By Aaqib Hussain
At daybreak on 9th February 2013 Mohammad Afzal Guru, the parliament attack convict was executed by India in the high security Tihar jail of New Delhi. After the hanging of Ajmal Kasab, this execution was only a matter of when and how. A section of Indian civil society in general and the political parties in particular had been vouching and campaigning for his hanging for a long time. Who has forgotten the current BJP regimes political cliché “desh hum sharminda hai, Afzal Guru zinda hai!” In fact, Afzal Guru’s case was always used by political parties in India to outscore each other and gain political brownie points. This case was also used as a pretext by the Government of India to pass draconian laws that would be misused in the coming future to inflict grave human rights violations in places like Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur.
The attack and the facts
The Indian Parliament was attacked on December 13, 2001 in which 8 security personnel, one gardener and five attackers were killed. The identity of the five attackers is yet to be made public. Right after the attack media claimed that six armed men stormed the building but soon after it backtracked. Senior congress leader Priyaranjan Das Munshi was one of the first politicians to claim that six men had attacked the parliament. He had made the statement after seeing the six men coming out of the white ambassador on close circuit television. Till date it is unknown that what happened to the six persons involved. The rhetoric of blaming Pakistan for everything started few hours after the attack with the Indian Home Minister of that time stating that the attackers “looked like” Pakistanis. Only the Indian Home Minister knew the definition of Pakistani lookalikes.
Arrests and contradictions
Four arrests were made after the attack. The four people arrested were Mohammad Afzal Guru, Shaukat Hussain Guru, Sayeed A R Geelani and Navjot Sandhu (Afshan Guru), wife of Shaukat Hussain. The first glaring contraindication came at the time of the arrests. The Delhi police claimed that the first person arrested was Geelani on December 15 at 10 a.m. They also claimed that it was on the basis of his information that they arrested Shaukat and Afzal in Kashmir. But the Jammu and Kashmir police informed the court that they arrested Shaukat and Afzal at 6 a.m.
A shoddy probe, unethical media trial
The parliament attack case was extraordinary in many ways. The trial was completed in a record time and all the organs of the state; the executive, the judiciary, the politicians and the media came together in conspiring awarding death sentence to an innocent for satisfying the “collective conscience” of what can only be called a blood thirsty nation. Though the collective conscience has been satisfied but the altar of democracy has been tainted with blood. This case was a vindication of a shoddy probe characterised by falsification and fabrication and it also set a dangerous precedent for future investigations. From the very beginning of the trial, Afzal was denied the right to defend. Afzal himself gave a list of four lawyers but none of them came forward to defend him. The court appointed an amicus curiae to start the trial but Afzal never had confidence in him. In his letter to the President of India, Afzal wrote about how he was condemned to death without being given a chance to defend himself.
The Indian media was always unfair to Afzal it backed the injustice that was meted out to him. Afzal was produced before the national media and was forced to confess. However at the same press conference, he made it a point to tell the media that Geelani was not involved. The two media persons Manoj Pandey of The Times of India, and Shams Tahir of Aaj Tak were requested by ACP Rajveer Singh of Delhi police not to report or broadcast that part. These two later appeared as defense witnesses for Geelani. The Delhi police kept planting stories in the media between December 16 and December 23. A few days before the judgment came, the media pronounced its judgment by telecasting a telefilm by Zee TV titled December 13. This film was a clear cut attempt by the Indian media to influence the judgment and defame innocents who were framed and were defending themselves. Thus the concept of fair trial by implicitly denying the right of the accused to be presumed innocent till proven guilty was defeated by India’s media.
The most intriguing thing of the trail was that even before the charges against the accused could be proven, the court in particular and Indian civil society had presumed them to be guilty. The behavior of judiciary always seemed biased and full of hatred. Afshan Guru, one of the accused, narrated an incident that happened inside the courtroom during the trail. Seeing the indifferent attitude of the judges, planting of lies and concocted stories by police Afshan broke down inside the courtroom. She was rebuked by the judge and asked to shut and told that our society has no sympathy for a “terrorist facilitator”. This incident is ample proof of the preconceived notions that the custodians of justice had against the accused.
Hanging an innocent
In the courts of the oppressors, it is no surprise that innocents are framed and sentenced, but often in these cases the police plants stories, invents evidence and then charges are proven. But as they call it “rarest of the rare cases”, the Indian state couldn’t prove Afzal guilty during the trail. The sentence that was given to Afzal was not based on any incontrovertible or irrefutable evidence. The Indian judicial system made a mockery of itself when it noted that Afzal was never directly associated with any terrorist activity, he was not a direct part of the conspiracy, he didn’t kill or attempt to kill anyone, but he has to be hanged to satisfy the collective conscience of a nation.
Family denied right to a last meeting and a proper funeral
In total transgression of the norms of humanity, and even so-called law, the family of Afzal Guru was never informed about his execution, as a result denying his family a last meeting with him. The most inhumane and undemocratic part in this secret hanging was denying Afzal Guru’s wife and son the chance to meet him for the last time before his execution. As if this injustice meted wasn’t enough, the state rubbed more salt on the wound by burying him in the prison, hence denying a proper funeral too. The state fears funerals too much, as is evident by the force it uses to quell the funeral processions in Kashmir. By not returning the corpse, the Indian government hopes that Afzal will be forgotten, but they seem to have forgotten that Maqbool Butt is buried in Tihar jail too, but Kashmir remembers him as the Father of the Nation.
Afzal’s hanging has rekindled not anger, but the passion for Freedom in Kashmir. The new generation of Kashmir identifies itself with Afzal Guru exactly like the elder ones identified itself with Maqbool Butt. Afzal’s hanging is one of the reasons and a driving force behind the renewed struggle.
Rejecting a narrative
A narrative has been woven that this case was “a miscarriage of justice”. Let’s not fall prey to this propaganda that serves and helps the state. The way all the organs of the occupying state came together to frame and hang an innocent is enough to put things right in the perspective of occupier-occupied relationship. This case is a perfect example of how conspiracies are hatched against “cannon fodder” Kashmiris and then tried in Indian courts. All this has been a standard practice to subdue and suppress an entire population that has been resisting the illegal occupation by all means. For Kashmiris, the Indian judiciary is nothing more than an extension of the system that tries to strengthen and extend occupation.
—The author is a dental surgeon based in New Delhi