India is acclaimed by the democratic world as the largest democracy on earth. While there is no doubt that democratic traditions and institutions in India are far more established, when it comes to Kashmir India is no more than an occupier and oppressive state that rules Kashmir through colonial like structures and authoritarian means with little regards for the democratic values, human rights and civil liberties. This neo-colonial face of Indian rule in Kashmir was demonstrated in its worst form in the way Maqbool Butt was hanged and what followed.

Not only that Maqbool Butt was executed in revenge, no one was allowed to see him before execution and he was buried inside the prison premises after execution. Maqbool Butt’s sister says ‘we went at the Srinagar airport to catch flight for Delhi but the police did not let us go’. His niece tells ‘they did not return any of his belongings from Thiar’. I wish they let us have some soil from his grave in the prison’ (

Mohammed Yasin Butt another Kashmiri who was imprisoned in Tihar for his involvement in freedom struggle wrote to ‘Kashmir Times’ Britain in 1995 that during his time in Tihar prison he spoke to several prisoners and prison staff about Maqbool Butt. They all remember him with great respect for his dignified behaviour and for his struggle in prison for the rights of prisoners and the lower rank prison staff. He further wrote:

“Maqbool Sahib’s grave is the only one in Tihar prison which has a wall built around it by the prisoners. Every month prison staff cleans it and prisoners light fragrant candles on it and pray for him according to their own faiths”.

Despite the confidence building measures and ceasefire between the Indian and Pakistani armies in Kashmir the repeated demands by Kashmiris for the return of Maqbool Butt’s remains are not responded to and this icon of Kashmiri liberation struggle is kept in prison even after his execution. The only other example of this kind of disregard for human rights of political activists comes to mind is that of Baghat Singh, Sukh Dev and Raj Guru whose bodies were also not returned to their families by the British colonial authorities after execution.
Last year Iftikhar Gilani, a Delhi based Kashmiri journalist who spent ten months in Tihar wrote in his book that Maqbool Butt’s grave in prison has been built over. There are two other graves waiting for the body of Maqbool Butt. One in the martyrs’ cemetery in Srinagar’s old Eidgah district where its tombstone has inscription in green Urdu letters that read “this is where Shaeed e Azam[ (the greatest martyr) Maqbool Butt will one day be laid to rest’. Another grave for Maqbool Butt is between the graves of his brothers in the courtyard of the house where he was born in Trahagam.

This unique situation about the burial of Maqbool Butt was nicely depicted by Mohammed Yamin, a Kashmiri poet from ‘Azad’ Kashmir in his poem ‘Roashni Ka Shaeed e Awal’ (the first martyr for the light) that is now juxtaposed on a large portrait of Maqbool Butt and hangs on the front room walls of many pro independence Kashmiris across AJK and diaspora from this part of Kashmir.


Kahaan Tu Soya Khabar Nahee

Khabar Nahee Qabar Nahee

Magar yeh bandey nisar terey

Karror dil hein mazar terey


Many do not know where you are asleep 

There is no news, there is no grave

But for the millions inspired by you

You live in their hearts and minds

(Khawaja, 1997, p.6)