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Strike to Commemorate Maqbool Bhat: Mobile Services Snapped in Kashmir Again

Anees Zargar |
All shops, business establishments remained closed to mark the hanging of the separatist ideologue on February 11 in 1984.
Strike to Commemorate Maqbool Bhat

Srinagar: Mobile internet services were snapped in Kashmir on Tuesday for the second time this week as people observed a shutdown to mark the hanging of separatist ideologue Maqbool Bhat this day in 1984.

All shops, business establishments remained closed due to the strike. Transport services were also disrupted as most public transport remained off roads with only private vehicles plying sparsely.

The government had shut internet in the region earlier on Sunday as people observed shutdown in the wake of death anniversary of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged in Tihar in 2013.

The government had earlier restored 2G services in the region with access to a limited number of over 400 websites after internet communication was blocked completely on August 5 last year as the government abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories. The administration since then, restored internet in a phased manner after a series of reviews over the situation.

Separatist groups, including banned outfit Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Hurriyat Conference, had called for strike on February 9 and 11 in commemoration of the two Kashmiris hanged in Tihar.

Bhat is revered by separatist groups as an ideologue, who was hanged for his role in multiple cases, including the killing of a police officer. Bhat founded National Liberation Front (NLF), considered the predecessor of JKLF led by Yasin Malik. He was also believed to have played a role in the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight called Ganga in 1971 that landed in Lahore. The state of Pakistan after initial support to the NLF hijackers later termed it as an "Indian conspiracy" as Indian responded by banning all Pakistani flights over Indian territory, censuring the aerial route between the then two territories of East and West Pakistan.

Wanted in both India and Pakistan, Bhat, who hailed from North Kashmir's Kupwara, was hanged in Tihar despite his clemency appeal to the then President of India Giani Zail Singh. His prominence, however, catapulted in Kashmir with the outbreak of an armed rebellion in the region in the 1990s. Since then, his death anniversary is observed every year with a shutdown.

Now banned, JKLF has consistently demanded the return of Bhat's remains from Tihar and many times the demand has also been made by mainstream political leaders, including from the People’s Democratic Party.

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