Nation on high alert, Centre closely monitoring situation in J&K

In a top secret operation Saturday morning, the 2001 Parliament attack case convict Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged and buried inside the Tihar jail complex.

With this ended the decade-long uncertainty over the execution of the surrendered militant from Sopore, Kashmir, as his mercy petition got caught up in a political slugfest between the Congress-led UPA government and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

“He was hanged at 8 o’clock… All legal procedures were followed in the execution. The President [Pranab Mukherjee] rejected the mercy petition… on February 3 and after that I gave my approval on February 4… The date and timing [of the hanging] was confirmed by a judicial official,” Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told journalists here.

“The new President sent back all mercy petitions for reconsideration... I examined the file carefully and recommended to the President on January 21 for rejection of Afzal Guru’s petition,” the Home Minister added.

“His family was informed about the decision of the government to reject his mercy petition… This was done through Speed Post,” Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh told journalists here.

The letter clearly did not reach in time: Guru’s family in Sopore, including his wife, said they received no word about his imminent execution.

‘He was normal’

“He was calm and happy at the time of execution. He spent the night before in his cell calmly and everything about him was normal,” Director General (Prisons) Vimla Mehra told The Hindu.

Afzal Guru was woken up around 5 a.m. after which he offered namaz. He was served tea and medically examined before being taken to the gallows near his cell in Jail No.3.

“The normal procedure was followed in the hanging. He was healthy and his blood pressure was normal. A doctor, a magistrate, a hangman and a maulvi were present at the time of execution, besides some jail officials,” said Ms. Mehra.

Asked if he had any last wish, Ms. Mehra said there was no provision for it in the jail manual.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had rejected Guru’s petition in 2011 and forwarded it to Pratibha Patil, who was President at the time. Ms. Patil chose not to act, but when Mr. Mukherjee took over as President last year, he returned all pending mercy petitions, including that of Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab — the Mumbai terror attack case convict — for reconsideration after Mr. Shinde took over as Home Minister in August 2012.

But before the Centre gave a go-ahead for the hanging, security across the country, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, was beefed up to avert any backlash. The MHA also issued an advisory to all State governments to remain on high alert.

Afzal Guru was convicted of playing a central role in the entire conspiracy leading to the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001. He had been on death row for the past 10 years since he was first convicted and sentenced by a special court in December 2002, while his death penalty was upheld by the Supreme Court on August 4, 2005.

Body not given to kin

In another controversial decision, the government decided not to hand over Guru’s body to his family members and buried it inside the jail complex. “It was a conscious decision… we feared that his funeral could have been used to trigger violence and disturb peace in the Kashmir valley,” a senior MHA official said.

In the case of Ajmal Kasab, neither his family nor the Pakistani government agreed to receive the body for last rites.

In November last year, the Laskhar-e-Taiba terrorist Kasab was hanged and buried in the Pune jail after his petition was also rejected by the President.

Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh were the last persons to be hanged in Tihar Jail on January 6, 1989, in the Indira Gandhi assassination case.

Also read: Editorial - Dec.18, 2002: The Parliament Attack Case

News Analysis: Few straight answers yet

Editorial - Dec 20, 2002: The death sentences

Editorial - Oct 31, 2003: Justice done

Editorial - Aug 06, 2005: Just acquittal, unjust suspicion

Editorial - Oct 09, 2006: Clemency — for the right reasons

RELATED NEWS

An execution most foulFebruary 19, 2013

Madani anguished over Afzal hangingFebruary 16, 2013

Centre unlikely to return Afzal’s body to familyFebruary 18, 2013

'Out of sync with global trend'February 10, 2013

In Tihar, officials feel ‘tinge of sorrow’February 11, 2013

Delhi police detain senior journalist after Afzal hangingFebruary 10, 2013

Be proud of my stature, Afzal told familyFebruary 17, 2013

Afzal Guru hanging: Better late than never, says Modi February 9, 2013

BJP welcomes Afzal Guru execution February 9, 2013

Stop regressive trend of executions, says AmnestyFebruary 15, 2013

Afzal Guru: A chronology of events February 9, 2013

Clashes despite curfew, SMS and TV banFebruary 9, 2013

Hang Afzal Guru, say kin of victimsDecember 14, 2012

Govt should announce date for hanging Afzal Guru: BJPDecember 13, 2012

“Afzal was calm during his final moments”February 9, 2013

Yasin Malik goes on hunger strike in PakFebruary 9, 2013

‘I don’t wish to be part of the living dead’February 9, 2013

UPA strays off Sonia's courseFebruary 10, 2013

Rajiv case reprieve may have spurred secrecy February 10, 2013

The role of Pranab Mukherjee in Afzal Guru’s hangingFebruary 10, 2013

Kashmir’s tale of two executionsFebruary 10, 2013

Delay in deciding on mercy petitions comes into focusFebruary 10, 2013

Vengeance isn’t justiceFebruary 10, 2013

In Tihar graveyard, a grim reminder of historyFebruary 10, 2013

Unanswered questions are the remains of the dayFebruary 10, 2013

In Bahawalpur, the ruins of a jihadist empireFebruary 10, 2013

The case against AfzalFebruary 10, 2013

Bajrang Dal men, protesters clashFebruary 10, 2013

Better late than never, says slain sub-inspector’s wife February 10, 2013

More In: National | News