The cowardly and inhumane hanging of Afzal Guru by the government and the pain of being an Indian Muslim

Kasab was a terrorist from across the border – a man who was seen killing innocent Indians, by millions, almost live on TV! He had to be hanged and announcing it in advance could have created international cross-border tension. His secret hanging was understandable though the political calculations in the times of a fast rising pro-Narendra Modi wave and an intention to extract credit was apparent. Although there was euphoria around the Kasab hanging, the fact is that the hanging didn't benefit the government – it at best reduced ammunition in the hands of the BJP to criticize Congress. The government apparently didn't learn lessons from that episode. With the intention of creating another wave of euphoria, this time they executed Afzal Guru in a similar fashion. Guru, however, can by no stretch of imagination be equated with Kasab. In fact, his is a case where the veracity about his very involvement has been questioned by far too many intellectuals, Arundhati Roy included. In the book titled 13 December, a Reader: The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament, Praful Bidwai – one of the contributors – makes a most compelling argument. Afzal was tried under POTA, but sentenced under the Indian Penal Code. POTA clearly differentiates between committing a terrorist act resulting in death (punishable by death) and conspiracy in the act (punishable by life imprisonment). While the book finds out endless loopholes in the government theory and charges created on Afzal, the way he was threatened and tortured, at least one thing is very clear – that Guru had at the most conspired to the act; yet, that allegation too, as I just said, is very debatable, despite the Supreme Court’s verdict. And if conspiracy is the main crime, then in that case the death sentence itself is a debatable punishment, though I have to accept that like many others – before I had read enough on the matter and especially this particular book – I too was happy at the death sentence and unhappy at the delay in the hanging, since the media was running its own judgment on who the culprit was and creating a massive villain out of Guru.

But today, upon hearing the news of his hanging, I am shocked! I have three key questions running in my mind:

1. Is the Indian State so weak that it cannot bravely announce the hanging of a terrorist in advance and then hang him, as is normal practice? What kind of utter shameful cowardice is this?

2. In these days of growing human rights and the worldwide humane movement towards abolishment of capital punishment, how can a government commit this inhuman act of not informing the family in advance and not allowing a man to meet his family before his death? What kind of a shameful society are we living in, which first gives a debatable verdict and then denies a man his basic rights before something as extreme as capital punishment?

3. Has the government already conceded defeat to Narendra Modi and started doing illogical and mindlessly inhumane acts, which will in no way give them any extra credit? And is there no one with sound mind to advice the roughshod losers out there looking for cheap, atrocious shortcuts to popularity?

I think my answers are within my questions, so I do not want to delve further on them. However, I should like to quote (from Arundhati Roy’s introduction in the abovementioned book) what the DSP of Special Task Force, Devinder Singh – the man who had interrogated Afzal – had barbarically told a freelance journalist openly. He had said, “I did interrogate and torture him in my camp for several days… His description of torture in the camp is true… We did pour petrol in his ass and gave him electric shocks. But I could not break him… He looked like a 'Bhondu'…a 'chootiya' type. And I had a reputation for torture, interrogation and breaking suspects. If anybody came out clean [after undergoing my interrogation], nobody would ever touch him again. He would be considered clean for good…" This statement of Devinder Singh does make one thing clear – that despite Guru's past links with terrorists (which he always had admitted to and whom he said he was trying to reform), even the morbidly truculent DSP interrogating him couldn't be sure that Guru was still involved with terrorists. Rest, I leave it upon the reader to decide.

I, however, wish to end on a different note – the tragedy of being an Indian Muslim. And that is, they are the people who are kept the poorest, with the least access to education, health and livelihood, like the Dalits in India. But at the same time, they are sucked and exploited by various political parties for petty gains; and every other pseudo-intellectual who wishes to prove his secular credentials bends backwards to argue on their behalf, even when Muslims go wrong. Yet, after all this, Muslims live in fear, are meted out clearly unequal treatment and remain perennially marginalized. I dream of a nation soon where all those being marginalized and treated so unfairly and unequally, from the Dalits to the Muslims, are given great access to education, health, employment and justice, so that in the first place, they never think of wrong ways; and if they do, they are given a chance to reform and get fair justice at the least. And those who finally still need to be hanged – if that’s the only way out – are given a fair, civilized and humane treatment even while being hanged. By a nation that is brave enough to do it openly and boldly and not like the current cowardly, human rights violating, spineless parasites.

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