February 24, 2013
The hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru in the Parliament attack case is a significant event in contemporary Indian politics. This is not only because of the numerous holes in the prosecution or the strange conclusion by the highest court of the land that Afzal had to be killed to satisfy the collective conscience of the society. Nor is there a way to soothsay if Kashmir will enter another phase of armed uprising now. Moving away from the unsurprising chicaneries which go with the running of the largest democracy, the hanging throws into sharp relief a few things, which are not novel but are worth reiterating. Killings by the State are often political, rather than legal. The politics which dictates the killings is espoused by the main parliamentary parties, including the parliamentary Left. People belonging to particular classes, religions, castes, languages would find themselves on the wrong end of the rope more frequently than others. Unless a united resistance is built the regime will continue to perpetrate ruthlessness on oppressed nationalities and exploited castes, classes and gender.
An important aspect of the battle against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.To keep the memory of Afzal Guru’s hanging alive, we bring together the statements issued by different rights organisations and a selection of articles published elsewhere, as a compendium. We also publish an original article by Anubhav Sengupta, a research scholar at JNU.
1. Our Tryst with “Collective Conscience”…since the Murder of Afzal – Anubhav Sengupta
Press Releases and Statements
2. Hanging of Afzal Guru is a grave violation of International human rights charter – Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab
3. Press Release on harassment of Prof. SAR Geelani – Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners-
4. Press Release on repression of Kashmiri students in Dehradun – Rihai Manch
5. The ‘collective conscience’ of Jammu and Kashmir dismissed – J and K Coalition of Civil Society
6. Statement on the attack on demonstrators at Jantar Mantar – PUDR
7. Tamils rise in solidarity with Kashmiris
8. Statement Condemning the Execution of Afzal Guru – CPDR
9. Throttling Freedom after Hanging Afzal – PUDR
10. Press Release Condemning the Execution of Afzal Guru – Human Rights Forum
11. Death Penalty if anachronous with human rights – APDR
12. Moratorium on Death Penalty – PUDR
13. Condemn strongly the illegal act of executing Mohd. Afzal Guru! – CRPP
14. Condemn the Cold Blooded Execution of Afzal Guru by the state – Resolution adopted at the Second Shahid Azmi Memorial Lecture, 9th February 2013
Articles published elsewhere
15. When the nation’s conscience was satisfied – Gazala Peer
16. A statement from Afzal’s wife
17. A Perfect Day for Democracy – Arundhati Roy
18. Implications for Afzal Guru’s hanging – Arundhati Roy
I was informed about the murder of Afzal in the hands of Indian state via a phone call from one of my friends and comrades who were detained by the Delhi police on the fateful morning. The conversation and following hours were an anxious time and as well as proud moments. I was proud because of my friends and comrades, who showed the courage to stand opposed to repressive Indian state machinery in solidarity with Kashmiris protesting at Jantar mantar. I was anxious, quite ironically, on the other hand for protesters who were not detained. Because not being detained, in this ‘democracy’, may actually mean that these protesters (which included quite a few of Kashmiri friends of ours) may have been handed over to RSS-Bajrang goons by the police and administration. The memory of the protest against Modi in Delhi University and subsequent collusion of police and BJP-ABVP to unleash brutalities on the protesters was too fresh till that date. Indeed peaceful protesters at Jantar Mantar were meted out the same treatment that they faced on the day of Modi coming to Delhi University. Given that, the protesters were less prepared and less in number than the protest against Modi, the protest itself was short-lived.
The short-lived protest however set the politics and discourses in days to follow. I followed most of the press releases, write ups, commentaries and news in a sort of frenzy posted in various websites and platforms. To my initial satisfaction, it appeared to me that these reports and commentaries somewhat picked up the thread from that morning’s protest and put ‘collective conscience’ on trial. Like others, I too was enraged with reference to a particular paragraph in supreme court ruling where it is said that there is no concrete evidence against Afzal Guru but for sake of ‘collective conscience’ severest punishment must be handed over. It seems to be absurdly comic as a logical, legal argument but painful tragedy was that a life was indeed taken in the end, as the “sovereign” prevailed on the basis of this very argument. Largely coming from left quarter (barring few political-caricature figures like Sitaram Yechury and political parties like his) and progressive liberal democratic section, the discourse tried setting few points straight. As Supreme Court order found a last-standing hero in the ‘collective conscience’, the popular progressive political discourse now started bringing out the villainous character of the collective conscience — which in reality allows a justice system to execute someone on the basis of circumstantial evidence; permits a state to kill violating constitutional safeguards. The necessary opposition to capital punishment has also resurfaced in this period.
But the frenzy of mine had to settle down in some point or other. And as it did, I started scanning news and reports more minutely and trying to assess the subtlety of our arguments, the strength of our politics. Two trajectories have become clear to me subsequently. Little news that has been filtering through media about Kashmir, it is clear that the stone-pelters are back on street; or to put it more politically, stripping off the romanticism, it seems that the call of Azadi is to gain new lease of life in days to come. That way, Afzal Guru is the true martyr of Kashmir and as saying goes in our leftist circle, his death is not in vain in Kashmir’s fight against Indian occupation. But it was for me the fight of the Kashmiris for their self-determination; it is their struggle to ensure that noose around Afzal tightens further around the neck of Indian state in coming days. I, however, have been anxious to know what is going to be our, so called Indians’ popular politics vis-à-vis mighty ‘collective conscience’. The trajectory — I have discovered and which has continued to become popular, if not dominant — appears to be far less than satisfactory. In fact, if I may add, it increasingly comes across as dangerously apolitical.
To challenge collective conscience, as I have said, various strategies have been adopted. The ‘collective’ has been put to question with the argument that the collective is not all inclusive but hegemony of majoriatarian Hindu select elites in exclusion of more than half of its population, consisting of dalits, adivasis, muslims, and other oppressed groups. Conscience has been put into question by pointing out the surreptitious process through which Afzal has been implicated; the media trial that has gone behind the court-trial to project Afzal as the ‘threat’ to this nation’s sovereignty; the circumstantial, bordering on flimsy, planted evidence that was admitted by the court in giving rulings etc. In fact, reputed newspaper like The Hindu also adopted a humanist, emotive line in their reporting by documenting ‘pious’ Afzal, ‘disciplined’ ‘well behaved’ Afzal. It was pointed out how Afzal was not allowed to file for judicial review after his mercy plea was rejected. Strong emotion was there about the fact that Afzal’s family was not informed depriving them off to meet him one last time. And all these put together, the emerging theme in today’s educated (english!) democratic, progressive political activists and civil society circle is — we have wrongfully burdened by our collective conscience, because it is not clean. One of my friends informed me that how they are thinking of arranging a debate with the house proposing the motion — Our collective conscience killed Afzal.
While holding nothing against this mourning surrounding collective conscience, I, however strongly believe, that if this becomes the basis of our politics against ‘collective conscience’ after Afzal’s death, we are pitifully shying away from our struggle only. It is outright stupidity to belittle your enemy and this is exactly what we are doing in opposing a fascist state and its flaunting of ‘collective conscience’. We will do well to wean ourselves away momentarily from our emotional reaction to Afzal’s murder and realize that in recent past, this same ‘collective conscience’ has been evoked again and again albeit in various avatars to massacre adivasis, repress Muslims, crush other forms of dissidence against the state or Indian ruling classes. It has come to us in the name of ‘shining India’(Development versus anti-development), war against terror, internal security and even at times Pakistan. To put it simply, today the Indian state often manufacture this ‘collective’ — the ‘India’ — who is either ‘shining’, ‘developing’, ‘peace-loving’ ‘secured’ or ‘territorially sovereign’; and once it is done you have hand-full minority, who are anti-development, terrorist, security threat or anti-India, friends of Pakistan vis-à-vis this ‘Indian’ collective. And to save, protect and let live the majority collective — the India — these threatening minorities, disruptive dangerous elements have to be purged either through gallows in case of Afzal or through CRPF, Army, police, vigilante groups for an adivasi in Lalgarh, a landless peasant in Bastar, a Muslim in Dhule, a Dalit in Paramakudi or a daily-wage labourer in Nonadanga and of course hundreds of youth in Kashmir. So to give a sociological political twist to the argument, today in India, the state-led fabrication of ‘collective conscience’ is just not a loaded, ideological term in court-rulings; it is a social fact with great political investment and ramifications for more than half of the population in this country. The French Sociologist, Durkheim made the term ‘conscience collective’ famous in social and political thought way back in the second half of nineteenth century and for him ‘conscience collective’ is always a social fact — which is external to and coercive of individuals. Theoretically, collective conscience is not a mere idea or ideology but a reality which confronts us as a ‘thing’ out there. Practically, today’s India bears the fact that Durkheim was not far from the truth.
Then, can this be the case that the collective conscience, on the level of idea, may be politically challenged by pointing out how exclusive hegemony of upper caste, class Hindu is this idea of collective? Can this be contested, by arguing that conscience of this collective conscience, as a psychological fact, is a consciousness which is antithetical to democracy, constitutionalism and progressiveness, that as Indian citizens, we wish to uphold? Is not it the case that even Durkheim, a statist, reformist thinker that he was, moved away in his later days from his so-to-speak romanticist notion of the collective conscience as a set of elements which was present in each individual conscience? It does not need our ‘left’, ‘progressive’ sensibilities and awareness, but even Durkheim himself implicitly acknowledged the possibility that collective conscience may not be fully representative of collective. Thus his ultimate formulation of collective conscience was vis-à-vis the criterion of collectiveness as the element, not bound to only one particular conscience. In other words, in our political discourse today, all we have been doing is to reiterate Durkheimian statist political sensibility in radical garb. Undoubtedly, ideology, consciousness are the rallying grounds for the struggle against casteist, communal ‘collective conscience’ that Indian state often calculatively projects, but the basis of a politics of this struggle has to be a real, authentic political declaration and positive political act.
Let me now explain the torturous expression of the last line in just preceding paragraph. Durkheim is not given much attention in the Marxist circle; in fact he has been ignored as he had ignored Marxism. This is because, while Durkheim may have been aware that the collective conscience always runs the risk of being conscience of the select few, he never deserted his hope that the state would replace religion in modern society to embody and represent the ‘conscience collective’ par excellence. Here Durkheim was horribly far off from the reality. On the other hand, as Engels or Lenin show in their respective analyses, Marxism is precisely aware of the danger that a state poses for our consciousness because it pretends to exercise power and rule on behalf of a collective — executing so called public power over and above the collective. Thus, Lenin argues, in Marxism there is no replacement of the fundamental political declaration that the state must be abolished as it exists and then it must wither away. The state, as it exists prior to proletarian revolution, cannot be thought to be a site of reconciliation of class conflicts. In the same vein, I argue, the collective conscience that the Indian state is resorting to so frequently cannot be fought to be reformed by critiquing the idea of collective, by cleansing the conscience by conscientious assertion — “not in our name”. The struggle must be fought to attack and smash ‘collective conscience’ as it exists today under the aegis of a communal fascist Indian state, at least after Afzal’s gruesome killing in the hands of Indian state. A declaration on that direction will be the only authentic, positive political act.
What is this declaration or positive political act? One Kashmiri friend, Mohamad Junaid noted in a piece, circulated widely in social networking sites, “…the only thing which keeps Kashmir territorially tied to India is brute force and arrogance. Shaheed Afzal’s body in Tihar is an apt metaphor for Kashmir’s territorial connection with India. It is a body that doesn’t belong in that land…I think it is this understanding that must become a bedrock of Kashmiri resistance and politics.” I think the accepting this declaration on the part of Kashmiri resistance is the positive political act on which we, in India, can build our struggle against ‘collective conscience’ that murdered Afzal Guru. This is because a true collective can only be forged and a political consciousness of that collective can genuinely carved out only when we are ready to accept that even a minority collective within the Collective has the political right to reject the Collective and its conscience as their own. Without accommodating the consciousness of this freedom as foundational political morality in our conscience, we have neither conscience nor a collective. A collective is never forced but forged; and a conscience is never dictated but built from the below. Is not it the case, our democratic sensibility is hurt precisely because in killing Afzal, the state forced us to be a collective, and imposed a conscience that it deems fit? Then how else a struggle against this ‘collective conscience’ can be waged without unconditionally opposing any forcing or any politics of imposition!
I argue this not with respect to party lines and ideological debates in Marxist circle surrounding the question of nationality question. Barring parliamentary left, various left forces and revolutionary movements in India have been extending their support to Kashmir’s liberation movement right from the days of Charu Mazumdar and the Naxalbari. While they will continue to do so, I say this as a foundational condition of the popular politics that our parliamentary left and democratic forces are too eager to practice in this country in resisting Indian state. Not that Kashmir or Kashmiris need this popular support of ours for their struggle; but we definitely need to support them if we are serious about fighting the existing ‘collective conscience’ engineered by a growingly anti-people, casteist, communal Indian state. The purification of our conscience cannot be politico-metaphysical mourning steeped in humanism; it has to be based on real practice in materiality of politics. This is because, the murder of Afzal in the hands of Indian state is thoroughly political. It is Indian state exercising its coercive sovereignty over life of a single individual to hold a whole collective in ransom so that yet again ‘conscience collective’ in various guises prevails over.
We cannot cleanse our hands off Afzal’s blood while thousand Kashmiris bleed in avenging the death of their martyrs in their freedom struggle. This political logic is then as ludicrous as the supreme court’s legal logic in sentencing Afzal for capital punishment. In our popular opposition to ‘collective conscience’, in realization of the dream of ‘constitutional democracy’, there is no middle path left after the day Afzal died in India. We may choose to remain sandwiched between India and Kashmir, or make a decision to stand with the oppressed and against the oppressor. Choice is ours, but it is to be made here and now! We may not aspire for revolution but even small democratic changes in this country are not realizable by mere demand of democratization. We need to assert political even in our popular sentiment; there is no shortcut and easy-route only via plea to constitution or parliamentary democracy left to us anymore…since the murder of Afzal.
Hanging of Afzal Guru is a grave violation of International human rights charter- AFDR
Ludhiana: Association for Democratic Rights – AFDR ( Punjab) held a protest march against the hanging of Kashmiri youth Afzal Guru on 16th February, in which leading democratic activists from different districts participated. The speakers alleged that Afzal Guru was implicated in Parliament attack case under a well thought out conspiracy. Extensive coverage given to his ‘confessional’ statement extracted with inhuman torture in police custody in the media , was a ploy to execute him. Neither he was provided with legal aid to defend his case in the court, nor was given chance to move for judicial review for reducing his death sentence after the president had rejected his mercy petition. The questions raised by Afzal Guru regarding the role of S. T. F working under the patronage of MHA, in this case have still not been answered. Without providing any solid evidence and relying on totally illogical argument of “satisfaction of collective sentiments of the nation” , he was hanged surreptitiously just for being a Muslim and Kashmiri . The speakers emphasized that hanging of Afzal Guru is grave violation of the International human rights charter. Use of the statements extracted from Afzal in police custody, as an evidence to execute him is violation of judicial norms and is unjust practice and after rejection of his mercy petition by the president on Sunday, the govt seemed to be in hurry to execute him without justifying his involvement in the attack on Indian parliament.The speakers added that by not informing his relatives about his execution and then not handing over his dead body to them is outright inhuman behavior of Indian rulers. All the speakers condemned the suppression of voice of Kashmiris through imposition of curfew in Kashmir valley and gaging the media. Actually Indian state, not being a democracy is working like a machine for taking lives of its own citizens. Terming it a very uncivilized sentence, the speakers demanded the constitutional abolition of capital punishment and decried the outrageous activities of Bajrang Dal rogues in connivance with police, against the Kashmiri girls and other activists protesting against the hanging of Afzal Guru at Delhi and blackening the face of renowned activist Gautam Navlakha and demanded that strict action be taken against such fascist elements and police officials protecting them.
The protest march was addressed by the General secretary, Prof Jagmohan singh, distt president Prof. A K Maleri, state press secretary Buta Singh, organizing secretary Narbhinder Singh, and Pritpal Singh. At the occasion Mr Abhai singh writer, master Tarsem lal, Namdev Bhutal, Darshan singh Moga, Dr Tejpal, Gurpreet Kaur and many other district leaders and activists were present.
Buta Singh, Press Secretary, A F D R ( Punjab)
185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025
Condemn the highhanded, authoritarian attempts of the notorious Special Cell’s attempt to seize the phones of Prof. SAR Geelani, the President of CRPP!
Condemn the continuing harassment of Prof. SAR Geelani since the illegal execution of Mohd. Afzal Guru!
In a highly reprehensible act the fascist, Special Cell of the Delhi Police made an attempt to seize the phones of Prof. SAR Geelani, the President of CRPP today (18 February 2013) morning at his residence in Zakir Nagar. On being asked by Prof. Geelani as to whether they had any written orders for seizing his phones and if so on what grounds the Special Cell officers maintained that they don’t have such written orders. They insisted that they have verbal orders from their senior officials and they will seize the phones of Prof. Geelani. The Special Cell is putting pressure on Geelani to give away his phones.
It should be noted that despite the highhanded attempts of the Special Cell on the 9 February 2013 to forcefully take him away from the highway when he was travelling to be kept illegally at an undisclosed location till late in the night and then enforcing an undeclared house arrest on him for a couple of days, Prof. Geelani has been fearlessly making his observations clear before the media regarding the blatant violations behind the killing of Mohd. Afzal Guru. Most of the interviews came out to be a scathing indictment of the illegal execution of Mohd. Afzal Guru. It proved unequivocally that Mohd. Afzal Guru and his family were not only denied their basic human rights but were also denied justice from the day one of the trial of the Parliament attack case. Prof. Geelani also pointed out that Afzal being a Kashmiri was easy target as the Indian government does not want to politically address the genuine aspirations of the Kashmiri people but only believed in the politics of revenge and retribution.
The latest attempt from the Special Cell of the Delhi Police to seize the phones of Prof. SAR Geelani is yet another desperate attempt to gag him and in that process all dissenting voices against such dastardly acts of the Indian state. The Central Home Minister without batting his eyes was brazenly justifying the illegal act before the media insisting that it was necessary to violate laws and procedures to ensure that Mohd. Afzal and his family will not take recourse to law to prevent his execution! The Indian state is desperate to somehow shy away from the increasing instances of indignation being expressed by many legal luminaries such as Fali Nariman, Justice AP Shah, Senior Advocates Sushil Kumar and Kamini Jaiswal and others. Even the then government prosecutor Gopal Subramanium who made a song and dance in the Supreme Court about the need to satisfy the ‘collective conscience’ through the hanging of Mohd. Afzal Guru also is on record saying that the basic rights of Afzal and his family were violated in the most inhuman way. Despite such expression of indignation by many prominent citizens, the Indian state and its fascist police in the Special Cell have specifically targeted voices from the people of Kashmir, especially Prof. SAR Geelani who have been forthright in his condemnation. In many a places the police and the fascist Hindu communal outfits have ganged up to brutally beat up and then frame protesting people including students and intellectuals from Kashmir in several cases. This is part of the continuing attempts from the side of the Indian State to gag and suppress the voices of dissent that have arisen from various section of the people, intelligentsia and progressive and democratic sections ever since the illegal execution of Mohd. Afzal Guru on 9 February 2013.
We at the CRPP strongly condemn the fascist authoritarian designs of the Special Cell to deny the right to free speech, mobility and freedom of expression of Prof. SAR Geelani. Any such arbitrary and authoritarian attempt of the Special Cell can only invite further condemnation and indignation from the broader sections of the people.
Amit Bhattacharyya (Secretary General)
Sujato Bhadra (Vice President)
Ajit Bhuyan (Vice President)
N. Venuh (Vice President)
Kaleem Koya (Vice President)
MN Ravunni (Vice President)
PA Sebastian (Vice President)
Rona Wilson (Secretary, Public Relations)
(Forum for the Release of Innocent Muslims imprisoned in the name of Terrorism)
देहनादून में कश्मीरी छात्रों की गिरफ्तारी कांग्रेस की मुस्लिम विरोधी राजनीति का सबूत- रिहाई मंच
लखनऊ 13 फरवरी 2013/
रिहाई मंच ने उत्तराखंड पुलिस द्वारा 16 कश्मीरी छात्रों को अफजल गुरु की फांसी का विरोध करने पर पुलिस और बजरंगदल के गुड़ों द्वारा पिटाई और गिरफ्तारी की कड़ी निंदा करते हुए इसे कांग्रेस सरकार की कश्मीरी मुस्लिम विरोधी मानसिकता करार दिया है। रिहाई मंच ने तत्तकाल उन्हें रिहा करने की मांग की।
रिहाई मंच के प्रवक्ता शाहनवाज आलम और राजीव यादव ने बताया कि देहरादून के उत्तराखंड इस्टीट्यूट आॅफ टेक्नोलाॅजी के आदिल रशीद, आदिल अजीज भट् (वेरीनाग, अनंतनाग), इरफान अशरफ, वशीद अरहमन पुत्र अब्दुल समद पंडित (डूरु, सोपोर), अंजारुल अहद समेत कुल सोलह छात्रों को उस समय देहरादून पुलिस ने गिरफ्तार कर लिया जब वे अफजल गुरु को बिना निष्पक्ष सुनवाई के फांसी दे दिए जाने का शांतिपूर्वक विरोध कर रहे थे। उन्होंने कहा कि इन सोलह छात्रों को पुलिस ने देहरादून पुलिस लाइन में रखा है और उन पर शांति व्यवस्था भंग करने का आरोप लगाया है और उन पर अनलाफुल एक्टीविटीज
प्रिवेन्सन एक्ट के तहत फसाने की लगातार धमकी दी जा रही है।
रिहाई मंच ने कहा है कि कांग्रेस सरकार ने पहले तो अफजल गुरु को फांसी देकर कश्मीर के नाम पर सांप्रदायिक हिंदू वोट बैंक को भाजपा से छीनने की कोशिश की और अब कांग्रेस शासित राज्यों में कश्मीरी मुसलमानों पर हमला करके पूरे देश के हिंन्दुत्वादी जेहनयित को यह संदेश दे रही है कि कश्मीर के मुसलमानों से वह संविधान प्रदत्त हर अधिकार छीन लेगी।
शाहनवाज आलम, राजीव यादव
प्रवक्ता रिहाई मंच
Office – 110/60, Harinath Banerjee Street, Naya Gaaon East, Laatoosh
Forum for the Release of Innocent Muslims imprisoned in the name of Terrorism
JAMMU AND KASHMIR COALITION OF CIVIL SOCIETY
12th February 2013
THE “COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE” OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR DISMISSED
The 9 February 2013 hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru remains consistent with past conduct of the Indian State in relation to Jammu and Kashmir.
A conviction affirmed despite serious lapses in the trial. The execution carried out in absolute secrecy – the family of Mohammad Afzal Guru being cruelly informed of the execution a few days later. No opportunity provided to Afzal Guru to challenge the rejection of the mercy petition. An absolute shut down in Jammu and Kashmir. The message from the India is clear – there will be no right of mourning for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and “law and order” will be maintained at all costs– and as of date this has led to three killings of civilians and countless injured. Peaceful protests in New Delhi
have been met with brute force, executed by the colluding forces of the State and right-wing extremists.
At the same time, ex-Director General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir, Kuldeep Khoda, accused of serious human rights violations [confirmed by Crime Branch findings] is awarded and will be the first Chief Vigilance Commissioner. While Afzal Guru has been executed to satisfy a “collective conscience”, perpetrators of crimes in Jammu and Kashmir have never been prosecuted. The Indian State has not deemed it fit to even respond to the recently released IPTK/APDP that names 500 alleged perpetrators of crimes in Jammu and Kashmir. But, shamelessly, as in the case of Kuldeep Khoda and many others, they have been awarded and rewarded. India therefore enforces its law to persecute the people of Jammu and Kashmir, but ensures the protection of State perpetrators in its larger design to control territory.
Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society condemns the execution of Afzal Guru and the brutal clamp down following it. Mohammad Afzal Guru
did not receive adequate legal representation and material factual contradictions in the trial record, while noted were dismissed. Post-execution, all moral and legal compulsions continue to be of no significance to the State.
First, the dead body of Mohammad Afzal Guru must be returned to his family. The Indian State has no moral or legal right over it. The return of his body immediately is a basic, common demand.
Second, from the clamp down on communications to the brutality witnessed on the streets of Jammu and Kashmir, it is clear that the victimization of people by the State continues. Using the veil of “law and order” concerns the India cannot circumvent the basic rights of the people. Further, the ban on communications is in effect a ban on information. The direct result of this is a stronger sense of impunity for State forces to carry out further human rights violations. This brutality must end.
The conduct of the Indian State from the trial to execution of Afzal Guru, in thousands of other cases of human rights abuses and in the present and continuing phenomenon of denial of civil and political rights of people of Jammu and Kashmir, makes them legally culpable.
12 February 2013
Re: The attack on demonstrators at Jantar Mantar on 9 February and the aiding of the Bajrang Dal hooligans by the Delhi Police
PUDR strongly condemns the hooliganism and hostility of the Bajrang Dal as we assembled at Jantar Mantar in protest against the execution of Afzal Guru by the Indian government on 9 February 2013. This small enclosure provided by the Delhi government for all protests and demonstrations from across
the country, which was barricaded on all sides, became the site for members of the Bajrang Dal to spew their anti-Muslim and anti-Kashmiri hatred, openly aided and abetted by the Delhi Police.
The protest, organized by PUDR and other organizations, was meant to be a silent protest, mourning and protesting the hanging of Afzal Guru that morning. The Kashmiri students who joined the protest came and quietly sat with their banners, but they immediately became the target of the Bajrang Dal. As many of us questioned the mob, urged the police to help, and stood by the students, we were witness to the open manner way in which the police allowed a few Bajrang Dal members to repeatedly assault us with physical intimidation and filthy verbal abuse. Those yelling at us that we were “deshdrohis” and betraying the country by lamenting the hanging of Afzal Guru also directed sexist abuse at the women present, including obscene gestures of sexual violence using their hands and sticks. Cries of packing off the Kashmiri students and their relatives to Pakistan rent the air.
One film-maker was physically attacked. One of our PUDR members had his face smeared with black paint while the police did absolutely nothing to prevent the attackers. Instead, a few minutes before that, four police personnel had pounced upon another PUDR member and whisked him off while he
was preventing Bajrang Dal members from attacking the Kashmiri students. Not a single Bajrang Dal member was restrained by the huge police force present; the police were facing us as if we needed restraint. The ordeal came to an end with the police picking up 22 of the protestors, most of them
Kashmiri students, and transporting them to the Mandir Marg and Parliament Street police stations. Half of them were female students. The police bias is evident in the fact that not a single Bajrang Dal activist was picked up even though they were obviously the aggressors. It took a few hours for the
demonstrators to remain at the thanas and prevail upon the police to let the students go.
Even as the PUDR team filed its complaint in the Parliament Street police station, Bajrang Dal members threatened and abused us. The police remained mute even within the police station till we insisted the Bajrang Dal members leave before we write our complaint. As they left, they made many threatening remarks to the women present of avenging themselves later outside the thana. At the Parliament Street station, two men who were with tikka on their forehead and were part of the Bajrang Dal mob revealed themselves to us as police personnel in plainclothes. Police personnel have a right to be part of a political organization, however politically despicable. But in practice it will result in bias, anti-minority and anti-women hooliganism backed by the knowledge that they are immune since they are also police personnel.
It is shocking how such open hooliganism is allowed and what sexist abuse goes unpunished, and how the police allow it to happen. In the many protest rallies recently against sexual violence in Delhi, the role of the police has been severely critiqued by all sections. The Home Ministry owes us and the people of Delhi an explanation for this belligerence of the police and its open support today of Bajrang Dal members.
The clandestine manner in which the Indian government carried out the execution of Afzal Guru is an open miscarriage of justice at several levels. The denial of the opportunity for judicial review after the rejection of a mercy petition by the President is starting a trend that needs to be stopped right now.
PUDR is opposed to the death penalty on principle, and demands its abolition.
It is an even bigger challenge today for us all to claim the space for the right to dissent in the face of growing police repression and right-wing assault. With the Delhi police being part of the Home Ministry, we urge the UAPA government to get its police force to act with restraint in handling the democratic
right to protest and the democratic space to protest. As it is, that space has been shrunk over the years in Delhi: protests are restricted to Jantar Mantar; Section 344 is applied arbitrarily and for long periods in many parts of Delhi; protestors are routinely beaten up and charges filed against them, much more than they used to be. We believe that that one marker of a true democracy is not how you treat people who agree with you, but those who disagree. Preserving the right to dissent is crucial.
PUDR demands that:
1. Charges of physical assault, and physical threats and abuse of women be filed against the specific Bajrang Dal activists;
2. An enquiry be conducted into police inaction and bias on 9 February;
3. That the space for peaceful democratic protest be allowed to flourish;
4. We demand the abolition of the death penalty in India.
A massive protest was held in Madras on 11 February 2013 against the secretive hanging of Afzal Guru.. Thousands of Tamils gathered near Valluval Kottam, a memorial dedicated to an ancient Tamil poet, to pay their homage to Afzal Guru and to protest against the Indian state. The protest was presided over by Pazha. Nedumaran of the Tamil National Movement and Thol. Tirumavalavan of the Dalit Panthers of India.
The leaders, in the course of their speeches, insisted that the execution of Afzal Guru was not based on rule of law and it is a shameful political act. They also highlighted how the UPA government wilfully denied Guru’s legal right to seek a legal review of the rejection of his mercy petition. The way the execution was carried out shows nothing but cowardice of the Union government, the leaders insisted.
The protest was also addressed by other prominent Tamil leaders including Jawaharullah of the Manithaneya Makkal Kachi, Viduthalai Rajendran, the General Secretary of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhakam, Mallai Sathya of theMarumalarchi Dravidar Munnetra Kazhagam, P.Maniyarasan of the Tamil National Communist Party, Thiagu of the Tamil National Front,Thirumurugan of the May 17 Movement , Dr.Selvi of the Save Tamils and Arputhammal, the mother of the Arivu who is on death row in the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case. Viduthalai Rajendran posed, if the Supreme Court has satisfied the collective consciousness of the nation by executing Afzal Guru, does this collective consciousness include the Kashmiris who protested against the death
sentence of Afzal Guru, and the Tamils who continue to protest against the death penalty imposed on the putative assassins of Rajiv Gandhi. Kashmir’s right to self-determination was asserted by all the leaders who addressed the meeting.
CPDR STATEMENT CONDEMNING THE EXECUTION OF AFZAL GURU
Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) Mumbai strongly condemns the hanging of Afzal Guru by the Indian state on the morning of 9th February 2013.
Death sentence is an arbitrary and cruel mode of punishment that is irreversible, imposed by fallible human beings in a subjective manner and has no place in a civilized society. The “rarest of rare” idiom is irrationally applied. Whether one lives or dies depends on prejudices of a particular judge or on the Government to earn political mileage. For these reasons, amongst others, death penalty should be abolished.
Afzal Guru’s hanging reflects the ease with which the different arms of the state support each other to snuff out a life under the guise of legal sanction in absolute contravention of the rule of law.
Afzal was denied a fair trial and the opportunity to adequately defend himself against an offence punishable with death penalty. The only evidence against him was circumstantial. Competent legal aid was not made available to Afzal by the trial court, which is the court where the foundation of a criminal case is laid. His lawyer did not cross-examine fifty seven of the eighty witnesses and Afzal repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction with the lawyer before the trial court. The lawyer without instructions admitted the crucial identification of the deceased terrorists which has been relied upon by the courts to establish that Afzal knew them. The other evidence relied upon to establish “beyond reasonable doubt” Afzal’s implication were the alleged telephone calls, but the court overlooked the discrepancy in the phone numbers and IMEI of the phone and the convenient seizure of the SIM cards, phone handsets from both Afzal and the deceased at the Parliament with no evidence of the content of the phone conversations and which were unchalleged by Afzal’s lawyer. The alleged recovery of the laptop from Afzal containing files which were written later, hence tampered with was explained by the court as being “self generating and self written”. The advocate did not challenge the identification by witnesses for the first time in court without any test identification parade. The acceptance of this evidence by the Supreme Court is a departure of all established principles of criminal jurisprudence of this country, and the only explanation for the conviction and awarding of death sentence is what the Supreme Court stated in its judgment t: (that the) “collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender. The challenge to the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India by these acts of terrorists and conspirators, can only be compensated by giving the maximum punishment to the person who is proved to be the conspirator in this treacherous act. The appellant, who is a surrendered militant and who was bent upon repeating the acts of treason against the nation, is a menace to the society and his life should become extinct.”
Afzal’s sentence and the manner in which it was carried on are manifestly unjust and illegal. The President too failed to intervene to prevent the miscarriage of justice. He rejected Afzal Guru’s wife’s mercy petition, and a few days later on the morning of 9th February he was executed in absolute secrecy. The press reports show that Afzal Guru was told about his imminent execution only a couple of hours before it was carried out, and his family came to know about the same through the media. The reason for secrecy as in Ajmal Kasab’s case, can be attributed only to deny Afzal Guru and his family an opportunity to approach the courts in judicial review, which other death row convicts have successfully done in the past.
A person’s life has been taken on the ground that he was involved in an “attack on democracy” without according him the Constitutional precautions he is entitled to. This, we believe is the death of democracy.
We hereby condemn the execution of Afzal Guru, and demand that :
- the Delhi government hands over the body of Afzal Guru to his wife so that the family is able to perform his last rites;
- the Government of India abolishes death sentence as a method of punishment in India for all crimes;
- till the death sentence is abolished, the Government of India declares a moratorium on executions;
- the Government of India forthwith signs and ratifies the United Nations Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
[This statement was adopted by those attending the Public Meeting called by CPDR on 12-2-2013 at Mumbai.]
PUDR strongly condemns the imposition of curfew accompanied by blanket gag on all media, including television, print and online, in the Kashmir valley following the secretive hanging of Afzal Guru.
Since Saturday morning Kashmir valley has been placed under curfew forcing people to stay locked inside their houses, satellite and cable tv, internet and even mobile sms have been blacked out in the valley. So far three people have been killed and more than fifty injured in the Valley. On Saturday night, the police also stopped the publication and distribution of all newspapers. The authorities did not allow copy to reach the press. Police teams visited various printing presses of daily newspapers and asked the management to stop publishing. The dailies that managed to slip through this net and managed to publish their editions had all the copies seized. With the internet services withdrawn, online editions too couldn’t get updated on time.
This is all being done to ensure that protests against this act of murder were suppressed and to keep the people of India in the dark about why popular opinion in Kashmir and voices in India were opposed to this cold-blooded killing of Afzal Guru. Evidently, house-arresting the entire population of the Valley and the blatant violation of the right to free speech and expression of the entire population of Kashmir valley doesn’t prick the conscience of the self-styled keepers of the ‘collective conscience’ of the country.
One is also struck by the double standards of the J&K state government. On the one hand chief minister Omar Abdullah is speaking out against the hanging of Afzal Guru, on the other hand his administration has placed the entire people of Kashmir under curfew and is systematically blacking out information and curbing their freedom of expression and assembly.
Gagging of the media is nothing new in Kashmir, and by and large it goes unreported in Indian media. India’s Media watchdogs have acquired notoriety in acquiescing in the throttling of freedom of expression and assembly through their silence consistently where Kashmir is concerned. PUDR sincerely hopes that the Indian mainstream media and its apex bodies like the Press Council of India, Editors Guild and the Indian Broadcasters Association will discover courage to speak out against this outrageous house arrest of an entire people and the attack on the freedom of the press.
Asish Gupta and D Manjit
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) strongly condemns the execution of Afzal Guru. The execution is brazen injustice and inhuman. It is a dark day for our democracy.
HRF is in principle opposed to capital punishment in all cases without exception. This is regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual. The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights and has no deterrent effect. We believe it is brutal, uncivilised, arbitrary and discriminatory. It is nothing but the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the State and it violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is well to remember that all the five attackers of Parliament were killed in the gunfight that very day and Afzal Guru’s alleged involvement in the planning of the attack on Parliament is the only reason why he was sentenced to die. This is no way meets the “rarest of rare” criteria for which the death sentence is allowed for in Indian law. It is therefore unfortunate that the Supreme Court also succumbed to the common emotion of retributive justice when it noted that sentencing him to death would satisfy “the collective conscience of the society”. This, when the evidence against Guru was thin and circumstantial.
Unfortunately, Afzal’s case was enmeshed in a politics of hate from the very moment of his arrest. The trail itself was flawed. It was based on faulty investigation, circumstantial evidence and the arbitrary role of the police was deeply suspect from the very beginning. Moreover, Afzal Guru did not have adequate legal representation in the course of his trial. According to Amnesty International, the trail did not conform with India’s obligation under international human rights law. The secrecy surrounding Afzal’s execution, like in the Kasab case, is very disturbing and raises serious questions about procedural fairness.
Another reason why capital punishment must be abolished is that in case a judgement is erroneous, the mistake cannot be reversed. Even the Supreme Court can err when it comes to making decisions about life and death. We recall that in August 2012, fourteen eminent retired judges had written to the President asking him to commute the death sentences of 13 convicts because the Supreme Court recently admitted that seven of its judgements giving those 13 capital punishment were made in error.
It is time our nation curbed its instincts for bloody retribution and moved away from an “eye for an eye” form of punishment. Retribution is a kind of punishment to ourselves. Justice should be restorative, not retributive.
The desirability of the abolition of the death penalty has long been recognized in international law and standards. HRF believes that public opinion in India can no longer ignore the global movement in favour of abolition of the death penalty. As of today, 141 countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. We must work towards becoming a more humane and compassionate society, and leave a better, less blood-thirsty world behind for our children.
HRF demands that the government establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
VS Krishna S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF State general secretary) (HRF State president)
APDR strongly deplores the hanging of Afzal Guru, convicted in the 2001 Parliament attack case, under a shroud of secrecy in Tihar Jail on Saturday morning. The execution follows closely that of Ajmal Kasab in November. In handing down these barbarous punishments in a row, the Indian state has proved that it has completely moved away from ideals of Gandhi, Tagore and other illustrious thinkers of this nation and decided to play the global hangman to please the hawks in home and abroad. It is utterly unfortunate that neither the apex court nor President Pranab Mukherjee chose to exercise their discretion to set aside the death sentence. The action is anachronous with human rights jurisprudence that believes in the abolition of the death penalty for enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights.
We recall here that the Ahmedabad special court in the Naroda Patiya massacre case has refrained from pronouncing the death sentence noting that it is the trend worldwide to move away from capital punishemnt and 139 countries have already abolished it.
The UN Secretary-General recently mentioned that India was one of the countries that retained the death penalty and voted against General Assembly resolution 65/206 on moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
Fourteen former Supreme Court and high court judges have written to President Pranab Mukherjee asking him to commute the death sentences of 13 convicts. Their letter mentions that the Supreme Court has admitted that two “wrongly sentenced prisoners” — Ravji Rao and Surja Ram — had been executed on 4 May 1996 and 7 April 1997 respectively.
Yet, Afzal Guru’s hanging one again indicates that the juridical institutions could not rise above the dominant body of political opinion and applied the ‘death for death’ principle.
APDR strongly believes that India has no need to be worried of conspirators and can, with firm faith in herself, accept ICCPR-OP 2 to abolish death penalty.
Dhiraj Sengupta, General Secretary
PUDR today strongly reaffirms its opposition to the inhuman, brutal and arbitrary provision of capital punishment. The secretive hanging of Mohd. Afzal Guru today goes further to show how it is unfair, unjust and can be carried out for narrow political benefit of those in power.
The highandedness by the police and the flouting of each procedural norm marks the case against Afzal from the start. Picked up and kept in illegal custody, tortured to give a confession to the police, and forced to reiterate the police story before media cameras while in police custody, while the police forced the media to edit out every reference contradicting the police story, Afzal was condemned even before his trial.
Highhandedness by the political bosses marks the death of Afzal. Rejection of his mercy petition on 3 February and the approval of the order for execution by the Home Minister on 4 February were kept away from Afzal, his family and his lawyer. Afzal was thereby denied recourse to a court to examine the refusal order. It should be noted that many commutations have resulted from court interventions after the Presidents have turned down mercy petitions. And today, when a bench of the highest court is currently considering the constitutionality of death penalty itself, carrying out an execution is most reprehensible. And finally the right of his family to perform the last rites has been illegally denied by disposing off Afzal’s body in an undisclosed place.
Even by existing law, death penalty can only be given in rarest of rare cases. But the case of Afzal is miles away from any such definition. He was not one who fired a shot. He was not present at the scene. Even by prosecution evidence his role was peripheral. The court ruled that he did not belong to a terrorist organisation. Add to it Afzal’s story: that he was a surrendered militant who was brutally tortured by the BSF to force him to become an informer. Surely this does not fit into the rarest of rare category of criminals who is beyond redemption.
A punishment to a convict is supposed to address the collective conscience of society and is expected to provide possibilities of reform and repentance. Afzal’s punishment denies both. While his life is snuffed out the possibility of ever correcting an error in the judgment is lost. Also curfew has been clamped in Afzal’s Kashmir to prevent people from voicing their views. Television channels are blocked so people can be kept in the dark. The ‘collective conscience’ that the death of Afzal is supposedly meant to serve certainly does not include the people of Kashmir.
Right-wing hooligans and the police in the capital today further jointly ensured that all voices opposing this execution were silenced. People who joined a silent protest to express their opposition to the hanging were pushed around, heckled, verbally abused, and pelted with stones. Far from removing or restraining the handful of goons, police detained the protestors till late afternoon so that the voices of protest are not heard.
We demand that:
(1) the dead body of Mohd. Afzal be handed over to his family.
(2) an immediate moratorium on death penalty be declared.
(3) this new practice of carrying out executions secretively, so as to prevent debate and protest on the issue be immediately stopped.
Condemn strongly the illegal act of executing Mohd. Afzal Guru!
Condemn and expose the violation of all procedures and law of the land!
Release SAR Geelani the working president of CRPP immediately and unconditionally!
The CRPP condemns strongly the illegal execution of Mohd. Afzal Guru. The central home minister and the home secretary have gone on record saying that every procedure has been followed in the case of Afzal Guru. None of his family members are aware of this decision of the Government of India. Nor do the lawyers of Afzal Guru. It is mandatory on the side of the government to inform the petitioners who had filed the clemency petition. Afzal’s wife Tabassum had filed a clemency petition demanding justice for her husband who never throughout the trial got an opportunity to defend himself and demand justice. She had in that petition even traced his early days in Kashmir and how he was continually being harassed and tortured by the notorious STF of J&K to act as an informer for the state. She showed in that petition how the ordeal has still been continuing in the life of her husband and their family in their quest for justice. The fact remains that neither Tabassum nor any of her family members have been informed about the rejection of this petition.
It is absolutely necessary that once a clemency petition is rejected the petitioner should be informed so that s/he can take recourse to other provisions that are guaranteed by the judiciary of India. There are provisions for judicial review which are quite exhaustive. But Afzal Guru was denied once again his last chance to represent himself and get relief from the gallows.
It should be noted that Mr. Bhullar who is also under death row in Tihar Jail had moved a petition in the Supreme Court to look into the matter of the delay in the execution of death sentence. There are case laws in the apex court wherein pronounced delay in the execution of death sentence is in itself grounds for converting the same into life. The court had appointed Mr. Ram Jethmalani as the amicus curiae in this case and was hearing the petition. That the Government of India under the Congress government has even subverted the Supreme Court in clandestinely executing the death sentence bemoans the real, fascist nature of this government which has scant regards for its own judiciary and law.
The clandestine execution of the death sentence of Mr. Afzal Guru violating all procedures and even the law of the land is nothing but desperate attempts of the ruling class parties like the Congress and the BJP to bet for votes appealing to the frenzy of jingoism. After having alienated the masses of the people and even the middle class through their anti-people, pro-market policies resulting in widespread miseries for the working people these parties have lost their faces and credibility and hence this desperate, brazen display of competitive jingoism on the life of someone who from the day one had never a chance to defend himself properly.
We at the CRPP appeal to all the democratic and progressive sections of the subcontinent to see through these devious designs of the ruling classes and forge a mass movement to abolish the evil of death penalty from the subcontinent.
The CRPP protests against the arrest of Prof.SAR Geelani who is our Working President while on his way to Malviya Nagar by the notorious Special Cell of the Delhi Police. The Special Cell as usual is browbeating in every possible way to terrorise the people from expressing their dissent against the clandestine execution of Mr. Afzal Guru. We demand his immediate and unconditional release. We call upon all progressive and democratic sections to protest against such fascist designs of the Indian state.
This House condemns in no uncertain terms the hanging of Afzal Guru by stealth and in secrecy, disallowing him the last judicial resort that was due to him. We condemn the callous denial to Afzal Guru the last opportunity to meet with his family members.
There is ample documentation to demonstrate that Afzal Guru’s trial was vitiated; that his legal defence was compromised; that fabricated and forged evidence was submitted to, and accepted by the court, the highest of which, admitted while sentencing him to death that this was done to satisfy the ‘collective conscience of the nation’.
We strongly oppose the cold-blooded execution of Afzal Guru in our name.
Vrinda Grover, Senior Advocate, Delhi
Yug Mohit Chaudhary, Senior Advocate, Mumbai
Manisha Sethi, Sangamitra Sanghamitra Misra, Tanweer Fazal and Rahul Govind, JTSA
V Suresh, Kavita Srivasta, Ravi Kiran Jain & Mahtab Alam, PUCL
Usha Ramanathan, Legal Researcher
Harsh Mandar, Aman Biradiri
Mahmood Farooqui, Writer
Anusha Rizvi, Filmmaker
Dilnawaz Pasha, Journalist
Shweta Ghosh, Filmmaker
Aftab Alam, DU
Peggy Mohan, Linguist and author
Meera Ahmad, Anthropologist
Mukul Dube, Writer-Editor
Iqbal Ahmad, Journalist
Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM
Mona Das, DU
Sadiq Naqvi, Journalist
Prashanto Chandra Sen
Mirtyunjay, Student for Resistance
Asad Ashraf, jamia millia islamia
Mayur Suresh, Advocate
G Anamda Selam, Advocate
Daanish Hussain, actor
Shalini Gera, Activist
G. Venkatesan, CHRI
Mary Abraham, Ambedkar University
P C Sen
Kusum Lata, SFR
Jitendra Kumar, JNU
S. Sethu Mahendran
Kathipavan. N, DU
K.S.M. Vimal Kanth
Sawmiya Rajaran, JNU
Manisha Pandey, Journalist
Shahnawaz Malik, Journalist
G. S. Anuj Kumar