Afzal Guru

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Mohammed Afzal Guru
Born 1969
near Sopore, Baramulla district, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Died February 9, 2013(2013-02-09) (Age 43)
Tihar Jail, Delhi, India
Cause of death
Executed by hanging
Resting place
Tihar jail
Nationality Indian
Known for his conviction and execution in the 2001 Indian Parliament attack and his appeal in his capital punishment case.
Criminal charge
2001 attack on the Parliament of India
Criminal penalty
Death sentence
Criminal status
Executed by hanging at 8:00 am (IST) on 9 February 2013[1]
Spouse(s) Tabasum Guru[2]
Parents Habibullah (father)[2][3] and Ayesha Begum (mother)[2]
Conviction(s) Murder
Conspiracy
Waging war against India
Possession of explosives

Mohammad Afzal Guru (1969 – 9 February 2013), a citizen of India, was convicted by an Indian court for the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, and sentenced to death by a special Prevention of Terrorism Act Court in 2002. The Delhi High Court confirmed the judgment in 2003 and his appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of India in 2005.[4] The Supreme Court did not find any evidence as to his membership in any terrorist organisation but stated that the circumstances clearly established that Guru was associated with the deceased terrorists in almost every act done by them in order to achieve the objective of attacking the Parliament and there was sufficient and satisfactory circumstantial evidence to establish that he was a partner in the conspiracy.[5]

The sentence was scheduled to be carried out on 20 October 2006, but Guru was given a stay of execution after his wife filed a mercy petition.[1][6] On 3 February 2013, his mercy petition was rejected by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee and he was secretly hanged at Delhi's Tihar Jail around 08:00 am on 9 February 2013 and afterward buried inside jail grounds in Operation Three Star.[7][8] His family was not informed prior to execution and his dead body was later denied to his family, while his execution resulted in violent protests across the Kashmir region.[9][10]

Early life[edit]

Guru was born in Du Aabgah village near Sopore town in the Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir in 1969 to the family of Habibullah.[11][12] He completed his schooling from Government School, Sopore. He passed the matriculation exam in 1986 and completed his higher secondary education in Sopore. He subsequently enrolled in medical college. He had completed the first year of his MBBS course and was preparing for competitive exams.[12][13]

Training[edit]

His native place is Sopore and he was doing a commission agency business. It was during this business venture that he came into contact with Tariq of Anantnag, who motivated him to join Jihad for the liberation of Kashmir. He crossed the Line of Control and proceeded to Muzaffarabad Pakistani occupied kashmir. He became a member of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and then returned to Sopore shortly afterward to lead 300 rebels. On a visit to Kashmir in 1998, he married a Baramulla native Tabasum.[12] He did odd jobs and completed his graduation from Delhi University in the year 1993–94. While studying, he met SAR Geelani, who was pursuing his post graduation course.[citation needed] In the summer of 1993–94 on the advice of his family, he surrendered to the Border Security Force and returned to Delhi where he worked till 1996.[11][13] He took up a job with a pharmaceuticals firm and served as its area manager. Simultaneously, he worked as a commission agent for medical and surgical goods in the year 1996. During this period, he used to shuttle between Srinagar and Delhi.[12]

The case[edit]

The 13 December 2001 attack was conducted by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), although the Indian government also accused the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of involvement. Seven were killed by the attackers, including 6 Indian security and a gardener, and 15 others were injured. The five unidentified attackers were also killed.[1][14] At the end of December, US President George W. Bush made a telephone call to Pakistan President President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to defuse tensions between the two countries and urge them to move away from escalating the Parliament attack into war.[15]

On 15 December 2001, Guru was arrested by Delhi Police from Jammu and Kashmir,[14] and from December 2001 to May 2002, Guru had no lawyer.[16] SAR Geelani, an Indian educator, was picked up for questioning and was later arrested from Delhi. Two others – Afsan Guru and her husband Shaukat Hussain Guru—were picked up later. On 29 December 2001, Guru was sent to 10-day police remand.[14] The court appointed Guru his first lawyer, Seema Gulati, three days after he was initially charged 14 May 2002. She was same lawyer who later represented SAR Geelani, but in a paid capacity, and she dropped Guru's case after 45 days because of her case load.[16] In June 2002, charges were filed against all four of them.[14]

Confession[edit]

The evidence against Guru included his confessional statement, which was recorded by the DCP, Special Cell. It was recorded in the preamble of the confession that DCP had asked the policemen present there to leave the room. The signature of Guru was found beneath that endorsement.[17] The Supreme Court was angered by the act of police officials, who, in their over-zealousness, had arranged for a media interview.[17] However, after seven months, Guru disowned this confession and the Supreme Court did not accept the earlier confession as an evidence against him.[17]

Sushil Kumar, Guru's advocate later claimed that Guru had written a letter to him where Guru said that he had made the confessions under duress as his family was being threatened.[18] Journalist Vinod K. Jose claimed that Guru had told him in an interview in 2006, Guru had said that he had been subjected to extreme torture which included electric shocks in private parts and being beaten up for hours along with threats regarding his family after his arrest.[19] Between the time of his arrest and the time when initial charges were filed, Guru was told that his brother was held in detention.[19] At the time of his confession, he had no legal representation.[16][19]

Charges[edit]

Following were the charges against Guru:[4][11]

  • Waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India and Conspiracy to commit the same – Section 121 and 121A of the Indian Penal Code
  • Collecting arms, etc., with intention of waging war against the Government of India – Section 122 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Criminal conspiracy to commit murder and attempt to commit murder – Section 120B read with Sections 302 & 307 of the Indian Penal Code
  • Conspiring to commit and knowingly facilitating the commission of a terrorist act or acts preparatory to terrorist act and also voluntarily harbouring and concealing the deceased terrorists knowing that such persons were terrorists and were the members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, a banned terrorist organisation, which is involved in acts of terrorism; and hence committing an offence punishable under Section 3(3) (4) and (5) of Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002.
  • Possession of INR 10 Lakhs given to him by the terrorists who were killed by the police when they attacked the Parliament of India.

Eighty witnesses were examined for the prosecution and ten were examined for defence.[citation needed]

Conviction[edit]

On 18 December 2002, a death sentence was given to Guru, S A R Geelani and Shaukat Hussain Guru, while Afsan Guru was let off.[14] In August 2003, Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Ghazi Baba, who was a prime accused in the attack was killed in an encounter with the Border Security Force (BSF) in Kashmir Capital, Srinagar. Three other militants, along with him were also killed in the 10-hour encounter. In October 2003, on an appeal, Delhi High Court upheld the order.

The judgment mentions:

"The gravity of the crime conceived by the conspirators with the potential of causing enormous casualties and dislocating the functioning of the Government as well as disrupting normal life of the people of India is something which cannot be described in words. The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, has shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender."[20]


On 19 December 2001 he made a confession of the offences, which was recorded and signed by him. He also confirmed having made the confessional statement without any threat or pressure.[21] However in his 10 year long imprisonment he refuted the involvement in attack several times and claimed that the confession was made under pressure and threats to his family. In his letter to India, he mentioned that he was innocent and had no role in any attack. His letter mentioned that he is a pious Muslim and does not support killing of innocents. in his one letter to Indian media he request the journalist to publish his statement, however the statement came to light only after his execution. The letter talked about Delhi High Court bomb blast and claimed it to be the act against the principles of Islam. He also refuted that he had to play any role in it.

However, he was convicted for the offenses under Sections 121, 121A, 122, Section 120B read with Sections 302 & 307 read with Section 120B IPC, sub-Sections (2), (3) & (5) of Section 1, 3(4), 4(b)of POTA and Sections 3 & 4 of Explosive Substances Act. He was also sentenced to life imprisonment on as many as eight counts under the provisions of IPC, POTA and Explosive Substances Act in addition to varying amounts of fine.[22]

An appeal was made to the Delhi High Court, but after going through the case and taking into consideration various authorities and precedents, the Court found that the conviction of Guru was correct and hence his appeal was dismissed.[11] The co-accused in the case, SAR Geelani and Afsan Guru (wife of, were acquitted by the High Court 29 October 2003.[14][23][24][25] On 4 August 2005, the Supreme Court, upheld the death sentence for Afzal Guru while it commuted Shaukat Hussain Guru's sentence from death to 10 years imprisonment.[14][26] Of the three sentenced to death, SAR Geelani (who was presented as the mastermind behind the attack), Shaukat Hussain Guru and Afzal Guru, only Afzal Guru's penalty was upheld by the Supreme Court.[25]

In October 2006, Guru's wife Tabasum Guru filed a mercy petition with then President of India A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. In June 2007, Supreme Court dismissed Guru's plea seeking review of his death sentence, saying "there is no merit" in it. In December 2010, Shaukat Hussain Guru was released from Delhi's Tihar Jail due to his good conduct.[14]

In its judgement, the Supreme Court observed:

"As criminal acts took place pursuant to the conspiracy, the appellant, as a party to the conspiracy, shall be deemed to have abetted the offence. In fact, he took active part in a series of steps taken to pursue the objective of conspiracy."

Supreme Court of India, Judgement on Appeal by Guru on August 5, 2005.[17][26]

The Supreme Court observed that mostly, the conspiracies are proved by the circumstantial evidence.[5] It held that the circumstances detailed in the judgment clearly established that Guru was associated with the deceased militants in almost every act done by them in order to achieve the objective of attacking the Parliament House. It also observed that there was sufficient and satisfactory circumstantial evidence to establish that Guru was a partner in this conspired crime of enormous gravity. It has to be noted, that in its judgement of 5 August 2005, the supreme court admitted that the evidence against Guru was only circumstantial, and that there was no evidence that he belonged to any terrorist group or organisation. He was subsequently meted out three life sentences and a double death sentence.[17]

Clemency pleas[edit]

There was an appeal to issue clemency to Guru from various human rights groups including political groups in Kashmir,[27] who believe that Guru did not receive a fair trial and was framed by corrupt police and the victim of inefficient police work.[28] Human rights activists in various parts of India and the world have demanded reprieve as they believe that the trial was flawed. Arundhati Roy and Praful Bidwai castigated the trial and argued that Guru has been denied natural justice.[29] Accusations of human rights violations have been made by many.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and local political groups voiced their support of clemency for Guru . It was alleged many have done so to appease Muslim voters in India.[30] However there were protests (with instances of stone pelting at Indian security forces) in Kashmir against the planned execution of Guru in 2006.[citation needed]

Communist Party of India (Marxist) was critical of both the Congress as well as of the BJP, and claimed it was delaying the legal procedure in the case accusing it of trying to whip up enmity between communities in the name of a crime done by a group of criminals. The party wants the law of the land to take its course without any interference.[31]

Ram Jethmalani held that it is completely within the president's power to commute the Death sentence and is not a mercy plea. He said, "It’s a misnomer to call it a mercy petition. It leads to total misunderstanding of the constitutional power. The constitutional power is that the president has the power to disagree with the Supreme Court both with its findings of fact and law."[32] The case became political and it was not carried out because of fear of revenge attacks. The Jammu and Kashmir People's Democratic Party president and MP, Mehbooba Mufti commented that the Centre should pardon Afzal if Pakistan accepted the clemency appeal for Sarabjit Singh.[33]

However, the All-India Anti-Terrorist Front Chairman Maninderjeet Singh Bitta urged the President of India not to accept any clemency pleas on Afzal's behalf. He warned that his organisation would launch agitations if Afzal was pardoned. He also criticised statements of various political leaders and blamed them for "encouraging activities of terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir".[34]

An India Today poll in late October showed that 78% of Indians supported the death penalty for Afzal.[30]

On 12 November 2006, the former Deputy Prime Minister of India, Lal Krishna Advani criticised the delay in carrying out the death sentence on Guru for the Parliament terror attack, saying, "I fail to understand the delay. They have increased my security. But what needs to be done immediately is to carry out the court's orders".

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) severely criticised Arundhati Roy. BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said:

"Those who are supporting Afzal by demanding that he should not be hanged are not only acting against public sentiment in the country but are giving a fillip to terrorist morale"[35]

On 23 June 2010, the Ministry of Home Affairs recommended the president's office to reject the mercy petition. On 7 January 2011, a whistle-blowing site indianleaks.in leaked a document which stated that the mercy petition file was not with President of India. This was rubbished by Kapil Sibal in an interview with NDTV.[36] This was confirmed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi on 23 Feb 2011. With the death penalty handed to Ajmal Kasab, the speculation was that Guru was next in line.[37]

On 10 August 2011, the home ministry of India rejected the mercy petition, and sent a letter to the President of India recommending the death penalty .[38]

On 7 September 2011, a high intensity bomb blast outside Delhi high court killed 11 people and left 76 others injured.[39] In an e-mail sent to a media house Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, an Islamic fundamentalist organisation, owned responsibility for the attack and claimed the blast was carried out in retaliation to Parliament attack convict Guru's death sentence.

"We own the responsibility for today's blasts at Delhi high court. Our demand is that Mohammed Afzal Guru's death sentence should be repealed immediately else we would target major high courts and the Supreme Court of India."[40]

Later on Afzal Guru in his letter[which?] declared the attack on Delhi High Court that killed 11 Indians against the principles of Islam and refuted all allegations with the attack.[citation needed]

Execution[edit]

On 16 November 2012, the president had sent seven cases back to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), including Afzal Guru's. The president requested Sushil Kumar Shinde, home minister, review the opinion of his predecessor, P. Chidambaram. On 10 December, Shinde indicated he would look at the file after the winter session of the Parliament was finished on 20 December.[14][41][42][43] Shinde made his final recommendation to execute Guru on 23 January 2013.[7] On 3 February 2013, Guru's mercy petition was rejected by the President of India.[7][14]

Afzal Guru was hanged six days later on 9 February 2013 at 8 am.[44] Jail officials have said that when Guru was told about his execution, he was calm. He expressed his wish to write to his wife. The jail superintendent gave him a pen and paper. He wrote the letter in Urdu, which was posted to his family in Kashmir the same day. Very few officers were told about the decision. Three doctors and a maulvi, who performed his last rites, were informed secretly a night before. They were asked to come early Saturday morning. Guru performed his morning prayers and read a few pages of the Quran. Guru's letter was delivered to his family on 12 February.[8][45] The execution of Mohammed Afzal Guru was named Operation Three Star.

Guru's family was informed of his execution two days after by a letter sent through Speed Post, a fast courier service, to their home in Sopore.[46] Postal officials in Srinagar said the letter was received on Saturday evening of 9 February, but could be delivered only on Monday, or 11 February, because Sunday was a public holiday.[47]

Aftermath of execution[edit]

The secret operation surrounding the execution of Afzal Guru was code named Operation Three Star.[2] The prison took steps to execute Guru in secrecy.[46] The execution was carried out without the family's knowledge or any form of public announcement.[48][49][50] Guru's body was buried on prison grounds to prevent a public funeral.[46]

On a national level, security was prepared beforehand for public protests.[46] After Guru's execution, a curfew was then imposed by the authorities when the news became public in Kashmir to prevent any kind of protests in support of Guru.[51] State-run media Doordarshan announced the execution on the morning of 9 February, and Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state, made a special appeal on television for public calm.[44][52][53] Authorities also shut down cable TV and internet services to try to stop further news of the hanging and activists from organizing and spreading unrest.[54]

Mosques throughout the region were used for public announcements and curfew information.[1] SAR Geelani, who was co-accused in the attacks on the Indian parliament and later acquitted by the Supreme Court,[26] was taken into preventive custody by the Delhi Police.[49] Several leaders from the separatist movement were also detained.[48] However, protests flared up in parts of the Valley—Guru's hometown of Sopore, Baramulla in North Kashmir and Pulwama in South Kashmir—and groups of young men broke curfew and threw stones at security forces.[10][54] Police fired at protesters, and 36 people were injured, including 23 policemen, said a police spokesperson, particularly around Guru's home district where most of the violence was concentrated.[10][48][52]

There were scuffles in Delhi too, where Bajrang Dal and VHP members were celebrating the hanging of Afzal Guru. Soon Kashmiri students from Delhi University and Jawaharlal University accompanied by members of CPI(M-L), Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (who were condemning capital punishment) started a counter-protest in support of Afzal Guru and chanted slogans in support of an independent Kashmir. Tensions escalated as the rival protests took on a communal hue when both groups raised religious slogans and scuffled with each other as police struggled to keep them separated. Protesters holding protests on different issues too joined the foray against the Kashmiri students. The situation was brought under control by policemen in riot gear who bundled the students into waiting buses and drove them away. Delhi police lathicharged protestors at Jantar Mantar. The police detained at least 21 Kashmiri students. Female students were also assaulted.[55][56]

Involved parties[edit]

In an interview in 2006 with Jose, Guru said, "If you want to hang me, go ahead with it, but remember it will be a black spot on the judicial and political system of India."[19]

In the letter written before his death, Guru wrote, "I am about to be hanged. Now, near the gallows, I want to tell you (family members) that I was not given enough time to write a detailed letter. I am thankful that Allah (God) chose me for this sacrifice. And please, take care of Tabasum and Galib."[2]

SAR Geelani condemned Afzal Guru's hanging was a "cruel and politically motivated gimmick" and a " politically motivated decision."[50]

Justice SN Dhinga, the Judge who sentenced Guru and co-accused Shaukat Guru and SAR Geelani to death in 2002, termed the execution a political move stating that the judiciary took just three years to decide the matter while the executive took eight years to implement the same[57]

International human rights groups[edit]

Amnesty International condemned the execution saying that it 'indicates a disturbing and regressive trend towards executions shrouded in secrecy'. Shashikumar Velath, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India said "We condemn the execution in the strongest possible terms. This very regrettably puts India in opposition to the global trend towards moving away from the death penalty”.[58]

Pakistan[edit]

In April 2013, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the execution of Afzal Guru inside the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir region. The President said, "The hanging of Afzal Guru through the abuse of judicial process has further aggravated and angered the people of Kashmir."[59]

Political parties[edit]

Most political parties[60] with exception of Kashmiri politicians welcomed the move by the Government of India. The BJP stated that it was a correct move albeit very late. It also stated that the public opinion forced Afzal Guru's hanging.[61][62]

A leader from the Bharatiya Janata Party, Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi, tweeted "better late than never" after the news of Guru's execution by hanging had been announced.[1] Modi had been previously been critical of the government for delaying Guru's execution after the Supreme Court's final decision.[63]

Jammu and Kashmir People's Democratic Party spokesman Naeem Akhtar also criticised Guru's burial inside the prison complex in New Delhi, saying the body should have been given to his family in Kashmir.[62] The All Parties Hurriyat Conference announced a four-day mourning on the death of Guru.[62] The Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, announced three day mourning and the Kashmir flag waved at half mast.[64]

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has been highly critical about Afzal Guru's hanging. He said the "biggest tragedy" of the execution was that he was not allowed to meet his family before he was hanged. He also suggested that the Centre was "selective" in avenging attacks on symbols of democracy and backed the allegation that the legal process in the Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru's case was "flawed".[65]

Omar Abdullah’s father, Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Union minister Farooq Abdullah said: "Afzal Guru’s mercy petition was put before the President. He rejected it. The matter is over."[66]

Legal experts[edit]

The Hindu published in an article by Praveen Swami where he mentioned that legal experts have cast no small doubt on whether Guru received a fair trial, whether his guilt was proved and whether his death penalty was legitimate. It was cited that the debates on this case had engaged some of India’s finest legal minds for months, both on the side of the state and defence. In Praveen Swami's view "The Supreme Court’s word is not, and ought not to be, the final word. Indeed, the deep ambiguities that surround Guru’s case are in themselves compelling argument to rethink the death penalty."[67]

The press[edit]

Although the press in India has been supportive of Guru's hanging[citation needed], a section of the press criticized the manner in which the execution was carried out. In particular, the Times of India pointed out that since assumption of office as president Pranab Mukherjee had turned down three clemency petitions – Ajmal Amir Kasab, Afzal Guru and Saibanna Ningappa Natekar.[68] Times of India highlighted the possible lack of due process evident in the government's failure to comply with the stipulation of the jail manual to inform Guru's family about the date of the execution. The compromise is more evident in Guru's case because, unlike Kasab, his family members are Indians, who live in Kashmir. The rationale behind this stipulation is to provide the convict a chance to meet his family members for the last time.[68]

In a different article, the Times of India also noted that "There's no doubt, therefore, that the crime of which Afzal has been convicted falls in the "rarest of rare" category. In the event he's gone through due process, as exemplified in the acquittals or lesser sentencing of all three of his co-accused through various stages of the judicial process, depending on quality of evidence. Once the president rejected his mercy petition the government had no option but to carry out the death sentence."[69]

However in an article, it was observed in The Hindu that though judicial determination will – and ought to be – subjected to continued critical scrutiny but there is nothing to show the judicial system was blind to Guru’s legal rights. The article also criticised the journalists and political leaders of 'a certain kind' for not dealing with the "full truth".[67] Dawn observed that the timing in which he was executed was clearly an attempt to thwart the impending criticism of the economy’s dwindling growth rate which has reportedly come down to a 10-year low of five per cent. The hanging was also expected to make the Congress party look as hardline as the BJP. The demeanour is considered useful with the urban middle class voter.[70]

Victims' families[edit]

The families of victims of the 2001 parliament attack said that they will write to president Pranab Mukherjee to get back the bravery awards returned by them earlier. The families had earlier returned the medals to protest the delay in hanging.[71]

Home minister[edit]

Indian Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that Afzal Guru's family was informed about the hanging decision on time. But the family was not aware of Guru's hanging since the Speed post letter sent by the tihar jail authorities regarding the hanging of Afzal reached his family 2 days after his hanging.[72][73] He defended the secrecy government maintained in the execution saying that it would not have happened had the decision been made public in advance.[74] He also denied the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's charge that he was kept in the dark about the Centre's decision to hang him. He said: "I personally informed Omar about the execution. Also, the family of Afzal Guru was informed on the night of February 07." Asserting the need to maintain secrecy, Shinde said, "This, as Ajmal Kasab's case, was extremely sensitive, government had to be very careful. Secrecy has to be maintained in such cases."[75] He also picked holes in Omar Abdullah’s assertion that Parliament attack convict Guru’s hanging was "out of turn."[66]

Lawyers' resignation[edit]

On 13 February, few days after Guru's execution, lawyers N D Pancholi and Nandita Haksar withdrew as his family's counsel, citing "unseemly controversies" and "suspicion" by certain political groups in Kashmir. Without elaborating on the immediate reasons for their decision they said that in Kashmir some political groups feel that there offers of solidarity and friendship with suspicion.[76]

Handing over body[edit]

Guru 's wife, Tabasum, had sought to claim his body which was buried in the Tihar Jail. However citing the jail manual, central government is likely to reject the same. Delhi Jail manual provides that the body may not be transferred to the family/friends "if there are grounds for supposing that the prisoner's funeral will be an occasion for a demonstration".[77]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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