Maqbool Bhat along with his two colleagues, Riyaz Dar and Hamid Bhat, was handed over to JK Police by people of Langate near Kupwara in the year 1976. He was then sent to Tihar Jail, Delhi while the other two were lodged in Central Jail, Srinagar. Since 1976, he had spent 7 to 8 years in Tihar Jail, Delhi till 1984 when he was suddenly hanged by Indian authorities. Question arises what happened in 1984 which compelled India to send him to gallows? Few people tried to look into this matter, whereas the majority ignored it and is still ignoring it. Before I write on this matter, let me quote the final words of Maqbool Bhat before his execution:
“I am being hanged immediately after Mhatre’s murder as a result of the politics of revenge. I have no knowledge of the murder which has been carried out at Birmingham, a place 8,000 miles away from my prison cell”. 
So, Bhat himself explained the reason for which he was hanged. The story is, on 3rd February 1984 Ravindra Hareshwar Mhatre, an Indian diplomat was abducted from his house in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Kashmir Liberation Army (KLA), the then militant wing of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) claimed its responsibility. The group demanded Maqbool Bhat in exchange and besides 1 million pounds as ransom. On 5th February, Mhatre was shot dead upon direct orders from its head, Amanullah Khan and his body was found by the police in a farm. Immediately after Mhatre’s killing, a high-level meeting was called in Delhi which was presided by Indira Gandhi. In the meeting, it was decided that Maqbool Bhat should be hanged. The first headline which the BBC news bulletin broadcasted that evening said that in a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the Indian cabinet decided to carry out the death sentence on Maqbool Bhat. Just after 6 days of his killing, the Indian government hanged Maqbool Bhat in Tihar in retaliation.
In addition to what Maqbool Bhat has said about his execution, many of Khan’s colleagues also spoke about the matter. For instance, Raja Qayyum, who spent 22 years in British jails in Mhatre’s murder case, said:
“Amanullah Khan sent Maqbool Bhat to the gallows by killing Ravindra Mhatre. The leadership was afraid that I might expose the conspiracy so they informed the police about me by handing over my photos to them.” 
Similarly, Hashim Qureshi who was staying with Amanullah Khan at that time writes in his book “Kashmir The Unveiling of Truth”:
“My firm belief is that if Mhatre had not been murdered, the government of India would not have executed Bhat Sahib.” 
Dr. Shabir Choudhry, one of the founding members of JKLF, has this to say regarding the happenings:
“Bhat was hanged in Tihar Jail in New Delhi, as a direct result of the kidnapping and subsequent murder of an Indian diplomat in Birmingham in February 1984. The incident of killing of the Indian diplomat changed everything, and he was hanged in retaliation.”
Former vice-chairman of JKLF, Advocate Bashir Ahmad Bhat, had a close association with the defense counsels of Maqbool Bhat. While commenting on Maqbool Bhat’s case, he said:
“It is my conviction that whoever got Mhatre killed is the real murderer of Bhat… As a lawyer I assert that the point we had raised in the petition was quite valid and legal and it was impossible to carry out the execution but for Mhatre’s kidnapping combined with political pressure made the Chief Justice uphold the sentence. Every Kashmiri child knows that if kidnapping had not taken place then execution could have been avoided. From 1976 till 1984, a period of 8 years, the death sentence had not been implemented.” 
Former Chairman Jammu & Kashmir Plebiscite Front, Azeem Dutt also holds Amanullah Khan responsible for Maqbool Bhat’s execution. To quote him:
“As JKLF got stronger in Britain, Amanullah Khan backstabbed the Kashmiri Movement by establishing branches of the JKLF in Azad Kashmir, and later on worked as an agent of agencies, and without ideological training used some young men and got Maqbool Bhat martyred.” 
Even when Indians are asked, they give a similar reason for Maqbool Bhat’s execution. When Farooq Abdullah, who was once a colleague of Amanullah Khan and was the same person who signed Maqbool Bhat’s final hanging order, was asked in an interview by Kashmir Affairs in 2006, he replied:
“What do I have to do with his hanging? He killed an innocent bank manager while taking money from the bank. He was later hanged because of Ravindra Mhatre who was killed by the JKLF in the UK.” 
Recently, an Indian journalist Sunetra Choudhury in his book “Black Warrant: The Confessions of a Tihar Jailer” wrote: “To my mind, Butt was a victim of circumstances. I always felt that if the Indian diplomat, Ravindra Mhatre had not been kidnapped and murdered in Bhirmingham, Butt would have stayed in jail for a longer time, despite serving out a death sentence. It was rumored that Butt could be released as a goodwill gesture to speed up the process of integration. But his fate was sealed as soon as the news came in on 3rd February 1984 that the assistant high commissioner at the Indian consulate had been kidnapped, and an unknown group Kashmir Liberation Front (KLF), had claimed responsibility.” 
This is not all, Amanullah himself once admitted this fact that killing of Mhatre in Birmingham was the cause of Bhat’s execution in Tihar. According to Azeem Dutt:
“Amanullah Khan acknowledged this fact in a public meeting held in Mirpur by saying that if this had not happened; Maqbool Bhat would have died as an unknown person in prison.” 
However, Amanullah Khan denied the fact that he was the one who gave orders for Mhatre’s murder. He in fact even refused to accept if he knew anything about KLA before Mhatre’s murder. He wrote in his autobiography; ‘’Some JKLF members formed a secret organization namely Kashmir Liberation Army without the JKLF and my knowledge and approval; and kidnapped Ravindra Mhatre, the assistant high commissioner of India in Birmingham.’’ 
But, here is an extract from his own letter to Dr. Farooq Haider and Hashim Qureshi months before the abduction and killing of Ravindra Mhatre which not only proves that he was aware of KLA but it was his own creation:
“This is to inform you that in the Working Committee meeting held on 4 January, I have obtained a mandate that I can introduce the third component of the armed struggle in the freedom struggle; and can take all necessary actions as I feel appropriate. Our Brussels mission and the big mission were planned as a result of this decision. Now, the requirement is that you people keep this matter limited to some people. The name of this component, which hitherto, officially was not part of the JKLF, would be called KLA, meaning, Kashmir Liberation Army. Its working would be similar to that of NLF (National Liberation Front). Its membership would be issued after careful screening and after signing the oath with own blood. I have formally added you two and Muzaffar (Raja Muzaffar Khan), but I need your signature with blood, and ensure that they reach me safely.” [Dated 5th April 1983]
It is very unfortunate to see that these so-called supporters of Maqbool Bhat who facilitated his hanging, later on, claimed to be his successors. Summing it up in the following words of Bashir Ahmad Bhat:
“I had met Shaheed Bhat. He had shown his willingness to file this writ petition and he was suspicious about his people that they might hatch a conspiracy against him.”
Notes and References:
1. Hashim Qureshi, The Unveiling of Truth: A Political Analysis of Kashmir, (Jeddojudh Publications, Lahore, 1999), page. 47. See also, G.M. Mir, 5 Years report on Plebiscite Front, April 26, 1986, page. 21
Hashim Qureshi also says that Amanullah Khan gave direct orders for killing Mhatre. He writes, “A young man (Musarat Iqbal Malik) involved in the Mhatre case came to Amanullah’s house at about 11 AM. As Amanullah Khan and I came out from his house. Musarat Iqbal told him that it appeared the police were about to land in the house of Sidiq Mirza where Mhatre had been kept. He sought instructions from him. Without waiting for a minute, Amanullah said “Shoot him and throw away the dead body somewhere. If we are caught. It will mean a disaster and all of us will be implicated.”
Qayyum Raja also gave a similar version of the story:
“Mr. X (the person who shot Mhatre) admitted the fact that Amanullah Khan actually put a situation in front of him, which was so dangerous that he did not have any other choice but to kill the Indian diplomat and leave the country. And I said to him it was you and me who had to decide what should be done next, you actually conspired with Khan.” (Greater Kashmir, March 14, 2015)
3. Daily Jammu-o-Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, 15 February, 2006.
Earlier, Raja Qayyum had also written an open letter to JKLF’s central committee in which he dubbed Amanullah Khan as a traitor and informer. He wrote that Amanullah was not even surprised when he was accused by Qayyum Raja of killing Mhatre and that he actually came to meet him in jail only to know whether he had any proofs against him. His full letter is available here.
5. Shabir Choudhry, ibid. Also, Muhammad Hussain Altaf, First Martyr for the Light (Roshni Ka Shaheed-e-Awwal), English, page. 29.
6. Shabir Choudhry, ibid.
8. Black Warrant: Confessions of a Tihar Jailer, Roli Books (2019), page. 74.
9. Shabir Choudhry, ibid.
10. Amanullah Khan, Jehed-e-Musalsal, (Urdu) vol.1, page. 150.
The piece was originally published here in July, 2018.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the editor of the Kashmir Discourse.
Author hails from AJK, Pakistan and is a medical student at Rawalpindi Medical University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.