Qasab was a terrorist from across the border - a man who was seen killing innocent Indians by millions! He had to be hanged and announcing it in advance could have created cross-border tension. His secret hanging was understandable, though the political calculations in times of a fast rising pro-Narendra Modi wave were apparent.
Although there was euphoria around the Kasab hanging, the fact is that it didn’t benefit the government - it at best reduced ammunition in the hands of BJP to criticize Congress. The government apparently didn’t learn lessons from that episode. With the intention of creating another wave of euphoria, this time they executed Afzal Guru in a similar fashion.
Guru, however, can by no stretch of imagination be equated with Qasab. In fact, his is a case where the veracity about his very involvement has been questioned by far too many intellectuals, Arundhati Roy included. In the book titled 13 December, a Reader: The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament, Praful Bidwai - one of the contributors - makes a compelling argument.
Afzal was tried under POTA, but sentenced under the Indian Penal Code. POTA clearly differentiates between committing a terrorist act resulting in death (punishable by death) and conspiracy in the act (punishable by life imprisonment).
The book makes one thing very clear - that Guru had at the most conspired to the act; yet, that allegation too, as I just said, is very debatable, despite the Supreme Court’s verdict. And if conspiracy is the main crime, then death sentence itself is a debatable punishment, though I have to accept that like many others - before I had read enough on the matter - I too was happy at the death sentence.
But today, upon hearing the news of his hanging, I am shocked! I have three key questions:
1. Is the Indian State so weak that it cannot bravely announce the hanging of a terrorist in advance? What kind of utter shameful cowardice is this?
2. In these days of growing human rights movement towards abolishment of capital punishment, how can a government commit this inhuman act of not informing the family in advance and not allowing a man to meet his family before his death? What kind of a shameful society are we living in, which first gives a debatable verdict and then denies a man his basic rights?
3. Has the government already conceded defeat to Modi and started committing mindlessly inhumane acts, which will in no way give them extra credit? Is there no one with sound mind to advice the roughshod losers looking for atrocious shortcuts to popularity?
I think my answers are within my questions, so I do not want to delve further on them. However, I should like to quote what the DSP of Special Task Force, Devinder Singh - the man who had interrogated Afzal - had quite profoundly told a freelance journalist. He had said, “I did interrogate and torture him in my camp for several days… His description of torture in the camp is true…
We did pour petrol in his ass and gave him electric shocks. But I could not break him… He looked like a ‘Bhondu’…a ‘c*****a’ type. And I had a reputation for torture, interrogation and breaking suspects. If anybody came out clean [after undergoing my interrogation], nobody would ever touch him again. He would be considered clean for good…
” This statement confirms that despite Guru’s past links with terrorists (which he always had admitted to and whom he said he was trying to reform), even the truculently barbaric DSP interrogating him couldn’t be sure that Guru was still involved with terrorists. Rest, I leave it upon the reader to decide.
The author is a Management Guru and honorary Director of IIPM Think tank