Kashmiri separatists have reserved a grave for burial of the body of Afzal Guru at the expansive cemetery at Iddgah in downtown Srinagar, just as they have done for the body of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Maqbool Bhat.
Tucked in a freshly laid tombstone of cement concrete on Mazar-e-Shuhada (the martyrs’ graveyard), beside Mr. Bhat’s empty grave, a black granite epitaph in Afzal’s name was discovered by a group of youngsters on Tuesday morning. Its inscription in archaic Urdu read: “The martyr of the nation, Mohammad Afzal Guru, Date of Martyrdom: 9th February 2013 Saturday, whose mortal remains are lying in the custody of the Government of India. The nation is awaiting its return.”
The text is a flawless copy of Mr. Bhat’s epitaph with just a variation in the name and the date of “martyrdom.” While Afzal was hanged to death for his role in the Parliament attack of December 13, 2001, in Delhi’s Tihar Jail on February 9, 2013, Bhat was executed in the same prison for the murder of a police official and a bank manager on February 11, 1984. Both have been buried on the jail premises.
However, Bhat’s tombstone and the epitaph appeared on the Iddgah Grounds for the first time in 1990 when a space was reserved for his grave at the cemetery — days after the separatist insurgency broke out and scores of militants and civilians died in the armed forces’ counter-insurgency operations and encounters. Many such ‘martyrs’ were buried on the Iddgah grounds, which was reverently christened as Mazar-e-Shuhada.
However, hundreds were subsequently buried in their community graveyards, each known as a ‘martyrs’ graveyard,’ all over the Valley.
According to Abdul Ahad, a grave digger, not less than 1,000 militants and civilians were buried at the Mazar-e-Shuhada in the past 22 years. They include prominent separatist leaders Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone, and many top-ranking militants of central Kashmir.