Youth organisation holds candle-light vigil demanding reinvestigation of Guru’s case, appeals to President to commute his sentence
A candle light vigil was observed by a group of college students against the impending hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. They were demanding a re-investigation into the case and along with a plea to the President of India to commute his death sentence. The students had assembled under the banner of an NGO Global Youth Foundation (GYF).
“Guru’s testimony in court has raised some questions about the probe. We therefore seek re-investigation of the case,” Touseef Raina, Chairman GYF, said. “We appeal to the President of India to commute the death sentence of Afzal Guru. He has already served more than a decade in prison and has undergone the great torture and anguish of a death sentence,” he added.
It was a small group of students carrying lit candles and a banner that held a silent vigil at the Press Enclave. Most of the students were from Baramulla Degree College, which is located in Guru’s home district.
The growing talk of Guru’s hanging after 26/11 Mumbai attack terrorist Ajmal Kasab’s was hanged has caused some unease in the Valley. Separatist groups such as Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Hurriyat factions have threatened to turn the hanging into an issue. JKLF supremo Yasin Malik has warned of disastrous consequences if Guru is hanged.
“Kashmiris were not familiar with any kind of violence until JKLF founder Mohammad Maqbool Bhat was hanged at Tihar Jail in 1984. History bears witness to the fact that after his hanging every Kashmiri household gave birth to thousands of Maqbools,” Malik said. “If India repeats the mistake and takes any wrong decision about Mohammad Afzal Guru, it will have disastrous consequences for the whole region,” he said.
Similarly Hurriyat G chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has said that Guru is not a criminal. He termed him “an icon of Kashmiri resistance” and consequently hanging him would be tantamount to harming the “Kashmiri nation”.
Geelani said that Guru was not given a fair probe and was sentenced to death on police reports. “Guru was not allowed to have a counsel, nor was he produced before the court. He was given death sentence based on police reports. How can we call such a person criminal?” Geelani asked.
Sensing public mood, mainstream parties such as National Conference and PDP have also expressed their stance as against the hanging. In a tweet last year, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had referred to the double standards in India in response to the call for clemency for the killers of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Afzal Guru. Abdullah complained that had J-K followed the example of Tamil Nadu by passing a resolution in favour of clemency to Guru, the reaction would not have been as muted. “If J&K Assembly had passed a resolution similar to the Tamil Nadu one for Afzal Guru would the reaction have been as muted? I think not,” Abdullah had said in a tweet in August last year.
JK Assembly had also admitted the resolution for amnesty to Guru in its autumn session last year. However, the resolution failed to come up for vote after the Congress worked up sustained uproar and had led to the adjournment of the assembly.
Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.