ON the morning of Feb 9, 2013, Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri convict on death row, lodged in New Delhi’s high security Tihar jail was taken from his cot by the prison authorities and quickly hanged in an extremely secret operation, codenamed three-star.

In its efforts to contain the fallout over this very sensitive issue, especially in the Kashmir Valley, India resorted to an information blockade. However, in no time it badly bounced back. Within hours of his execution, the angst was palpable in Kashmir where the entire exercise is being seen as an elaborate frame-up and an act of state belligerence against a hapless Kashmiri.

A harsh curfew was promptly imposed in Indian Kashmir, together with a media clampdown and restrictions on the Internet. Both the manner of Afzal Guru’s execution and his lack of access to proper legal counsel during the trial process came under serious criticism not only from Kashmiris but several Indian intellectuals, lawyers and academics too.

Globally influential bodies like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and European Union have denounced the Indian government for the secret hanging.

Guru, who was “convicted” in the 2001 parliament attack, was buried inside the Tihar jail complex. The hanging took place less than 20 metres away from his 16 feet by 12 feet cell, in Jail No 3, where he spent more than a decade on death row — in solitary confinement.

Not only is Afzal Guru the first prisoner in 24 years to be hanged in Tihar, he is also the second Kashmiri in the history of independent India to be hanged in this fashion.

An overwhelming majority of Kashmiris feel that Afzal Guru did not receive a fair trial; instead he became part of a murky frame-up by intelligence agencies, police and the state task force, who thought it expedient to link a surrendered militant in a case laced with sketchiness.

There have been several question marks raised over the role of the “nationalistic”/ jingoistic Indian media, which, baring few notable exceptions, conducted a media trial that started immediately after Guru’s arrest, creating a pre-trial mindset to adversely impact the case.

Some of India’s finest legal minds are on record stating that the weak defence provided to counter the prosecution in this case is simply mind-boggling.

Kashmir is currently witnessing fury at several levels. Whilst there is a growing feeling that the Indian judicial system failed Guru, a lot of people are simply outraged that his family was not informed about the execution on time.

The Supreme Court of India had in its ruling duly acknowledged that there is no proof that Guru was a member of any terrorist group, and the evidence against him was at best circumstantial. The apex court, however, noted that it was necessary to hang Guru to “satisfy the collective conscience of the Indian society”.

While there is a great deal of consternation over the Supreme Court judgment, no one really thought that Guru would be hanged. Justice, it was argued, is supposed to be based on law and not raw emotions. Moreover, justice, in a ruling that involves taking the life of an individual in the light of no direct evidence, has to be restorative and not retributive.

Meanwhile, the angst against India on the streets of Kashmir is growing because of the hurried manner in which the execution was carried out. It is seen as a complete disregard for Kashmiri opinion.

Many analysts and Kashmir watchers are of the opinion that in the run-up to the 2014 general elections in India, the decision to execute Afzal Guru appeared to have covert political undertones. Why else, the argument goes, would the government fumble in informing his family about the execution?

Although the law of the land would require them to do so, the authorities were fully aware that his wife, who filed the mercy petition, was entitled to file a judicial review petition against the rejection of her husband’s clemency appeal.

The constitutional bench of India’s Supreme Court in 1988 held that “Undue long delay in execution of the sentence of death will entitle the condemned person to approach this court under Article 32”. Why did the government of India throw caution to the wind?

In reality much of the younger generation of Kashmiris has a very vague image of Maqbool Bhat, the first Kashmiri hanged by the Indian government in 1984. Every year, for the last two decades, Kashmir has observed Feb 11 as Maqbool Day in his remembrance. With Guru, they now have someone, who they believe was terribly wronged, dehumanised, and eventually murdered by the state, abdicating all his fundamental rights.

The fact was established by Omar Abdullah, Kashmir’s pro-India chief minister, who noted, “Kashmiris have always looked for symbols whether in the mainstream or in the separatist camp. They have always identified with people. They identified with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, they have identified with other leaders from time to time. Make no mistake, ask the generation of separatist leadership represented by those in their 40s and 50s, they will tell you they identified with Maqbool Bhat.

“I have said not every Kashmiri will identify with him, but make no mistake a new generation of Kashmiris will identify with Afzal Guru because he belongs to their generation. Maqbool Bhat was a name, Afzal Guru is a face.”

The identification may have already begun. Rage on the street notwithstanding, the online ecosystem reflected how unequivocally Kashmiris reacted to the hanging. In no time young Kashmiri men and women drew cartoons, wrote poems, put blogs up and articulated their displeasure about the hanging on Twitter and Facebook.

While the administration in Kashmir is likely to contain the backlash in the short-term by adopting restrictive measures, it is the long-term implications of this execution that must be giving sleepless nights to the policy wonks in New Delhi.

One wonders as to what the Indian security establishment was thinking when they decided to carry out the hanging of Afzal Guru. More importantly, what did they achieve by not informing Afzal Guru’s family of his impending hanging? And what did they achieve by not allowing Afzal Guru to meet his wife and son for one last time?

We may never know the answer to these questions and now, ex-post facto, they are irrelevant. Instead, by carrying out this hanging in such a clandestine manner they have provided a new war time lexicon for a new generation of Kashmiris: Afzal Guru.

The writer is a Kashmir blogger and journalist.

Updated Feb 26, 2013 12:05am

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Comments (29) (Closed)


Ram
Feb 27, 2013 12:52pm
Hero is one saves life ,and talks about peace and harmony.I am sorry to say you have chosen wrong hero again. Afzal wanted a Muslim Kashmir to become another Afghanistan,and you also want fallow him then I fear you also end up becoming another false hero of Kashmir soon.
S
Feb 26, 2013 01:24pm
Lack of proper trial ?? Well how can you claim that, stop feeding bs to your uneducated uncouthy youth. Otherwise you would continue fuelling the societal problems that embibe you even today. Not to forget that he was a terrorist.
Babu
Feb 26, 2013 01:36pm
Self contradicting blog!!! I quote from the blog: "While there is a great deal of consternation over the Supreme Court judgment, no one really thought that Guru would be hanged. Justice, it was argued, is supposed to be based on law and not raw emotions." "Meanwhile, the angst against India on the streets of Kashmir is growing because of the hurried manner in which the execution was carried out. It is seen as a complete disregard for Kashmiri opinion." "The apex court, however, noted that it was necessary to hang Guru to ?satisfy the collective conscience of the Indian society?. How come none of the legal minds that started chattering didnt come forward to defend him in court? I read the blog of AG Noorani (I presume he is a lawyer, why didnt he come forward and defend Guru if he really felt he was beinbg wronged? When it comes to emotion, Kashmiri emotion is important, The general Indian public emotion is not. What rubbish?!!!.
Sam
Feb 26, 2013 01:34pm
the only wrongdoing in the entire afzal guru episode was his family should have been given the chance to meet him for one last time.. other than that, i don?t have sympathy for this fellow and for that matter any one from any part of my country. what he did was deplorable and i believe he was given fair trail with others who were indicted? others were left out for lack of evidence and there were proofs for guru?s involvement hence was tried and sentenced? period.
raja hindustani
Feb 27, 2013 07:30pm
My dear friend you are wasting your energy in wrong direction. If you consider people like Afzal your hero then only God can save you people. I can only wish people like you get sense in time before it is too late.
Ramesh
Feb 27, 2013 05:10am
?satisfy the collective conscience of the Indian society?....when will you stop telling these lies
jaideep
Feb 26, 2013 03:18pm
There is something which is called LAW, possibly pakistanis are not aware of this term.
Adil Rashid
Feb 26, 2013 04:16pm
hum kya chahtey ,,,,,,AZADIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII,,,,,we as kashmiris protest the hanging of Muhammad Afzal Guru,,,,he is the new national hero of kashmir
SP Bansal
Feb 26, 2013 03:10am
One has to pay price for his deeds or misdeeds. Taking religion in that is not good.
Rocky
Feb 26, 2013 03:38am
Where were all those who believed in Guru's innosence for the past eight years when the case was going all the way up to the highest court? There was nothing sudden about the hanging. The president had already rejected the mercy petition. Do want the hanging to be done with a fan fare comparable to what happens in Saudi? Yes, intimation to the family was not handled in a timely fashion. Yes, also, that death penalty is a carry over from the barbaric times and should be abolished in every civilized nation.
Pan Mat
Feb 26, 2013 04:23am
"Globally influential bodies like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and European Union have denounced the Indian government for the secret hanging" These organization have also made several observations regarding human rights excesses by state institutions in Pakistan but those dismissed as conspiracy, why these double standards?
Ismail
Feb 26, 2013 05:04pm
Dont get the words wrong when you read that: ' Afzal Guru did not get a fair trial'. Afzal was beyond doubt a convict. The highest court of India which is the Supreme court pronounced him guilty. Even if there was the slightest chance of him being innocent SC would have had a different verdict. Afzal Guru was guilty but was just the front end of the larger conspiracy by India's enemy. He was a small fish in targer picture, By not probling Afzal Guru's contacts and exposing the main culprits who are behind this Parliamemt attack, the Indian government did not do a fair probing on this Afzal Guru case. Those responsible for the attack are probably roaming scott free across the borders, A fair trial would have been befitting to Afzal Guru and beneficial to India.
Immad
Feb 26, 2013 05:36am
No matter how big are the claims of being open and transparent Indian government always follows a traditional, conservative, opaque, close and controversial approach whenever it feels like. This incident has completely destroyed my image of a clean, open and law abiding government in our neighbour.
VK
Feb 26, 2013 07:06am
I fail to understand why people of Kashmir identify with a face that is associated with terror act. I have not come across Guru being involved in any other pro-independance activity for kashmiri people or any social or political activities beneficial to the people. Is it that Kashmiris have to grab anyone as its own that has done some harm to India and its people with some measure of success?
Brijesh
Feb 26, 2013 07:31am
Terrorism is a scrounge that has to be rooted out. The Americans have Guantanomo Bay, the Indians have Tihar. Normal rules cannot be applied in cases of terrorism. Application of "Normal" law fails in these cases. Afzal was not hanged for petty theft of murder. He was hanged for waging war against the state. He was hanged for complicity in the attack on the Indian parliament. He was tried in a court of law and sentenced to death by hanging. There is enough evidence to support his intent.
Reet
Feb 26, 2013 09:11am
I agree it is a murder. As an Indian, I am ashamed.
Avneesh Partap Singh
Feb 26, 2013 09:39am
Once, a Pakistani was asked to write an article about the situation in Pakistan. In about one paragraph he described about Islamic terror, killing of Shias and other minority and how Pakistan has become the worst place to live for its citizen. After one paragraph, he started talking about India, and started comparing Pakistan with India. From economy, culture, diversity, democratic values, and defense structure, he compared everything with India. The moral of story is that the Pakistanis have some kind of fatal obsession with India and have the tendency to meddle with the internal issues of India. Although, I did not want to respond to this article written by some self convinced author who sees nothing but a conspiracy theory like other Pakistani. But I had to show some light to this author who prefers to stay in dark. First of all, neither Amnesty International nor EU denounced the hanging of an Islamic terrorist as you have mentioned. Second, you are a perfect example of a typical Pakistani who was asked to write an essay about Pakistan, that I mentioned above. Hope your conscience will wake up one day and you will see your face in the mirror so that you may be able to see that Pakistan has become the breeding ground of Islamists while you are sitting on a time bomb and talking about India.
viti99
Feb 26, 2013 09:41am
Pak spared Malik Ishaak . Now, see it's fallout. There is no reason why he be kept in jail to provide the separatists with an opportunity to trade civilians life with his.
APC
Feb 26, 2013 10:22am
Great Article. Keep on writing until you become tired of it. Good luck.
Zimbo_Indian
Feb 27, 2013 02:14pm
Afzal Guru's widow would do well to remember that the parliament staff who died in the attack also did not get one last chance to meet their families.
BRR
Feb 26, 2013 07:52pm
where have you been, or under which rock have you been hiding?
Sam T
Feb 26, 2013 11:42am
I can write and state a case against Guru's involvement in the case, I have followed the case closely and believe justice has been served to those who died in the attack on the Indian parliament.
Jai
Feb 26, 2013 06:11pm
Why, just because he is a muslim. or do you have any proof of a mistrial. The only mistake here is not informing his family in advance.
rich
Feb 26, 2013 12:23pm
what do you expect, that he be treated like a hero in india? he had to be hanged in secrecy if not then th momement u announce a hanging publicity seeking himan righ activist start protesting, they do not protest when innocet people are killed by these terrorist as innocent people have no human rights good riddence to afsal guru, he almost started a war external and internal
Mustafa
Feb 26, 2013 12:31pm
the only wrongdoing in the entire afzal guru episode was his family should have been given the chance to meet him for one last time.. other than that, i don't have sympathy for this fellow and for that matter any one from any part of my country. what he did was deplorable and i believe he was given fair trail with others who were indicted... others were left out for lack of evidence and there were proofs for guru's involvement hence was tried and sentenced... period.
abhi
Feb 27, 2013 01:29pm
agree with you totally. Afzal Guru would have been a hero if he would have worked to improve the life of kashmiris by giving them opportunities in field of education, welfare, may be by creating jobs in the valley rather than spreading thought of violence. He deserves what he got for what he did..
Nilesh
Feb 26, 2013 12:50pm
why do you publish fake news????
Shubs
Feb 26, 2013 05:20pm
You are ashamed of bringing justice to the families of the security personnel that died that day fighting terrorists in the seat of Indian democracy. So be it. But do that on your own. Don't claim to speak on behalf of a billion people.
Zimbo_Indian
Feb 27, 2013 02:35pm
Dear Immad, you need not allow your perception of India to be affected in any way. SAR Gilani was also tried along with Afzal Guru for the same offence. Gilani was also sentenced to death by the trial court. But the conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court and he was even acquitted. I think that should be enough proof of the objective manner in which the Indian judicial system functions with adequate checks and balances.