Editorial, New Age,Hanging of Afzal Guru
The secretive manner in which the secondary accused of attack on Parliament, Afzal Guru, was hanged had expectedly given rise to a fresh bout of controversies on the whole question of our strategy to fight terrorism. While the extra nationalist forces including those who look at the entire problem of terrorism with communal angle and had been using the issue of Afzal’s hanging for limited political purposes are gloating over the hanging, the more sobre elements are worried over the way the government violated certain established legal procedures in rushing to implement the Supreme Court verdict to send Afzal Guru to the gallows, particularly about its fall out in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
BJP for long had been campaigning for immediate hanging of Afzal Guru, who was not directly involved in the attack on Parliament as it feared that the section of society that was not satisfied with the verdict of the Supreme Court to send the accused to gallows as it was more to satisfy “the collective conscience of the nation” than on the actual evidence, may lead to fresh trial. The attack on Parliament took place when BJP-led NDA was in power and there was sudden rise in terrorist attacks on legislatures and other public institutions including J&K assembly, Akhshardham Mandir and Red Fort. This happened in the background of 9/11 attack on the symbols of military and economic might of America. It was apprehended that the Vajpayee government had swallowed the theory on global terrorism doled out by American administration, particularly the then US president George Bush who had termed the 9/11 attack as the beginning of fresh ‘crusade’. This apprehension will continue to haunt us for long, as the anti-terrorism policy carved out by the NDA regime continues to be core of the present UPA regime as well.
It is obvious that the UPA-II government decided to hang Afzal Guru in haste and in a secretive manner to score brownie points over BJP in the run up to the great battle in 2014 and in the process violated rule of law and basic human rights on more than one score. After the rejection of mercy petition by the President, the convict has the right of review petition. In this case that right has been denied. Secondly, not only as per rules but even on simple humanitarian ground, the family of the convict is allowed to have last meeting within the prison. This too has not been complied by the government. Thus it is accused of not only violating laws but basic human rights.
The most comical part of the episode is sending of the information to Guru’s family through Speed Post. As the government is very well aware that, leave apart the deterioration on postal services, in normal course also the speed post could have not reached the family before the actual hanging. It did so as it had decided to keep the whole thing a secret and do in haste.
The authorities may dole out the argument that “secretive approach” was adopted in view of impact on law and order situation. But it has worked contrary to the expectation. The entire valley of Kashmir had been put under curfew. There are clashes between protesters and security forces. The entire illegality and secretive approach of the government has further strengthened the sense of alienation among Kashmiris. They rightly feel that the convict has been denied legal rights that were honoured in the case of hanging of killers of Indira Gandhi. This is treated as continuing the discrimination against Kashmir.
The growing sense of alienation and frustration will adversely affect the overall situation in Jammu and Kashmir that has shown remarkable return to normalcy in the past two years, particularly since the visit of all party parliamentary delegation and assurance by all parties that all genuine grievances of the people of the state will be looked into. Though the government has done nothing concrete to implement the assurance its current mis-adventure is bound to have very adverse impact.
The government should give up the habit of taking arbitrary measures in the sensitive border state of Jammu and Kashmir and work on a plan to evolve a comprehensive policy by taking all the political parties and forces both in the state and the country as a whole into confidence. The beginning must be corrective measures, at least, regarding the demand related to performance of last rites of Afzal Guru.