Afzal Guru, the man who attacked the temple of Indian democracy
New Delhi: Mohammad Afzal Guru, was a Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist convicted of the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament and was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of India in 2002. The sentence was scheduled to be carried out on 20 October 2006. Afzal was given a stay of execution and remained on death row. On 8th Feb, 2013, his mercy petition was rejected. He was hanged early morning on 9th Feb, 2013 at Delhi's Tihar Jail.
He hailed from the Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir. He had completed the first year of his MBBS course and was preparing for IAS exams. However, he became a member of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front where he received terrorist training and became involved in terrorist activities. Unhappy with the situation there, he moved back to Kashmir and surrendered to the Border Security Force.
His native place is Sopore and he was doing a commission agency business, it was during this business venture that he came into contact with Tariq of Anantanag , who motivated him to join Jihad for liberation of Kashmir and assured him of financial assistance, Tariq introduced him to other millitants from Ghaziabad, Pakistan who were proclaimed offenders in Kashmir who further exhorted him to join the movement and apprised him of the mission to carry out attacks on important institutions in India like Parliament and Embassies and asked him to find a safe hideout for the 'Fidayeens' in Delhi.
He was the master mind behind the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. The attack was conducted jointly by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). Seven members of the security forces, including a female constable, were killed, as were the five still incompletely identified men who carried out the attack.
Afzal Guru was convicted of the following charges:
• Recovery of explosives from his place of hideout in Delhi.
• Conspiring to commit and knowingly facilitated the commission of a terrorist act or acts preparatory to terrorist act and also voluntarily harbored and concealed the deceased terrorists knowing that such persons were terrorists and were the members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, a banned terrorist organization, which is involved in acts of terrorism and hence committed an offence punishable under Section 3(3) (4) and (5) of Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act(POTA).
• Possession of Rs. 10 lakhs given to him by the terrorists who were killed by the police when they had attacked the Indian Parliament.
• He was arrested on December 12, 2001 along with Shaukat and later on explosives were found from their hideout in Delhi. Eighty witnesses were examined for the prosecution and ten were examined for defense. The judgment mentioned:
• The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, has shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender.
• On December 19, 2001 he made a confession of the offenses which was recorded and was signed by him. He also confirmed having made the confessional statement without any threat or pressure.
• He was convicted for the offences under Sections 121, 121A, 122, Section 120B read with Sections 302 & 307 read with Section 120B IPC, sub-Sections (2), (3) & (5) of Section 1, 3(4), 4(b)of POTA and Sections 3 & 4 of Explosive Substances Act. He was also sentenced to life imprisonment on as many as eight counts under the provisions of IPC, POTA and Explosive Substances Act in addition to varying amounts of fine.
• An appeal was made to the Delhi High Court but after going through the case and taking in consideration various authorities and precedents, the Court found that the conviction of Afzal Guru was safe and hence his appeal was dismissed.
There was an appeal to issue clemency to Afzal from various human rights groups including political groups in Kashmir, who believed that Afzal Guru did not receive a fair trial and was subjected to a frame up of corrupt and inefficient police work.
Human rights activists in various parts of India and the world have demanded reprieve as they believe that the trial was flawed.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and local political groups voiced their support of clemency for Afzal. It is alleged many have done so to appease Muslim voters in India.
Veteran lawyer Ram Jethmalani held that it is completely within the President's power to commute the Death sentence and is not a mercy plea. He said, it’s a misnomer to call it a mercy petition. It leads to total misunderstanding of the constitutional power. The constitutional power is that the President has the power to disagree with the Supreme Court both with its findings of fact and law.
The Jammu and Kashmir People's Democratic Party president and MP, Mehbooba Mufti commented that the Centre should pardon Afzal if Pakistan accepted the clemency appeal for Sarabjit Singh. Mehbooba said that if clemency appeals were made for Sarabjit citing his Indian nationality, voices should also be raised for Afzal for ‘he too is an Indian citizen’. She had said two citizens of India cannot be treated with different yardsticks.
However, the All-India Anti-Terrorist Front Chairman Maninderjeet Singh Bitta urged the President of India not to accept any clemency pleas on Afzal's behalf. He warned that his organization would launch agitations if Afzal was pardoned. He also criticized statements of various political leaders and blamed them for encouraging activities of militants in Jammu and Kashmir. On 12 November 2006, the former Deputy Prime Minister of India, Lal Krishna Advani criticized the delay in carrying out the death sentence on Guru for the Parliament terror attack, saying that he fails to understand the delay. They have increased my security. But what needs to be done immediately is to carry out the court's orders.
On 10 August 2011, the home ministry of India rejected the mercy petition, and sent a letter to the President of India recommending the death penalty. On 7 September 2011, a high intensity bomb blast outside Delhi high court killed 11 people and left 76 others injured. In an e-mail sent to a media house Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, an Islamic fundamentalist organization, owned responsibility for the attack and claimed the blast was carried out in retaliation to Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's death sentence.
On 16 November 2012, the President Pranab Mukherjee had sent back to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) seven cases, including the one on Afzal Guru.
The news of his hanging has been welcomed by opposition parties. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah had repeatedly stressed that his hanging will have serious repercussions in the valley.
Heavy security cover has been thrown around the Kashmir valley, following the news of hanging. Curfew has been imposed in major part of the valley, including Srinagar. Afzal Guru's hometown, Sopore is under curfew as well.
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