Special Correspondent

"Did not react to media reports as the news had reduced the intensity of the agitation in the State"

  • Better to put someone behind bars for life
  • No difference of opinion with party on the issue

    NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday said he did not seek clemency for Afzal Guru, who was sentenced to death in the Parliament attack case, during a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    He, however, made it clear that he was against capital punishment.

    The media reported that "sources close to the Chief Minister'' told them that he took the clemency issue with the Prime Minister, without bothering to speak to him.

    "I chose not to react at that time as the news had reduced the intensity of the agitation in the State," he said.

    "Why did I not contradict is a question you would ask. First, I did not make any appeal and second, as a Chief Minister if it [the purported plea] has put a lid on the agitation, why should I say something wittingly or unwittingly to take that lid off,'' Mr. Azad told correspondents at a book release function here. Reports surfaced after he briefed Dr. Singh in Chandigarh on the two agitations in the State one for increasing the quota of Haj pilgrims and another seeking clemency for Afzal Guru.

    While briefing some correspondents later on what he told the Prime Minister, reports began appearing that he took up the mercy issue with Dr. Singh. Mr. Azad said the demand of all mainstream parties in the State, seeking clemency did not mean that the convict be set free.

    In his opinion it was better to put someone behind bars for life and make him go through the ordeal instead of taking his life and relieving it in an instant. "Life imprisonment is more rigorous and more painful. I would now like to close the chapter.''

    Asked whether his silence on the issue was linked to national sentiments, Mr. Azad said the media whipped it up and remaining silent was his choice. "You have to run a 24-hour news channel, I have to run a State administration.''

    Earlier, releasing a book on Jammu, written by Parvez Dewan, he said linking Kashmir to Pakistan was incorrect as there was nothing common between the people of Kashmir and those on the other side of the border.

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