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