Monday June 17, 2024

‘Kashmiri Guru’s soul haunts killers’

By Zafar Alam Sarwar
March 21, 2020

Many may have not known anything about Mohammad Afzal Guru, but his execution and burial in Tihar Prison of Delhi on February 09, 2013 brought to light many facts and raised questions in the Kashmiri minds living on either side of the Line of Control or in any part of Asia or Africa, Europe or America, Australia or Canada, or anywhere in this world of what the oppressed people say falsehood, injustice, chaos and uncertainty.

Born in a middle class family of Aabbagh village of Baramulla District, the sincere and honest Guru was a fruit vendor who graduated from the Delhi University in 1994.

According to Kashmiris settled in the UK, he was a law-abiding citizen engaged in fair business to support his family, but he never had any aspiration to earn a lot of money. However, being a humanitarian, he had genuine concern for others and a desire to peacefully use his right to self-determination. But he did not know one has to pay for speaking what’s true and doing what is right. He would not submit to threats of police who after failing to entice Guru for some ulterior motive tried to extort money from him on various charges. The police had other means to trap the young man for his gesture of defiance.

Afzal Guru was eventually arrested on December 15, 2001 by Delhi police and sentenced to death on December 18, 2002 under Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). He was accused of being a collaborator of persons who allegedly attacked the Indian parliament on December 13, 2001. The allegation against the man who loved his motherland administered wilfully by India could not be proved as it had no substance in it.

Why more than 11 years of solitary confinement failed to really produce in concrete form what the Delhi government had conceived? A Kashmiri family asked from Birmingham. “Had there been some hidden truth in the case against Guru it would have bared it sooner in the prison cell and the accused would have spoken up in the court; but despite fierce pressure he remained patient to wait for radical wisdom and sanity to prevail upon the judges,” according to some unbiased Indian non-Muslims who requested anonymity.

A judge who believes in delivering justice to all, irrespective of caste, creed and colour, has to be unprejudiced, impartial and free from any pressure from any side—-that’s the demand of justice. There is a difference between an accused and a convict, and an accused is not a convict unless a charge against him is lawfully proved true on basis of some believable concrete evidence.

Then comes the stage to decide how to punish and to what extent. Who does not want to live as lawful citizen to serve homeland even after ‘confession’ under torture, conviction and punishment. There’s always room in judicial system, whether Indian or Pakistani, for grant of mercy.

What flabbergasts the octogenarians and the youths on either side of the Line of Control is the apparently unjust act of execution of Afzal Guru within a week of rejection of his mercy petition by the president of India. That amounts to denying Afzal Guru his legal right of judicial review which had been granted even to the assassins of Prime Minister Indra Gandhi, there are precedents in the U.K. and America , they argue.

Worth-noting is the fact that the Delhi High Court sentenced Guru to death in 2002 at a time when communal feelings were at peak in the country. When the case came up before the Supreme Court it admitted “the evidence against Guru was circumstantial and there could be no direct evidence amounting to criminal conspiracy”. But it also stated: “the incident that resulted in heavy casualties and has shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.”

Amazingly, as reported by media, the only evidence against Guru was a telephone set with a SIM card and a laptop which had no data except names of the alleged attackers.

More painful to human rights activists and democratic people across the global village was the fact that the Indian administration did not inform Guru’s family about the date of his execution as required under the law. The family got the information by post two days after he had been hanged to death. Kashmiris call it an unpleasant precedent when they recall the families of Mrs. Indra Gandhi’s assassins were allowed to visit them before their execution.

The decision to bury Guru inside Tihar Jail in the maximum security prison complex reminds people even today the Maqbool Butt who was hanged and buried there mysteriously to prevent the grave from becoming a rallying point for all freedom lovers. Guru’s family and his counsel say they were kept in the dark and denied access to his body. A student of Butt once commented: “my tutor’s soul shall hound his killers.”