Saturday, 9 February 2013
Hanging of Afzal Guru – India provided another martyr to Kashmiri
Hanging of Afzal Guru – India provided another martyr to Kashmiri
Dr Shabir Choudhry 09 February 2013
On the morning of Saturday 9th February 2013, Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in Tihar Jail of New Delhi and buried inside the Jail. This undesirable action was carried out only two days before 29th death anniversary of Maqbool Butt, who was also hanged in the same jail on 11 February 1984.
It was not the first time a Kashmiri leader was executed in unsatisfactory manner and buried without handing the body to the relatives. Afzal Guru, whether guilty or innocent is no more with us, and let us pray that Almighty bless his soul.
Afzal Guru was accused of masterminding the attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001, in which 14 people lost their lives. All five attackers were killed on spot. India accused the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group for this attack which has links with some officials of the Pakistani establishment. Afzal Guru and Shaukat Hussain Guru were sentenced to death in December 2002 for planning and providing logistic support for the attack. On appeal the sentence of Shaukat Hussain Guru was reduced to 10 years; and he was released on 30th December 2010.
In the same case, two other people, Delhi University Lecturer, SAR Geelani and Afshan Guru, wife of Shaukat Hussain Guru were acquitted due to a lack of evidence. What that suggests is that there must be some evidence against Afzal Guru and Shaukat Hussain Guru. Afzal Guru was to be executed on 20 October 2006, but after his wife’s clemency appeal to the President of India, it was put on hold. On 3 February 2013, the present President of India Pranab Mukherjee rejected the appeal, hence the execution of the accused.
It is not common in India to hang people for murder. Since 2004, only two people have been executed. Mohammed Ajmal Kasab was executed in November 2012 for his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks; and Afzal Guru for his involvement on the attacks on the Indian Parliament.
One may not say that Afzal guru was completely innocent man; but he certainly did not deserve a death sentence. In one TV interview he acknowledged his role in the incident, which was limited to providing logistic support and weapons. He also acknowledged that he went to Pakistani administered Kashmir as a JKLF man for training; and he later on established links with Jaish E Mohammed. 1
Important point here is that Afzal Guru was not part of the team that attacked the Parliament. He did not kill anyone, although he had some supportive role in the incident. People who are directly involved in murders, at times, do not get death sentence, and question arises why Afzal Guru had to be hanged? Why his sentence could not have been changed to life imprisonment?
Timing of the hanging and the way it was carried out, and what they did to his body speaks volumes about callousness of the authorities. If he had to be sentenced to death, why he had to be hanged two days before the death anniversary of Maqbool Butt, when feeling are running very high; and anti India feeling are at its peak? Why his family was not allowed to meet him before executing him? Above all, why his death body was not given to his family?
Is that not clear breach of fundamental human rights, and against ethics and morality? Is this not to rub salt in wounds of the suffering people? Is this not a message to angry and frustrated people of Kashmir that their sentiments, dignity and honour were not important to the authorities?
What that indicates is that some people don’t want any kind of peace or normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir, as Kashmir dispute has become a big business and a valuable source for winning public support or diverting attention from other important issues. One Kashmiri journalist today phoned me and asked my views about this incident. I expressed my serious anger, concern and strongly opposed this action; and called it a breach of fundamental human rights.
He agreed with me, but added that Afzal Guru was not innocent, as he had some role in the incident – he provided weapons which were used to kill people; but he should not have been hanged. He also agreed that his body must have been given to his family. He said: ‘Choudhry Sahib the Kashmir dispute will never be resolved. One condition for a plebiscite is normal situation; and those who are in position of power always ensure that the normal situation does not prevail in Jammu and Kashmir State’.
Commenting on the incident General secretary of CPI(ML) Liberation, Dipankar Bhattacharya said: "Faced with growing popular opposition and resistance one very front, the Congress party and the UPA government are desperately trying to appease the BJP and the communal-fascist brigade." 2
Arun Dhati Roy writes: ‘Like most surrendered militants Afzal was easy meat in Kashmir — a victim of torture, blackmail, extortion. In the larger scheme of things he was a nobody. Anyone who was really interested in solving the mystery of the Parliament Attack would have followed the dense trail of evidence that was on offer. No one did, thereby ensuring that the real authors of conspiracy will remain unidentified and uninvestigated. But now that Afzal Guru has been hanged, I hope our collective conscience has been satisfied. Or is our cup of blood still only half full?’ 3
The Supreme Court judgment says the evidence is circumstantial: “As is the case with most conspiracies, there is and could be no direct evidence amounting to criminal conspiracy.” But then it goes on to say: “The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties had shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.” 4
Already demonstrations on both parts of the divided State have started. Whereas, demonstrations on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir have become violent; demonstrations on the Pakistani side were peaceful and despite government support numbers were limited to few hundred people. Fearing demonstrations as a result of Afzal Guru’s hanging the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir imposed a curfew, but hundreds of people still came out resulting in some injuries.
The big test will be on 11 February. Despite the curfew, people will come out in thousands; and that could result in serious clashes resulting in loss of valuable lives and damage to property. I hope common sense prevails and the authorities do not show heavy handedness; and let angry people protest peacefully and express their sentiments.
This incident will remain controversial, as some will claim he was innocent, others will say he was part of the terror project and was rightly executed. Some will say he had some role in it but did not deserve death sentence. Whether innocent or not, but by hanging Afzal Guru India has provided another prominent martyr to the Kashmiri Muslims. Afzal Guru is dead, but he will live as a martyr, and will boost anti India sentiments. My fear is that some groups will claim that they have no hope for justice; and that will provide new recruits for violence and terrorism.
Writer is a political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email: