"Judge sahib, woh rassi abhi tak nahin bani jo Maqbool ko phaansi laga sake..." (Judge sahib, nobody has the rope which could hang Maqbool), he is said to have proclaimed in the court­ room when the death sentence was pronounced on him-for the first time in 1968. The man sentenced to death was Mohammed Maqbool Bhatt-murderer, spy, terrorist from Pakistan.

Barely four months after his boast, he slipped deftly out of the noose and escaped from Central Jail, Srinagar. It is said that when the news of his escape broke, the sentencing Magistrate fainted in the courtroom.

Eight years later he returned to India with the object of recruiting volunteers from the State of Jammu and Kashmir who were to be imparted training in Pakistan in sabotage and subversion.


On June 7, 1976, Maqbool and two associates armed with stenguns, revolvers and hand grenades are alleged to have robbed a bank in Langate in Hindwara, Baramullah. They are also alleged to have killed the bank manager. Maqbool was arrested. The other activists fled to the United Kingdom.

Bhatt was lodged in the Central Jail, Srinagar. He was served with the earlier execution warrant of death sentence. The date of execution was fixed for July 24, 1976. He is still alive.

Maqbool Bhatt is one of those rare prisoners who have been twice sentenced to death. He is also the one to have moved the Court seeking transfer from the "death cell" to an ordinary one, while still under the sentence of death. And in several other ways, he is an interesting subject of study:

He smokes Wills King size cigarettes; his lawyer gets them for him: He relishes Kashmiri food; his lawyer has it cooked for him. He does not like the "death cell"; his lawyer gets a judgement in his favour.

His mercy petition has been pending before the President of India since July 25, 1977. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, stayed the execution of the death sentence, on April 11, 1983.

Mohammed Maqbool.Bhatt was sentenced to death in 1968 by a special judge of Jammu and Kashmir. On July 23, 1976, he was transferred to Tihar Central Jail and confined in a "block of cell in Ward 18: On September 13, 1979, he filed a petition for removal of fetters and for bringing an end to his solitary confinement in Ward 18. On January 2, 1980, the Court ordered the removal of fetters but upheld his confinement in Ward 18.

On April 27, 1981,'Bhatt was transferred to Ward 16, known as the 'death cell' or 'condemned cell'. In a petition filed in the High Court of Delhi, Bhatt has interestingly described himself as being a "frog in a well" in the inner cell where he is locked up. He has further stated that he is "unable to see anything except a small patch of sky through the skylight of the outer cell. . . The inner cell . . . has an open lavatory and a concrete bathing tub within this space thus. . . rendering the whole area into a bathroom; a stinking smell emanating from the... open lavatory and the whole place being virtually turned into a breeding spot for flies and mosquitoes... the summer heat turns the cell into a hot oven. . ."

In its judgement, delivered on August 6,1982, the Court observed that in view of the mercy petition pending before the President, Bhatt cannot be classed as one 'under sentence of death' and therefore cannot be confined apart from other prisoners. The Court held that his transfer to the death cell on April 27, 1981, is -"arbi­trary and illegal".

Consequently, Bhatt was shifted to Ward l--originally earmarked for "high security risk prisoners". According to sources in the Tihar Jail, this is an 'illustrious ward' which has housed 'famous people' like Charles Shobraj, Dharam Teja and defence personnel involved in espionage during the 1965 war. He is lodged there to date.

Mohammed Maqbool Bhatt is a 'high risk security prisoner'. He is guarded by Delhi Armed Police men and some intelligence 'shadows' who have virtually taken over his custody-"in contra­vention of the rules", according to Bhatt.


Mohammed Maqbool Bhatt is alleged to be the leader of the "National Liberation Front"-a political party in Pakistan. Accor­ding to Intelligence' reports, Bhatt is alleged to have been "allot­ted by Pakistan intelligence... and sent to Kashmir twice." The main aim was to allegedly instigate the youth of Jammu and Kashmir and motivate them to join their party to liberate, by terror and arson, the State of Jammu and Kashmir from India.


Armed with firearms, explosives and other weapons of the terrorist, Maqbool first infiltrated into Kashmir in 1966. He committed dacoities in several places in Baramullah in Jammu and Kashmir. He also allegedly murdered a C.I.D. Inspector Amar Chand. He was arrested on September 14,1966.


Two First Information Reports were registered against Maqbool Bhatt. The first was lodged at Police Station Sopore, Kashmir (F.I.R. 84/66). Of the five charges, the most important was that Maqbool Bhatt had crossed the "ceasefire line dividing the Pakis­tan held territory and the State of Jammu and Kashmir" from Lashadat without a valid legal permit and for an allegedly illegal purpose. The other charges include extortion, dacoity and criminal conspiracy to overthrow the lawfully established Government of Jammu and Kashmir.


He was convicted under the Enemy Agents Ordinance. The second F.I.R. was registered at Police Station Panzala, Kashmir (F.I.R. 38/66). In this Maqbool Bhatt was charged with murder. It was alleged that Bhatt, along with Mohammed Dar (another accused who later turned approver) had taken cash, orna­ments and other documents from C.I.D. Inspector Amar Chand's house. It was further alleged that they had also abducted Amar Chand and murdered him.


In his defence Maqbool Bhatt denied all charges except that he had without a valid legal permit crossed the ceasefire line in June 1966. He added that he did not think it necessary to obtain a per­mit because he believed that he was moving from one part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to another.


The Court decided to execute him.


But Maqbool Bhatt decided to move the court-for a special leave petition to appeal against the judgement of the Chief Justice of the High Court, Jammu and Kashmir, dated October 30, 1970. He was shifted from the Central Jail Srinagar to a subsidiary jail at Jalali village Sonawar. Bhatt was subsequently moved to Delhi's Tihar Jail where he is lodged at present. He moved the special leave petition which was dismissed on October 8, 1976.


According to reports, the Bench hearing the petition rejected Bhatt's prayer for a counsel of his choice. Bhatt had expressed his desire to be represented by Pearey Lal Handoo instead of an amicus-curie (a defence counsel provided by the State).


The question of Maqbool's release has been coming up now and then. Activists have allegedly been - trying to send the message across in several ways.


When the Indian Airlines aircraft, Ganga, was hijacked from India in 1971 and another in 1976, these activists were alleged to have demanded the release of Maqbool Bhatt.


During the Non-Aligned Conference of Foreign Ministers held in New Delhi in 1981, anonymous callers allegedly caused a lot of ripples on the surface of the Capital's otherwise calm political waters. Reports have it that Mark Tully, the BBC correspondent stationed in Delhi was telephoned on February 11, 1981 and allegedly told that if Maqbool Bhatt was not released the Vigyan Bhawan and the Ashoka Hotel would be blown up: Vigyan Bhawan was housing the Conference and Ashoka Hotel the delegates.


A day earlier a "warning" was sent to the diplomats attending the Conference by way of "bombs in perfume tubes" in Cuban Embassy envelopes. The Intelligence agencies intercepted the' 'tubes". On examination it was discovered that it contained incendiary material which if broken would have set fire to the premises.


The message as dictated on telephone to Mark Tully--from 5.30 a.m. to 6 a.m. on February 11,1981 read thus:




"I am a Kashmiri freedom fighter. We have planted very strong and sophisticated explosives in 8 buildings where delegates to the non-aligned Conference and media representatives accompanying them are staying and where main and committee meetings are being held. These explosives are under remote control system and will go off and blow up all buildings after a button is pressed from any place within a radius of about three kilometers from the explo­sives. These buildings will be blown up if our following two genuine demands are not met within the time given for each.


1. The conference should, through a unanimous or at least all overwhelming majority vote, declare its full support to Kashmiri peoples unfettered right of self determination and call upon the governments of India and Pakistan to concede to Kashmiris this right within the next six months. The Secretary General of the United Nations should also publicly call upon India and Pakistan to do so. By the word unfettered we mean that Kashmiris should be given the right to determine whether the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir should form part of India or of Pakistan or should it emerge as a free and independent state.

2. Mr Mohammad Maqbool Butt, the famous Kashmiri free­dom-fighter and a prominent leader of Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front who is now under death sentence in Tihar Jail, New Delhi and his two compatriots Hameed and Riaz now in jail in Srinagar, Kashmir be taken out of their respective jails and flown to Rawalpindi, Pakistan accompanied by three foreign, preferably African or Arab journalists so as to be there within next four hours. These are the two demands, now details.

The text of the conference declaration of support to Kashmiri peoples unfettered right of self determination made in the shape of a resolution officially adopted by the foreign ministers conference along with the list of votes cast for and against, if it is not unani­mous, be broadcast from All India Radio and Radio Pakistan in Hindi-English and Urdu-English languages, respectively and repeated in three subsequent regular news bulletins and released to national and international media within the next five hours. The word 'unfettered' should be explained in the resolution the way we have done. The declaration should also confirm that the resolution would be included or at least referred to in the final declaration to be issued at the end of the conference.


The decision of Indian government to repatriate Kashmiri freedom fighters to Pakistan should come and be broadcast in Hindi-English and Urdu-English languages, respectively from All India Radio and Radio Pakistan and be released to national and international media within the next one and half an hour. This broadcast should also be included at least in three subsequent regular news bulletins of both All India Radio and Radio Pakistan. Their take off for RawaIpindi should also be broadcast similarly.


On arrival in Rawalpindi within the next four hours, the Kash­miri freedom fighters should be opportuned to speak on Radio Pakistan confirming their release and arrival in Rawalpindi and this announcement should further be confirmed through Radio Pakistan by Dr Farooq Haider, Saddar Bazar, Rawalpindi, Khwaja Ghulam Din Wani former minister Azad Kashmir now in Rawalpindi, Khwaja Mohammad Siddiq Baba of Aruqa Furriers, Bank Road, Rawalpindi and Maqbool Kashmiri of Abbottabad. These people are Mohammad Maqbool Butt's relatives and friends. Radio Sri­nagar, Kashmir should also broadcast and confirm in Urdu and Kashmiri languages the release of Hameed and Riaz and their repatriation to Pakistan. Later all the three Kashmiri patriots Maqbool Butt, Hameed, Riaz should be opportuned to appear on Pakistan Television along with Dr Farooq and others and confirm their release and arrival in Rawalpindi. This appearance should be telecast from all stations of Pakistan Television and twice from Lahore station with prior announcement of the item. The second appearance of Mr Maqbool and others on Lahore TV station should not be later than 7 p.m. Pakistan standard time.


The explosives will be defused through remote control only after both the demands are met in time and in their entirety as demanded above. In case our genuine demands are rejected or not met in time the explosives will blow up 8 buildings at appropriate time when­ever we expect largest number of casualties. The twentieth annive­rsary celebrations are in our mind too. We call upon Mrs Gandhi and all foreign ministers to accept our most genuine demands and implement them. Not to say of being happy to kill hundreds of dignitaries, we do not even want the conference to end in chaos and want it best of success in solving very important international problems. But the ball now lies in Mrs Gandhi's and her guest's side of the court and it is for them to decide whether to save hundreds of lives and the conference or to invite the worst of catastrophies. To us our cause is too dear to lose this golden opportunity. We have remained the victims of Indian colonialism, of Pakistan's follies and of the shameful apathy of the world towards our just cause for the last over three decades and it will be the worst of follies on our part to condone this time the people responsible for our miseries and slavery if they still choose not to see reason. What we are asking the conference to do is just to comply with its own aims and objectives and those of the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity regarding support to the right of self determination of subjugated peoples. Our right of self determ­ination has been recognised not only by India and Pakistan through their internationally made declarations but also by the United Nations through its various resolutions on the issue. But later India retracted from her pledges and Pakistan started limiting our right only to accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India or Pakistan thereby closing doors for our complete independence. 


We will no doubt be deeply sorry for the hundreds of widows and orphans of foreign ministers, diplomats and journalists who will suffer the most for the folly of their husbands and fathers to take us lightly and to demonstrate undue support to their host, but our own cause concerns the future of as many as 8 million people, that is more than the individual populations of as many as about 70 members of the Non-aligned Movement. Mrs Gandhi and her guests will have to pay heaviest of prices if they take us lightly or take these demands as a hoax. The catastrophe that will follow the rejection of our genuine demands will be too disastrous to be undone by subsequent repentance or mourning of any magnitude. Our devices are too modern, foolproof and too sophisticated to let Mrs Gandhi and her guests escape the disaster. We have been working on this project for the last two months and every thing is in perfect order. Let Mrs Gandhi and her guests know that if we Kashmiris could chase Indian foreign minister to the United Nations and humiliate him during his address to the General Assembly in 1980, if we could hijack Indian plane Ganga from India and burn it to ashes in 1971 and hijack the second plane in 1976, it will not be very difficult for us to implement this comparatively easy programme. Yesterday's incident of sending stink bombs in perfume tubes to the conference hall in Cuban Embassy envelopes with covering letters on Cuban Embassy letterheads was just a warning and a signal that we mean business. We chose Muslim diplomats for it as a protest against Muslim world for ignoring Kashmir issue during recent Islamic Conference despite repeated appeals.


Lastly, although the Kashmiri patriots now controlling the explosives through remote control devices have been told strictly to wait for appropriate time for pressing the buttons if the demands are not met, any over­enthusiastic Youngman may blow up a building followed by others if each of the above demanded announcements is not made within the prescribed time from All India Radio, Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television. We are taking the risk of going too much into details against the usual practices in such cases only to let it be on record for future generations that we demanded just our due rights and not a ransom or something undeserved and not only explained justification of our demands but gave full opportunity and maxi­mum possible time to Mrs Gandhi and Non-aligned foreign ministers for taking decisions. Yet if Mrs Gandhi and her guests do not see reason, they and not we should be held responsible for the catastrophe that will follow their rejection of our genuine demands.


Mr Tully Please get this message typed in toto without any deletion or addition, make required number of copies and send one each to all foreign ministers and then to Mrs Gandhi and to the representatives of the local and foreign media specially to main news agencies like Reuters, AFP, DPA, UPI, Tass and NCNA after transmitting it to BBC. This may take you about an hour, so the time for the three zero hours that is 1 ½  , 4 and 5 hours will start one hour from now provided you do not release the news to anyone except BBC for the next one hour. The starting point for the three main targets will be 7 a.m. Indian Standard Time. We will be listen­ing to All India Radio, Radio Pakistan, Radio Kashmir, Srinagar and BBC Hindi, Urdu and World service and will take action according to whether or not our demands are met.


Summing up, the decision to release Kashmiri freedom fighters to be announced by 8 a.m. They should reach Rawalpindi by 11a.m. their presence to be confirmed by Radio Pakistan by 11.30 hours and by TV 5-30 Pakistan Standard Time. The conference declaration to be broadcast by 11.30 a.m. 1ST."


The BBC did not transmit any of this message. Mr Tully simply informed the authorities. Later in the day Mr Tully allegedly received more than one phone call threatening his life for not broadcasting the message.


Maqbool Bhatt's security at the Tihar Jail meanwhile was inten­sified. No one was allowed to meet him. His mail was intercepted. There was a 24-hour vigil on him.


An interesting development was the large sums of money which Maqbool received from England. Unconfirmed reports have it that the "foreign aid" was allegedly aimed to "buy goodwill" of the jail officials. The money came in the form of demand drafts from the Lloyds Bank Overseas Branch, Cambridge.


The first demand draft was in favour of MOHAMMED MAQBOOL BHUTT(Prisoner), dated 16 April 1981 (Draft No. ODC 1059052 CE) for Indian rupees 540.00 payable at the State Bank of India Overseas Branch, 11 Parliament Street, Post Box No-22, New Delhi-ll0001, INDIA.

Five months later a pay order was received' 'to the order of: MOHAMMED MAQBOOL BHUTT (Prisoner, Ward No. 16, Tehar Central Jail) dated 15 September, 1981 (Cheque No. DC 519757 LNG) for the sum of Indian rupees 22831-14 also payable at the Overseas Branch of the State Bank of India. This cheque also came from Lloyds Bank Limited, 60 George Street, Luton Beds.
hese drafts have been encashed, according to the records of the Overseas Branch of the State Bank of India. The one, amounting to Rs. 22,831.14 was encashed on March 12, 1982. According to infor­mation available, the draft was encashed by the then Superintendent of Tihar Jail on the basis of an authority letter from Maqbool Bhatt.

A prisoner, ironically, is not allowed to keep large sums of money with him. It was difficult to ascertain whether Maqbool actually used the money encashed or whether it is in the safe custody of the jail authorities as per rules.

Mohammed Maqbool Bhatt was born on February 18, 1938, in Trehgam in district Kupwara (earlier Baramullah) in Jammu and Kashmir. He is the son of Ghulam Qadir Bhatt. A graduate, Maqbool speaks English, Kashmiri, Punjabi, and Persian. He was a journalist by profession and edited Anjum, an Urdu weekly from Peshawar.

Maqbool's parents are dead. The only living family member is his younger brother, Ghulam Nabi Bhatt who lives in Srinagar. Their residential address, however, is recorded as 2508-K, Clock Tower, Peshawar, Pakistan.

Maqbool Bhatt is suffering from piles for over two years. He has complained that he is being refused medically recommended surgery and is being fed on laxative piles (Dulcolase) and application of haemorrahoidal ointment.

Being overtaken inexorably by age and living constantly in the shadow of death, Maqbool Bhatt has perhaps himself forgotten his words of 15 years ago: "Judge Sahib, woh rassi abhi tak nahin bani jo Maqbool ko phaansi laga sake..." (Judge sahib, nobody has the    rope which could hang Maqbool).The President of India has. We wanted to talk to this man called Maqbool Bhatt. .