With a finality that only history possesses, Yakub Abdul Razak Menon, an accused in the Bombay blast case, has transformed for many over the last few days, including me, into just Yakub. His name pronounced with a deep felt sadness that has come to characterize so many of our days. Days leading to terrible, terrible nights.
It is indeed sad, when a criminal -a sauve 20 year old looking for a way out- is, in death, turned into a rallying symbol of injustice. Flowing white beard, and a bloated body, suddenly turned around into an idea draped in flowers, garlanded, and marched on the shoulders of thousands of men through narrow streets- in complete silence. There were whispers, though, in the sweltering heat of bodies. But the pact was made. There would be no sloganeering. The state was there- to keep peace, no less. And it did what it does best: lined the streets with policemen. The policemen were out there defending a strange paradox: That it is right to kill to punish those who kill, so that others are deterred from killing. Stithi niyantran mein hai, still, they said. The rest, were silent.
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.”
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL lists some reasons why death penalty should be abolished in India:
Inconsistency: Three people, Harban, Kashmira and Jeeta were sentenced to death for a crime in which they played similar roles. But they met different fates. Kashmira Singh’s petition to the Supreme Court was accepted and his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. Harbans Singh was recommended by the court for clemency from the President. Jeeta Singh’s petition was dismissed and he was hanged.
Flaws: In August 2012, 14 retired judges wrote to the President of India, pointing out that the Supreme Court had wrongly awarded the death sentence to 13 people. They called the execution of two wrongly sentenced prisoners in 1996 and 1997, “the gravest known miscarriage of justice in the history of crime and punishment in independent India”.
Bias: “I thought I should get all these (capital punishment) cases examined from a normal citizen’s point of view in terms of the crime, intensity of the crime and the social and financial status of the individuals who were convicted and awarded capital punishment. This study revealed to my surprise that almost all the cases which were pending had a social and economic bias.” APJ Abdul Kalam.
To sign their petition to the Prime Minister of India, go here.
Press statement put out by the PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS on 12 April 2013.
PUDR strongly denounces the Supreme Court’s dismissal this morning of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar’s plea for commutation of the death sentence awarded to him to life. The issues at stake in this dismissal are multiple, that of clemency, death penalty, miscarriage of justice and precedence.
Bhullar was sentenced to death in 2003 for carrying out a bomb blast outside the Delhi Youth Congress office which killed nine people in 1993. He has been deemed mentally unstable. The High Court’s decision of upholding the death sentence was not a unanimous decision. After he was given the death sentence by the Supreme Court, he appealed to the then President of India for clemency in 2003. The President, after a lapse of over eight years, dismissed his mercy plea in 2011. Bhullar had sought commutation of his death penalty to life sentence by the Supreme Court on the ground that there was inordinate delay by the President over his plea for clemency. Continue reading On the Supreme Court of India’s rejection of the mercy plea of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar: PUDR→
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→
Press release put out on the evening of 16 February by thePEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
CHENNAI: The PUCL strongly condemns the rejection by the President of India of the commutation petitions of Simon, Meesakara Mathayan, Bilavendran and Gnanaprakasam. Equally condemnable is the action of the Prison Authorities of Belgaum Central Prison, Karnataka who in the morning of 13.2.2013 merely intimated orally to the convicts of the rejection of their mercy petitions without giving them the written orders of rejection. In sharp contrast, signed acknowledgements of receipt have been obtained from all 4 convicts! Continue reading PUCL statement on the President’s rejection of the mercy pleas of four Veerappan associates→
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.
The shameless and cynical Manmohan Singh government has found an easy way out to appear strong, deflect attention from its failures and save itself from the opposition’s questioning. Just hang a death row convict before every Parliament session! It is very likely that if the 16 December Delhi rape-and-murder accused are placed on death row by this time next year, the UPA government will hang them just in time for the 2014 general elections.
I am opposed to death penalty in principle, and there are good reasons why so many democracies have abolished death penalty. But even if you do not agree that death penalty should be abolished, please consider why it should not be applied to the five accused in this case.
About a month ago I visited the Ravi Das “camp”, a slum colony near RK Puram where four of the six accused lived. I met the mother of one of them. Champa Devi’s son Vinay Sharma was the first to plead guilty and say he should be hanged; his father agreed on television. Continue reading Why the Delhi rapists should not be hanged→
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→
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→
In the Parliament attack case I was entrapped by Special Task Force of Kashmir. Here in Delhi the designated court sentenced me to death on the basis of special police version which works in nexus with STF, and also came under the influence of mass media in which I was made to accept the crime under duress and threat by special police ACP. Rajbir Singh. That threat even get confirmed to designated court by T.V. interviewer (Shams Tahir Aaj-Tak).
There are days in which streaks of hope shine through dark clouds of misery. The 9th of February, 2013, was such a day.
The day broke with the news that the noose of the Indian state had finally seized the throat of Mohammad Afzal Guru after years of careful conspiracy. With ill-concealed admiration, the television screens reported the military swiftness, the secrecy, and the perfection with which a nuclear-powered state with one of the largest armies in the world escorted an unarmed, hapless Kashmiri to the gallows, performed its rituals, and pulled the bolt. As the murder was officially videographed with full legal sanction, the body was kept dangling for thirty minutes before it was pulled down and immediately buried in an ‘unmarked’ grave, protected by layers and layers of impenetrable walls. The case of Afzal Guru was thus brought to a ‘closure’. So hoped the state. Continue reading The Day Afzal Died: Nirmalangshu Mukherji→
Statement put out on February 9 byHUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
(New York) –The hanging in New Delhi of Mohammad Afzal Guru makes it more urgent for India to reinstate its previous informal moratorium on executions as a step towards abolishing the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said today. Azfal Guru, executed on February 9, 2013, was convicted for his role in the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001.
Afzal Guru was hanged yesterday in utter secrecy, denied in his last moments the right to meet his wife and children one final time. Denied to him also was the ultimate judicial resort, due to every condemned convict after his/her mercy petition has been rejected.