The execution of Afzal Guru

Published: February 10, 2013

A member of a social group holds a placard with a picture of Afzal Guru before burning it during a protest in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad December 13, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

India executed Mohammed Afzal Guru, a former fruit seller, for his role in the 2001 parliament bombing, on the morning of February 9. Guru was found guilty of conspiring with and sheltering the militants who attacked the parliament building in New Delhi. He was also held guilty of being a member of the banned jihadi group Jaish-e-Mohammed.

This is the second execution India has carried out since 2004. The first was the hanging of the sole gunman, Ajmal Kasab, caught alive following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in November last year. Guru was hanged at Tihar Jail. Guru’s hanging is controversial because his case was hotly contested by him, along with several activists who claimed that the case against him was fabricated. Political activist Arundhati Roy in an article in Outlook in 2006, also noted inconsistencies in his case, including a remark by the Supreme Court which had said that there was no direct evidence to suggest that he was a member of any terrorist group.

The two hangings can also be seen as India taking decisive action against those who wish to harm the Indian state, an action long demanded by many in the country, and perhaps, most strongly by right wing Hindu groups. However, there is a strong perception, even in India that the case against Guru was not watertight. Hence, in such a situation, to hang a person is likely to provoke protest and strong outrage, something that was seen in Indian-held Kashmir immediately following the hanging.

Inevitably, the Kashmiris’ sense of alienation will increase after this, and this was perhaps pre-empted by New Delhi as it effectively placed the Valley under a curfew. As summed up by Syed Ali Geelani, “his (Afzal Guru’s) hanging once again proves that the Kashmiris can never expect justice from India”. By hanging Guru, India is, in fact, inflaming the very sentiment it wishes to suppress, for the tag “unjust and cruel” is one it can ill-afford to wear in its aspirations to become a world leader. Furthermore, it only serves to reinforce the perception among most Kashmiris that when it comes to them, India always has a double standard.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2013.

Reader Comments (36)

  • John B
    Feb 10, 2013 - 1:09AM

    The weekend editorial staff are living in their own la la land and the jurists of India are stupid and Roy is a heroine and humanist.

    The editorial writes how PAK should not talk to TTP and at the same breath says how India is wrong in hanging a confessed criminal who did jihad by aiding and abetting non state actors supported from PAK against India’s parliament.

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  • gp65
    Feb 10, 2013 - 2:17AM

    Guru’s case was contested but he was not denied due process. He was not denied the right to appeal. After receiving due process if a manis convicted according to the punishment laid down in the IPC, it can hardly be considered unjust.

    As a principle I am against death penalty, but to say that the court verdict against Guru was unjust is simply not anchored in reality.

    The comparison with Bhagat Singh as many have sought to do is also unfair. Bhagat Singh bombed the parliament at night when it was not in session. The only person that he killed was the police that he believed was responsible for Lala Lajpat Rai’s death. He did not attack civilians. Finally, he never denied what he had done and did not seek a mercy petition. That makes him at rue martyr.

    Guru was trying to attack a parliament in session and kill innocent civilians. He denied having attempted to bomb the parliament and also appealed for mercy. Is that how a martyr behaves?

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  • Raj - USA
    Feb 10, 2013 - 2:27AM

    The next step India should take is to repeal the special status for Kashmir. May be Modi will do it………….. Inshallah.

    However, cannot fail to admire the courage of India’s President Pranab Mukherjee. Took tough decisions on Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru.

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  • Feb 10, 2013 - 2:47AM

    Afzal guru was tried under due process of law and found guilty and punishment accorded . the indian judicial system has the image o conducting fair trial.The delay in execution was not understandable/ acceptable ( the crime was not ordinary but attack on Parliament and sentiments are attached to respond). Kashmirs also understand the gravity and majority behave with rationale and maturity.

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  • Malatesh
    Feb 10, 2013 - 3:11AM

    @Author,

    Do you think anyone who attack parliament should be showered with petals?
    No matter where he is from, either he is from Kashmiri/Bihari/or any other states of India OR nonstate actor should deserve death penalty.

    If any baloochi attack Pakistani parliament do Pakistan spare him?

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  • Deb; India
    Feb 10, 2013 - 3:24AM

    Rest assured that even if the case would have been water tight, the accusation of injustice would still be thrown at India. And this is no reflection on the judgment.

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  • SM
    Feb 10, 2013 - 3:31AM

    Pakistan, a country where there is a terrorist attack on a daily basis I wonder why there is still so much sympathy for a convicted terrorist. There are many things wrong in India, the institution of Supreme Court is not one of them, and even it is as many would argue no country in its right mind has the right or place to question the authority of legitimacy of this institution. However, Pakistan with its daily bombings and terror attacks might do well to what India’s supreme court has done to show that terrorism is not acceptable in any shape or form. However, I will not hold my breath on it.

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  • vasan
    Feb 10, 2013 - 5:58AM

    I think the editorial is incorrect. If anything, it will make India and will appear to be “Not soft on terror”.

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  • akash
    Feb 10, 2013 - 6:31AM

    Inevitably, the Kashmiris’ sense of alienation will increase after this, and this was perhaps pre-empted by New Delhi as it effectively placed the Valley under a curfew. As summed up by Syed Ali Geelani, “his (Afzal Guru’s) hanging once again proves that the Kashmiris can never expect justice from India”. By hanging Guru, India is, in fact, inflaming the very sentiment it wishes to suppress, for the tag “unjust and cruel” is one it can ill-afford to wear in its aspirations to become a world leader. Furthermore, it only serves to reinforce the perception among most Kashmiris that when it comes to them, India always has a double standard.

    He was a terrorist. He killed innocents. India should have hanged him long before. Period. India is not going to mollycoddle terrorists whose only issue with Indians is that they have to live together with ‘Hindus’. Regarding alienation, India has done more than enough for Kashmiris. These guys give a damn about other Kashmiris of the state who do not share their faith. If only Pakistan can mind its own business we can have a peaceful Kashmir. Even Parliament attack was supported by Pakistan. So give us a break. We have been far too kind to terrorists (and Pakistan) for far too long.

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  • JSM
    Feb 10, 2013 - 7:35AM

    To see whether Afzal Guru was innocent or not, please see the following link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zJcFO8VvqA

    I am not a supporter of death penalty. Any life lost for whatsoever reason is a sad event for humanity.

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  • Raj - USA
    Feb 10, 2013 - 7:36AM

    There is not going to be any alienation of Kashmiris or muslims. In fact, giving into these nonsensical or presumed demands of Kashmiris or muslims will only create a sectarian divide which will ultimately be more harmful for the muslims. Afzal Guru’s association with the terrorists has been established beyond any doubt, even if he was not actually present at the crime scene. No country or community should encourage anti-state or terrorist activities. I do not think there will be any significant protests even in Kashmir.

    The next priority for the coming government should be removal of the special status for Kashmir.

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  • Indian Catholic
    Feb 10, 2013 - 9:41AM

    Oh, Cry me a river…
    .
    Firstly Afzal Guru was a fruit merchant not an ordinary fruit seller. He dropped out of medical school to join JeM. His story is a sad case of someone who was set on a bright future but who was indoctrinated and lost his way.
    .
    There is strong circumstantial evidence linking him to the 2001 parliament attack. He identified all the 5 attackers, obtained accommodation for them, procured explosives for them, was in conversation with them before and during the attacks. He even admitted to his role on TV though he pleaded not guilty in court. If even one of the attackers were caught alive, the entire plot and its perpetrators including the role of foreign actors would have been unmasked.
    .
    It is interesting that SAR Geelani’s words are being quoted when he too was implicated in the same case. If Indian courts are unjust as he says, how come he was let off after a brief period of imprisonment. The less said about Arundhati Roy, the better. She has lost whatever respect she got with the Booker prize and her credibility is now at rock-bottom. She has hurt many of the causes she has worked on.

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  • Mirza
    Feb 10, 2013 - 9:58AM

    This is a weak argument by ET and a poor Editorial. Indian judicial system is more respected than our own. We claim that Guru case was not watertight, that is after we have hanged the first elected PM even when he was acquitted by three judges of SC.
    I do not like the cruel punishment of hanging, however it is India’s internal affair and their press is free to criticize it. Even the worst critics of the decision would not face contempt of court punishment.

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  • zoro
    Feb 10, 2013 - 10:12AM

    My child is an angel … All other children are mischevious … is what every mother thinks

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  • Anonymous
    Feb 10, 2013 - 11:31AM

    Why Pakistan is feeling so bad after all neither he was a Pakistani nor we hung Hafiz Saeed. I have never seen Pakistan showing least of a concern when their citizens are killed by the so-called mujahideens, but they are quick to respond when somebody like Ajmal Kasab or Afzal Guru are sent to gallows, may be because they feel bad about not giving the same sentence to their terrorists like Malik Ishaq who is still carrying out mayhem…….Also, the whole world knows what your security forces are doing in Balochistan…..Did ever our media (print/electronic) raise a finger pointing your justice system or your armed forces what they are doing with Balochis……..Please try to put your house in order first….

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  • Farid S. Rahman
    Feb 10, 2013 - 12:55PM

    When Governor Salman Taseer was murdered, his assassin was felicitated with petals by members of the Lahore Bar Association. No doubt, they would have liked to do the same to Afzal Guru as well. Justice triumphed when Afzal Guru’s life ended on the gallows.

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  • WANI
    Feb 10, 2013 - 1:21PM

    The death penalty was nothing but a planned murder by the state. Now these RSS goons attacked a few protesting Kashmiris in Delhi and police was watching. Now you gone into overdrive defending the indefensible.Have you read the supreme court judgement
    The Supreme Court judgment says the evidence is circumstantial: “As is the case with most conspiracies, there is and could be no direct evidence amounting to criminal conspiracy.” But then it goes on to say: “The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties had shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender. When 110 boys are killed in kashir by police firing no one is prosecuted. When an entire village is raped by indian army no one raises a cry
    When Bagat singh was hanged the british laughed and indians cried . Now the indian are laughing and Kashmiris crying.Recommend

  • Enlightened
    Feb 10, 2013 - 1:26PM

    A poor editorial by ET. Afzal Guru a resident of Sopore took training in arms and explosives in Mujaffarabad and returned to lead 300 terrorists group in Kashmir for two years. All five terrorists killed in attack were members of JeM and mobiles found on their bodies revealed that they were in constant touch with AG and location of house in Delhi was also traced where he was found hiding along with lot of explosives. He confessed and gave complete details of the plan which was corroborated and used as irrefutable evidence against him. He was given a fair trial and most importantly his confession in totality made it a fool-proof case. His hanging will give a strong message to those who want to plot against their own country.

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Feb 10, 2013 - 3:40PM

    @gp65:

    Is that how a martyr behaves?

    depends on the standards of evaluation.
    eg: according to some JF-17 is actually a competent combat aircraft!!

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Feb 10, 2013 - 3:43PM

    @Author,

    the Kashmiris’ sense of alienation
    will increase after this

    Sir, you need to be more specific. Because, I don’t see any Kashmiri Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs crying over Afzal’s hanging.

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  • Shameema
    Feb 10, 2013 - 4:19PM

    How come the killers of Rajiv Gandhi were not executed? One can’t but help feel that India employs two standards…one for Muslims, and one for non-Muslims.

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  • Tony Singh
    Feb 10, 2013 - 5:16PM

    @WANI:
    Perhaps Wani you did not shed a tear when the likes of Afzal Guru threw the Kashmiri Hindus and other non-muslims out of the valley. In fact you rejoiced, broke open the locks of their houses to which they hoped to return one day and occupied them as your own. They still live in refugee camps thanks to you.
    That was the moment you lost what ever sympathy your cause had

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  • G. Din
    Feb 10, 2013 - 5:31PM

    @Shameema:
    “One can’t but help feel that India employs two standards…one for Muslims, and one for non-Muslims.”
    Wrong! Killers of Indira Ghandy, both Sikhs, were executed in the same prison, Tihar! Get rid of this victim mentality!

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  • karma
    Feb 10, 2013 - 6:08PM

    @gp65:
    All you said is right. But, you missed out the single biggest reason why Bhagat Singh is not your average terrorist (like Afzal guru/Kasab).

    He worked with his compatriots against the British, without ever taking the help of another sinister power (French or Germans). He didn’t get weapons, money from them. He didn’t let in German/French nationals into the country, Hosting/feeding/transporting them. He didn’t go in to another country to attack the British. He killed exactly one person, and that too they didn’t do in an indiscriminate manner.

    Terrorism in Kashmir today, is almost exclusively aided, abetted and supported by funds & arms from a foreign nation. No equivalence with Indian freedom struggle.

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  • Gratgy
    Feb 10, 2013 - 6:09PM

    @WANI

    Have you read the supreme court judgement?

    Have you?? or are you just picking selective sentences and quoting them out of context??

    Read Below

    “In its 271-page judgement delivered on August 4, 2005, a division bench of Justice P V Reddi and Justice P P Naolekar had said there was clinching evidence against Guru regarding his nexus with the terrorists who carried out the “terrorist act of most diabolical nature”.

    There was not even a shred of doubt about his complicity in hatching of the criminal conspiracy to attack Parliament and evidence showed that he had actively participated in its execution, it said.

    “All evidences unerringly point to Afzal Guru, a key conspirator, who played an active role”, the Bench said observing that by no standards his act could be termed innocuous.”

    While justifying the imposition of capital punishment on Guru, Justice Reddi had said the attack on Parliament was “a gravest crime of enormous severity” and was a classic case falling under the “rarest of rare” category.
    “The collective conscience of the society will be satisfied only if the death penalty is awarded to Afzal Guru,” the Bench had said.

    Poof! There goes your victim theory

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  • karma
    Feb 10, 2013 - 6:13PM

    it only serves to reinforce the perception among most Kashmiris that when it comes to them, India always has a double standard.

    Ofcouse India has ‘double standard’ regarding Kashmir. Such a double standard was demanded by Kashmiris, when they wanted ‘special’ status. Rest of Indians can’t buy land in Kashmir, they can’t be permanent settlers there. Kashmir enjoys many other special exemptions in Indian constitution.

    It also suffers the consequences of this ‘double standard’. It is attacked again and again by the foreign terrorists. Lot of their citizens & leaders were killed by terrorists originating from Pakistan & Afghanistan. And as a reaction India has its army, which too seem to have violated many human rights in Kashmir – as most armies wont to do.

    The best thing to happen to Kashmiris is to have some sort of settlement, but that will need to happen on secular Indian constitution. Kashmiri dream of ‘islamic kashmir’ will only remain that.

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  • Gratgy
    Feb 10, 2013 - 6:55PM

    If things go on the way they are now soon it will not be Pakistanis who claim sympathy for Kashmir, it will be Kashmiris who will be claiming sympathy for Pakistan

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  • Shameema
    Feb 10, 2013 - 8:28PM

    @ G.Din: Tamil Nadu Assembly passes resolution asking for mercy for Rajiv Gandhi’s killers.
    What if Jammu and Kashmir had passed a resolution for Afzal Guru Shaheed?
    Why has Afzal Guru’s body not been given to his family for burial? Why was he not allowed to meet his family?
    Let’s see what happens to the accused in tje upcoming Samjhota Express trial.

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  • Musthaq Ahmed
    Feb 10, 2013 - 9:51PM

    @Malatesh:
    We spared many such. We free them under a deal. When we shed tears over Kashmir , we ought to be soft on any one holding a gun to civilian head. Humanism first and writ of the state last or not at all. What a macabre state , India is ! Recommend

  • a_writer
    Feb 10, 2013 - 10:32PM

    @Shameema:

    Simply due to the old saying ‘one shoe doesn’t fit all’. Each crime is judged on its own evidence by legal system of any respectable nation. I don’t know how the law is dispensed in your country.
    The question is about as silly as arguing ” if Z.A. Bhutto was put to death why was Taseer’s murderer greeted as a hero by everyone in Pakistan?”

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  • Syed Yaseen
    Feb 11, 2013 - 12:24AM

    The supreme court awarded death penalty on circumstantial evidence. He was not proven a terrorist.
    He is also thought to be set up by the Govt.

    He might have accepted that he did the conspiracy because of the threat to the life of his wife and other family members.

    There are number of politicians in Gujrat Who have organized mass murders in 1997. They are free and holding positions in govt. Wow.

    The killers of Rajiv Gandhi are still alive. They did the crime much earlier. So why only some guys are targeted?
    I know lot of goons who have murdered people directly but the system gives them bail so that they can murder more people. wow. And some one who directly did not murder and was set up, was hanged.

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  • G. Din
    Feb 11, 2013 - 12:35AM

    @Shameema:
    “Why has Afzal Guru’s body not been given to his family for burial? Why was he not allowed to meet his family?”
    Replace “Afzal Guru” by “Zulfiqar Bhutto”. Now answer that question. A man who has been hanged for the crime of terrorism loses all rights even in death. His body will never be released because his followers will make a shrine for it thereby, creating more problems and not allowing healing. What to speak of his body, even his few personal effects will not be handed over to his family – for the same reason. That, my friend, is the real world. Muslims have a huge problem that they are unable to make peace with the real world. They feel they are the only ones who are qualified to define those terms for others.

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  • Razi
    Feb 11, 2013 - 1:25AM

    @G Din

    Enough of your anti-Muslim venom. You people are the most vicious haters of anything to do with Muslims.

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  • Razi
    Feb 11, 2013 - 1:26AM

    Sorry editorial writers.. you invited the wrath of the Indian bigots who come here with the sole agenda of spreading hate against Pakistan and Muslims. As long as you criticize and bash Pakistan and Muslims you will continue to be a great newspaper, earning the appreciation of these haters. Btw, I am waiting for a eulogy for Bal Thackeray and a pean for Narendra Modi, the next PM of India. Such an editorial will really receive a standing ovation!

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  • G. Din
    Feb 11, 2013 - 2:43AM

    @Razi:
    You are a sore loser, sir. When you can’t counter arguments, you cry out:”Oh, you are saying all that because you hate us so.” We don’t hate anyone but we are not pushovers any longer. You push, you will be pushed back and with some vehemence, too.

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  • Manoj Joshi India
    Feb 11, 2013 - 6:59AM

    No nation will ever tolerate attack on her sovereignty and India is no exception. Afzal Guru was an enemy of Indian state who dared to attack the Indian Parliament hence he deserves the end he has got. India and Indians believe in peaceful coexistence but if they are challenged by fanatics and terrorists then the message is clear India will not tolerate it and India means business. Kashmir an Indian state if faces any kind of insurgency or successionist activity needs to be tackled and put an end to.

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