Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Dreaded Terrorist – Death or Clemency?

Summary: The verdict of capital punishment to Mohd Afzal, an accused in the December 13, 2001 Indian Parliament attack case, has sparked wide spread agitations and demonstrations in Jammu & Kashmir. With political and separatist outfits rallying for Presidential pardon, critical questions need to be answered in the wake of these developments.

The verdict of death sentence awarded to Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant Mohd Afzal, a co-accused in the December 13, 2001 Indian Parliament terrorist attack case has created furore and unfortunately is acquiring monstrous political overtures. The issue is snowballing in to a major controversy and threatens to fuel further, the militant agitation in Jammu & Kashmir.

The Delhi court in its verdict has ordered Mohd Afzal to be hanged till death in Tihar Central Jail on October 20 at 0600 hours. Of the four accused in the most dastardly attack on the highest institution of the country that stands as edifice of people’s will & democracy, two were acquitted and another JeM militant Shaukat Hussain Guru has been sentenced to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. Interestingly, the pronouncement of the death sentence to Mohd Afzal by the trail court has been confirmed and upheld by the Supreme Court on August 4, 2005.

Soon after the award of death sentence by the Delhi Court on September 26, various militant and separatist organizations lead by JKLF, held protest marches and demonstrations in Jammu & Kashmir demanding Mohd Afzal’s release and urging the President of India to grant pardons and clemency. Taking a cue from these agitations and sensing a political opportunity, several mainstream and separatist political parties of the state including the ruling Congress joined the chorus seeking clemency for Mohd Afzal.

However what baffles and astonishes most and the one which has turned in to a major embarrassment for the Central Government and Congress, is the appeal by the Chief Minister of the Congress lead Government in Jammu & Kashmir, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, for Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh’s intervention in the case and demanding that Mohd Afzal’s death sentence be kept in abeyance and be pardoned by the President of India.

The appeal by Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad has raised the hackles of leading judicial luminaries and the general public and raises several very serious questions that need to be answered by the Central Government and the Congress party. Though the spokesperson of the Congress party Mr. Abhishek Singhvi parried all questions from the media and distanced the Party from the views expressed by the Chief Minister, saying that his party neither endorses nor rejects Mr. Azad’s views. According to Mr. Singhvi, there are established procedures as per the law of the land in such cases and that it is the exclusive domain and discretion of the President of India to grant clemency.

The arguments of the state’s separatist organizations in favor of Mohd. Afzal though, are ‘understandable’ and do not come as surprise. These organizations have over the last two decades sought to establish an Independent Jammu & Kashmir with able assistance and support provided by the hard core fundamentalist terrorist organizations and the State of Pakistan. They certainly can’t stand one of their ‘leader’ and revered commandant of JeM, being hanged to death even though the heinous crime committed by Mohd Afzal and his associates amounts to waging war on the country. The execution of Mohd Afzal would certainly be a severe blow to these separatist organizations in their fight against the Indian establishment and diminish any moral support by the people of Jammu & Kashmir they have clung on, to further their movement seeking merger with Pakistan or emerge as an Independent state. The violent demonstrations witnessed in the state in the last few days certainly must have been instigated by these organizations and can’t in all possibility be the opinion and judgment of the issue by the democracy willing, moderate section of the Jammu & Kashmir society.

The political parties ever eager to pounce on emotive issues and utilize them to gain political mileage, have however, put forward arguments in favor of Mohd Afzal that definitely are hollow and need to be harshly condemned. Shaken and worried by the outpouring of ‘support’ to the demand of clemency to Mohd Afzal and as if showing ‘concern’ to the genuine demand of the ‘people’ of the state, all the major parties including the state government, have jumped in to the fray singing in chorus with these ‘aggrieved’ sections of the Jammu & Kashmir society. However, what they easily and conveniently have forgotten is that having sworn in the name of Indian Constitution, they are the representatives who collectively shall uphold and execute the laws as enshrined in the Constitution.

The terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament - the temple of the world’s largest democracy, surely ranks as a heinous crime and had the plans of the terrorists been successful, it would have resulted in agonizing miserable and unforeseen consequences that are hard to imagine and might have zapped and sniffed the ‘life’ out of a vibrant nation. If it were not to be for the daring retaliation action undertaken by the security officers at the high security Parliament complex and one in which few of them laid their lives, the terrorists would certainly have gained access to the ‘sanctum sanctorum’ of the Parliament and caused unimaginable damage. That terror attacks are not new and poses the gravest threat to the country is an acknowledged fact and in the last two decades, thousands of innocent lives have been lost in mindless violence and destruction perpetrated by the terrorists. Though the rest of the world, acknowledged terrorism as the most dangerous threat to human kind today after 9/11 attacks in United States, India has been for too long, the nation that has suffered the most and at times even humiliated owing to the ‘soft corner’ and approaches adopted by the Indian Governments to tackle the menace. Any acts of terrorism irrespective of who carries out the dastardly acts, call for stringent sentences after a fair hearing given to the accused as per the laws of the land. If a nation remains strong and showcases its will to implement such steps to thwart further attacks, it would be definitely sending right signals to those who mastermind such acts and cause untold misery and deathblow to innocent ordinary civilians in the name of their religious faith.

When our courts and legal system is often criticized for the lengthy trials and enormous number of years they consume to deliver judgements, the Parliament attack case - considering its sheer importance, has moved at a rapid pace and the trail court has delivered its verdict after all the deliberations and detailed hearings. It has been time and again clarified by the Supreme Court that capital punishment is awarded only in the ‘rarest’ of rare cases, so that the beliefs of a civilized society in the human values and ethos are kept intact and their virtues are reiterated. The court would have duly considered the Parliament attack case from all legal angles and has found it to be one such ‘rarest of rare’ cases, which deserves the severest sentence possible for the accused. If in the trail court’s conviction and as upheld by the Supreme Court, the accused Mohd Afzal is guilty of committing such a crime and appropriate sentence is awarded, it is not for the ‘Executive’ arm of the government to decide the merit or innocence of the accused.

That Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of this nation is an indisputable fact and under no circumstances will it possible for this country to agree for its independence or secession from the fabric of this nation. In waging this unjust cause, they have only caused alienation of various faiths and have bled death and destruction to thousands of innocent lives. In connivance with extensive support garnered from across the border, the fundamentalist terrorist organizations have caused untold miseries and bloodshed in this country as testified by so many terror attacks, the very recent being the Mumbai train blasts.

It has been argued that execution of Mohd Afzal would elevate him as a Martyr for a cause and may further fuel the separatist movement in the already embittered state of Jammu & Kashmir. This certainly bears no valid reason to seek clemency. It is these very people who have over the years planned and agitated for what they believe to be a ‘just’ cause. Such people who dogmatically believe in their ‘just ideology’ certainly can not be clubbed with other criminals. They are a blot to civilian society and deserve the most stringent punishment. It is easier for emotions to supercede the harsh reality, but when these perpetrators of ‘dance of death’ feel no human emotions when they maim and kill thousands of innocent people, ‘emotions’ lose their perceived conception and meaning and definitely needs to take a back seat to deal with the realities. In the instigated clamor for clemency to Mohd Afzal, and by not honoring the court’s verdict, it only goes to show how blatantly the anti-India forces are trying to make a ‘martyr’ of Mohd. Afzal. As if to add fuel to the already flaring communal sentiments in the nation, these votaries for clemency smell a rat in the date chosen by the court for execution of Mohd Afzal. October 20 happens to be a holy day in the calendar of Muslims and if executed on such a pious day, they believe it would send ulterior motives to the Muslims in the country. It is known as per Indian Constitution that courts do not favor any religion and have always ensured communal harmony in many of their verdicts, despite interferences by several Governments and political outfits. The trail court in its wisdom would certainly have considered many aspects and chosen the date as demanded by all legal and bureaucratic procedures. So such a decision can not be seen from the myopic eye and judged as sending wrong signals.

The National Conference chief Mr. Farooq Abdulla in a television interview, hinted at the possibility of this verdict dividing the Hindu and Muslim communities in India. It was surely a ploy by Mr. Abdulla to appease the minorities and further fan their alienation from the mainstreams of the nation. If the execution of a dreaded terrorist as per the laws of this land, is seen as persecution of ‘minorities’, then how will one answer the reasons for killings of innocents by such dreaded terrorists. The lives laid down by thousands of innocents would carry no meaning and the wretched lives of their near and dear ones would be bereft of any belief in the system that trumpets to provide justice. Mr. Abdulla should certainly know very well that it is the duty of the Governments to provide security to the people of the country irrespective of their religious faiths.

In another astonishing argument, Mr. Abdulla pointed out to an earlier incident in which execution of separatist leader ‘Maqbool Bhat’ had resulted in the backlash and the judge who had pronounced the verdict of death sentence on Bhat was killed later by his supporters. Mr. Abdulla should have realized these judges who pronounce death sentences to the accused, stand true to the spirit of justice and uphold the constitution despite such threats. It speaks volumes of their gumption and belief in universal values.

Many politicians have backed their argument of clemency for Afzal stating that his execution would severely hamper the Indo-Pak peace process. This looks ridiculous to say the least. When killing of thousands of innocent Indians by the terrorist supported by Pakistan hasn’t stopped our dumb headed politicians from taking buses, trains and CBM’s to Pakistan and ‘inviting’ them to open new frontiers of attacks and kill and maim thousands, how can this possibly stop Indo-Pak ‘peace process’!.

The shocking news which would surely aghast many right thinking people of this country is out already – that of President Kalam being petitioned by Afzal’s family for clemency and as a consequence the date of October 20, 2006 for hanging to death Mohd. Afzal, put off indefinitely till the decision is taken by the President. What a shame that our politicians who called the attack on the Parliament the most heinous act of terror, now join hands and leave no efforts unturned to pardon the very man who masterminded the entire episode.

All this just to secure minority vote bank and transform BHARAT in to another ‘Talibstan’ in next few decades…,

In trying to color the entire episode of clemency demands for Mohd Afzal, as a will of people of Jammu & Kashmir, our political parties including the Congress at the Centre are only indulging in giving the final blow to our justice system. The common citizenry of this nation aspires that their Government tackles the menace of terrorism with iron hands bending to no dogmatic religious faiths. It has in its hands one such rare opportunity to show case that it believes in the wisdom of the Courts and battles the terrorists with focused hard nosed methods. If implementation of the courts will is sabotaged, the country will for ever loose the already frail belief in its constitution, the judiciary and the executive.


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