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“Are We Punishing The Right People?” – The Harsh Truth About How We Treat Kashmiris

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By Sugam Singhal:

“In the Machhi Singh case (1983), the Supreme Court spelt out death penalty guidelines. As a rule, a murderer must be sentenced to life; capital punishment must be reserved for “the rarest of rare” cases- where murder is committed in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical or revolting manner, or to punish a particular caste or community, etc. None of this applies to Guru.” — Praful Bidwai, political analyst.


What Bidwai really meant was that Guru’s hanging was unjust and represented a definite moral erosion of liberal views and a breach of legal reason. Guru, widely considered by Kashmiris to be innocent was secretly hanged in violation of his fundamental right to a final appeal against rejection. The hanging, termed as unjust was condemned by many and was followed by repercussions which saw a week long curfew in the Valley.

Guru was hanged without his family being informed. He was tried under Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) but was sentenced under Indian Penal Code (IPC). He was only accused of facilitating the 2001 Parliament attack and yet he was sentenced to death for murder (Section 302 of the IPC), waging war against the state (Section 121 and 121A) and criminal conspiracy (Section 120A and B).

The evidence produced against him was inconclusive. The investigation report and the charge sheet filed by the police had gaping loopholes in them and yet, Guru was sentenced to a death penalty.  Guru was arrested and convicted solely on the basis of circumstantial evidence and his own testimony was twisted and used against him. Why? Perhaps, because someone must be punished, someone must be hanged for it, even if they aren’t proven guilty.

His charges that as a surrendered militant, he was constantly harassed by the STF and that he was tortured by the Delhi Special Cell officer were never taken into account. Apparently, the police officer had threatened him with his family’s life into a forced confession. Guru, in fact, had no legal representation when held guilty. He was not allowed to choose one; a blatant violation of fundamental human rights.

The case of Afzal Guru is open to doubt, whether his hanging was just? Was he the right one to have received the death penalty? Are we punishing the right people? Is it possible for us to do away with the death penalty or are we to continue surviving in a state where miscarriage of justice is rampant?

No one gives life and no one has the right to take it away. Maybe, it is high time India realizes that only implementing the judicial laws won’t make a difference. Giving out the right kind of punishment to the rightly convicted is what we need today. Not just a rampant exercise of death penalties only because we can hang someone till death.

A director-scriptwriter friend, Aniket Jaiswal, wrote,

“आंखें तो भारी हैं,
पर सोने को सपना नहीं  है,
रातें सब काली  हैं और
कोई भी अपना नहीं है…
की जैसे भाग कटा है अपना,
भगवान बटा  है अपना
रोती उम्मीदे भी हारी हैं
आंखें तो भारी हैं,
पर सोने को सपना नहीं  है,
सुबह की आस नहीं
और आंच में तपना यू ही है…
आंखें तो…. भारी हैं….”

Now, imagine this in the context of almost all the Kashmiris suspected of being militants. They have been robbed of off their lands, their property, their dear and near ones and their houses.

Sayed, a suicide bomber, sits in an empty room, speaks to the camera just before he leaves on hi suicide mission: “The crimes of occupation are endless. The worst crime of all is to exploit the people’s weaknesses and turn them into collaborators. By doing that, they not only kill the resistance, they also ruin their families, ruin their dignity and ruin an entire community of people. When my father was executed, I was 10 years old. He was a good person. But he grew weak. For that, I hold the occupation responsible. They must understand that if they recruit collaborators they must pay the price for it. A life without dignity is worthless. Especially, when it reminds you day after day of humiliation and weakness. And the world watches, cowardly and indifferent.

You must be to comment.
  1. tanvi

    Its a very sad article which does not state the facts right …all kashmiris are not considered as militants…
    Kashmir community comprises of both Hindu and Muslim..does the author even know wat happened to kashmiri Pandits in the valley(1990)..no1 anywhere in the world shoud face that..this article further hurts the sentiments of a kashmiri pandit who is not being considered a part of “kashmiri”….
    n the kashmiri Muslims are responsible for their own misery.

    1. Sugam Singhal


      I am very much aware of what happened in the Valley post 1989 insurgency. Nowhere in my article have I mentioned or claimed that a kashmiri pandit in not a part of “Kashmir”. How and where does this article hurt the sentiments, I’d like to know. I have spent time in J&K and I have interacted with people who are still living in refugee camps and are in touch with a huge number of collaborators. In fact, I have spent considerable time with those collaborators myself.
      Please see, I do not talk about merely Kashmiri Pandits or Kashmiri Muslims in my article. I talk about the people of Kashmir, irrespective of their religion. And when I say, “all the Kashmiris suspected of being militants”, I do not mean that ALL people living in Kashmir are seen as militants. What I mean is, a majority of them are still considered to be in some or the other way involved in militancy and terrorism.
      Tanvi, this is not a biased article aimed at one community or religion in Kashmir. Please do not overlook the fact that Kashmiris, Muslims or Hindus or Kashmiri Pandits, everyone is and has been affected by 1989 crisis.

      A suggested read for you Tanvi, “Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights and the History of Kashmir” by Mridu Rai. This might give you an insight about the Kashmiri Pandit community and how they fit into the dispute and about their ‘exodus’ too.

      I found the book really enriching. Hope you like it too. 🙂

  2. A ‘suspected’ militant

    “almost all Kashmiris are suspected of being militants”. I think the author has gone insane. She pretends as if she knows everything about the Kashmir issue. But I’m sorry Ma’am you need to read more. Anyways, well tried..

  3. Sugam Singhal

    I wish there was a way for anyone to know everything about the issue. Sadly, no one is an expert here. I am no Kashmir conflict expert but this was mere an opinion. I have given facts and figures to argument my statements. But, thank you for thinking of it as a ‘well tried’ write-up. I will sure work more on my language and writing skills to improve for the better.
    And here I thought people might be more interested in talking about the issue rather than about my knowledge of the issue.

  4. I’m a Kashmiri and I’m not a MILITANT

    Ma’am I never said a word about your language and writing skills. Rather than working on your writing skills, please work on your knowledge about the issue. You just simply said ‘All Kashmiris are suspected of being militants’, but do you even realize the scale of negative impact this statement might have on Kashmiris and to any person who doesn’t know about the issue and reads this post. Kashmir is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world and anything said in favour of or against Kashmiris must be well thought. On what ground did you say that ‘all Kashmiris are suspected of being militants’?

    I feel deeply for the Kashmir issue myself. I’d also love to debate about the subject but not on the basis of any half-baked write up.

    1. Sugam Singhal

      Exactly my point. You are a Kashmiri and you are not a militant.
      The sentence is greatly misunderstood by you.
      Also, I do realize the repercussions of such a write-up. I am neither Pro nor Anti- Kashmir. Neither is my article. I, in no way and under no circumstances, mean to hurt anyone’s sentiments. Also, please point out where I’ve written, “All Kashmiris are suspected of being militants”. I would also like to know by what measures is the article ‘half-baked’?
      Where is it that I have written incomplete or inconclusive facts or arguments?

      Please understand, it is an opinion. An opinion which simply can not be forced on anyone. And most importantly, the issue was, in my views, the unjust hanging of Guru. I ask again, “Are we punishing the right people?”

  5. Raj

    I think we should treat Kashmir like any other state, remove the military rule and allow free migration to and fro

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