Afzal Guru becomes victim of competitive nationalism
The Indian political system is back to what it does best — playing the death game with great élan to subserve respective agendas. It might be bit harsh to cast a generalized aspersion on the whole lot, but the existing political discourse helps entrench such negative impression in public mind. Once again the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government has chosen another carefully orchestrated “surreptitious execution” to be its foil in a no-holds-barred political confrontation on proprietorship over competitive nationalism.
As if the great Indian republic needed the hanging of Afzal Guru, 2001 Indian Parliament attack convict, to renew its infallibility after ensuring that he totters between hope and despair for a hell of a lot of time. The truth is — Mahatma Gandhi’s India ended up on the wrong side of morality, both political and legal despite the fact that Guru, a surrendered Kashmiri militant was not guiltless in the strictest sense. Though the mighty Indian state would surely be thumping its back for putting Afzal to the gallows at long last; in the process it sowed the seeds of million prospective mutinies, especially when Afzal’s execution does not stand vindicated by any standard of established jurisprudence and judicial ethics.
Even if one is to analyze the course of event through a legal prism, setting aside principles of moral reasoning, it is difficult to reconcile with the final judgment of the Supreme Court of India.
Unfortunately, the highest judiciary of the land has exposed itself to the justified accusation of failing to uphold the impartiality of the legal process. In their eagerness to appease the collective conscience of the society which called for nothing less than capital punishment for Afzal Guru, the learned jury simply ignored the fact that circumstantial evidences are not sufficiently compelling to justify the imposition of death penalty.
In the nearly 300 pages judgment, the adjudicators pointed out — “the circumstances, cumulatively considered and weighed, would unerringly point to the collaboration of the accused Afzal with the slain terrorists.” Interestingly, the legal fraternity is of the conscious view that ethically such pronouncements are not tenable because the dead cannot be brought back to life in case there is miscarriage of justice in the absence of direct evidence.
It is therefore amply clear that the learned judges in their wisdom have failed to distinguish between an abettor of an unsuccessful plot and the executor. Guru was punished for what he tried to do and not what he actually implemented. This will however set a robust precedence for the law enforcers to tighten the noose around the high and mighty, accused of involvement in 2002 Gujarat and 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom. As acknowledged by the apex court of India, there cannot be any direct evidence of agreement amounting to criminal conspiracy in such cases. Any laxity on this score will tarnish the impartial character of Indian judiciary further.
Instead of closing a traumatic chapter in independent India’s history, extremist Guru’s hanging has exposed the rotten under-belly of the country’s justice delivery mechanism. Not only was the due process of law flouted by denying Afzal the opportunity to challenge the presidential decline of his mercy petition, the convict’s family members were not allowed to see him one final time before the execution. Can we really blame the Kashmiri people for any inculpating statements after having rubbed salt in their wounds and dishing out an unambiguous message that their sentiment and dignity are of no importance to those who matters?
Worst still, Afzal Guru’s hanging in a hush-hush manner has far reaching consequences from security and social standpoint. The decision to execute the death sentence just two days ahead of the death anniversary of Maqbool Butt, founding father of Kashmir’s armed liberation movement, is an irrational one on the part of the Indian government.
Anti-India sentiment will gain ground once again and rogue elements will utilize this opportunity to foment trouble citing the martyrdom of Guru. Ordinary Kashmiri youths will be lured into terrorism on finding that the windows to vent frustration and anger peacefully are closed. Surely, a section of the establishment is involved in a nasty ploy of destabilizing Kashmir when the state is limping back to normalcy.
After all, there is no dearth of protagonists on all sides, who likes to prey on Kashmiri misfortune. Afzal coincidentally was a pawn in the hand of such a vicious system. Given his terrible past, the Indian security paraphernalia used him as reliable bait in sharpening their counterterrorism strategy. He in fact was a collateral casualty of Indian intelligences’ aggressive “false flag terror operation” initiated during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s tenure as the prime minister even though the political stalwart himself has been an uncompromising peacenik. This author learned from a very trustworthy insider well versed with clandestine missions that this politico-strategic game plan aimed at maneuvering domestic as well as international opinion has its origin in the dramatic 1999 Indian Airlines plane hijack and was vetted by hard-liners sitting within the Bharatiya Janata Party as well as its saffron mentor organizations’ fold.
Unfortunately, rogue elements representing the same fanatical Hindu outfits trained their guns on civilized protesters voicing angst over the Afzal episode on the streets of India’s capital and elsewhere in presence of numb police officials. Bloodthirsty individuals of the saffron ilk were implicated in the planting of bombs in Samjhauta Express train linking India and Pakistan that snuffed out 68 precious lives in 2007. When such blimpish groups are allowed a free run, Indian society is bound to encounter serious challenges that may lead to ethnic distrust and fratricide. If we are to pay true homage to the supreme sacrifice made by the victims of Indian Parliament attack, the nation must address the incipient systemic malaise and overhaul the antiquated criminal justice procedure standing on the verge of collapse.