People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 07

February 17, 2013




On The Hanging of Afzal Guru


AFTER the hanging of Mohd. Afzal Guru in the parliament attack case many questions have surfaced. The press conference addressed by the home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde has reinforced these questions. He has admitted that Afzal Guru was speedily executed to avoid any appeal to the court after the rejection of his mercy petition.


There has been a prolonged legal and judicial process in the case. Afzal Guru was sentenced to death in December 2002 and the case went in appeal to the High Court and the Supreme Court. After the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty in August 2005, a mercy petition by his wife was sent to the president in October 2006. The president rejected the petition on February 3, 2013.


The manner in which the death sentence was executed has come in for valid criticism. The rejection of the mercy petition was not informed to the convict and the family and time given for approaching the Courts on this issue. The family of Afzal Guru was not given the opportunity to meet him for the last time. That a letter by registered and speed post was sent to the family informing them about the rejection of the mercy petition and the date of execution makes this act of commission all the more glaring and callous.


The execution of the sentence at this time has also raised a more important issue. There are other persons who have been sentenced to death for terrorist related offences. In the case of Devenderpal Singh Bhullar, his mercy petition was rejected. Another person Balwant Singh Rajoana is facing death sentence in the case of the assassination of the then chief minister of Punjab, Beant Singh. Yet another case is of the three persons convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and whose death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court. The president had rejected their mercy petitions. Subsequently, they went to court and got their execution stayed by the Madras High Court.


Unlike in these cases, the rejection of the mercy petition of Afzal Guru was followed by his instant hanging. In all these cases, political considerations have determined the implementation of the judicial verdicts. In Tamilnadu, the state assembly has passed a resolution asking for the commutation of the death sentence of the three persons. The Akali Dal led government of Punjab has opposed the execution of the death sentence in the Punjab cases. There was a bandh observed in Punjab against the hanging of Rajoana, after which the execution was stayed by the union government.


The people of Kashmir can conclude that Afzal Guru has been hanged given various political considerations and that this is a selective execution. The UPA government has responded to the vociferous demand raised by the BJP and Narendra Modi that Afzal Guru should be hanged. The feeling that a Kashmiri is expendable while those from other parts of India are not will only be reinforced. The problems faced in Kashmir are going to be further aggravated. With the UPA government singularly failing to take any concrete steps for advancing the political dialogue and a political solution, the way Afzal Guru was executed will only fuel more alienation and separatist feelings.


The case for the abolition of the death penalty is a strong one and highly relevant. The CPI(M) is presently engaged in a discussion to review its position on the matter.


In the meantime, the shrill jingoism and triumphalism displayed by the BJP and the corporate media has to be strongly deplored. For the BJP, the fight against terrorism has become a partisan political platform to serve their narrow political interests.

 (February 13, 2013)