The recent events in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU ) has in fact brought to the fore some of the grave issues that India face as a modern democratic and secular republic. In fact, this and other similar instances lay bare the claim by leaders about the values on which the nation is built. The statement by former home minister P Chidambaram on the execution of Afzal Guru in the Parliament attack case poses serious questions how justice is delivered in the country which espouses ideas of democracy and secularism. Chidambaram has said that it is possible to hold an honest opinion that Guru’s case was perhaps not decided correctly. “ Being in government you can’t say the court has decided the case wrongly because it was the government that prosecuted him. But an independent person can hold an opinion that the case was not decided correctly,” he said. The statement should make all those to hang their heads in shame who believe that Indian jurisprudence is rooted in the principle that even if a thousand guilty go scot free, no innocent should be punished.
What is alarming is how political actors reacted to Chidambaram’s statement. While BJP used it to whip up frenzy around nationalism, the Congress whose government took the decision to execute Guru, ostensibly to extract political mileage distanced itself from Chidambaram’s statement. Though it will be easy for the politicians to invoke issues to suit their needs, the state owes an explanation to Guru’s kin, if one of the most powerful minister of the government was not sure of his involvement in the Parliament attack case.
Political parties cannot ignore Guru’s wife Tabasum’s statement that “It is for creating a vote bank in the name of Afzal people associated with Guru’s execution are now claiming that his case was wrongly decided”. Chidambaram owes an explanation to the people about this belated admission. As home minister, he had scant regard for the doubts expressed by rights activists during Guru’s prosecution. He was one politician who pressed for very tough laws to quell extremism, of all hues. If the incidents in JNU had not happened, how long would have Chidambaram kept quiet? The lawyer-politician should explain why the UPA government pushed for the execution of Guru, despite his belief that the case was wrongly decided? Was Guru hanged just to score brownie points over the BJP ? Unless he comes clean on this, governments will continue to use the bogey of terror to further their sectarian politics. This assumes importance when even top leaders are charged with treason for expressing their dissent against government and its divisive policies.