Posted on the Sarai Reader List on 16th October, 2006
A few days from now, a man called Mohammad Afzal Guru, son of Habibullah Guru, currently resident in Ward Number 6 of Jail Number 1 in Tihar Central Prison in Delhi will hang to satisfy the bloodlust of the Indian Republic, unless the President of India thinks otherwise, A few weeks ago, I recall reading the NDTV newscaster Barkha Dutt’s breathless three cheers for the fact that India retains the death penalty (so that the indignant tears in the eyes of television presenters like herself, and the loved ones of murder victims, can be wiped away with each rope that tightens around the neck of condemned prisoners). [See ‘A Battle for Life’: Barkha Dutt, on NDTV Columns, September 20, 2006]
At times like this, when hangmen are asked to practice their moves, nothing comes more in handy than the teflon coated enthusiasm for capital punishment of television crusaders like Barkha Dutt. Great democracies, like the United States of America, the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan, the Peoples Republic of China, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea and enlightened states like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are known for their zeal in retaining the death penalty as a necessary part of state ritual. The Republic of India is in eminent company, and I am grateful to Barkha Dutt for making me remember that. I need not advance moral and ethical arguments against the death penalty here, because they have been so well countered by Ms. Dutt. Never mind the fact that states that have done away with the death penalty have lower rates of violent crime, never mind the fact the innocence of people that condemned to die has often been established after they have been executed. Ms. Dutt has demonstrated that the death penalty is the balm that comforts her agonized soul. And many of those who argue that the President should not in fact assent to the petition filed by Afzal’s family are also arguing that the Afzal must hang so that the Indian democracy and the loved ones of those who died defending the Indian parliament may rest in peace. The dignity of the Indian Republic hinges on the lever that will catapult Afzal into the empty space under the gallows in Tihar jail. As the noose tightens, our polity will blossom with renewed vigour.
In championing capital punishment, Barkha Dutt also joins the illustrious pantheon of the good and the great in India, such as Shri L.K. Advani, Shri Maninderjeet Singh Bitta (of the All India Anti Terrorist Front) and Shri Buddhadev Bhattacharya who have all, from time to time, publicly expressed their desire to see different people hanged to death in recent times. Politicians such as Ghulam Nabi Azad who have pleaded for a ‘postponement’ of Afzal’s execution in view of ‘prevailing circumstances’ are as cynical as those (especially in the BJP) who demand that Afzal be hanged as soon as possible while simultaneously demanding that the unfortunate man called Sarabjit Singh who is held in death row in a Pakistani prison be released. Broadly echoing the Ghulam Nabi Azad line (with some nuanced differences) is the gerontocray of the Communist Party of India, which has not found fault with the verdict, only expressed an apprehension about the consequences of its execution. The central leadership of the Communist Part of India (Marxist) has maintained an undignified and convenient silence, even though its prominent legislator in Kashmir, Yusuf Tarigami has publicly opposed the death penalty for Afzal. Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir has suddenly discovered what he calls ‘innocence’ in Mohammad Afzal Guru in an interview given to Karan Thapar, and this is somewhat belated, because he never said a word about the 13 December Case while he was a coalition partner of the then ruling NDA. Presumably, the National Conference’s sensitivity to the issue of Human Rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir have an inverse relationship to the fact of its being in office in that state. The only Indian politician of any stature who has publicly expressed a principled opposition to the death penalty, and to capital punishment as such, is the DMK patriarch K. Karunanidhi. The Indian political class’s romance with the death penalty is not anything new, and we must remember that even Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi could see nothing wrong in Bhagat Singh being hanged. Capital Punishment and the core values of Indian Nationalism seem to have a close relationship. Perhaps they are both predicated on the idea that the nation-state and the rule of law demands sacrificial victims from time to time to re-invigorate the tired vitality of its foundations. The Indian state hanged Kehar Singh when it could not find anyone else to hang in order to restore it’s vitality in the Indira Gandhi Assasination case, and this time, Mohammad Afzal Guru must serve that necessary function. Perhaps Giorgio Agamben, whose rediscovery of the concept of the pariah turned sacrificial victim of the foundational violence of the state though the term – Home Sacer has found such contemporary resonance in the light of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay , needs to turn his attention to the precincts of the maximum security ward in Tihar Prison. Mohammad Afzal Guru is as likey a candidate today as any for the status of Homo Sacer.
Today, I read Vir Sanghvi, another eminent media mandarin, wrestle with his conscience about whether or not Afzal should hang. In a large op-ed piece in the Hindustan Times e paper next to a smaller piece from Karan Thapar that hesitantly takes a different view.
[See – The Complexity of Execution, Vir Sanghvi, Counterpoint, Hindustan Times, October 15, 2006 and Should Mohammad Afzal be Hanged, Karan Thapar, Hindustan Times, Sunday Sentiments, October 15, 2006]
And like all good Indian liberals who won debating prizes in high school, Sanghvi too does this by dispassionately examining the pros (‘good strong signal to ‘terrorists”) and cons (‘this damn inconvenience of the fact that he did not really have a legal defence’) of execution before saying – “um, yes, maybe, there will be some good that can come out of hanging him, because you know, it might, you know, stop a hijacking, because, you know, you can’t really hijack a plane to ask for a dead man to be brought alive, can you” – impeccable reasoning, and so much more reassuring for Vir Sanghvi the next time he checks in to fly. Dead Afzal, no hijakers. Its as simple as that. In fact we should logically follow through with the Sanghvi logic to propose that all the prisoners in Tihar jail be summarily executed tomorrow. it would solve the burgeoning Indian aviation industry’s security concerns for the next ten years. Conscientious Citizens like Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi should be invited to conduct executions, preferably live, on television (there is always such a shortage of hangmen, and it would make for such good reality tv, and people could phone in saying how much more tranquil they feel when they watch an execution) in order to redeem frequent flyer points against swift and successful hangings. The more they hang, the higher they will fly. Fasten seat belts and hang a Kashmiri.
I wish I were in Delhi, where I could get more of a sense of what is going on, talk to people, get a grip on the fact that there are faces that I would see and voices that I would hear of many people I know who would not be as hysterically celebratory about hanging people in prisons as the firm of Dutt, Singhvi & Co and others like them happen to be. But all I can do is read what I can where I am from the internet. So my day begins (when I get online) by typing the words ‘Afzal’, ‘Guru’ and ‘Hanging’ on google, and hoping that I can soon add ‘Clemency’ or ‘Commutation’ to my search string to yield some hopeful result. When I did add the word ‘clemency’ or ‘pardon’ recently, I got a result that confirmed my long held views on the wisdom inherent in our republic’s judicial apparatus. The lord justices of the Supreme Court of India have sent out a thinly veiled warning addressed to the President, instructing him to act with caution, or else provoke a judicial review of the executive authority of the Presidency. Their words suggest that the President must exercise the utmost restraint and consideration, and not be carried away by passion, in arriving at any decision regarding the death penalty awarded to Mohammad Afzal Guru.
It seems remarkable to me to think that the state’s decision to kill a man in cold blood should be prefaced in terms of reason, caution, consideration and restraint, and that the mere consideration of reasons to save that life should be qualified by terms that suggest that even the entertainment of such a thought could be unreasonable, excessive, rash and impudent.
I have remarked on the sagacity of the Supreme Court of India on other occasions, especially when the lord justices have passed innovative verdicts that suggest that illegal squatters on urban land in a city like should think more carefully about inclement weather, but I am once again amazed at the wisdom and sopistication that some lord justices of the Supreme Court, and other distinguished legal professionals like Soli Sorabjee, our erstwhile attorney general, have displayed in suggesting that even the banal human quality of compassion, or the ordinary, commonplace tendency to doubt that justice has been done when an accused person has gone unheard, or apprehensions about the unleashing of a new spiral of violence, can on occasion be wild, unreasonable, excessive and ever so intemperate. It is evident from the tenor of their pronouncements that cheap sentiments like sympathy, or ordinary doubts about the due processes of trial, or worries about more loss of life, when seen through the exalted filter of national security, are but irritating excesses that need to be held in check. That truth alone must triumph that the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Intelligence Bureau deem acceptable for the health of the Republic.
In view of this, we might as well propose an amendment to the constitution such that the national motto be expanded to read – ‘Sravoccha Nyayalaya-cha-Guptachara Vibhaga-cha-Griha Mantralayasya Satyameva Jayate‘. Such a move would yield a national motto or slogan that would render a resonant and precise statement about the present status of the concept known as the truth in the Indian Republic, especially in the wake of the events of the 13th of December, 2001. To have all manner of truths, especially crassly inconvenient and common ones emerge triumphant, such as the fact that the Indian state is a brutal colonial power that holds Kashmir and parts of the North East by military force and with the aid of “shoot at whim” laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act will simply not do. We need refined and processed truths – such as those that condemn Mohammad Afzal Guru to hang.
Still, It is possible that APJ Abdul Kalam (the man, not necessaily the President, or the erstwhile weapons designer) may have some residual human qualities that may make him look askance at the fact that Mohammad Afzal Guru is sentenced to be hanged in a few days on the basis of statements that actually clearly implicate agencies of the Indian Government such as the Special Task Force that operate in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by India in the affair of the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. That is why the Supreme Court must rush to protect APJ Abdul Kalam the President from being swayed by APJ Abdul Kalam the human being. No untoward considerations, such as the possibility of the outbreak of rage in the wake of a blatantly unfair execution, or the simple injustice of a man being killed for being trapped in circumstances that were totally beyond his control, must be allowed to stay the president’s or the hangman’s hand. He has listened to Afzal’s son and wife. He has given them his time, and that shows how magnanimous the Indian state can be, and now, he must say no. Afzal must die.
We do not need a reminder of the fact that Afzal’s alleged involvement in the planning of this attack is the only reason why he is being sentenced to die. Unlike, other instances of the award of capital punishment, where the accused are likely to be people who have actually killed other people in particularly heinous ways, Afzal is accused only of being an an actor in a conspiracy, a cog in the wheel of terror. His was not a hand that held a gun on that day. He fired no shots, killed no one. He was caught because his phone number was in the phone directory in one of the mobile phones found on the person of the dead terrorists. In a letter written to his Supreme Court defence lawyer, Afzal points out that his mobile phone has numbers of STF personnel, and the same logic by which he is implicated in the conspiracy of December 13 should logically lead to an investigation of the STF personnel’s role in the event.
If that is so, then it would be natural for us to expect that all leads as to who else may be implicated in this conspiracy would have to be exhausted before any one of the conspirators or actors (in this case Afzal) is given the ultimate punishment. We know that Afzal did not have adequate legal representation in the course of his trial, but we also know that he made statements that the court took note of, in the sense that they are on the court record, which include statements that implicate officers of the Special Task Force in Jammu and Kashmir. These are public documents, and they have been meticulously collated in NIrmalangshu Mukherjee’s courageous and disturbing book on the December 13 case – (December 13: Terror over Democracy. Published by Bibliophile South Asia, New Delhi. 2005). This book is available at any good bookship in Delhi, and I am amazed that the media has not in fact made more of this story than it has.
[For more details of why Mohammad Afzal should not die, see Nirmalangshu Mukherjee’s excellent summary of the main arguments outlined in his book in – ‘Should Mohammad Afzal die?‘, The Economic and Political Weekly, September 17, 2005]
Perhaps, once again, phone calls from the Intelligence Bureau and the Home Ministry to editorial offices of newspapers and television channels have done their job. That is the charitable explanation, that the majority of the media has acted out of fear. The uncharitable explanation is that the media is silent about Afzal’s relationship with the STF for the same reason as to why it was so vocal in loudmouthing SAR Geelani’s presumed culpability in the same case. The mainstream media, to a very large extent is not an organ that takes orders from the intelligence apparatus. It is in fact a part of the intelligence apparatus. The 13 December Case will go down in the history of Modern India as an instance that revealed the extent of embedding of the intelligence apparatus of the Indian state within the so called ‘free’ media in India.
In this delicate game of silence and overstatement, the courts have based their indictment of Afzal partly on the statments made by him and partly on confessions extracted under brutal physical and mental torture in police custody, and the majority of the reporting in the media has conveniently overlooked that fact that the names that have been named by Afzal in these very statements point in the direction of the Indian Government’s security, intelligence and counter-insurgency apparatus in Jammu and Kashmir. The ‘needle of suspicion’ to use another favourite Supreme Court phrase, is pointing all over the place, but no one seems to be looking. There is a pattern here that we need to recognize – when things are obvious, look away, and when truths need to be manufactured, use every tool in the book to manufacture them.
We need only to remember that barring Shams Tahir Khan of Aaj Tak, no other journalist present during Afzal’s infamous press conference stage managed by Rajbir Singh the sometime decorated special cell police officer, encounter expert and part time extortionist, had the gumption to report that Afzal had in fact stated that SAR Geelani was in no way involved with the events of December 13. All other journalists and the news channels that they represented, who had been present at that ‘encounter’ with the truth according to the Delhi Police’s Special Cell, had fallen in line with Rajbir Singh’s ‘request’ to edit out that part of Afzal’s testimony. The only English language national level newspapers or publications that more or less consistently maintained an independent tone were the Hindu and to some extent, Frontline. The only news website that toed a slightly different line was rediff.com, and the only detailed un-biased reports that were published, could actually be found in regional newspapers and publications, mainly in Kashmir, and one, oddly in Kerala.
What this suggests is that the intensity in the court’s and the broad sweep of the national mainstream media’s desire to execute Afzal and to focus on him alone, to the exception of those individuals named by him actually constitutes a move to consign aspects of the truth of what lay behind the events of December 13, and the possible part played in them by the ‘deep state’ in India, into a kind of oblivion – a black hole of judicially mandated and media packaged silence from which nothing can be recovered for posterity. With Afzal’s death, the possibility of concrete evidence for alternative explanations behind the events of that day will die. We will never know, who or what entity actually masterminded the shootout in the Parliament that almost provoked a nuclear war and ensured the legislation of the infamous and now repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act by the then BJP led NDA ruling alliance. If the sentence is carried out, we will never know how much the shadowy senior echelons of the intelligence community in India, or the then home minister and deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, or the then defence minister George Fernandes, or the then prime minister A.B. Vajpayee knew about the fact that a medical and surgical equipment salesman and surrendered JKLF militant called Mohammad Afzal Guru was being ‘cultivated’ trhough torture, threats and extorition by STF personnel and serving military and para-military officers. We will never know as to whether or not this ‘cultivation’ led up to the processes that included his being instructed to take a man called Mohammad to Delhi, who eventually turned up as the body of a slain terrorist outside the Indian Parliament in Delh on the 13th of Decemberi. If Afzal dies, the deep state in India will just get a few fathoms deeper, and many uncomfortable secrets will die in its depths.
As I write this, I am sitting in far away London, looking at pictures of Andamanese skulls, composite photographs of prisoners in British prisons and fingerprint impressions of convicts taken in un-named colonial prisons in nineteenth century India. Sometimes I do this in two rooms scattered in the campus of the University College of London that houses the remains of what was once founded as the National Eugenics Laboratory by Francis Galton. Galton championed the idea that all social problems could be solved by lessons learnt through indexing, recording and measuring bodies and minds. The truths he sought to legislate, about innate criminality and intrinsic genius, about racial characteristics and inherited traits were to be made concrete by measuring heads and deducing patterns from accumulated fingerprint impressions. In a series of haunting photographs, Galton produces what he calls ‘photo-composites’ – anthropometric images obtained by layering portraits on to each other such that the features blend in to create a composite face. A face that takes something from all the faces that go into it. So you have the average criminal, the average lunatic, the average East End Jew, the average of eight Andamanese crania. When I think of the events that unfolded on December 13, 2001, I cannot but help think of Galton’s photo-composites, and his attempts at deducing the extent of criminality in a given population by producing an average image based on the statistical relationships of the distance of their noses from their chins. Remember how Mr. Advani, the then home minister said on December 13, 2001, that the slain ‘terrorists’ – ‘looked like Pakistanis’. Perhaps he had an image of the ‘average’ Pakistani stored in the database in his cranium, with which he could compare the features of the dead men and come to this remarkable conclusion. Afzal’s indictment too, is an instance of the photo-compositing method of jurisprudence. He is a Kashmiri Muslim man of a certain age, he once was a JKLF activist, he moved often between Srinagar and Delhi for reasons to do with his business. It goes like this – you take any Kashmiri Muslim man of a certain age, and they should look and sound adequately Kashmiri, you identify the fact that they may sympathise or may once have sympathised with the movement to rid Kashmir from brutal military occupation (which is not hard to do, because most human beings would want an end to the particular oppressions that beset them) , you zero in on the fact that he moved between Delhi and Srinagar with some frequency and you mix these facts together to produce the face of a terrorist. There are thousands of such faces, and what matters is not individual culpability in a given act, or even whether a person was coerced or bludgeoned or cajoled into participating in a chain of events, but that he should ‘look’ the part. His face should be an echo of the ‘composite’ of the visage of the terrorist that we have learnt to see in our heads.
So much so that when the judges see Afzal, they also see Maqbool Butt, the Kashmiri man whose hanging on February 11, 1984, precipitated by a crime (the assasination of the Indian diplomat Ravindra Mhatre in Birmingham) that he did not commit, was one of the sparks that stoked the ongoing Kashmir uprising. Maqbool Batt, who spent long years in Indian and Pakistani prisons, was like Afzal. dogged by the persistent shadow of his entanglement in Indian (and Pakistani) intelligence maneouvres. He had been sentenced to death many years previously for the alleged murder of an Indian military officer during the prehistory of the insurgency in Kashmir in the 1960s, when Butt had first started a rag tag band of partisans called the National Liberation Front. Subsequently, he may well have come under the shadow once again of Indian intelligence outfits, who used him, it is alleged, to mastermind the hijack of the Indian Airlines plane Ganga in 1971 – ( a remarkably non violent hijack in which no passengers or crew were harmed, but an ageing plane that had been out of commission and was surprisingly brought back into use days before the hijack was conveniently blown up while stationary in a Pakistani air field).
The shadowy truths of the RAW’s involvement (through the Border Security Force) in the hijacking of the Indian Airlines Fokker Friendship plane Ganga, in 1971 (one of the precipitating factors of the 1971 war) with which Batt had something to do, is one of those episodes in the history of modern India which has never quite seen the light of day. And Batt too, like Afzal, may have eventually been a pawn in a game far more complex then he could have comprehended at the time. It is possible that Butt too, like Afzal was acting at least part of the time under orders that emanated from quarters deep within the Indian deep state. Eventually, Butt, the secular idealist, the sometime double agent, the victim of Indian as well as Pakistani justice, returned to India, was arrested and put away to be forgotten in Tihar prison, and in the wake of Mhatre’s kidnap and murder, made to walk to the gallows. While alive, he had been an obscure, little known agitator, in death he became ‘Shaheed-e-Kashmir’. He proved to be far more dangerous in his death to the Indian state then he was when he had been alive, so much so that the Indian army routinely swoops down on his village on the 11th of February each year to prevent his family from holding a private memorial function in his honour. His brother too was killed in an encounter, his family prevented from coming to Delhi on the day of his execution, and all pictures or portaits of him have been taken away from the private homes of his immediate family. The cynical shortsightedness and the awkward combination of memory and forgetfulness that characterizes Indian state policy in Kashmir may once again produce another martyr, who will join Maqbool Butt in the pantheon of shahadat.
I abhor martyrdom, and following Bertolt Brecht, can only ‘pity the people who need heroes’. Yet, it is the tragic destiny of Kashmir that the history of the subcontinent will offer them a harvest of martyrs every season. In death, their biographies become abstracted to conform to a monotonous pattern of resistance, imprisonment and violent death. Each of these individuals would have been valuable human beings if they were alive, often they are, like Mohammad Afzal, a sensitive and intelligent person, someone who wanted to be a doctor, liked literature and was considered by his peers to be the one of the ablest of his generation.
[See ‘Afzal loved poetry ‘n discussed books‘ by Muzamil Jaleel, Indian Express September 27, 2006]
These lives have been twisted out of shape by the history of our times so much so that they become shadows of their former selves, trappped, manipulated, always on the run, always with too many secrets crowded into their fragile minds. Death, preferably the death of a martyr, then becomes an apotheosis. In death they can become an abstraction, a dull average standard of ideal machismo for some and the remorseless death mask of the ‘terrorist’ for others. There is nothing to look forward to in this death, it is to me far less attractive than the promise of the people they still would have been if they had remained alive. Afzal’s impending death diminished us all, because in his dying, our times will have cheated us of a life that could have made a difference to very many people, all we gain is a composite image, a face made up of the features of Maqbool Butt and Mohammad Afzal and the countless others whose lives have ended brutally, whose lives have been annexed to the closely interwoven annals of martyrdom and terror. In the end, they become only numbers, so many hundreds of ‘terrorists’ neutralized for the sake of defending the Indian republic, or so many martyrs sacrificed for freedom in Kashmir. These numbers replace moments, memories, conversations, and the million uncountable things that make up the complexity of a single life. Even the life of a man sitting in a condemned cell in Tihar jail. Counting days, counting hours, reading what may be his last novel, perhaps writing what might be his last few letters.
Francis Galton’s racially motivated pseudo-science died a quiet death, and persists mainly as an object lesson in the dangers of the attempt to harvest truths about the human condition on the basis of numbers alone. But it is making a quiet back door entry through the new sciences of biometrics that are at the core of the information technology of the war against terrorism – which itself is the key operation of the settung up of a new kind of state machinery predicated on the hyper-intensive surveillance of those it rules. This includes the impossible holy grail of machine assisted facial recognition as a preventive forensic measure designed to identify and neutralize potential terrorists. This would mean giving a scientific edge to say the act of hanging Mohammad Afzal Guru were it to take place, before, not after the 13th of December.
In some crude ways this pre-cognitive neutralization of the terrorist to be is already a refined science in Indian statecraft. It includes the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which enable armed forces personnel to shoot to kill on the basis of suspicion. it is the theory of the practice known as the ‘encounter’. Last week, even as the attempts to protest against the impending execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru were gaining momentum, two other events occured in Delhi which merit our attention. The first was a demonstration against the arrest and forced feeding of Irom Sharmila, a young Manipuri woman who has been on a continuous hunger strike against the AFSPA, and the suspected encounter death of Irshad Ahmed Lone, a young Kashmiri man in Delhi. While the first may have got some attention, the second is once again wrapped in silence. Protests rocked the Channapora neighbourhood of Srinagar at the manner in which his naked body showed visible marks of torture. But the Delhi Police, and its Special Cell, thought it wise not to display him as yet another trophy in their war against terror. Perhaps, they thought, it would be too much to exhibit another ‘encounter’ in the days leading up to Afzal’s execution.
In the light of this silence, it may be instructive to read a report that appeared on the website of the Kashmir Times newspaper on October 11. It merits a lengthy quotation.
Kashmiri youth tortured, killed in Delhi
Protests rock Srinagar, custodial killing alleged
KT NEWS SERVICE
SRINAGAR, OCT 11: People took to streets and held strong demonstrations at Channapora here today in protest against the murder of a local youth, Irshad Ahmad Lone, an automobile engineer, in New Delhi. Police burst smoke shells and resorted to lathi charge to disperse the demonstrators, who retaliated by pelting stones on cops..
The bereaved family accused Delhi police of arresting Irshad and later killing him in custody. According to them the youth had gone to New Delhi for a job in an automobile company on September 21. He was arrested by police there and brutally tortured. Later they were informed by a cop from the union capital on telephone that Irshad is in an unconscious condition in a hospital. The youth later succumbed to his injuries.
Ali Mohammad father of Irshad said that in the morning of October 8 he received a telephone call at his residence from New Delhi. The caller identified himself as assistant sub inspector Ram Ji Lal of Inter-State Bus Terminus (ISBT) police chowki Kashmiri Gate. The cop asked him whether he knew Irshad. Ali Mohammad informed that he was his son. The sub inspector told Ali Mohammad that his son was in an unconscious condition at Sushrutra Trauma Centre.
Irshad’s brother, Tariq Ahmad, rushed to Delhi. According to him, his brother was in an unconscious condition with visible torture marks on his body. Irshad’s arms, throat and head had torture marks. He later succumbed to his injuries. Tariq asked Ram Ji Lal as to what had happened to Irshad. The cop claimed that they found Irshad in a naked condition on a highway at ISBT Kashmiri Gate and that he was unconscious. Asked as to how he got the telephone number of their residence in Srinagar, Ram Ji Lal claimed that Irshad gave the number before he lost his consciousness.
The bereaved family members said if police got their phone number from Irshad why it did not ask him as to who had tortured him. They said Irshad was arrested, tortured and then killed by Delhi police. Since this morning large number of people visited the affected family and were waiting for the body till late this evening. The body is likely to reach here during night hours…
Senior separatist leaders Mohammad Yasin Malik, chairman JKLF, and Shabir Ahmad Shah, president of Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) visited the bereaved family to offer their condolences. Addressing the people there Shah said the way Irshad was murdered it clearly indicated that Kashmiri youth can not go to any Indian state.” Their only fault is that they are Kashmiri”, he said.
Shah alleged that on one side government of India is talking about peace and on the other side leaving no stone unturned to murder Kashmiri youth. The DFP president was placed under house arrest. JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik visited the residence of Irshad immediately after his return from New Delhi. Accompanied by other party leaders, he took part in protest demonstrations. Addressing the people, Malik strongly condemned the killing. He asked as to what crime Irshad had committed.” Is being a Kashmiri the biggest crime”, the JKLF chairman asked. He said the slain engineer had qualified the interview for a job in Delhi on merit. “But he was denied the job for being a Kashmiri. When he was about to return his home, he was killed by unidentified men”, Malik said. “
It appears from this report, and from the arrest of Irom Sharmila and the police action in Delhi against those demonstrating in solidarity with her and against the AFSPA, that being a certain kind of Kashmiri, or having Manipuri or identifiably ‘north eastern’ features is in fact a crime in the capital of the Indian Republic. The pre-cognitive faculties of the state know that ‘people like that’ are potential subversives, and that no effort should be spared in neutralizing them. If this does result in the occasional execution of a Mohammad Afzal Guru or the death on the streets of Delhi of an Irshad Ahmad Lone, then it is way to small a price to pay for the integrity and security of the Indian state.
It is said took the massacres of Algerians in Paris in 1961 for a generation of French Intellectuals to begin to understand the actual nature of the French colonialism in Algeria. How many Kashmiris will need to die in Delhi’s streets and in Tihar (since the number of the dead in Kashmir does not seem to have much of an effect) for the Indian intelligentsia to wake up to the fact that the Indian state is a colonial state and that it acts like any occupying power would, in Kashmir and significant parts of the North East?
In Afzal’s written statement to his lawyer Sushil Kumar, he (Afzal) points out how Indian security officers routinely extorted money from him because he was a ‘surrendered militant’ who had not become a special police officer (SPO).
In this sordid tale of greed, where different police officers demand varying sums of money after torturing Afzal, lies one of the secrets of Indian colonialism in Kashmir. Our militaries are in Kashmir, Indian soldiers and countless Kashmiris are dying in Kashmir, also because there is money to be made in this business. ‘Terrorists’ are just as necessary a part of this equation. Because ‘terrorists’ become ‘surrendered terrorists’, and ‘surrendered terrorists’ are excellent sources of cash, because if they do not pay up, they can be made to become ‘terrorists’ again. Here is the time honoured police and gangster tradition of the ‘hafta’ and ‘vasuli’ ratcheted up through the brute force of a military occupation. This in fact is one of the sad truths of the Indian state’s presence in Kashmir, and for the sake of the triumph of this truth, Mohammad Afzal Guru is sentenced to die.
I can only hope that APJ Abdul Kalam looks carefully at the motto inscribed on his website, his stationery, his cutlery and his towels before he goes to sleep each night in the next few days as he weighs the decision about whether to assent to the clemency petition filed by Afzal’s family. Satyameva Jayate.