Afzal Guru. Enemy of the nation. Main accused in 2001 Parliament attack.
Remember the story of the sly fox who devoured all the baby crocodiles bar one so that whenever the mother crocodile would come asking for her babies then it would show that only surviving one repeatedly so that the mother would go away assuming everything’s fine with the babies? Or ever heard the term ‘sacrificial lamb’? Those surrendered Kashmiri jihadi militants are Indian Army’s sacrificial lamb or surviving baby crocodile, whichever you prefer to call them.
Once they surrender, they are rehabilitated, under the surveillance of the Army and BSF. Those ex-militants try to resume a normal citizen’s life, an ordinary citizen’s life. Of course, they have to present themselves in front of the Army for routine verifications, sometimes they are used by the Army as Informers, identifying the suspected terrorists in the identification parade in different localities of Kashmir. This job makes their lives more threatened by the existing Jihadi terrorists, so the Army protects them, with utmost care.
But every service comes at a price. Army does not do it out of charity. Often some Major or some other Army Officer raids their home, demands ransom, in cash or “kind”. Struggling to settle down in the mainstream, those ex-militants try to satisfy those officers by selling household goods, or borrowing money from friends, or by some other means. They pay off the crime they have done once, in this way, throughout their lives, in exchange of protection for their lives. They are not even entitled to leave Kashmir for any reason.
Let me share a story – a true story. I thought of using it for colouring a character in a novel I would write someday, but the time demands it to be told right now.
A lady employed in the Defence Ministry, went to visit Kashmir few years back. As she was the MoD personnel, the Army establishments there arranged for their stay, sightseeing etc. Part of their plan was one-two days’ excursion to Gulmarg. The Army Officer in charge of their hospitality arranged a local Kashmiri guy as their guide to visit places in Gulmarg.
The guide was gentle, but there was something unusual in his appearance – that’s what the lady told me later. A pair of his glaring eyes was not making her or her family feel comfortable. He showed them all the places in Gulmarg, arranged for a Gondola-ride, arranged horses to roam around the meadow. He took them near a narrow lonely lane and told them, this lane goes straight to Pakistan – just at the opposite side of the hill. The Jihadi militants use this path to infiltrate into Kashmir, India.
The lady casually asked him, have you seen any of them, ever?
The guy answered, Yes, I have seen. They came to our village, killed a few in front of my eyes.
– But you know so many Army officials … didn’t you inform them? What would you do if they come again?
The calm Kashmiri guy immediately transformed into a man of fire. With his glaring eyes, he just muttered, I would not require Army’s help. I alone am sufficient to finish them off.
The lady, known to me, did not say anything after that. In the evening, the Army Officer came to their hotel and asked how their day was. The Kashmiri guy, by that time, had long gone back to his home.
The lady answered cautiously, very well. Gulmarg is really treat to my eyes.
– and what about that chap, your guide? Was he gentle enough to guide your family?
The lady could not resist herself anymore. She described the uneasiness she was feeling about his glaring eyes and about the conversation. The Officer listened to her with full attention, and when she finished, he smiled, Don’t worry Ma’am. He is under our surveillance. He is a surrendered ex-militant. Now he’s settling down to normal life as a guide for Army guests.
Afzal Guru was, like that guy, a surrendered ex-terrorist of Kashmir valley. Though I wrote the word “terrorist” – but as per record, he has never been involved in any terrorism act. In the last episode I told you how Afzals were born in the boiling situation of Kashmir. This Afzal was born the same way, and in order to fulfil his dream of making an “Azaad Kashmir” he crossed the border to POK to take militant training. But, within one month he realized that this was not the correct path. He changed his mind and ran away from the Pakistani camp, again crossed the border, and this time, he got captured by BSF. He surrendered, narrated his story and pleaded mercy. The Army and BSF considered him a perfect, healthy lamb to be reared under the surveillance. He was allowed to settle down in Kupwara.
But once a Kashmiri is tagged as “terrorist”, he is always considered a terrorist. Army Officers used to come to his home and demand money. It has long been a fair norm among Indian Army in Kashmir.
Once, he could not satisfy the demand of money asked by an Army officer. Therefore, he had to be prepared for consequences. Though he was already under close surveillance, but citing “security concerns” he was taken into STF’s custody. It took six long months for his family to arrange One Lakh Rupees to secure his release. That was the price the STF had set for his relief. After six months he came out of the jail, and allowed to join his family. Of course under Army’s surveillance.
In a special write-up by Rouhin, we got the idea how he was arrested and accused as one of the conspirator of 2001 Parliament Attack case. I am not going to rewrite it. All three accused were awarded death sentence. Afzal Guru, Shaukat and SAR Geelani. Later in higher court, most of the evidences found against them were proved to be baseless. Geelani was released with immediate effect. Shaukat had to spend five years in jail.
The main charge was same against all three. Sedition. Conspiracy against nation. But none were proved. So, what would happen? Will no one really be “punished” for the heinous crime committed at the building that represents our democracy? Shaukat was spared, Geelani was spared too, but will Afzal also be spared? The lamb has been reared for 10-11 years, if the nation does not sacrifice him for the ‘greater good’, then why has he been kept alive for so many years? The other two convicts did not have any “terrorist” background, but Afzal has. Maybe he has never been involved in any terrorist activity before, but he is an ex-militant returned from POK. He took the Jihadi training at Pakistan for one long month. If even he is spared, what will happen to the great national interest? How will the collective conscience of the nation be satisfied? How will the greater society react to these acquittals? The Parliament attack had happened in 2001, that time it was the NDA Government regime. And now the trial was happening in UPA regime. Though during the same NDA regime, they had to bow down to terrorism in 2000 during the IC-814 hijack episode. The notorious militant had to be freed and sent to Kandahar in exchange for the hostage passengers’ lives. That had hurt their ego a lot, but there was no other option that time, but this time India has option. If Afzal is spared too with “lighter” punishment, will the NDA you-know-who’s ever forgive the UPA you-know-who’s? Will the nation ever forgive them?
So, Afzal had to die. Even the final judgement of the Supreme Court of India mentioned that they stressed more upon the “collective conscience of the nation” than “concrete evidence”. “Afzal is characterised as a “menace to the society”, whose “life should become extinct” to satisfy “the collective conscience of the society.”
It’s all written in the write-up prepared by Rouhin, no need to go into detail. All the “evidences” which prepared this case were proved to be false or not strong enough to accuse him. The same weak evidences made Geelani a free man, but Afzal didn’t get the freedom. He could neither be accused directly. Therefore, the consensus building exercise started. Aaj Tak news channel airs the exploding interview of Afzal Guru. No one ever knows, no one even wants to know, how this interview was recorded. No one questions, how a death convict can walk into a TV studio and calmly answers all the questions – whether there is any such precedence in India, let alone the entire world.
No one wants to know. It is not necessary to know, because patriotism is much bigger a thing than petty logics. So, Afzal is hanged till death. Protests are on since that day. Eminent persons like N D Pancholi, historian Nirmalangshu Mukherjee, columnist Shuddhabrata Sengupta, and many other personalities have since been writing against the judicial killing of Afzal Guru. There is a website running on him with all these write-ups, evidences, background stories. But the Desh-Bhakts will never read that – the leaders of this democracy will never pay any attention to them, except one or two very feeble voices. How dare they “support” Afzal? How dare they chant, “Afzal Hum Sharminda Hai, Tere Qatil Zinda Hai?” How dare they? Isn’t it sedition? They are questioning the Supreme Court judgement? The don’t keep faith on the supreme judiciary then?
We get frightened. Kanhaiya is a student of the prestigious JNU, thousands of persons can march for him on the streets of Delhi, probably no one will march if I get arrested. I know. But still I want to say, not only this case, in more than one cases the supreme judiciary has lost my faith on its ability to deliver “fair judgement”. They have relied more on social emotions than on concrete evidences – in more than one case. Though they have never wanted to know my emotions, I thought I was also part of this same society. They have assumed what the “majority” wants, so they have written the verdict accordingly. Having said that, yes, it has gained my “faith” in many other verdicts as well. For example, on 12th February, when news spread everywhere about Kanhaiya being manhandled at the Patiala House Court premises, Supreme Court reacted fast by immediately sending few senior lawyers to assess and control the situation. This is what a top court should do. This is why people should keep relying on the judiciary.
Supreme Court is no God. It is run by some human beings. And, human makes mistakes. If I feel they are making mistakes in the court proceedings, during the trial, at the time of delivering verdicts, shouldn’t I raise my voice as a citizen? And when I raise my voice, does that mean going against the country? Enough to be marked as a traitor? Protesting against the unfair judgement on Afzal Guru means “supporting Afzal”, “supporting a traitor”? Is it so easy an equation? Some media morphs a video footage taken at the JNU campus and run it multiple times in their channel so that people start thinking the other way – and the police get so convinced that they enter to the campus, pick up a student and slap sedition charge against him. Anandabazar, the leading Bengali newspaper does its bit of witch-hunt in its own way and frame innocent students like Jubi Saha and others as probable seditionists. The media trial invades into our bedroom.
By the time I have written this note in Bengali and translated it in English, the incidents have advanced a lot. I actually started writing this note, thinking about writing something on Kanhaiya. But now I feel I have written nothing for him. Anyway, there have been, by now, multiple notes, articles, floated around the media on Kanhaiya, on the ideology that JNU holds and on the entire episode. Today everyone knows how the videos were doctored, who did it, how Kanhaiya was brutally manhandled along with few others, and how some so-called representatives of people – whom we call “MLA” and “MP” – have so far tried their best to malign the reputation of this prestigious university and its students. Trial has not only gone in the Delhi High Court, trials have gone in the news media, in the mass, to take stand for or against the movement JNU is currently carrying. Mass trials have been done in public buses, office cabs, Delhi Metro by the “patriot” citizens. I have heard some of those trial discussions, almost none of the patriots want to think of any punishment for these “traitors” less than death by hanging.
After reading all these, don’t you think, dear patriots, that, you have actually overreacted since the beginning? That we call a “knee-jerk reaction”? Is there a single definition of patriotism? Is there a single definition of Nationalism? Even eminent lawyer Soli Sorabjee has said that, even if Kanhaiya has “said” those words – though he actually didn’t say “those words” – does not amount to sedition. Mere saying something against a country does not amount to sedition. The offender can at most be scolded once or twice. The University administration would have been capable enough to do that, there was absolutely no need to call Police in the campus or slap the students with sedition charge. Do you, dear patriots, understand law more than Soli Sorabjee?
My sincere request to you, Dear Sir, Dear Madam, please think. Think logically. Whatever you can see is not absolute truth. There are multiple colours of truth, there are multiple sheds. There are sequences of truth, and conditions of truth. Don’t mix a state and a nation. Learn to identify the oppression imposed by the state and learn to protest against that. I had quoted the famous poem before in one of my writing, I am re-quoting it –
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Please remember, my dear friend, if you cannot recognize this fascism in time, then there will be one day when no one will be left to raise voice for you when you will be convicted as a “traitor” for this reason or that. The nation will demand your death. Your voice, your silence will be doctored and the judiciary will not verify its authenticity anymore. But be assured, if I am spared till that day, I will raise my voice for your support. I will write for you, I will walk in another rally for you, as I walked on Delhi streets on 18th February.
I’ll end my article with another small story.
Two countries, A and B. B is ruled under A. Many citizens of B are not happy to be ruled under A. They want freedom, they want Azaadi. Though there is no oppression, no political or cultural conflict as such, but still, freedom means, freedom. They dream about B being born as a free country one day.
The demands of the unhappy citizens of B became louder – we want to separate from A. Strange thing is that, no one accused them of being Anti-national, no one slapped sedition charge against them. Those who wanted to remain under country A smiled, but they did not gag the voice of the unhappy segment. No one asked for their death penalty. No one demanded them to be deported to C country for being unfaithful to A country.
Rather, they agreed for an election. A fair election. People were invited to cast their opinion, with A, or without A? Yes, or No?
The election was fair, peaceful. The unhappy segment lost the election. So B was not separated from A. It remained within A’s boundary. Everybody accepted the final decision, shook their hands with each other, and the issue was resolved forever. No riot happened, no life was lost, no one imprisoned.
No, it’s not a fairy tale. Name of Country A is United Kingdom, and of Country B is Scotland.
Don’t ask me the name of Country C. It’s probably fictitious.