NEW DELHI, Feb 9: India hanged Kashmiri fruit vendor Mohammed Afzal Guru in a New Delhi prison on Saturday for plotting a botched attack on parliament in Dec 2001.
A state-wide curfew was imposed across Jammu and Kashmir where telephone connectivity was suspended as soon as the hanging at 8am was made public.
Kashmir’s All Parties Hurriyat Conference declared four days of mourning, possibly to include the death anniversary of iconic Kashmiri guerilla Maqbool Butt. He was executed in the same Delhi prison in 1984.
In New Delhi, police and rightwing Hindu groups attacked Kashmiri protesters who had gathered for a peaceful vigil for Guru.
Guru had pleaded with the Congress party-led government to execute him as early as 2008, three years after the Supreme Court confirmed his death sentence. Then he despondently supported opposition Lal Kishan Advani’s candidature as prime minister in the 2009 elections, hoping that the hardline politician would be more likely to fulfill his wish.
That was not to be. Instead, he was executed barely days ahead of the parliament’s budget session under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s watch, a move that is being seen as potentially helpful in thwarting of impending criticism of the economy’s dwindling growth rate that has reportedly dipped to a 10-year low of five per cent.
The hanging is also expected to make the Congress party look as hardline as the main opposition party. The demeanour is considered useful with the urban middle class voter.
Guru’s body was buried near his execution site in Delhi’s Tihar jail and his widow has petitioned the government to allow the family to perform the last rites.
All the main parties — the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) — welcomed the hanging. Movie actor Amitabh Bachchan said the guilty must be punished as per the law.
“We should all abide by the law and whatever has happened has happened within the law. The nation has done an investigation and then took a decision. We respect the decision of the courts,” he said.
Opposition to the hanging came from Kashmiri politicians. Terming the execution of Guru disappointing, Kashmir’s opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti called for handing over his body to the family for last rites.
“While the hanging should not have been carried out, the return of Afzal’s body was the least the government could do to show its concern for humanitarian values,” the PDP president said.
Ms Mufti said the PDP believed that whatever the requirements of legal process, there was a need for the government to take into consideration the overall political impact of this execution, which is the reason why the option of mercy has been provided under the constitution.
The slanging match was on. Referring to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s claim that he had no role in carrying out the execution, Ms Mufti said the state government cannot be absolved of its responsibility in taking this crucial decision that can have long term political implications on the state.
Guru was hanged after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy plea.
On Dec 13, 2001, five heavily-armed gunmen stormed the Parliament complex in New Delhi and opened indiscriminate fire, killing nine persons.
They included five Delhi police personnel, a woman Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) official, two Parliament watch and ward staff and a gardener.
A journalist died later of his injuries. All five suspected terrorists were shot dead.
Guru was arrested soon after the attack from a bus in the national capital.