mirwaiz).
A founding member of Jammu and Kashmir Peoples League (JKPL), Aziz was 55 when he was killed by government forces in Uri (Baramulla) while he was leading the historic “Muzaffarabad Chalo” march on August 11, 2008.
The march towards the capital city of Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK) was called by the resistance leadership against the “economic blockade” of Kashmir valley enforced by Hindu extremists of Jammu during the 2008 uprising.
More than 60 civilians were killed at the hands of government forces in the suppression of the 2008 uprising. It also led to the breaking up of the PDP-Congress coalition government in the state.
A frontline resistance leader, Aziz, along with Shabir Ahmad Shah and Peer Saifullah, was tasked by the then ‘Coordination Committee’ of resistance groups to lead the march across the Line of Control (LoC). The Coordination Committee was spearheading the agitation against transfer of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.
Aziz’s body was brought to Srinagar and buried in the martyrs’ graveyard at Eidgah. Since then, resistance groups have issued statements, paid tributes to the slain leader, and called for a one–day strike on his every death anniversary.
This year, though, the resistance leadership issued no call for strike. Some resistance activists went to the martyrs’ graveyard but did little else.
“It is not necessary to observe a strike on the death anniversary of every leader,” said Muhammad Yusuf Mir, part of the Masarat Alam-led Muslim League. “Kashmir shuts to remember late Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone, Muhammad Maqbool Bhat and Muhammad Afzal Guru,” he said.
Frontline leaders like Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Shabir Shah confined themselves to issuing statements. The same leaders earlier used to call for a shutdown, at least in Pampore, on Aziz’s death anniversary.
In 2016, amid the popular uprising, the joint resistance leadership in its routine protest calendars had asked people to march towards the martyrs’ graveyard in Eidgah to pay homage to Aziz on August 11. Geelani and Mirwaiz themselves set out for the graveyard but were detained by police and kept in custody.
“Every year since the death of Aziz, APHC (All Parties Hurriyat Conference) would issue programmes and call for a shutdown on this day,” Mir said.
Azam Inquilabi – who fought the Russian army in Afghanistan in 1980s – has dedicated one of his books, ‘Panorama to Sheikh Aziz’, to the leader he called as “Shaheed-i-Azeemat”.
“I spent years with this great son of soil in jail as well as outside,” Inquilabi told Kashmir Reader. “He played an important role as a militant commander.”
Recalling his association with Aziz, Mir told this newspaper, “I was in touch with Aziz since 1988. He was a staunch pro-Pakistan leader and was even jailed for kissing the soil of Pakistan when he went there.”
General Secretary of the Shabir Ahmad Shah-led JKPL, Aziz spent many years inside jail along with the late Dr Ghulam Qadir Wani, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, Qari Saifuddin, Muhammad Farooq Rehmani, Shabir Ahmad Shah, and Syed Ali Geelani.
In the Peoples League, Aziz worked alongside Sheikh Hameed, Gulam Muhammad Khan Sopori, Farooq Rehmani, Mukhtar Ahmad Sofi and others.
“He was elevated as chief commander of Al Jihad, which was formed after two militant outfits – Jihad Force and Janbaz Force – joined hands in February 1991,” said Mir. “He was arrested in May 1993 and subsequently released in 1998, following which he became executive member of APHC.”
Mir said that after the division of the APHC into two factions, “Ghulam Qadir Hagroo and I were sent as representatives to another grouping of resistance parties under Masarat Alam, but the JKPL withdrew support and we parted ways.”
“Aziz sahib, along with Shabir Shah, Jama’at-e-Islami, Bar Association, and JKLF, remained neutral but not for long,” he added.
In 2008, Mir said, Aziz joined the Hurriyat Conference (M).
Inquilabi said about Aziz that unlike others, he remained associated with JKPL all his life. “He added to the stature, name and fame of JKPL,” Inquilabi said. “He stood like a rock against onslaught by India in Kashmir.”
Inquilabi said that it hurts him to see the JKPL divided into multiple groups.
It was in 1964, soon after the Holy Relic movement, that Aziz joined the pro-freedom group, Young Men’s League, which called for the right to self-determination according to UN Resolutions. Soon after, Aziz was arrested and booked under the infamous National Security Act (NSA).
In 1973, the Young Men’s League merged into other pro-freedom groups to form the Jammu and Kashmir People’s League, with which Aziz remained associated till his death.
Born in 1952, Aziz left behind his widow, who is in her 60s now, and two sons, who are small-time businessmen. One of his brothers lives across the LoC and his two other brothers live next to his ancestral home.