JNU has entered an indefinite state of siege. Police have been swarming all over campus, raiding hostels, picking up students and interrogating them. The ABVP, predictably, have been directing them to the lairs of ‘anti-national elements’. When immense demonstrations of public solidarity with the accused students were organized, ABVP activists have attacked these, in one case mounting a violent physical assault on a visiting speaker. The JNU administration has gone to the extent of cutting off the power supply to the microphones used at a protest meeting. At Patiala House on Monday the 15th of February, the BJP’s MLAs and what appear to be a group of lawyers have assaulted JNU students, faculty and supporters in full view of the police, with what can only be regarded as smug impunity. More than one observer has remarked that this is the Emergency all over again.
It is clear that the arrayed forces of the central government are pitted against a campus which has long been an object of hatred for the Right. There’s no telling how matters will develop in the days and weeks to come. So it might be necessary to step back a bit and consider the sequence of events that led to the current situation.
In the past month, JNU students organized a protest meeting which raised the issue of Kashmiri rights, and drew attention – just as Rohith Vemula’s protest in Hyderabad had done – to the execution of Afzal Guru in 2013. Since the mainstream news outlets systematically censor any attempt to reopen that extremely murky case, it’s worth reminding ourselves of precisely why the execution was so controversial. The terrorist attack on Parliament in December 2001 produced a police investigation on which serious doubt was cast from the beginning. Afzal Guru’s laptop and mobile phone, key pieces of evidence, had not been sealed prior to investigation. One of the other accused in the case, a Delhi University lecturer (who was later emphatically acquitted) was viciously framed by Zee News, which used the police charge-sheet to make a documentary ‘establishing’ his guilt. The court proceedings were even more revealing. The Supreme Court admitted that there was no hard evidence to conclusively establish Afzal Guru’s involvement in criminal conspiracy. But these admissions were merely qualifications to what was perhaps the most extraordinary decision in the history of the judiciary in independent India. Afzal Guru was eventually hanged in 2013 on the basis that only this would appease ‘the collective conscience of the nation society’.
Guest Post by Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid Shora and Rama Naga, office bearers, JNUSU
We, the office-bearers of JNUSU, are appalled at the way an uproar has been created over the 9th February incident that happened in JNU and the way the entire incident is being used to malign JNU students and the democratic traditions of JNU.
At the outset, we condemn the divisive slogans (‘bharat ke tukde honge hazar’) that were raised by some people on that day. It is important to note that the slogans were not raised by members of Left organizations or JNU students. In fact, when such sloganeering took place, it was the Left-progressive organizations and students, including JNUSU office-bearers who asked the organizers of the programme to ask the people who were raising the slogans to stop slogans that are regressive. The divisive slogans and the ideology behind it has never been a part of the progressive tradition that JNU and the JNUSU uphold. On the contrary, the unity of the people of different parts of the country in challenging divisive, authoritarian, anti-people and anti-student forces is what we stand with and look up to. Even in the recent times, the JNU student community and the JNUSU have joined nation-wide students’ voice to defend the country against casteist and authoritarian power lobbies. The Left-progressive organizations were present at the programme only to ensure that no violence takes place, as ABVP had called in hooligans from DU to disrupt the program and the general atmosphere in the campus. And so, to interpret our presence as endorsement of some divisive slogans which were raised by some (and was protested and stopped) is extremely mischievous and manipulative. Continue reading JNUSU Statement on the Police Action and ABVP slander in JNU: JNUSU→
After the order in the case of film star Salman Khan over a 2002 hit-and-run case was delivered by Sessions Court Judge D.W. Deshpande on Wednesday, 6 May 2015, there understandably were divided opinions on whether he deserved to be handed five years in jail.
But the rather more shockingly breath-taking comments from some of his friends in the industry and his fans were to do with pavement dwellers, such as the victim Nurullah Mahboob Sharif.
“Kutta rd pe soyega kutte ki maut marega, roads garib ke baap ki nahi hai (If a dog sleeps on the road, he’ll die a dog’s death. Roads are not poor people’s property)…,” singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya tweeted. “Roads are meant for cars and dogs not for people sleeping on them…,” he said, appealing to the film industry to back the star, whose sentence has now been suspended by the High Court.
Designer Farah Khan Ali chipped in with this: “No one should be sleeping on the road or footpath. It is dangerous to do that just like it is dangerous to cross tracks.” She quite rightly laid the blame on the state: “The govt should be responsible for housing ppl. If no1 was sleeping on d road in any other country Salman wuld not have driven over anybody.”
Once militancy took root in the Valley, it continued unabated, with a few exceptions in the years to come. The sentiment of the resistance movement prevailed across Jammu and Kashmir. At one point in time, blasts and encounters occurred almost every day. The first few years of the 1990s were the most brutal in the history of the conflicted Valley. After the 1996 assembly elections, when people were forced to vote at gunpoint, the National Conference Party and counter-insurgent groups ruled the state. People lived with trauma and threat – treating the injured, mourning for the dead and searching for those who had disappeared.
This was the story for more than a decade. A shift in the nature of resistance has been seen in the past few years; the generation that was born during the start of the war has been able to glean the nuances of the homeland’s political situation. Most of the youngsters from this generation, born between the late 80s and early 90s, choose stones over guns. Continue reading When the lid will burst: Fahad Shah→
I met Sarabjit Singh’s brave lawyer Awais Sheikh in Delhi some months ago, where his book was released. He was very confident Sarabjit wouldn’t be hanged. As was Justice (Retd.) Katju, who launched the book. Justice Katju said there was no point campaigning for Sarabjit’s release until the Pakistan elections were over. I got a similar impression of optimism from people who had been following the Sarabjit case.
No doubt the manner and timing of the hanging clearly indicates that the government had ulterior political motives in mind. Yet, these motives are better understood in terms of the political considerations that guided the case of Afzal Guru from his arrest to the rejection of his mercy petition. His hanging within a few days of the presidential rejection was just the inevitable culmination of this political process.
Perhaps, beyond angry outbursts and slogans nothing was left of Kashmiri intellectuals engaged in understanding problems of home land. Afzal Guru was hanged and pens were strangulated. I was one of the people who protested at Jantar Mantar, with no strategy, no political statement, I bundled myself with others to the station, to enter a site of ‘mourning’. Kashmir has a rich culture and cultured production of ‘grieving’, when someone dies, everyone assembles and expresses grief verbally and through wailing. That is what I found myself doing. Continue reading What does Afzal’s death mean? : Inshah Malik→
The British and their collaborators had made a similar mistake. They thought that the common people of India would be deterred and cowed down by the violence of the state. A young scholar from Columbia recently shared with me data collected from the National Archives showing that the British were hanging on average three people daily in the 1920s in a desperate bid to frighten Indians into obeying British rule. We know how that ended. The government should know how this will end too. [Frontline]
And Fahad Shah meets Maqbool Butt’s mother:
“Both Maqbool sahib and Guru sahib were innocent and on the right path. India thinks that this freedom movement will stop but it won’t stop. It will continue. There are so many Maqbools in Kashmir” [The Kashmir Walla]
So, The Law has been taking its Own Course, without any help from the political bankruptcy of the Kangress party. The Law took its Own Course and hanged Ajmal Kasab before a Parliament session and co-incidentally Afzal Guru before another Parliament session. The Law’s Own Course is stranger than the river Kosi which changes direction at will (actually, even the Kosi river changes directions because of corruption in the unnecessary embankments the Bihar government builds). Continue reading Why India Needs the Death Penalty→
“An advocate, by the sacred duty which he owes to his client, knows in the discharge of that office but one person in the world- the client, and no other…to protect that client at all hazards and costs to all others, and among others to himself, is the highest and most unquestioned of his duties…..Nay, separating even the duties of a patriot from those of an advocate, and casting them if need be to the wind, he must go on reckless of the consequences…” – Lord Brougham, “Law and Other Things”, Cambridge University Press (1937)
“Beneath this face that appears so impassive hell’s tides continually run.” – Walt Whitman,“You Felons on Trial in Courts”
“Nothing rankles more in the human heart than a brooding sense of injustice.” Justice Brennan’s words keep on ringing in my ears when I see the manifestly violent injustice meted out to Mohammad Afzal- the Courts tore to smithereens his inalienable right to a fair trial. The Parliament attack case was the first litigation I had been part of – I was a student intern in the chambers of Ms. Kamini Jaiswal, who was briefing Mr. Ram Jethmalani. I got to see and understand the case from the closest of quarters, and that maybe that exacerbates my indignation at this egregious miscarriage of justice. Continue reading Punishment by Procedure: Saurav Datta→
This is (a slightly modified) text of the second Shahid Azmi Memorial Lecture, delivered at the Indian Law Institute on 9 February 2013 by advocateYUG MOHIT CHAUDHRY. The lecture and its topic had been scheduled days in advance, but co-incidentally, Mohd. Afzal Guru was hanged in the morning of the day of the lecture. The Shahid Azmi Memorial Lecture has been instituted by his friends, comrades and students, who want to keep alive the memory of his inspiring work. Advocate was shot dead in his office on 11 February 2010, at the age of 32. At the time of his murder, Shahid was fighting several terrorism cases, including of those falsely accused in the Malegaon blasts and the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.You can read tributes to Shahid Azmi in Kafila archives by Mahtab Alam, Arvind Narrain and Saumya Una, and Susan Abraham.
In Furman v. Georgia (1972), where the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty, Justice Marshall said that if citizens were fully informed about how people are sentenced to death, they would find capital punishment shocking, unjust and unacceptable. However, research on the death penalty and public awareness of the exact nature of the death penalty have been the most neglected areas in the abolition campaign in India. The last three challenges to the constitutionality of the death penalty in India were rejected by the Supreme Court, inter alia, on the grounds that there is no empirical data to support the abolitionists’ claims. Unfortunately, the situation has not changed at all, and even now there is hardly any research on this subject. Therefore, the highest priority in any abolition campaign is to produce empirical research on the death penalty. That, and doing our utmost to stop each proposed execution and, failing that, to make it as difficult as possible for the state to carry out an execution, adopting all legal, political and social means at our disposal. Continue reading Capital Punishment – An Agenda for Abolition: Yug Mohit Chaudhry→
Justice Ajit Shah says that it has been proven beyond doubt that death sentence does not serve as a deterrent against crime; the reason why two third of the world has abolished it all together. He explains the bizarre nature of how the death sentence in India is judge centric and how under the same set of circumstances, some have received the death sentence, while others have been given life and still others acquitted. Death sentence is judge centric with many judges having a history of doling out death penalties and other being kind. Death sentence is thus nothing but a ‘legal lottery’ where if you are lucky you get a lenient judge you survive, else you end up at the gallows. He talks about the caste and class connection to death sentence, where the lower castes and lower classes are usually the ones sent to the gallows because they cannot afford proper legal aid. He says that this discriminatory nature renders death penalty unconstitutional and that there is the need for a larger debate on the same. Continue reading ‘Death penalty in India is a legal lottery’→
This is the audio of the Shahid Azmi Memorial Lecture delivered on 9 February 2013 byYUG MOHIT CHAUDHRYat the Indian Law Institute in Delhi. While the lecture date and topic – death penalty – were scheduled weeks in advance, it co-incidentally happened that Mohd Afzal Guru was hanged on the morning of the lecture. Shahid Azmi was a lawyer in Mumbai. He was 32 when he was shot dead on 11 February 2010.
People who mourn under siege are not supposed to write. We cry and beat our chests. Kashmiris have long faced such predicaments, always forced to find alternatives for everything. Anything that is normal and fair is denied to them! Like a fair trial, for instance. I am not sure if everybody knows Mohd. Afzal Guru’s story. I am not sure if I can be fair to him, but whatever I could gather from legal documents, commentaries and articles, is summarised here. Continue reading When the Indian nation’s ‘conscience’ was satisfied: Gazala Peer→
In the early hours of Saturday morning, a secret execution was carried out by the Indian government. Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri, was put to death for his alleged involvement in the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. Afzal’s family in Kashmir were cruelly denied a last visitation. They were informed that the Indian President had rejected his mercy petition, and of his imminent execution, by mail—the letter reached Afzal’s wife Tabassum two days after he was executed and buried in an unmarked grave inside Tihar Jail.
Meanwhile, across the border in Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis from all walks of life have occupied Shahbag Square near Dhaka University, outraged that a notorious war criminal might walk free after having been spared the death penalty by the Bangladeshi International War Crimes Tribunal. Abdul Quader Mollah, leader of the right-wing Islamist party Jamaat-i-Islami, and convicted of multiple counts of rape, torture and murder, was photographed flashing a victory sign as he left the court. Continue reading Lessons from Delhi and Dhaka: Nagesh Rao and Navine Murshid→
This public statement was put out on 13 February by a group of 83 feminist activists; names of signatories at the end.
We, women from various organizations in India, condemn the hanging of Afzal Guru in Tihar Jail early on the morning of 9.2.2013.
The tearing hurry and secrecy with which Afzal Guru was hanged, accompanied by the flouting of all established norms by not giving his family their legal right to meet him before taking him to the gallows, clearly indicates that there were political considerations behind taking this step. More shameful is the explanation of the Home department that the wife and family of Afzal Guru were intimated of the hanging by a mail sent by Speed Post and Registered Post. Decency and humanity demanded that the Union Government give prior intimation to the family and an opportunity to meet him. Such surreptitious action of the government also deprived the family of Afzal Guru to right to seek legal remedy. Continue reading ‘In the land of Buddha and Gandhi, death penalty has no place’: 83 feminist activists→
This letter, signed by 202 citizens whose names are given at the end, has been put out by theJAMIA TEACHERS SOLIDARITY ASSOCIATION
The Hon’ble President of India
We write to you in deep anguish, despair but in outrage as well. Afzal Guru was hanged on Saturday (9th February 2013) in secrecy. We have been told – after the hanging – that you rejected the mercy petition filed by Guru’s wife Tabassum, on 3rd February. We believe that you made a grave error in rejecting the mercy petition. If you had perused the trial records and the lengthy documentation put together over the years by lawyers and civil rights activists, or even the Supreme Court judgement which sentenced Afzal to death, you would have known, that his guilt was never established beyond reasonable doubt. The fact that the Court appointed as amicus curiae (friend of the court) a lawyer in whom Afzal had expressed no faith; the fact that he went legally unrepresented from the time of his arrest till his so-called confession, the fact that the court asked him to either accept the lawyer appointed by the Court or cross examine the witness himself should surely have concerned you while considering his mercy petition. Continue reading A letter of protest to the President of India against the execution of Afzal Guru: JTSA→
Ever since the news of Afzal Guru’s execution broke out on the 9th, I have witnessed my personal space descend into a state of chaos. I woke up that morning to a number of emails/facebook messages by friends requesting me to join them at Jantar Mantar to protest against Guru’s execution. Many called that particular protest farcical, some even going to the extent of labelling these young men and women as traitors. Battle lines were drawn and a country stood divided. The more I thought about the execution, the more it saddened me. I could see myself and people like me (the ordinary citizens of this great nation) as pawns in a game of ugly power play, waiting to be sacrificed at the altar of ‘opportune moment’. Continue reading What Afzal Deserves: Chandan Gomes→
We’re not a civilisation. We’re a horde. And baying for blood is the new flavour of the season.
Let us have a few more executions while we’re at it. Why stop the fun now? Let us distribute sweets and dance on the streets. Why hide these killings inside jails? Let’s bring them out into the open, so the whole populace can rejoice and the collective conscience of the people can be appeased.
If there’s not enough terrorists, there are rapists. There are enough people to round up and hang. As with the six who raped and murdered a girl on a bus in Delhi, our collective cry must be, ‘kill them all!’ There are clear villains in each piece, and we are the pure ones who are always getting outraged. Continue reading We, the Barbarians: Vipul Rikhi→