The Hanged Man’s Curse: How Afzal Guru’s Execution May Further Widen The Kashmir Valley Disconnect
By Pradyut Hande:
Afzal Guru’s hanging owing to his involvement in the barbaric and audacious terror attack on the Parliament House, New Delhi back in December, 2001 has evoked a strong response across the board. While on the one hand, the average jingoist has vociferously expressed his “satisfaction” on his execution, on the other hand, the Government’s decision has understandably caused a palpable degree of agitation in the Kashmir Valley. In my previous article, I’d touched upon the potential ramifications of Guru’s execution. Through this article I aim to throw light on one of the biggest fall outs with regards to Guru’s hasty hanging…the growing divide between Kashmir and the rest of India.
Shrouded in utmost secrecy, the Centre moved with alacrity in its bid to hang Afzal Guru once his mercy petition was rejected by the President on February 3. Did the Government act in haste and fail to respect due legislative procedure in this case by disallowing Guru to file an appeal against the rejection of his plea for clemency to which one is legally entitled to? Was the move politically motivated at any level? These are pressing questions that demand answers that are usually far from forthcoming. The Government is also receiving stick for not permitting Guru’s family to meet him before his execution. There are also contradictory reports suggesting that his family was not even informed in time regarding the execution.
Consequently, Guru’s hanging coupled with the aforementioned “triggers” has understandably rubbed many in the Kashmir Valley the wrong way. For a region steeped in volatility and fractured allegiances, this incident is bound to further exacerbate the existing trust deficit. Afzal Guru may have been an anti-national element propelled by the heady fuel of dangerous ideology and unwavering determination, but to many in the troubled Valley he was a relatable figure, revered for his courage and conviction in his beliefs. In order to bridge this divide, the Centre now ought to convincingly debunk the theory of “political profiteering” from the entire episode by proving that Guru’s execution wasn’t carried out to purely satiate societal demands. That makes a strong case for the potential execution of the likes of Balwant Singh Rajoana, responsible for killing former Punjab Chief Minister, Beant Singh and Santham, Murugan and Perarivalan; the assassins of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi…all of who’s executions have been stayed repeatedly. Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah probably sums it up best when he says, “The onus will lie on the judiciary and the political leadership to prove to the people of Kashmir and to the wider world that this wasn’t a selective execution for political purposes“. Now exactly how the Government goes about doing that is a matter of conjecture.
All that being said, let’s observe this argument through a more discerning lens. Capital punishment is no small matter; nor is it a political tool meant to appease myriad sections of a society. It is impossible to please everyone in a country as diverse in its people, beliefs, likes and dislikes; as India. There needs to be a sense of mutual understanding that pervades the consciousness of all concerned stakeholders. The people ought to realise that a man’s life is at stake; regardless of his depraved actions or absence of remorse. However justified our anger, outrage or desire for revenge maybe; an “eye for an eye” mentality ought not to take root. The Government, on the other hand, needs to carefully weigh all the pros and cons before passing a judgement of such a grave nature. Taking the public’s prevalent mood into account is imperative, but being swayed by populist sentiment is hazardous. There are multiple aspects that need to be taken cognisance of before making such a life altering (or life ending, whatever way one may look at it) decision.
With a host of critical problems already on its hands, the Centre may have thought that they could solve one of them by undertaking Afzal Guru’s execution. However, they may have inadvertently compounded an age old problem by further alienating the people of Kashmir. The imposition of a curfew in the region as a precautionary measure in the aftermath of Guru’s death is liable to amplify the negative sentiment even more. The next few weeks will be critical as the State and Central Governments attempt to achieve a sense of fragile stability in the region.
About the author: The Writer is a Business student with a degree from NMIMS, Mumbai. He is presently working as a Senior Executive with a leading Public Relations firm in Mumbai. Through his writing; he attempts to address myriad issues of both domestic and global consequence, ranging from Business and Economics to Geopolitics…from Sports to Arts and Culture. He has over 200 publications to his credit in some of the leading national dailies and weekly magazines across the country. He is also a keen debater, munner, quizzer, painter and amateur freestyle rapper. His other interests include Sports, Music, Reading, Travelling and Social Entrepreneurship. For his latest postings, follow his blog . To read his other posts, click here.