▪It’s been a story of sacrifice and commitment▪
Srinagar: JKLF ideologue, Maqbool Bhat was arrested for murder of a secret agent Amar Chand. It is believed Maqbool did not want to kill the agent and the death was purely accidental. He was put on trial and in August 1968, the court of Nilkanth Ganjoo awarded him death sentence. He was detained in the female ward of Srinagar Central Jail. Another prisoner, Mir Ahmad gave him company. His associate, Yasin was in another barrack. The holy month of Ramadhan brought incessant rains with it. Maqbool and Yasin communicated with each other through paper slips. A jail official carried these slips in lieu of some consideration. Maqbool had informed Yasin about his escape plan.
A room in the female ward was used by the jail authorities for dumping of blankets. The eastern corner of this room was connected to the outer wall of the jail. A four inch brick wall separated the store from Maqbool’s cell. He made a hole in the wall and used to cover it with blankets. Now he could easily go in the store room to make a hole in the wall for his escape. Slowly he succeeded in making a hole big enough to let a man pass through it.
A prisoner, Abdul Ahad detained for burglary was assigned the job of taking food to Maqbool’s cell at Sehri and Iftaar. Yasin interacted with him one day. “You are lucky. In this holy month, you are taking food to a person who is destined to be hanged. Allah will reward you handsomely for this.”
Feeling that he had struck the appropriate chord, Yasin expressed his desire to take food for Maqbool at least once in the holy month. After initial hesitation, Abdul Ahad agreed.
It was raining heavily on December 9, 1968. Abdul Ahad handed over Maqbool’s food to Yasin. He covered himself with a blanket and walked towards the female ward. The guard on duty took him for Abdul Ahad and let him in. Maqbool escaped along with Mir and Yasin.
His escape caused a stir in Kashmir. The `super cop’ in making, Ali Muhammad Watali questioned a number of people including Khaliq Parvez of Baramulla. Parvez did not believe Watali at first. He thought the police were cooking up a story. But Watali narrated the story of Maqbool’s escape to him. He has made a mention of it in his book Jala-e-Wattan.
When resistance leaders who had been arrested after the Al Fatah episode were released, Abd-ur-Razzaq Bhat (Sopori) held extensive deliberations with them, and also established contact with leaders still in jail.
The upshot was a key meeting of the members of the Al Fatah, the Youngman’s League, the Islamic Organisation and the Youth League in the University campus leading to the formation of the People’s League, with Nazir Ahmad Wani as chairman and Sopori as the chief organizer.
Meanwhile, after being cold-shouldered by his friends, including Ghulam Nabi Hagroo, Muhammad Maqbool Bhat contacted the new party, and a historic meeting was held at Sopori’s home in his native town, Sopore.
Besides Maqbool Bhat and his associates, Hamid and Reyaz, those present at the meeting included Nazir Ahmad Wani and Fazal Haque Qureshi.
Sopori’s nephew, Muhammad Amin Bhat, confirmed to this author that Maqbool Bhat had indeed come to a meeting at his uncle’s house:
“I used to visit my uncle almost every day, but once he was very brusque, and told me to leave. This was surprising, but I left. Late that evening, I spotted Fazal Haque Qureshi in the neighbourhood, and went up to greet him. He was looking for my uncle’s house. I showed him the way. And when we got there, I saw Maqbool Bhat and a numbers of other people in a room.”
Though the People’s League was pro-Pakistan, and Maqbool Bhat wanted an independent Kashmir, the latter solved the problem by pointing out that the enemy was common for both.
But Nazir Ahmad Wani raised an ‘uncalled for’ query: he wanted Maqbool Bhat to prove his credentials.
It was agreed that Shabir Shah would take two or three members to Nepal where a particular individual in the Pakistan embassy would vouch for Maqbool. Since they had no money for the journey, Maqbool Bhat promised to arrange the funds.
He went to Langate, where he knew a bank manager who was aware of who he was.
But instead of giving Maqbool the money, the manager grabbed him. In the scuffle, Maqbool dragged the manager out, where Reyaz took out his weapon to shoot him, but was restrained by the former.
Maqbool was arrested, as were many leaders and members of the People’s League. This time Maqbool was immediately shifted to Delhi’s Tihar Jail where he was hanged on February 11, 1984. Maqbool’s body was not handed over to his family. He was buried inside the jail.
Source: Interview with Peoples League activist Ghulam Hassan alais Kranti, Abdur Razaq Sopori’s nephew, Muhammad Amin Bhat, Advocate Late Ghulam Nabi Hagroo, Jala-e-Wattan by Khaliq Parvez, Roshni Ka Shaheed-e-Awal by Altaf Hussain.
■ GREATER KASHMIR