When the clerk at the 24-hour Speed Post booking counter at the Bhai Veer Singh Mark post office near Gole Market in Delhi got an envelope from the Superintendent of Tihar Jail No. 3 just after Thursday midnight, he took it as a “normal letter,” for he was not told that it carried information about the hanging of Afzal Guru.

He issued a booking receipt at 12.04 a.m. and kept it with other mail to be sent to Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, the day before the execution of the Parliament attack case convict. The India Post bundle carrying the letter from the jail reached the airport after 7.30 a.m. But by the time the formalities could be completed, the flight had left for Srinagar.

“Normally, it takes at least four to five hours to complete the formalities for Speed Post parcels to Jammu and Kashmir, such as security checks and issue of delivery bills. As the last flight that carries mail to Srinagar left at 11.30 a.m., the letter was scheduled to be despatched only on Saturday, the day Afzal was hanged. Had the Tihar Jail authorities told us about the special delivery, we would have ensured that the letter was delivered before or on Saturday,” a senior Department of Posts official told The Hindu.

It was only when news of Afzal Guru’s hanging started flashing on news channels on Saturday morning and his family said that they had not received any letter, as claimed by Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, that senior postal officials swung into action, reportedly on enquiry by Union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal, in charge of the department.

However, the mail could be traced only after it reached Srinagar after 11.30 a.m. on Saturday. But India Post officials could not do anything that day as Srinagar and most parts of the Kashmir Valley, including Afzal’s hometown, Sopore, was under curfew. And the next day being Sunday and major cities still under curfew, the letter remained in Srinagar.

It was only on the morning of Monday that special arrangements were made to get the letter delivered. Finally, around 11 a.m., Afzal’s wife, Tabassum, got the letter at her residence in Jageer, 6 km from Sopore, telling what she and her family already knew.

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