Six points on the Afzal Guru hanging

This was written in response to a friend’s comment on a FB thread.

1) Taking words like ‘national sovereignty’ and ‘attack on the nation’ out for a minute (why should the parliament–given not its place in the national ideology but actual everyday work–be considered more of a symbol of our nation than a temple, mosque, housing colony, or market?), let us see the case for what it was: a handful of gunmen gaining forceful entry and spraying bullets, managing to kill nine security personnel during the shootout and getting killed. Then, it emerges that this person was part of the larger story, and may have helped the attackers gain access to a few artefacts used in the event. Does this alone mean the person deserves to be hanged? It is not an abstract question when other murderers, multiple rapists, instigators and leaders of ‘riots’ having killed and brutalized hundreds are serving sentences in prison, their cases not having been defined as ‘rarest of the rare’ (my own views on death penalty are here)? Surely, it is only the belief in the nation-state’s ideology and the weight that is given to certain physical symbols of democracy (does democracy, in a democracy, reside inside a building more than anywhere else?) that leads one to consider this case as above and beyond anything else.

2) Then consider that the person accused of abetting the attack did not receive proper legal representation where the case was tried, that is in the special court. HC and SC were never going to try the case again, but merely look for particularly egregious issues. Even so, the other accused–also given capital punishment by POTA court–were acquitted later.

3) The role of the Delhi Police Special Cell, which ‘cracked’ the case in a day is something that should  be thought about more seriously. It is the same unit that has indulged in multiple fake encounters, fabrication of evidence, and embodies several aspects of what is commonly referred to as the ‘deep state’ (see here, or for mainstream coverage here). Even when, in the Cell’s otherwise seamless story, holes are found, the courts are keen to give it the benefit of doubt (perhaps, again because they’re operating under the ideology identified in #1), when the Cell’s history alone should arouse enough suspicion. To me, it seems very strange that our faith in the police, who we otherwise do not believe a word of and that itself breaks every law under the sun, is suddenly restored when it comes to cases related to #1.

Afzal Guru was made to 'confess' on tv. source: NDTV

Afzal Guru was made to ‘confess’ on tv. source: NDTV

4) Still, for the sake of argument let us assume that Guru was indeed guilty and deserved to be punished, given the fragile situation in Kashmir, that India has no credibility whatsoever left there, and that killers and rapists of Kashmiri men and women are walking around freely around the country and abroad, how much political sense does it make to set an example of this person by hanging him? What was wrong with keeping him in prison for whatever number of years deemed necessary as punishment? Why make a martyr out of this person, such that he now joins Maqbool Butt in the line of those who are considered to have been unfairly targeted and killed by, what has been termed by some as ‘judicial terrorism‘?

5) It seems, instead, to have been a cynical and vulgar political ploy by India’s grand old party to score some points by blindsiding the hawkish elements within and outside the BJP. The Home Minister said it in so many words, showing off the new spine that the government has allegedly grown. Modi has been going around town parading his so-called achievements and daring the government to act on this matter. The Congress’ vision for the future does not, unfortunately, extend beyond 2014. The next time you see Rahul Gandhi crying for the country, please picture him with horns leading a blood-thirsty brigade.

6) What must also be noted is that this hanging is not just about the actual act. It is also about managing dissent, and making a clear point to the ‘pseudoseculars’ and ‘human rights wallahs’ that if you speak up against the dominant notion of patriotism, prepare to be heckled, attacked, and molested by Bajrangi goons, who we shall let loose on you.

24-hrs after, when the initial shock and anger has subsided, what emerges is a deeply disturbing state of affairs.

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