The desperate politicians
Afzal Guru’s execution is a desperate ploy by a calculating Congress Party
AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
One has often heard Indian Muslim intellectuals warn that there isn’t much of a real difference between the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Their policies are essentially one and the same. The BJP is an open enemy while the Congress obfuscates and plays with us with a sweet tongue before stabbing in the back. The Congress’s history is full of such betrayals, they insist pointing to the fact that nearly all anti-Muslim riots, including the Babri Masjid demolition and the pogrom that followed happened on the party’s watch.
They also blame the pathetic state of the community on the party which has ruled India for the better part of the six and half decades since Independence. While the Muslims have dutifully voted for the Congress election after election, they have been little more than a vote bank for the grand ol’ party. Trying to be all things to all people, it has taken the cynical politics of tokenism and electoral calculus to a whole new level.
Many thought that under Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, not to mention the promise held out by “Yuvraj” waiting in the wings to deliver us all, the party had learnt its lessons. The casual and callous execution of Afzal Guru though proves once again that little has changed. The Congress remains true to its tradition and essential character. A leopard cannot change its spots, can it? The party that once led the Independence movement has repeatedly demonstrated that it can be utterly ruthless and self-serving in its deadly political and electoral calculations.
As this breathless middle class chorus and corporate pining for Modi as the messiah for new India grows, the Congress gets understandably jittery and dangerously desperate. And a desperate party in power could do anything to hold on to it.
First came that swift and surreptitious execution of Ajmal Kasab, the face associated with the 2008 Mumbai carnage. A government under siege over corruption, inflation, security and myriad other issues took the shortest road to salvation. And now Afzal Guru’s execution, which is another desperate attempt to play one above a resurgent BJP and wrest the nationalistic plank from it.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had set the cat among the pigeons with his talk of saffron terror linking the RSS and even BJP to the numerous terror strikes in the country. Shinde’s speech at the Congress session in Jaipur, clearly with the party bosses’ blessings, invited a swift and overwhelming response from the Hindutva brigade and its legion of friends in the media. The party and government were accused of being ‘anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim.’ So what does a Congress anxious about its Hindu vote and Rahul Gandhi’s 2014 prospects do? It goes for another cheap theatric sacrificing another human life at the altar of political expediency.
Who cares if the man, hanging between life and death for 12 years, was indeed guilty or not and whether the so-called due process was followed? This is no defense of the man condemned for the attack on parliament. But didn’t he get a fair trial as all of us as human beings, if not as equal citizens of the great republic, deserve?
In Kasab’s case you could argue he was caught with a gun in his hand, going berserk and killing scores of innocent people. He was a man condemned and he knew it. He elicited no sympathy.
Afzal’s case couldn’t have been more different. There was hardly any clear and circumstantial evidence linking him to the terror attack. A slip of a paper with his name--the evidence, if it can be called that, was far from conclusive. But it was apparently enough to condemn him as the man who aided and abetted in the attack that killed 10 people and shook the country.
Eminent lawyer Nitya Ramakrishnan, who defended Guru’s cousin Shaukat and his wife Afshan Guru, insists that Guru never got a fair trial and accuses security agencies of framing the man. She recalls Guru relating in the court how he was sent to Delhi as part of a ‘special operation’ by the Special Task Force, operating in J&K, setting him up. “Afzal gave names of STF officers who were privy to this operation. The possibility of some truth to this is of much greater significance to national security than Afzal’s life or death in prison,” wrote the lawyer in The Hindu.
Not only did the former medical student receive a shoddy trial based on flimsy evidence in a special terrorism court, condemned by Amnesty International as falling way short of international fair trial standards, he was, as The Hindu put it, “at best a bit-actor in the attack on parliament, and his trial (was) marred by procedural and substantive errors.”
When Guru’s case was sent to Supreme Court, the highest court in the land didn’t declare him outright guilty but came up with a strange explanation: “The incident had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.”
So it’s the society, not the demands of justice, that had to be satisfied. As a friend of mine asks, why do we then need the law, courts and constitution? Just let the society decide the fate of all accused. To quote The Hindu’s fine editorial, Vengeance is not justice, again, “Guru was walked to the gallows to propitiate that most angry of gods, a vengeful public. Through this grim, secret ceremony, however, India has been gravely diminished.”
More disgraceful than the judicial killing has been the manner in which it has been done. At a time when the capital punishment itself has come to be questioned and more or less abandoned by more than 140 countries, you hang someone who spent ten years waiting for death or deliverance without offering him the final legal recourse or even letting his family know.
Guru’s wife and two children were waiting since 2006, pinning hopes as they had on their mercy petition to the president. The soft spoken Pranab Mukherjee lost no time in deciding on a case that had come up before two of his predecessors and was deferred because of its dubious and complex nature.
The president signed away Guru’s death warrant on February 3 and in less than a week he was hanged. In a country where tens of millions of cases have been rotting for decades, wheels of justice turn remarkably fast for some. The killers of Rajiv Gandhi and Punjab chief minister Beant Singh are still awaiting their turn for more than two decades. The worst of killers and mass murderers deserve their last wish. They denied him that—his desire to meet his family before he met his Maker.
Home Secretary RK Singh says with a straight face the government had informed Guru’s family in the distant Kashmir about the end by ‘registered post.’ It’s not the government’s problem if the family receives the registered letter two days after the hanging, as has happened in this case. This government and its Kafkaesque mandarins are yet to discover the existence of mysterious things such as telephone and Internet. There’s no limit to political hypocrisy and disingenuousness.
In a healthy democracy, a vigilant opposition keeps those in power in constant check. In India, the government and opposition are locked in a cynical race to outdo each other in preying on the most vulnerable. Muslims are everyone’s favorite punching bag. Where do they go?
Many analysts, not to mention chief minister Omar Abdullah who quietly acquiesced to the outrage by his allies in Delhi, have warned of a backlash and alienation in Jammu and Kashmir. I am not sure how much more ‘alienation’ the Kashmiris’ tenuous ties with India could withstand. They are already alienated beyond hope. And if the past few days are any indication, things could get ugly in the days and months ahead. And it’s not just the troubled paradise; the reverberations of this judicial killing could be felt across India.
The immediate casualty is the trust and confidence of 200 million Muslims in this government and rule of law. The minority, which has been trying hard to come out of its persecution complex and sense of victimhood, has watched in utter helplessness as innocent, young Muslims are routinely picked up as ‘terrorists’ across the country and beyond.
Religious riots have also made a comeback--from Uttar Pradesh to Andhra Pradesh to Maharashtra. The coldblooded manner in which six Muslim youths were gunned down by Dhule police has even shocked Maharashtra chief minister Chavan. And now this opportunistic killing by a vengeful state presided over by a calculating party, shrugging off all Gandhian pretenses of non-violence and secularism. If the Congress thinks the Muslims would forgive and forget come 2014, it had better think again.
(The News International)
Lastupdate on : Mon, 18 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 18 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 19 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST
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