FOR FEBRUARY MARTYRS
Posted on January 28th, 2020

ALI SUKHANVER

Why do the people of Pakistan observe the 5th February as a Black Day every year; it is a frequently asked questions. The fact of the matter is that it is not only the 5th February, but each and every day in that month is a Black Day because every day of February has a new story of cruelty and brutality to share with us. The cruel judicial murder of Afzal Guru, brutal hanging of Maqbool Bhatt, burning of the innocent passengers of Samjhota Express and above all the Massacre in Gujarat; February always proved very callous.

Maqbool Bhatt was the first victim to February’s brutality. He was one of the most prominent leaders striving for freedom and liberty of the Indian Occupied Kashmir. If today, the movement for the liberation of Kashmir is still alive, it is because of Maqbool Bhatt’s fiery speeches, charismatic guidance and the seed of desire for freedom he sowed in the hearts of Kashmiri youth. He was accused of killing a CID officer Amar Chand and in 1968 was awarded the death sentence by Judge Neelkanth Ganjoo. His punishment could not be acted upon for the next 16 years and ultimately he was hanged in Tihar Jail in New Delhi on 11 February 1984. The Indian authorities were so frightened of the Maqbool Bhatt’s dead body that they buried him in the jail premises.

27th February 2002 was the first day of the Gujarat massacre and  the Muslim community living in that vicinity was the basic target. The bloodshed ended with 1,044 dead, 223 missing and 2,500 injured. According to an official report, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were among the dead in the Gujarat Riots. The Concerned Citizens Tribunal Report estimated that as many as 1,926 might have been killed. Other sources estimated death tolls in excess of 2,000. Many brutal killings and rapes were reported on as well as widespread looting and destruction of property. The Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time and the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, was accused of initiating the violence. Reports say that police and other government officials were involved in giving instructions to the rioters and providing them lists of Muslim-owned properties. Mr. Modi simply turned a blind eye to whatever was happening there in the streets of Gujarat and his deliberate ignorance added a lot to the loss.

More heart rending and more brutal story is of Samjhauta Express burning. That was somewhere around the midnight on 18 February 2007 when the Samjhauta Express was heading towards Pakistan. Just after the train had passed Diwana near the Indian city of Panipat, bombs already fixed in two carriages started exploding. Both carriages were over-loaded with passengers. Blazing flames of fire engulfed the fast moving train. Some of the passengers lost their lives in an attempt to jump out of the train; others who could not jump out also had to meet the same fate but in a more agonizing way; they were all burnt to ashes alive. There were reports that when the train slowed down, some unknown people were witnessed pouring kerosene oil to the already burning carriages. Most of those who lost their lives in the incident were Pakistanis. India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) charged eight people in the terrorist attack, including Swami Aseemanand, a Hindu cleric formerly affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) but he was very soon released on bail. Three others charged in the case remained absconding. The alleged mastermind, Sunil Joshi, was killed in 2007 by unknown killers. Overall a Hindu fundamentalist group in India Abhinav Bharat was held responsible for this brutal incident.

Mohammad Afzal Guru was a very popular Kashmiri freedom-fighter. He was blamed of planning and designing the terrorist attack on Indian Parliament in 2001. His confession statement presented before the court became the basis of death penalty sentenced to him. He was executed on 9 February 2013. Guru’s advocate Sushil Kumar later claimed that Guru had written a letter to him in which he had told him that he had made the confessions under compulsion as his family was being threatened. The same thing Guru claimed in his interview with a journalist Vinod K. Jose in 2006. Guru had said that he had been subjected to extreme torture which included electric shocks in private parts and being beaten up for hours along with threats regarding his family after his arrest. During the investigation he was continuously warned that in case of his non-co-operation, his brother would also be fixed in the same case as he was already in the custody of security agencies. Recently, the Indian security agencies have arrested a DSP of J&K police Davinder Singh on charges of having links with the freedom-fighters and doing cooperation with them. Afzal Guru had told in his interview that the same police-officer was the central character behind all that torture inflicted upon him. It is something very astonishing that the same police officer involved in torturing Afzal Guru was awarded National Police Medal for his gallantry a few months back. Now he has been arrested for his links with freedom-fighters.

The story starting from Maqbool Bhatt has reached the recent arrest of DSP Davinder Singh of J&K police. There are so many hidden links among all these incidents which certainly make the situation more complex and more complicated but one thing is very much clear; life for Muslims in India was never a smooth sailing and never would it be. Same is the situation with other minorities too.

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