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

Posted on July 21, 2013 in Society

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.