Politics in Death Penalty: by Rajindar Sachar

One had always heard perjorative remarks about politics and morality being distant neighbors, notwithstanding the life long struggle by Gandhiji to have some kind of connect between these. This was demonstrated with a telling thud in the way Central Government has dealt with the case of Afzal Guru a resident of J & K who was held guilty in attack on Parliament and sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in 2005. The lower court thereupon fixed 20th October 2006 as date of execution. However the wife of Guru filed a mercy petition before the President who after giving personal hearing to her, asked for some clarifications from the Home Ministry, which was never sent.

Guru had also in 2006 sent petition through the jail to the President. He never received any reply to this application, but nevertheless was

hanged on the morning of 9th February, 2013. Excepting for few officials, none including the family of Guru knew of the impending execution. I am personally against the death penalty, being follower of Gandhiji, J.P., Dr. Ambedkar. But even if we have death penalty, the manner in which hanging has been carried out in this case certainly outrages principles of humanity.

I am also concerned with the low in politics where hanging of one person becomes the subject of slinging match between two major political parties Congress and B.J.P. For the last so many years BJP has ad-nauseam made the issue of hanging of Guru as one of its major political strategy and to seek to project the delay by the Congress government as antinational, unpatriotic and most mischievously as a Muslim appeasement question. Congress was upto now explaining the delay as an administrative question. But it would appear that core group of Congress has now decided that it was necessary to hang Guru to counter the challenge of B.J.P., because of the proximity of General Elections to Parliament in 2014, and may be to advance the date of Election at convenient date in 2013. So since a month back Digvijaya Singh Congress General Secretary, suddenly and without any provocation invited questions on TV on Guru and making a very pointed statement demanding Guru’s hanging.

Having so decided UPA Government went about Guru’s hanging in the vilest of human Rights violations. No where in the world, where a modicum of rule of law exists, can the government hang its citizen without informing his family prior to it and allowing them to meet him. Human dignity of Guru was violated by denying him this right. Government’s clumsy claim that a speed post was sent on 7th February from Delhi to the family of Guru in J & K and since the family did not contact the government, they went ahead with hanging. Such a convoluted explanation will immediately invite the taunt “Tell that to the Marines”. Admittedly letter was received by the family on 11th February, when Guru had already been hanged on 9th February. Can one even imagine the deep permanent scar left on the family especially the wife and small child.

I have no doubt that there was premeditated decision by the Home Ministry not to allow the family to meet Guru (because this would become public knowledge) and presumably it will naturally result in some demonstrations especially in J & K and Delhi. Admittedly Mr. Shinde, Central Home Minister telephoned Omar Farouk Chief Minister of J & K a couple of days earlier informing him of the decision to hang Guru and asking for his reaction – Omar is stated to have raised no objection, but asked only to be told earlier to the date of hanging. The further news report suggests that Home Minister a few days later himself talked on phone to Omar and in the accepted style of conspirators told him in code language that “the event he had told him earlier will be done in a day or so”. What more proof is required to show complete disregard for well established norms by the government.

This hush on the plea of security is laughable. No doubt there would have been some demonstrations and protests, but so what – it is a normal feature in democracies, unless it is the governments plea that its security machinery is so incompetent that it could not deal with demonstrations by angry supporters of Guru and that it also apprehended a Navy Seal Expedition like done by USA government to kidnap Osama Bin laden in Pakistan.

Bonafide of governments intention to hang immediately is also being questioned, considering that government knew that Supreme Court is still examining the question that if there is delay of over 2 years in disposing of the mercy petition, no execution should take place – in Guru’s case delay is over 7 years – was not that enough reason to suspend hanging of Guru in the meanwhile.

The killers of Indira Gandhi were allowed to meet their family members before hanging. Has the functioning of Central government become so sullied that their own precedents have no relevance.

Even now with all this inhuman and defenseless exercise, the central government is refusing to return the body of Guru to the family. Both in law and morality, the family is entitled to the body of Guru so that it can be buried with all the usual religious ceremonies at a place of their choosing, so that they can visit the grave like others can. No silly prison rule to refuse the body to the family on the puerile excuse of public disorder can be pleaded in defense. The government in order to conceal its own illegalities, insensivity and violation of Human Rights has got caught in its own web and succeeded in projecting Guru in death larger than in life.

The Central government should not muddy the situation any further. It has already allowed itself to be cornered by B.J.P. in the communal cauldron, inviting a legitimate comment that in the matter of belief in secularism, the difference between B.J.P. and Congress is that between tweedledum and tweedledee – the former being openly anti-secular and the later being also the same but concealing it under a thin ice which dissolves at the altar of electoral strategy.

As an epilogue, should we not consider that instead of governments repeating in future such nauseating violation of the Human Rights, India should follow the course of at over 140 countries which have agreed to abolish the death penalty and have put a moratorium on any more hangings.

without facts

Leave a Reply