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Empty grave near Bhat’s

- Tombstone in place, demand for remains gets shriller

Srinagar, Feb. 12: A grave has been reserved for Afzal Guru near an empty slot meant for the burial of Maqbool Bhat at the martyrs’ graveyard in Srinagar.

Afzal’s empty grave is located in a corner of the burial ground, making it the first one visible. It is the second empty grave after the one kept aside for Bhat, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader who was hanged in 1984.

The Telegraph had reported on Monday that separatists had decided to set aside an empty grave for Afzal, who was buried on the Tihar jail premises on Saturday morning soon after he was executed.

“There was some empty space lying at its corner, close to Maqbool Sahib’s empty grave. We decided to earmark this space as Afzal Sahib’s grave,” separatist leader Tahir Mir said.

The graveyard — Bihisht-e-Shohdai Kashmir (the Garden of Kashmiri Martyrs) — houses the graves of hundreds of militants and civilians. It was established in 1990 to bury people killed by security forces.

“We decided that Maqbool Sahib’s and Afzals Sahib’s graves should be side by side. Luckily, there was an empty space close to Maqbool Sahib’s grave,” Mir said.

While curfew remained clamped in Kashmir for the fourth consecutive day, the separatists chose to reach the graveyard before dawn. Mir said he and some supporters were camping in an adjoining locality during the night so that they could reach the spot early today without being detected by the security forces.

“We knew that they (security personnel) would reach the spot around 6.45am. So we went before that and fixed the marble gravestone there,” he said.

The marble plaque refers to Afzal as “Shaheed-e-Wattan” (Martyr of the Nation). “His remains are lying with the Indian government as a trust of Kashmiri nation and we are waiting for it” are the words inscribed, similar to those on Bhat’s gravestone.

Clashes continue

Several people were injured in fresh clashes between mobs protesting against Afzal’s hanging and security forces across Kashmir today, even as curfew was relaxed in some parts.

A police spokesperson said the curfew was relaxed for a few hours in parts of Srinagar, Budgam and Handwara in the afternoon.

Police sources said a protester suffered grievous injuries at Sheeri Baramulla after a pellet fired by forces hit him. Smoke shells were also used in the area to disperse the protesters.

Three protesters have died since the hanging.

Opposition People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti today slammed the information blackout in the state. “(Such) restrictions are unknown to all parts of the country including the Naxalite-infested areas. Does this government feel by banning newspapers, cable TV, Internet nobody would know of the hanging of Afzal Guru?” she asked.