Implications of hanging Afzal Guru

By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander

Afzal Guru, the main accused in the 13 December 2001 Parliament Attack case, was hanged in Tihar Jail on 9 February under utmost secrecy by the Indian State, for a crime in which there was circumstantial evidence against him. The media, his family and civil society were not informed about this hasty decision implemented to satisfy what the Supeme Court of India termed the “collective conscience” of India. Twenty-nine years ago on 11 February 1984, another stalwart of Kashmir’s freedom Muhammad Maqbool Bhat was hanged in the same jail. Now the history has repeated itself barring the fact that Maqbool Bhat was an ideologue of Kashmiri Resistance and Freedom while it was Police coercion which led Afzal Guru, a surrendered militant, to become a part of the circumstantial evidence that finally led to his execution. In both cases, courts and political executive acted in haste. Afzal was sent to the gallows not only to satisfy the “collective conscience” of Indian people but more for denying a votebank issue to its political opponents by the Congress Party. With its opponents alleging that Congress indulges in Muslim appeasement and is soft on Terrorism, with elections just a few months away the grand old party is in a hurry to please  Hindutva fascists and deny them major issues they  use for whipping up communal frenzy during election campaigns.

With this execution, Kashmiris got a new hero and a new martyr, who will keep inspiring millions and new generations yet to be born. Today when most countries of the world are against the capital punishment, why Indian State is carrying it out and what message it wants to give? We can infer a few reasons:

1. Indian State is biased against the minorities and doubly biased when it comes to Muslims of India in general and Kashmiris in particular.  The utmost secrecy maintained in case of execution of Ajmal Kasab on 21 November last year and Afzal Guru now point towards the same, because the execution of Dhananjoy Chatterjee on 14 August, 2004 following his conviction over the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in 1990 followed a public discussion. In both these cases no public discussion was allowed and executions were carried out in haste without giving any chance to the public to react. Such actions give a message that democracy is being retrograded in India.
2. The judiciary is becoming a hand maiden of the political executive and is fast losing its independent character with the result that justice is becoming a casualty. Be it the execution of Afzal Guru or life sentences awarded to Kashmiri convicts, the judiciary is being used as a tool against the political opponents and dissidents.
3. The Congress government is trying to appease the gullible Hindu masses by execution of the “perceived enemies”, thus trying to boost its electoral chances. Also, by acting with an iron hand against the “enemies of the nation,” Congress is trying to reap the sympathy vote of the masses.
 4. Targeting Muslims like the Owaisi brothers of Hyderabad, implicating Muslim youths falsely in terror cases or executing Afzal Guru, Congress is trying to give a message to the Muslims that they can’t stand against or resist the dictates of the Congress regime. You have no choice: either with us or against us. If Afzal was such a threat to the national conscience and security, then why not Balwant Singh Rajoana, guilty for the 1995 assassination of Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, be executed too? Muslims are an easy target and their stereotypical image of being potential terrorists fits well in the plan of their judicial executions.
5. The National Conference-led coalition with Congress is too weak and fragile to stand against or protest the execution of Afzal Guru, unlike Tamil Nadu state assembly that went on record demanding mercy for Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan convicted in the 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. They haven’t been sent to the gallows as yet and there is remote possibility of carrying out capital punishment against them.
But what do these inferences point towards? They point to the fact of bleak, dark and gloomy times ahead. A dark time that will not only be a bane for Indian Muslims or Kashmiris, but for all the conscious, selfless, patriotic Indians who witness India as a great nation that believes in the lofty principles of democracy, secularism, republicanism and where rule of law prevails. Their dream will soon be shattered and their conscience bruised because India is moving at a fast pace towards totalitarian fascism where no dissent would be tolerated and no human rights respected. Afzal Guru’s execution has been a watershed towards that retrograding process.

For me as a Kashmiri, freedom of speech, assembly and protest were denied since the freedom of India in 1947. But now these rights would become a casualty for Indians too. They would experience Kashmir everywhere in India, if judicial murders, fascist national and political expediency override everything and are given a freehand.

As far as the people of Kashmir are concerned, they must be thankful to the Indian State for creating and carving out for them a hero of an ordinary mortal who will continue to inspire resistance and represent a symbol of hatred against India.

If Indian State is happy to have satisfied the collective conscience of the Indians and rendered Justice to the victims of the Parliament attack, then why is it afraid to hand over the dead body of Afzal and the mortal remains of Maqbool Bhat to Kashmiris? The denial of the same is helping reinforce the resistance and hate against Indian occupation.

Afzal’s execution will certainly have its impact on the Kashmiri youth like its predecessor Maqbool Bhat’s execution had and youth may adopt various ways and means of resistance against the Indian State in Kashmir. It is what Indian State wants in order to justify the presence of the lakhs of its troops at every nook and corner of Kashmir.

Since year 2008, there have been reports coming up in the media frequently that the local police and army through custodial torture and other means of coercion are trying to push Kashmiri youth towards militancy again. This serves their purpose, because then only they can justify the extra-judicial murders, fake encounters, disappearances and arson in the name of fighting militancy and terrorism. This fight also renders them eligible for medals of shame to be bestowed by the Indian State, the promotions and other monetary benefits. They don’t want to be deprived of such booty, hence the State and its agencies are also responsible for creating future militants for their own crooked purposes.

 Afzal’s execution will also be politically cashed by the separatists for their own political mileage. How they are going to use it and what benefits they will reap from it only time will tell. But vested interests both in the state and its institutions and separatists want to exploit the hanging of Afzal for their own benefits and there are numerous chances for Kashmir burning once again, in which the blood of innocents will spill on the streets at the hands of trigger-happy men in uniform.

 As far as the struggle of Kashmiris against the Indian State is concerned, it will continue unabated and none can surmise about the shape of things to come in the next few months, but one thing is clear: through this execution the Indian State has granted a new lease of life to the resistance in Kashmir, whose demise they were foolishly trying to celebrate.

The author is a writer-activist based in Srinagar

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-28 February 2013 on page no. 1

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