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Cry for ‘empty grave’ for Afzal at home

A woman and a child cross a street during the second consecutive day of curfew in Srinagar on Sunday. (AP)

Srinagar, Feb. 10: Afzal Guru’s burial in Tihar jail has triggered a clamour for reserving an empty grave for him at the “martyrs’ graveyard” in Srinagar, like that for Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front founder Maqbool Bhat.

“We want his body back. Our chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik has gone on a 24-hour hunger strike in Islamabad to press for that but even if India declines to return his body, we might have an empty grave for him like the one we have for Maqbool sahib,” JKLF leader Mohammad Yasin Bhat said today.

Maqbool Bhat was hanged and buried in Tihar on February 11, 1984, but a grave was dug for him in 1990 at the Bihisht-e-Shohdai Kashmir (garden of Kashmiri martyrs).

The “empty grave”, as it is called here, has a gravestone saying “his remains are lying with the Indian government as a trust of the Kashmiri nation and we still are waiting for them”.

Hundreds of people killed during the last two decades of insurgency — militants and civilians — are buried in the graveyard. Among them are top militant commanders Ishfaq Majeed and Hameed Shiekh and separatist leaders Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone.

The empty grave serves to keep alive the demand for the return of Bhat’s remains. On February 11 every year, separatists renew the call.

Yasin Bhat said they would seek Afzal’s body tomorrow, which is the 29th death anniversary of Maqbool Bhat.

The separatists appear to have taken the cue from social networking sites — many Facebook users have called for such a grave in Kashmir.

Afzal’s cousin Yasin Guru said his family respected the wishes of the Kashmiri people. “He was not just my brother but the brother of all Kashmiris. Whatever they decide is acceptable to us,” he said.

The family will approach the Supreme Court in the next couple of days to ask for Afzal’s body and are in touch with their lawyers in New Delhi, N.D. Pancholi and Nandita Haksar, Yasin said. The family had yesterday written to the director-general of prisons, Tihar, to claim the body.

“If India calls itself the world’s biggest democracy, then why it is denying us his body,” he said.

Crackdown

The media clampdown in Kashmir was extended from Internet and television to the print media today by a jittery Omar Abdullah government.

Newspapers could not hit the stands as all 10 Kashmir districts remained under curfew for the second day.

Still, sporadic incidents violence took place as scores of youths defied curfew at some places and clashed with police and paramilitary forces. A police spokesperson said four cops were injured, one of them seriously.

A PTI report quoted Ganderbal residents in central Kashmir as alleging that a protester, Tariq Ahmad Bhat, died after he jumped into a river to flee security forces who were chasing him. A police spokesperson said the youth drowned after a boat capsize.

Greater Kashmir, an English daily, said on its website that police went to the printing presses of most local newspapers and asked managers not to publish the Sunday edition.

Rising Kashmir, another English newspaper, could not publish its print edition because the authorities did not allow the copy to go the press.

A spokesman for the Kashmir Editors’ Guild said copies of some of the newspapers that could print, including the Urdu daily Chattan and the English daily Kashmir Images, were seized.

“No written order for confiscating the newspapers was served to us. I think we can’t bring out our newspapers as long as curfew remains enforced,” he said. “We were informed that the identity cards of our staff will serve as curfew passes, but that also didn’t happen.”