"Afzal’s execution was not selective"

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Monday rejected Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s charges, saying that Afzal Guru’s execution was neither “selective” nor a “political decision,” but carried out “according to rules.” He also said the Centre would consider allowing Guru’s family to visit his grave inside the Tihar Jail complex.

“In the cases of [former Prime Minister] Rajiv Gandhi and the [Punjab] Chief Minister [Beant Singh], the cases are still pending in Supreme Court. After rejection [of the mercy petitions of the convicts] cases were filed in the Madras High Court and Supreme Court … These cases are still under consideration before the judiciary. Hence it [Afzal Guru’s case] is different from these cases,” Mr. Shinde told journalists here.

Notably, on Sunday, Mr. Abdullah had questioned why political parties, particularly the BJP, were not pressing for the hanging of killers of Rajiv Gandhi or Beant Singh. “You will have to prove to the world that the death penalty is not used selectively. The onus rests on the judiciary and the political leadership to show that this wasn’t a selective execution … If that [Afzal Guru’s hanging] was to be the last execution of people who attacked Indian democracy, I would call it a political decision,” Mr. Abdullah had said.

The Home Minister also said the hanging was carried out as per rules and there was no politics behind it. “Usually the President signs on the mercy petition and the Home Ministry sends it [to authorities] for execution. Even in the other cases, the files were sent to the States concerned ... There they [convicts] went for appeal,” he noted.

Mr. Shinde also defended the government’s action to carry out the hanging in utter secrecy. “The issue was sensitive and secrecy had to be maintained … If that is done [people are informed of executions in advance], the country will not run,” he asserted, and said that those in the death row whose mercy plea have been rejected by the President were not being hanged as their matter was also in the court.

Asked about the Afzal Guru family’s wish to visit his grave inside the Tihar Jail where he was buried after his hanging, Mr. Shinde said: “If they want to go [to the grave], it can be considered.” Afzal Guru’s family has expressed a desire to offer “fathiah namaz” [prayer at the grave] and take his belongings.

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