Execution to ‘satisfy collective conscience of society’

February 9, 2013. Just two days before Kashmir was to observe the 29th anniversary of the hanging of Maqbool Butt and demand his mortal remains buried inside the premises of Tihar jail, it woke up to the gloomy reality of television channels blaring out: Afzal Guru hanged. In the same jail! By 7.30 a.m. all channels had begun revealing that he’d been hanged. The initial reports suggested he’s been hanged at 5.30 a.m. Before 8.00 a.m., they informed that he’d been hanged at 6.30 a.m. Much later, Home Secretary RK Singh, while talking to reporters, informed that Guru had been hanged at 8.00 a.m; the truth revealed before it happened. Singh told that recommendation to hang him had been sent to the President on January 23. The President gave it his assent on January 26. And while this entire mystery about the timing of his death with news flashes appearing before the execution probably took place remains unquestioned, the family and his lawyers are neither informed nor given the time to meet him or take recourse to judicial procedures to make a bid, as per the law, to save him from the gallows. He was entitled to a judicial review of his sentence but all this hush hush manner in which the presidential nod came for his execution and the secret execution point out to the systemic injustice that flourishes at the hands of the state in the world’s largest democracy, a land of Gandhi, Tilak and Tagore. 

That his family was not given a chance to meet him or that he was not given the last chance to challenge his verdict before the impossible façade of a system that treated him an ‘enemy’ is not the sheer injustice of his death. While capital punishment is morally unjust, Afzal Guru’s crime is far too less to deserve it. Guru’s guilt was never proved; he having been sacrificed only because there was circumstantial evidence against him, not of having killed people and attacked the parliament but of having been party to the conspiracy. In fact, Guru, who never got a lawyer to defend himself, was not even heard. Whatever he forwarded as part of the statement, revealing that he was a surrendered militant and was working at the behest of some officers of the Special Operations Group of Jammu and Kashmir police, was not even admitted by the court while deciding the case. Guru may have been lying through his hat but his statement was never verified or interrogated, not only amounting to injustice against him but also injustice with the public who had a right to know whether indeed their law keepers can manipulate the existence of lesser mortals like Afzal Guru, co-opt them into doing the dirty job of perpetuating violence and then sacrificing them at the altar of what would be construed as justice from a very state-ist point of view. 

There are several gaps in the investigations and Guru’s guilt is based primarily on the police version of the story, which has been taken on its face value or his (Guru’s) confessional statement before media, selectively picked up and unquestioned by the court with his later statement not even treated permissible. The verdict itself is dictated more by the zeal to “to satisfy the collective conscience of the society” as observed by the judge rather than the lack of evidence. The judge interestingly also acquitted him of charges under POTA and observed that he did not belong to any terrorist organisation. The verdict says, ““The conviction under section 3 (5) of POTA is also set aside because there is no evidence that he is a member of a terrorist organisation, once the confessional statement is excluded.” 

A news channel, earlier this week, began a debate about whether Hindutva terror was a reality or a myth, interestingly on the day after Narendra Modi visited the Delhi University amid heavy security, employed to brutally thwart all protests against him, a part of the story hidden from media glare. All it ended up doing was betraying the corporate-media nexus in backing the latest hero and brand name of the Sangh Parivar, with its conclusion that cases of those indicted in Mecca, Nanded, Samjhauta and Malegaon blasts were weak and there couldn’t be much headway because the evidence wasn’t concrete. There was only circumstantial evidence against Guru and his confession only pertained to the logistical support he offered to perpetrators of the crime without any knowledge of the exact designs. In striking contrast, Aseemanand indicted in Mecca blast, has confessed to having been part of the entire conspiracy and planning. But his confession is treated as weak. What more can one say of the bias of the legal justice system of a country that boasts to have a grand functional democracy. The 18th century Swiss mathematician and physicist, Leonhard Euler, said, “I have come from a country where people are hanged if they talk.” The State has proved the quote true, atleast, perhaps selectively for Kashmiris, in India. Guru, who was sentenced to satisfy the national conscience, we are now told, was hanged at the altar of electoral politics. And the concern thereafter is not whether or not this was mis-carriage of justice but of how post execution, law and order machinery can be handled in Kashmir, where every curfewed heart goes into mourning. 

Guru was nailed without questioning either the glaring security lapses or looking for other abettors to the crime or its master-mind. If Afzal Guru is the sole abettor, how did the killers manage to get inside the highly fortified parliament premises, with greatest ease? These are questions that need to be addressed. He was a simple pawn in the game. Whose, we do not even know! Was it not important to know the truth about who attacked the parliament, who masterminded it and who were the people involved, especially the involvement at the official level, without which this attack could not have been executed. Apparently Afzal knew a lot. But his side of the story has been silenced forever. Truth has been sent to the gallows, all for satiating the conscience of some blood-thirsty chauvinists, happy with manufactured consent. All this in India of Gandhi, Tilak, Baghat Singh and Tagore, an India for which thousands laid down their precious lives and millions suffered.