Srinagar: Fifty one hours after Afzal Guru was hanged in Delhi's Tihar Jail, his wife finally received the official intimation on Monday that he was being executed.
The letter, sent by the office of the Superintendent, Central Jail No.3, said Guru's mercy plea has been rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee and that his hanging was fixed for 8 AM on February nine.
The letter dated February 6, 2013, was received by Guru's wife Tabassum at 11 AM today. It said, "The petition of the convict Shri Mohd Afzal Guru s/o Habibullah has been rejected by the Honorary President of India."
"Hence the execution of Mohd Afzal Guru s/o Habibullah has been fixed for 09-02-2013 at 8 AM in Central Jail No.3. For your information and for further necessary action," the letter sent by speedpost said.
Booked from GPO New Delhi, the letter was received in Srinagar GPO on February 9, the day Guru was hanged, Chief Post Master General of Jammu and Kashmir Circle John Samuel said.
"Since Sunday is a public holiday, the letter was delivered this morning at 11 AM," Samuel said.
The letter shows the signature of G H Mohidin Ranie who received the letter with 11 AM written on it at Guru's house in Seer Jagir in Baramullah's Sopore district.
In New Delhi, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde claimed the letter was sent by speedpost on February seven night and that he has a copy of the receipt.
"I have information that the family has been communicated. The letter was sent through speedpost on February seven night and the action(hanging) was taken on February 9," he said.
Afzal hanging not selective or political decision, says govt
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Monday defended the secrecy shrouding the execution of Afzal Guru and said his family was informed two days before the hanging through speed post. The post reached the family Monday, two days after Afzal Guru was hanged.
Shinde was evasive on questions whether the Government made it sure that the family was informed before carrying out the execution.
"I have information that family has been communicated. The letter has been sent through speed post on February 7 night and the action was taken on Febuary nine," he said.
Further asked as to whether it was necessary to depend on speedpost when other methods including a phone call or a telegram could have been used, Shinde did not answer this question and rather maintained that rules of jail manual were followed.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had said yesterday that he wished that the family could have been allowed to meet Afzal before he was taken to the gallows.
Shinde, who was carrying proof of the speed post being sent to Afzal Guru's family, told reporters that the hanging was not a "political decision" and the authorities acted according to rules.
The government also dismissed Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's charge that the execution of Afzal Guru was selective, and said the assassination cases of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Punjab chief minister Beant Singh were different.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said at a press conference Monday: "These cases are still under consideration before the judiciary. Hence, they are different."
Shinde also defended the secrecy shrouding the execution and said Afzal Guru's family was informed two days before the hanging through speed post. The post reached the family Monday, two days after he was hanged.
Shinde rejected allegations that the hanging was a "political decision" and said the authorities acted according to rules.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said that Afzal Guru's case fell in the rarest of rare category and that the president had taken the decision to reject his mercy plea in his own wisdom.
"There can never be one size that fits all. In case of capital punishment, there is a need to be responsible, need to realise the facts and circumstance of each case. According to courts also, this was a rarest of rare case," Tewari said.
The BJP slammed Abdullah, accusing him of "provoking" sentiments in the Kashmir valley.
Abdullah, in an interview published in a newspaper on Monday, said the execution of Afzal Guru may increase the "sense of alienation" in the youth in Kashmir. He also said they may "identify with Afzal Guru".
"Saying that youth in the Kashmir Valley will identify with Afzal Guru is an insult to the youth in the valley. They do not identify with Afzal Guru. They identify with cricketer Parvez Rasool and UPSC topper Shah Faesal," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
"He (Omar Abdullah) said young man of 43 was hanged. Six of the nine killed in the parliament attack were younger than Afzal. Why isn't Omar's heart crying for them but sympathising with Afzal? We condemn it," Javadekar said.
"To raise the issue of discrimination is nothing but provoking the situation in the valley. At least the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir should not do this," he said.
The Congress too defended the hanging. "Three separate courts found him guilty. The Supreme Court upheld it," Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit told reporters.
Shinde said he had called Abdullah Feb 8 and informed him about Afzal Guru's hanging.
"Afzal Guru's family was informed and the speed post was sent on the night of Feb 7. He was hanged Feb 9," Shinde told reporters here.
"We acted according to the rules," Shinde said and added that speed post was sent by the jail officials.
Senior postal officials in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital, said the speed post was received Saturday evening - Afzal Guru was executed at 8 a.m. Saturday - but delivered Monday as Sunday was a holiday.
Abdullah had told TV channels Sunday that the government and the judiciary will have to answer for Afzal Guru's execution.
He had also referred to cases of convicts in the assassination cases of Beant Singh and Rajiv Gandhi and said if targeting parliament was an attack on symbol of democracy, so was the attack on a chief minister and a former prime minister.
Answering queries, Shinde said he had cleared all mercy petitions sent to him by President Pranab Mukherjee.
"All that came to me have been cleared," he said.
To a question about some people wanting to pray in Tihar Jail where Afzal Guru was buried, Shinde said it could be considered.
Asked if Afzal Guru was a surrendered militant, Shinde said he did not go into such details while looking at his file.
"I was concerned with evidence and what happened in the Supreme Court and the high court. That was my job," he said.
Asked about possible retaliation from terror outfits against Afzal Guru's killing, he said the government had to assess every possibility.
Request of Afzal's family to visit grave to be considered: Shinde
Government will consider any request by the family of Afzal Guru to visit his grave inside the Tihar jail here where he was buried after his hanging on Saturday, Shinde said on Monday.
"If they want to go (to the grave), it can be considered," Shinde told a press conference here.
The family of 43-year-old Afzal has expressed a desire to offer at least "fathiah namaz" (prayer at the grave) and take his belongings.
Cornered over the government's failure to intimate the family, Shinde waved the xerox copy of the speedpost receipt saying "two speedposts within the gap of 10 minutes were sent on the evening of February seven."
However, Post Master General of Jammu and Kashmir Circle John Samuel said in Srinagar that the letter was sent from Delhi on February 8 and received in Srinagar on February nine.
According to the official website of India Post, a speed post from national capital to any part of the country other than metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai Hyderabad and Bengaluru will take four to six days. (More)