//Afzal Guru

Afzal Guru

Urdu press roundup

By IndianMuslims.info Staff

Come October 20, and Muhammad Afzal Guru will be sent to gallows at 6.30 a.m. for masterminding the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament. This seems to be writ on the wall despite mercy appeals being made to President A.P.J. Abul Kalam from various quarters. Whether or not the much-sought-after clemency is granted, there are some vital questions about capital punishment being discussed in the Urdu press, which has been covering the issue very extensively with charged human interest.

The fatal day for Afzal, October 20, coincides with Jumatul Wida or Last Friday of Ramadan, which holds utmost importance in the Muslim society.

The verdict to hang Afzal was pronounced about four years ago. Later Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court also put its stamp on the punishment. And now since the date and time of his hanging to death was announced, the Kashmir valley has been witnessing protest marches both for and against Afzal’s capital punishment. While Hindutva brigades especially in Jammu have been making a demand to hang Afzal, the Muslim majority of the valley has appealed to the President to grant clemency.

The separatist organisations of the valley were the first to raise voices in support of Afzal Guru as they say that Afzal is innocent and has fallen victim to the biased mentality of police and intelligence. “There is no dearth of people in Kashmir who say that those who had attacked Parliament are freedom fighters. But this is also a bitter truth that no organisation whatsoever has yet taken the responsibility of that attack,” says the Hindustan Express (October 3) in its editorial.

On the call given by Ali Shah Gilani of Hurriyat Conference and his supporters, strike and protests are going on in the valley.

State Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Front president Mahbooba Mufti are among those who stand for clemency. Ms. Mufti believes that at a time when India is making efforts to bring all the differences with Pakistan to an end and establish peaceful and friendly relations with Pakistan, it would be sheer foolishness to hang Afzal. She is of the view that all political parties in Jammu and Kashmir should jointly appeal to the President of India to grant clemency to Afzal and transform his capital punishment to life imprisonment.

Unlike Congress, P.D.P., C.P.I.(M) and other important parties of the valley, the Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and BJP are of the view that an attack on Parliament is in fact an attack on India; so in such a case there is the need for serious political response. The BJP has started accusing the ruling party that the latter has adopted the strategy of appeasing Muslims even at the cost of national stability.

The Akhbar-e-Mashriq (October 1) has editorially criticised the Congress’ dual policy. “In this entire episode the Congress stands in a to-do-or-not-to-do situation. Some Congressmen feel that when with the interference of Sonia Gandhi, the murderer of Rajiv Gandhi was given life imprisonment instead of hanging to death then why the same principle cannot be adopted in the case of Afzal Guru. While the Congress spokesman Abhishekh Sanghvi in a statement said he is neither supporting the proposal of Ghulam Nabi Azad nor rejecting it.”

The Akhbar-e-Mashriq editorial further said: “The problem with Congress is that whenever it comes across a difficult situation it turns the other way round while the need is that a decision is taken in time in the light of the Constitution and law of the land… the Congress spokesman should have clearly said that the party would respect law and the Constitution and if the court has pronounced the judgement only after due consideration then the party would not say anything.”

The Hindutva parties have however launched a movement against the supporters of Afzal. They have been protesting not only in Jammu and but in other parts of the country as well. They put the effigies of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on fire in Lucknow.

Commenting on the incident, the Express (October 3) editorially writes: “Let us ask those who are burning the effigies of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh for their (so-called) support to Afzal as to what message they want to give to the world by doing so. Do they consider even the Prime Minister a ‘supporter of terrorists’? These self-styled patriots and nationalists in fact do not have any consideration for justice and humanity nor do they have any concern for the integrity of the country. These elements that are ever willing to go to any length to achieve their political ends have proved that they have not even a bit consideration for the Constitution and law of the land. Ghulam Nabi Azad is one of those patriotic leaders whose patriotism is beyond any doubt and suspicion. He is chief minister of the state and whatever he has said about seeking clemency for Afzal is within the parameters of the Constitution and law of the land. But communal organisations are out to strangulate justice. They are accusing him of supporting terrorism, and raising slogans that Azad has no right to be the chief minister. Everyone knows well how these champions of nationalism are promoting and abetting communalism and terrorism on a large scale in the country. But neither the Congress nor the government has guts to bridle them.”

The Express editorial concludes thus: “Those who are giving communal colour to the issue of hanging Afzal to death or those who are exploiting it for their political ends should feel that they are playing with the national integrity of India. Those who consider their political strategy dearer than integrity of the country and national interest cannot be truly faithful to India. Whether it is the issue of supporting or opposing Afzal’s capital punishment, it cannot be the real issue for a true Indian; the real issue is that justice and humanity is put to stake at any cost.”

Muhammad Sharafat Ali in his edit-page article in the Express (October 3) has made it clear that no one holds brief for terrorists but it is also equally true that in the process of combating terrorism innocent persons are framed and persecuted. “Targeting innocents in the name of combating terrorism is a matter of concern; a matter of more serious concern is that real terrorists are given clean chit in view of political expediency and some innocent person is sacrificed as a scapegoat,” he writes.

“Though the Apex Court has confirmed the capital punishment for Afzal, the issue demands a fresh and fair investigation as a majority of people believe that the real intent of the attackers was not to blow up Parliament. To them the details of the Parliament attack reveal that the attackers’ entry into Parliament and about half an hour battle with the security forces was the axis of some greater destructive act; but the nuances of the circumstances did not allow it to happen. Therefore it is the duty of the Government of India to get it probed afresh to ascertain the key players behind it and if the real intent of the attackers was not to blow up Parliament then what it was,” the writer continues.

In a front-paged report the Express of October 4 cites N.D. Pancholi, advocate for Afzal Guru, as saying that there is no proof to prove Afzal’s involvement in the Parliament attack conspiracy, and the Supreme Court itself has said in its judgement that ‘the capital punishment has been pronounced to satisfy the collective sentiments of the nation and society’. Mr. Pancholi said hanging Afzal Guru to death would be an injustice to him. Meanwhile, Advocate Nandita Haksar said that certain legal flaws have been made basis of the mercy appeal to the President. He
said the very process of investigation was full of flaws. The Express report reminds the readers that Afzal was deprived of legal defence in the lower court, and the case was affected in the High Court.

According to the report Mr. Jagmohan Singh, grandson of active freedom fighter Bhagat Singh who was hanged to death in the British period, and renowned film producer Anand Patwardhan have appealed to the President to grant clemency to Afzal. In an open letter to the President they have argued against the very concept of punishment: “Maybe, today Afzal is a terrorist but he was not born as a terrorist and he should not die as a terrorist. Circumstances have made him what he is today. And the circumstances can again change him. But capital punishment cannot change anyone.”

The Express of October 2 has published the opinions of the family members, classmates and friends of Afzal Guru, which present Afzal as a man of education, art, poetry and extremism, and which confirm the idea that the circumstances to which he had been subjected to had made him what he is today.

October 5, 2006