Afzal Guru’s son Ghalib is carriedon his uncle’s shoulders during a protest in Sopore on February 12

afzal-son,Afzal Guru's son Ghalib ,Ghalib is just another 14-year-old as he plays outside his two-storey family home at the village of Seer Jagir in Sopore town. River Jhelum flows silently, engulfing the village from three sides. The snow on the fluffy patches around bare Chinar trees is yet to melt. And spring is not far away. Dressed in khaki jeans, thick blue jacket and sneakers, Ghalib runs around playfully, shouting and laughing with his friends. He is happy to talk about school, Wellkin Higher Secondary, which is 10 km away, and how he rides his bicycle to go there every day. The Class VIII student loves science and wants to become a doctor. But the moment you ask him about his father Afzal Guru, the laughter dies.About 100 metres away on the mud road past the river bank, villagers start gathering to observe the ‘chautha’ of mourning of Afzal’s death, executed and buried in Delhi’s high security Tihar Jail on February 9. As slogans demanding justice and azadi become louder, Ghalib joins the protest. His uncle Aijaz Guru, Afzal’s elder brother, lifts him and makes him sit on his shoulders. From that vantage position, above all other protesters, Ghalib becomes an angry insurrectionist. His transformation is sudden and startling.

Afzal’s wife Tabassum is in shock. Huddled under a blanket inside the house, she sits still, surrounded by other women. Afzal’s cousin Yasin Guru, a teacher in a local school, says she does not want to talk to media. “Her stand is that she will not go to Tihar to visit her husband’s grave. That will be acceptance of the situation. We want the Government to send his body back,” he says. There is a blank dustless space on the wall of the room. A relative says that a picture of Afzal hung there till a few days ago but the family has taken it off.

A handful of relatives and villagers sit in the tent outside. His family was expecting many more mourners, with the separatists having given the ‘Sopore Chalo’ call on the day. But with curfew imposed in the Valley since the day of Afzal’s execution, hardly anybody managed to make it to the village. The last stretch on the only road to the outside world passes through a heavily guarded army camp.

Protesters shout anti-India slogans during a rally in Srinagar on February 8.
India Today circumvented the curfew, passed through groups of sporadic stone throwers in Pattan and Palhalan towns on National Highway 1, and took a boat ride to reach Seer Jagir on February 12, only to find a seething anger against Afzal’s execution, but more than that, the way it was done.

Afzal’s sister-in-law Salima Aijaz says the family can accept the execution but not the inhuman treatment meted out by the ‘Indian’ Government in not handing over the body. “Afzal chose his course in life. That is what he wanted to do. He did not want mercy. He is a martyr for us. But we want his body to perform the last rites,” she says angrily.

THE GAP THAT NEVER CLOSES

The anger is directed more towards Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, and it is not limited to Seer Jagir. People across the Valley think he has let Kashmiris down by not standing up to the Centre. “He has proved he is a puppet of the Central Government,” says Abid, a student of Kashmir University, which has been shut since curfew was declared.

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Students came out from the university hostel, wanting to be heard. India Today spoke to more than 20 of them. They wanted to talk but not be identified by their full names fearing repercussions. “If there was a small gap between Kashmir and India, the Afzal hanging has made it infinite. I do not think that there is any chance of reconciliation now,” says a law student.

All of them think injustice has been done in hanging Afzal. They are convinced that he did not get a fair trial. “He had another chance of review (of denial of his mercy petition) which was not allowed. The evidence against him was circumstantial. Why was he made to jump the death row queue? We will not forget him. He has become our hero. Today it was Afzal, tomorrow it can be anybody among us,” says Jaleel, another student.

They all believe that Congress did it for political mileage out of Kashmir. “The Congress wanted to appear as heading a strong government. They were scared of Narendra Modi and the response he got from the students of Delhi University,” insists Rasool.

“The Valley is under curfew more than half the year. Now they want to cut us off completely from the outside world. Internet has been disconnected. News channels are not available. Local newspapers have been asked to stop printing. We are cut off from Facebook, Twitter and blogs. SMSes are still not allowed on pre-paid connections. Is this the India of the 21st Century? It is worse than the Stone Age. Then India wants to tell us that we are an integral part of the country,” says another student, Farhan.

STIRRING ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Jahangir Ali, 26, a journalist with a local news weekly, is one of the few residents who has access to the Internet, thanks to a broadband connection in his office. He says that in the days following Afzal’s execution, he has received over a dozen friend requests on Facebook and all of them have Afzal’s photo as their profile picture. “He has turned into a hero because of the execution. For the youth of Kashmir, who are frustrated by lack of jobs and opportunities in the state, Afzal will become a rallying point. Another generation is going to be radicalised,” he says.

Some young boys managed to beat the curfew in Srinagar’s sensitive Eidgah area on the night of February 12 and dug up a grave for Afzal next to another grave, kept open for Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Maqbool Bhat’s body since February 11, 1984, when he was executed and buried, also in Tihar. When the security forces saw it on the morning of February 13, they quickly removed the tombstone bearing Afzal’s name. Incidentally, Afzal has been buried adjacent to Bhat at Tihar Jail.

Leader of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti says she also noticed a lot of sympathy for Afzal on social media. “My daughter and I noticed so many Facebook and Twitter users had put up Afzal’s photograph. The disillusionment with the system is apparent. There was a message that said whoever votes in elections will be killing Afzal a thousand times,” she told India Today, sitting in her sprawling home on Gupkar Road on February 13.

Youngsters have so much exposure now, she says. “Lava jamaa ho raha hai unke dil mein (lava is getting accumulated in their hearts). Today’s youngsters may not be carrying guns but they are carrying violence inside them. This is more dangerous. You never know how and when it will erupt. You can put restrictions on their movement, take away their guns, but what about their minds?” Mehbooba asks.

Why have the killers of Rajiv Gandhi and former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh not reached the gallows yet, she questions. Even the killers of Indira Gandhi were allowed to meet their families before their execution. “Why this treatment for Kashmir?” she says.

{mosimage}After the summer of 2010, Kashmir had just returned to normalcy with tourists coming in great numbers. In 2012, more than 55 lakh tourists visited the Valley. “This is a crucial time for Kashmir. Tourist season begins now. Tourists were coming in good numbers for skiing in Gulmarg. If the situation remains like this till March, then nobody can predict what’s going to happen,” says Hashim Hamid, 35, a businessman in the Valley. He believes that the youth of the Valley are extremely politicised and there will definitely be a reaction to Afzal execution.

Junaid Azim Mattoo, 28, district president of People’s Conference, headed by Sajjad Lone, says there will be short term repercussions with people coming out on the streets, as they are already doing in defiance of the curfew. However, he says it is the long term effects which will be more damaging to Kashmir. “It is the perceptional and political repercussions that will add fuel to the already strong feeling of alienation,” he says.

According to him, the separatists, who were in talks with the state and the Central Government, will now find it difficult to engage with them.

TOUGH ACTION, STRONG REACTION

Sources in North Block in Delhi admit that it was “absolutely necessary” for the Central Government to execute Afzal at the time it was done and in the way it was done. “It had become a global issue for us. We were asking the US to give us David Coleman Headley so that we could try him here and give him the death penalty that he deserves. They could turn back and say, what about Afzal Guru? So we had to do it and send a message to the world,” highly placed sources in the Union home ministry told INDIA TODAY, requesting anonymity.

It was a decision taken after ensuring a lot of precautions. All the separatist leaders were out of Kashmir. Hurriyat Conference leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq were in Delhi, and promptly put under house arrest. JKLF chairman Yasin Malik was in Pakistan. Naeem Khan, who has a strong hold in the north Kashmir area, was arrested two days before the hanging. Only Shabir Shah, founder of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party, was in Srinagar and he is not taken seriously as a separatist anymore.

Chief Minister Abdullah is now maintaining silence. Both his mobile phones have been switched off. Abdullah had said in earlier interviews to the media that the Afzal hanging may fuel a sense of alienation. “My concern goes beyond the immediate law and order situation. I am seriously concerned about the larger implications… the long term implications are far more worrying. They are related to the psyche of a new generation of Kashmiris, who perhaps may not identify with Maqbool Bhat but will identify with Afzal Guru,” he had said.

Tariq, 26, who runs a small Internet cafe in Srinagar, does not hide his disillusionment: “We had hoped for peace when Omar became chief minister. But that will probably be denied to us forever. We are a cursed lot.”

– with Naseer Ganai

Day10:Geelani issues protest calender. Women died in South Kashmir during night raid on her house
Day9:Afzal Guru Last letter. Indian police arrested candle light protesters against guru hanging. Kashmir remain tense again. Strike Continue. Army Deployed in Sopore.

kashmir,afzal guru,letter,candle light,protester,

Indian police confiscate candles as they disrupt a candlelight vigil in Srinagar on February 17, 2013. The demonstrating students demanded the return of Afzal Guru’s mortal remains to his family in Kashmir. Guru was executed on February 9, 2013 and buried inside a high security prison in New Delhi

Day8: Maisuma & Gaw Kadal erupts. Heavy stone pelting after Police foiled the march of people towards Lal Chowk. Protest going on in different areas of Kashmir, many injured in Sopore,Bandipora,
Day7: #Kashmiri Students protest in Delhi demanded dead body of Guru #Kashmir remained under strict curfew,clashes protest continue in valley, many protesters injured, hundreds arrested.
Day6: Eidgah March against Indian occupation tomorrow uneasy calm in Kashmir as curfew lifted from some areas.Lawyers stage protest, in Srinagar demand Afzal’s body.Almost 70+ youth were arrested during night raids, while 4 boys are battling for life when they were fired by police and CRPF. Women Were Beaten Up On The Streets. Two youth received live bullets on head. One boy is in coma.Via Aalaw

Day5: Police re-installs fake epitaph of Afzal Guru’s grave, Original broken Epitaph of guru’s “empty grave removed by Indian Police in Srinagar…
Afzal Guru’s house out of bounds for mourners,Protests erupt in Bandipora Afzal Hanging: J&K struggles; no access to mobile, net, TV…
kahmiri,youth,clashes,police,protestDay4: Indian extremists manhanled Kashmiris in Indian city during peaceful protest against guru hangingInjured in Sheeri Baramulla clashes with police against Afzal Guru Hanging.
Afzal Guru’s family snubs Indian govt offer to visit jail grave.
Three days after his death, Afzal Guru’s wife finally receives his last letter written in Urdu…
Fourth day of curfew in Kashmir after Afzal hanging.
Day3: Syed Ali Gilani calls for ‘Eidgah chalo’ on Friday
Kashmiris anger went on twitter, Facebook as curfew continues
Tehreek Hurriyat syed Ali Geelani calls for strike till Friday
Day2: Death toll on second day of Afzal Guru hanging reaches 3
Authorities clamp media in Kashmir Mobile telephone, internet services and cable TV were today snapped in Kashmir.*Authorities imposed curfew in Srinagar and all other major towns of Kashmir Valley Saturday following reports that
Day1: Afzal Guru, has been hanged in Tihar Jail Delhi. Curfew announced in Kashmir

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