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Mounting Pressure to Execute the Alleged Indian Terrorist

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Download 11 years after the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament, the main opposition party is now demanding the hanging of Mohamad Afzal Guru, allegedly the mastermind behind the attack.

They want Guru to suffer the same fate as Ajmal Amir Kasab, the Pakistani militant involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack. He was executed last month.

Pressure is mounting as other groups are also campaigning for his execution. 

Gurus’ mercy petition to India’s president is likely to be rejected.

But as Bismillah Geelani reports his hanging may have serious political repercussions, especially in the turbulent Kashmir region.

On the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attack on Parliament, lawmakers paid homage to those killed during the attack.

The attack led to the death of a dozen people, including one civilian. The bullet marks are still visible on the walls of Parliament.

Protesters were demanding the execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri Muslim convicted and sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in the attack.

Sushma Sawraj is the leader of the main opposition party BJP.

“Every year on December 13, we remember the brave soldiers who died saving the parliamentarians and political leadership of the country from the attackers but the man responsible for the attack is still alive. Why has he not been hanged when the courts have found him guilty on several counts and sentenced him to death?”

Guru was convicted by a special court in New Delhi in 2002.

The charges against him included criminal conspiracy, aiding and abetting a murder and waging war against India.

His death sentence was later confirmed by the Delhi High Court and in 2005, the Supreme Court also upheld the decision.

But human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover says he did not get a fair trial.

“Even as per the case of the state Afzal Guru at no point of time held a weapon, he did not kill anybody. The five people who attacked the Indian Parliament were killed there and then. Those were the attackers. He is alleged to be a conspirator and yes his guilt has been upheld by the Supreme Court but on the question of Afzal’s Guilt the main issue that has been raised, is that he was not given effective legal representation at the trial stage. A person who has not had an effective legal representation which is a basic tenet of fair trial, we are saying we will hang him?”

Others like senior journalist Arti Jarath are not satisfied with the Supreme Court’s reasons for upholding his death sentence.

“I think there are serious questions that were raised even when the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence. They did put a question mark because they talked about satisfying the collective conscience of the nation which suggests or hints at the fact that there is no conclusive evidence like there was in the case of Kasab. And I think we have to differentiate between Afzal Guru Case and Kasab.”

But the Supreme Court has dismissed Guru’s petition for a review.

He is now awaiting the President’s decision on the mercy plea, which was filed by his wife.

The President of India has the final authority to decide whether a death sentence should be carried out or commuted into life imprisonment.

But the President usually follows the advice of the Home Ministry in deciding mercy petitions. And the Home Ministry has already said that it will recommend Guru’s petition is rejected.

But hanging Guru may have serious political consequences in Kashmir.

Kashmiri separatists have already warned against any such move.

Sayyid Ali Gilani is chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a coalition of several separatist groups.

“India should know that Afzal Guru is not alone; the entire Kashmir nation is with him. He is a hero for the oppressed Kashmiri people and India will have to pay a heavy price if any harm is done to him. We want to make it clear to the Indian leadership and the political parties baying for Kashmiri peoples’ blood that if they go ahead with their sinister plans the entire Kashmiri nation will rise in revolt against the injustice and political murder."

Even the mainstream Kashmiri politicians, including Chief Minister Umar Abdullah, are opposed to Guru’s death sentence.

Abdullah cites the example of Kashmiri Separatist Leader Maqbool  Bhat who was hanged in the 1980s. It’s believed to have fuelled anti-India sentiment and driven many Kashmiri youth  to take up arms.

“I can’t escape from the fact that possibly the first generation of Kashmiri terrorists were born out of Maqbool Bhat’s death and today things are nowhere near as they were in 1984 so I can expect a stronger reaction to the hanging of Afzal Guru."

Dilip Padgaonkar is one of the three interlocutors who were appointed by the Indian government to negotiate with Kashmir groups and suggest measures to resolve the Kashmir issue.

He also believes that the death sentence will severely affect the fragile peace process in the region.

“My fear is that 20-22 months of the return of normalcy in the valley, an unprecedented number of people visiting the valley this summer -10 years ago it was 500 thousand this year it has crossed 2 million, there are several other things that have happened in between, the security people have been telling you that militancy has come down and so on.. if you are not going to handle this business of hanging Afzal Guru sensitively the big risk is that much of this positive development that we have witnessed in 2 odd years might suffer a setback. And I’m deeply worried about that."

Many argue that it’s time to put an end to the death penalty altogether.

But the government isn’t interested in that debate yet. India chose to be among the 39 countries who voted against the UN resolution seeking the abolition of the death penalty.

Sandeep Dixit, a parliamentarian from the ruling Congress Party says Indian society is not yet ready to take that step.

“Whether it is a deterrent or not I think as of today, we believe it is the right thing to do. And somewhere we have to sub serves the social conscience of the nation. It is not barbaric; it’s not arbitrary so ultimately what we are doing is somewhere in our social conscience we want a particular punishment to be given to somebody who has hurt our collective conscience."


Last Updated ( Saturday, 22 December 2012 16:58 )  

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