New Delhi: Amid widespread criticism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed his displeasure to Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde over the delay in informing Afzal Guru's family about his hanging.
Singh told Shinde that Guru's family should have been informed in advance about the execution carried out last Saturday morning at Tihar Jail here for his role in 2001 Parliament attack case, sources said.
The Prime Minister conveyed his displeasure to the Home Minister on the sidelines of the Governors' Conference at Rashtrapati Bhavan yesterday, they said.
The sources said the Prime Minister told Shinde that it was alright to be tough on terror but the delay in informing Guru's family was not how "state craft" is conducted.
The government had sent a letter through speed post, despatched Friday last, to Guru's family in Sopore in Kashmir and it reached them only on Monday, about 51 hours after the execution.
Singh took exception to the decision to inform the family by post, the sources said.
Guru's family has been angry over not being informed in advance about the hanging as they came to know only through the media after the execution was carried out.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has also strongly criticised the decision to inform the family through post in this age.
Lawyers of Afzal Guru's family withdraw
A day after approaching the Tihar authorities seeking handing over of Afzal Guru's body to his family, two lawyers representing them on Wednesday withdrew as their counsel, citing "unseemly controversies" and "suspicion" by certain political groups in Kashmir.
"Now there have arisen unseemly controverdies and we do not wish to be part to these discussions. We also do not want to distract from the main issue on which we make our stand absolutely clear," lawyers N D Pancholi and Nandita Haksar said in a two-page statement.
The two lawyers had sent a letter to Tihar Director General Vimla Mehra on behalf of Guru's family yesterday in which they demanded handing over his body to them, besides seeking his belongings. The lawyers had also sought permission for the family to offer prayers at Guru's grave at Tihar when they come to Delhi.
"We feel sad that all our efforts to build bridges between Indian people and Kashmiri people are constantly undermined by Indian authorities who condemn our efforts as 'anti-national' and in Kashmir some political groups feel these offers of solidarity and friendship with suspicion," they said without elaborating on the immediate reasons for their decision.
Replying to criticism that why they did not represent Guru at the time of his trial, Haksar and Pancholi said they were never approached to fight the legal battle.
"After he was condemned to death, his wife approached us to write the mercy petition on her behalf and later on his behalf. Without vakalatnama we could not have visited him in jail," they said.
Haksar and Panchouli said after hanging of Guru, his family members telephoned them on Saturday seeking help and in accordence with their wishes they asked the jail authroties to hand over his body to the family and permission to visit the grave.
Afzal Guru's last letter delivered to family
The last letter written by Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was delivered to his wife Tabassum in Jammu Kashmir's Sopore town in 26 hours despite curfew in the area, reports said on Wednesday.
The letter was addressed to his wife. It was delivered to her on Tuesday.
According to reports, the letter was sent to her via speed post.
"The last letter Afzal Guru wrote before he was executed was addressed to his wife and has been delivered to her in Sopore in Kashmir in 26 hours," NDTV reported.
Pertinently, Guru's family said they received the official letter informing them about his execution on Monday, two days after he was hanged at Delhi's Tihar Jail on Saturday.
Guru's family earlier contradicted the government's statement and said they were not informed about his execution or rejection of his mercy plea by President Pranab Mukherjee.
Guru's cousin Yaseen Guru said they came to know about his execution via television channels and social networking sites.
Union Home Secretary RK Singh on Saturday had said Guru's family was sent a letter via speed post which said that his petition for clemency had been rejected by the President and that he would be hanged in Tihar Jail.
Speaking on the government's decision to send a letter via speed post to Guru's family, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday told CNN-IBN: "There is something wrong in the system if we are sending information through Speed Post in this era. We could have easily got the family to meet him in Delhi and kept it a secret."
Guru was hanged at Delhi's Tihar Jail on Saturday. The execution took place at 8am and he was buried soon after at the jail, where he had been lodged for nearly eight years.
Guru's execution was initially scheduled for Oct 20, 2006. But it was stayed after Guru's wife filed a mercy petition with the President.
Return Guru's body to his family: Sharad
Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)] president Sharad Yadav on Wednesday said he would request Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to 'consider' the demand of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's family to return his body to them.
His family members want to get back his body...I will request the Prime Minister to consider the wishes of his family," Yadav told media on Wednesday.
Union Home Secretary RK Singh on Tuesday said Guru's family will be allowed to visit his grave at Delhi's Tihar Jail.
"We have no problem if the immediate family of Afzal Guru wants to come and offer prayers at his grave in Tihar jail," Singh told media.
He said Guru's belongings will be handed over to his family.
Afzal hanging will fuel separatism: CPI-M
The hasty hanging of terror convict Afzal Guru "will only fuel more alienation and separatist feelings" in Jammu and Kashmir, the CPI-M said Wednesday.
Detailing the circumstances of the Feb 9 execution, CPI-M weekly organ People's Democracy said: "The feeling that a Kashmiri is expendable while those from other parts of India are not will only be reinforced."
"The problems faced in Kashmir are going to be further aggravated," it said in an editorial.
It said the manner in which the death sentence was executed had come in for valid criticism.
The party pointed out that the rejection of the mercy petition was not informed to the convict and the family and time not given for approaching the courts on this issue.
"The family of Afzal Guru was not given the opportunity to meet him for the last time," it said.
"That a letter by registered and speed post was sent to the family informing them about the rejection of the mercy petition and the date of execution makes this act of commission all the more glaring and callous."
People's Democracy said that others facing death sentence included those who went to court and got their executions stayed after their mercy petitions were rejected by the president.
"Unlike in these cases, the rejection of the mercy petition of Afzal Guru was followed by his instant hanging," it said.
"The people of Kashmir can conclude that Afzal Guru has been hanged given various political considerations and that this is a selective execution.
"The UPA government has responded to the vociferous demand raised by the BJP and (Gujarat Chief Minister) Narendra Modi that Afzal Guru should be hanged."
The CPI-M said Afzal Guru's execution had made "the case for the abolition of the death penalty a strong one and highly relevant".
"The CPI-M is presently engaged in a discussion to review its position on the matter.
"In the meantime, the shrill jingoism and triumphalism displayed by the BJP and the corporate media has to be strongly deplored.
"For the BJP, the fight against terrorism has become a partisan political platform to serve their narrow political interests."
Curfew relaxed in several areas of Kashmir
Curfew was on Wednesday relaxed in many areas of Kashmir, including the home town of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru, whose hanging on Saturday led to the imposition of restrictions.
Curfew was relaxed for two hours from 4 pm in Sopore town, the native area of Guru, but was not reimposed till reports last came in as the relaxation period passed off peacefully, a police spokesman said.
He said curfew was also relaxed in volatile north Kashmir Baramulla town, which has witnessed most of the protests post execution of Guru.
The spokesman said the restrictions were lifted from three police station areas in the city while it was relaxed "indefinitely" in five other police station areas.
"Curfew has been lifted from Nigeen, Lal Bazaar and Zakura police station areas in the city," the spokesman said.
He said curfew has been relaxed "indefinitely" in police stations Ram Munshi bagh, Kothibagh, Saddar, Rajbagh and Shergarhi.
"Restrictions will not be imposed in these areas if the situation remains peaceful," he said.
Authorities had relaxed curfew for three hours in these five police station areas last evening and the relaxation period passed off without any untoward incident.
However, the rest of the Valley remained under curfew for the fifth consecutive day.
Curfew was imposed on Saturday following hanging of Afzal Guru inside Tihar jail in Delhi.
The police spokesman said there were no reports of any untoward incident from anywhere in the Valley so far.
Curfew was also relaxed in entire Budgam district from 10 AM to 12 noon and parts of Pulwama district from 9 AM onwards, the police spokesman said.
He said the restrictions were eased in Awantipora area of Pulwama from 10 AM onwards while curfew was relaxed for three hours in several police station jurisdictions in Kupwara district.