“Let life be dead, but death must not be allowed to live” – Marx
Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) condemns the Indian government in the strongest possible terms for hanging Mohammad Afzal Guru at Tihar Jail this morning in a dastardly manner. The process of his arrest, trial, his sentencing by the lower court and the upholding of the death sentence by the Supreme Court, the rejection of his petition to the president, denial of his right to a judicial review of this rejection, and finally his secret hanging – all point towards the farcical nature of Indian judiciary and the complicity of the entire present political system in persecuting political dissidents.
Moreover, we also condemn the arrest of Prof. SAR Geelani by the Delhi Police and the indefinite curfew imposed on the Kashmir Valley to muzzle the voices of protest against the judicial murder of Afzal Guru. The staging of the ‘Parliament Attack’ on 13 December 2001 was the result of a conspiracy hatched by the Indian government, its armed forces, intelligence agencies and the Kashmir police under the directions of the then NDA home minister L K Advani. It is no surprise that the identity of the five attackers who were killed has never been revealed. In the worldwide political scenario following the attack on the WTC on 9 September 2001, the comprador Indian ruling classes desperately wanted to be a part of the US-led ‘War on Terror’.
The attack on the Indian Parliament was orchestrated by the BJP government to prepare the grounds for persecution of the Muslim religious minorities in general and the national liberation movement of Kashmir in particular. What followed globally after 9/11 and in India after 13 December 2001 has a similar pattern. As a part of the imperialist ‘War on Terror’ and Islamophobia, thousands of Muslims – both Indian and Kashmiri – were arbitrarily arrested, tortured, imprisoned and killed by the Indian state with complete disregard for the rule of law and justice.
Under the garb of defending ‘national security’ and the unity and integrity of the nation’ in the aftermath of the attack on the parliament’, the Indian ruling classes strengthened its coercive apparatus and launched a vicious campaign against the Muslims, which continues to this day. Afzal’s hanging, like the hanging of Maqbool Bhat on 11 February 1984 in the same jail – are going to embolden the Hindutva fascist forces on the one hand, while stoking the fires of the liberation struggles waged by the masses in Kashmir and India on the other.
Like countless other Kashmiris, his has been a life faced with constant threats from Indian security forces stationed in Jammu and Kashmir. During the 1980s, many Kashmiri youth were retaliating against the military force of the Indian state that sought to impose itself against the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Afzal also joined the armed resistance struggle and crossed over as a JKLF volunteer to get trained in Pakistan. But soon he got disillusioned with the internecine conflicts of various groups and decided to quit. He surrendered in front of the State Task Force (STF) in Kashmir.
He started his new life with a shop, selling medicines and surgical instruments. But Afzal was approached by the corrupt STF to work as an informer, which he refused. From then on he was time-to-time picked up by the security forces and brutally tortured in the STF camps. He was often kept under illegal confinement. Tabassum, Afzal’s wife, had to sell her jewellery to pay the bribes to get him released. It is in this atmosphere of constant threat and intimidation that Afzal was entrapped by the STF in 2001 and got him implicated in the Indian government’s conspiracy of the Parliament attack.
He has clearly stated all this in his letter to Sushil Kumar, Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court. Afzal Guru was arrested and named an accused on the basis of concocted evidence. The only piece of ‘evidence’ the prosecution could produce against Afzal Guru was his phone number which was claimed to be found on a piece of paper the body of one of the persons who took part in the attack. While in custody, Afzal was forced to admit that he was behind the Parliament attacks. He was also threatened of dire consequences for his family. On his arrest, Afzal was also subject to an unjust trial by media on 20 December 2001.
Thus, he was already painted as a ‘terrorist’ even before the start of a trial. The entire atmosphere was vitiated and even the judiciary was prejudiced against Afzal, exposing the Hindu majoritarian character of the state and its judiciary. Afzal was handed out an unfair trial all through the legal process, extending till his killing by the state in Tihar jail. Afzal was denied a lawyer of his choice in the lower court where the case against him was built up. In fact, none of the 80 prosecution witnesses were cross-examined on his behalf. Afzal had asked the designated POTA court for a lawyer and had even given a list of eight lawyers.
However, the lower court judge was too prejudiced to heed to his requirement. Later, the amicus curiae who was appointed by the court was not a criminal lawyer who could handle cross-examination with the right expertise. When the verdict of death penalty by the trial court was reviewed by the High Court, the court itself observed that Afzal has been pronounced death sentence on the basis of evidence fabricated by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. The Supreme Court also cleared him of association with any banned organization. The courts had to admit that the evidence against Afzal is very weak and circumstantial.
The judges also noted that the Delhi Police lied on oath, manufactured forged documents and used torture to extract false confessions from Afzal. There was no direct evidence against him, and the so-called evidence managed by the police did not prove his involvement beyond any reasonable doubt. The conspiracy of the state to frame and implicate Muslims for the Parliament Attack was exposed when the Supreme Court was forced to acquit his two other co-accused, S A R Geelani and Navjot Sandhu, for lack of evidence. Yet, in a brazen mockery of justice, the highest court of the land refused to set aside the death penalty on Afzal by simply stating that “the collective conscience of the society will be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender”!
Afzal Guru’s unfair persecution by the state and denial of justice did not end with the pronouncement of the death sentence. His petition to the President was cruelly kept pending for over eight years, with the shadow of death constantly hanging over him all the while. Indeed, his death penalty should have been converted to life imprisonment, and then he should have been set free since he had already served a jail term of twelve years.
But this was not done, and instead, the gallows were readied for his execution. When the President finally rejected his petition on 3 February 2013, this was not communicated to the outside world. His right to the judicial review of the President’s rejection of his petition – to which he is entitled as per the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court – was denied to him. Finally, today in the morning he was hanged in a highly secretive and conspiratorial manner at Tihar Jail even without informing his wife and family about his impending execution. Then, to crush all voices of protest, the Indian state moved to clamp curfew in Kashmir and also arrested Prof S A R Geelani who was strongly exposing the state’s conspiracy through the electronic media immediately after Afzal’s hanging was confirmed.
The execution of Afzal Guru must be protested by all the democratic and progressive forces of the country. Like the hanging of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Bhoomaiah & Kista Gowda and of Maqbool Bhat, the murder of Afzal Guru will inspire us to intensify the struggle for a complete overhaul of this unjust and exploitative system, and to bring about a new society.
Varavara Rao, President, RDF 09676541715
Rajkishore, General Secretary, RDF 09717583539