Heavy hand of law

By K.N. Pandita

Obstinate question were raised in many circles why Afzal Guru’s hanging was delayed inordinately.  Only the opposition did not do the ranting; even ordinary citizens, and more particularly, the kith and kin of nine security personnel martyred in Guru-led terrorist attack on the Parliament on 13 December 2001 demanded an answer. They had even returned the medals of bravery given posthumously for the valiant soldiers who laid down their life while defending the law makers inside the parliament house.

It is intriguing that nobody among officials and non-officials is prepared to give a precise and convincing answer. Is terrorism being politicised? Do the stakeholders want to draw mileage out of terrorists-related incidents?  

But the ruling coalition is least willing to accept the fault line. The law has taken eleven long years to finally bring the case to its culmination.

Our country is governed by the rule of law drawn from her constitution. There is no timeframe within which a case under judicial scrutiny is to be disposed off. Capital punishment is not a welcome thing for any democratic government. It has many negative aspects.

Therefore a well-meaning government faced with a case of security and sovereignty of the nation will handle it with utmost care and absolutely within the parameters of the law of the land. In the process, state will not entertain a short cut to complicated, time-consuming and a difficult decision for the entire judicial hierarchy responsible for dispensing justice.

The judiciary allowed each and every layer of judicial dispensation to take natural course in the case of Afzal Guru. Even a petition of mercy filed by his wife to the President of India was duly considered, apart from the verdict of the lower, superior and the Apex Courts. The Apex Court, fully conscious of its enormous responsibility, convinced itself of Guru’s involvement in hatching the conspiracy of attack on the parliament, the temple of nation’s law and justice, and explained it in nearly 400 odd pages-long verdict.

In normal course, the hanging of a convict on the charges of subverting national security should not have been given such extensive coverage by the media. A mystique had been built around Guru the convict that “if he is hanged there will be a nation-wide fire”. It is this type of political opportunism of particular hue that had created the fantasia. Terrorism has many faces and many moods.

The important lesson which Indian state needs to learn from this case is that the might of the state has to assert when the security of the nation is at stake. Terrorists cannot escape the consequences of their actions.  J&K premier mainstream party is no stranger to this experience and two decades of militancy will not blur its vision from the hard fact that law works with a heavy hand when it must work.

To say that J&K had no case against Guru is mere escapism. J&K is part of what constitutes the Indian Parliament. Among others, her elected representatives in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were the likely targets of the terrorists’ attack sponsored by Afzal Guru. To protect them, nine security personnel laid down their precious lives. To say that Kashmir had no case against Guru is to trivialize the sacrifices of our martyrs.

The Hurriyatis who have given a call for three or four days of strike in Kashmir or elsewhere in the state by way of mourning the hanging of Guru, have taken great risk of damaging their claim that theirs is a non-violent struggle. In planning attack on Indian Parliament, Afzal Guru was carrying forward the agenda of Jaish-e-Muhammad’s supremo, Maulana Azhar, the banned terrorist organization in Pakistan. The Hurriyatis have to be clear who they want to have camaraderie with, Pakistan government or Pakistani terrorist and fundamentalist organizations like Jaish or Lashkar or Pakistani Taliban. Hurriyatis never give a call for strike when PTT blasts bombs in different parts of Pakistan that takes lives of scores of innocent people. In Quetta alone 120 persons were butchered in one single attack.  Pakistani authorities need to ascertain the status of Hurriyatis and demand UN ban on them as affiliates of Pakistan-based terrorists.

Giving a call to the people to go on strike is tantamount to instigating them for anti-government and anti-national uprising. The state is expected to act against such intimidating behaviour. Action against them becomes necessary because a majority of people in Kashmir want peace and normalcy in the state so that they are able to run the chores of life smoothly. Tourist season is about to set in and the valley expects substantial increase in the influx of foreign and national tourists. Disruption of normal activities is not acceptable to them.

Another question that crops up in connection with the hanging of Guru is about the punishment decreed by a court of law in the case of murder of Rajiv Gandhi the then Prime Minister of India and Sardar Beant Singh, the then Chief Minister of Punjab. Should not the law take its normal course in these and other cases? This question stands answered by Guru’s example. Everybody is equal in the eyes of law. That is what our constitution says and the Indian judiciary has had the credit of enforcing that law in letter and in spirit. The acquittal of Jeelani, an accomplice of Guru, by the court of law is a proof of equality before law.

Finally, the entire debate boils down to dealing effectively with terrorism in the country. The culture of terror that has spread so fast in J&K and also in parts of the country has been imported from a neighbouring country by vested interest. We may recollect that after the terrorist attack on our Parliament, a cabinet rank minister in Pakistan told the national assembly that the attack was planned in Pakistan.

The situation created by the terrorists is not that simple. It is a massive propaganda campaign in which the main strategy is to whip up public passions and arouse the masses of people against the regimes. Whipping up religious or jingoistic sentiments are most effective instruments of the terrorist organizations and their leadership. That is why the Chief Minster in his appeal to the people desired them not to believe in rumours but cross check their veracity. Rumour mongering has done great damage and the people have begun to realize that they are deliberately fed with false rumours and canard to paralyse their faculty of asking why and how of things.  Logical and pragmatic analysis of a given situation helps in minimising counter action by the security forces. The law enforcing agencies are most reluctant to use force to restore normalcy. They expect the people to be analytical and rational. Even religion categorically disallows shedding the blood of an innocent person. The law fully supports that tenet of faith. And all said and done, the might of the state supervenes where reason is flattened.

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