Srinagar: Three years after the hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru, former Home minister P Chidambaram has said there were “grave doubts about the extent of his involvement” in the 2001 Parliament attack.
Chidambaram told Economic Times in an interview, published on Thursday, that Guru could have instead been sentenced to life in prison if there were doubts about his involvement in the attack.
Chidambaram held the Home and Finance portfolios in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
Five gunmen stormed Indian parliament in New Delhi on December 13, 2001, killing eight police officers and a gardener before they were shot dead by paramilitary troopers. Guru was convicted for “conspiring with and sheltering the militants who attacked the parliament.”
Guru’s execution in Feb 2013 has become topic of debate recently following demonstrations in Jawahar Lal University (JNU) on his death anniversary on February 9.
“I think it is possible to hold an honest opinion that the Afzal Guru case was perhaps not correctly decided,” said Chidambaram in his interview.
“But being in government you cannot say the court has decided the case wrongly because it was the government that prosecuted him. But an independent person can hold an opinion that the case was not decided correctly,” he said. It is wrong to project that anyone “who holds that opinion is anti-nation”, he said.
Chidambaram served as home minister from 2008 to 2012, before being handed the finance portfolio. Afzal Guru was executed in 2013 when Sushilkumar Shinde was home minister.
When reminded that he was part of the same government that executed Guru, Chidambaram replied: “That is true, but I was not the home minister then…I can’t say what I would have done. It is only when you are sitting on that seat you take that decision.”
However, it was during Chidambaram’s tenure as home minister when on June 23, 2010, the Home ministry recommended the president’s office to reject the mercy petition of Afzal Guru.
On January 7, 2011, a whistle-blowing site indianleaks.in leaked a document which stated that the mercy petition file was not with President of India. On 10 August 2011, the home ministry rejected the mercy petition, and sent a letter to the President recommending the death penalty. Chidambaram was in chair as home minister.