India hangs Afzal Guru for Parliament attack

Last Updated: Sat, Feb 09, 2013 20:50 hrs

Mohammad Afzal Guru, convicted for his role in the attack on India's parliament in 2001, was hanged on Saturday in a move that was widely welcomed across the country but raised tensions in Kashmir.

Indians, including politicians across party lines, welcomed the execution of Guru, who was hanged at 8 am and then buried in the Tihar jail, where he had been lodged for nearly eight years.

However protests flared in Jammu and Kashmir in which several people were injured, after news broke about hanging of the Kashmir convicted of helping organise arms and accommodation for the terrorists.

Guru, who denied any wrongdoing right till the end, was hanged less than three months after India executed Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist of the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed.

Guru had been arrested shortly after the December 2001 attack, in which nine people were killed when five terrorists drove into the Parliament complex and opened fire. All the terrorists were shot dead.

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.

President Pranab Mukherjee on Feb 3 had rejected the plea after receiving a recommendation from the Home Ministry that Guru be executed, media reports said.

Confirming that Guru has been hanged, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters: "The President rejected Afzal Guru´s mercy petition on February 3 and after that, I signed it on February 4."

He said: "The procedure was followed and the date was confirmed by the judicial officer on 8th. The time was also confirmed. And today at 8 am, he was hanged."

Speaking on the matter, Union Home Secretary RK Singh said: "The law has taken its course."

He 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.

However, contradicting the government´s statement, Guru´s family on Saturday said they were not informed about the execution or rejection of his mercy plea by the President.

Guru´s cousin Yaseen Guru said they came to know about his execution via television channels and social networking sites.

Guru´s cousin Yaseen Guru told Hindustan Times: "We had no idea, we were woken up by people, got to know when things were being debated and posted on Facebook."

"We have gotten no letter, no family member has been informed as opposed to what the government is claiming," he said.

"His wife had appealed for mercy, she should have been informed that the plea has been rejected. We got to know about that from the national television in the morning," Yaseen said.

Curfew was imposed in parts of Kashmir valley including Sopore from where Guru belonged, and capital city Srinagar while the army was asked to remain on high alert.

Cable TV services too were disconnected in some areas, said reports.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has appealed for calm in the Valley in the wake of the hanging of Guru.

"I appeal to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to keep calm. We have taken steps to maintain order," Abdullah told media.

Omar said he received a call from the Union Home Minister about the hanging at 8pm on Friday.

He said since there was no case against Guru in Kashmir, the state government did not have to sign the execution papers.

Minister of State for Home Affairs RPN Singh said it was not the time ´for politics´.

"Afzal Guru hanged this morning.This is not a time for politics but calm, restraint and sobriety," he tweeted.

"Kasab & Afzal Guru targeted the Indian state, the idea of India. India has responded decisively, after every due legal, constitutional process," Singh said.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told media: "There has been some narrative in the media that the decision was motivated by electoral considerations. Nothing is more false. The government´s decisions on internal security are devoid of political considerations."

Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said the Opposition should not ´politicise´ the issue of Guru´s execution.

"The government has acted responsibly...The Opposition should not politicise the issue," Digvijaya Singh told media.

"I urge the government to conduct trials of terrorism cases in fast-track courts," he said.

India´s main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) welcomed the decision but questioned the delay in executing the Parliament-attack convict.

"The execution was delayed but is undoubtedly welcome," said BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

"The people of this country had been waiting for this for a long time," he said, adding that this was a right step in the fight against terrorism.

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said public opinion ´compelled´ the government to act in the case.

"In the case of Afzal Guru, all judicial authorities have affirmed his guilt and upheld the death sentence. His Clemency Petition has been rejected by the President. For reasons which the Government has been unable to explain the execution was delayed," Jaitley said in a statement.

"But finally the law has taken its own course. Public opinion has compelled the Government to act and enforce the law. India must today, as it did on 13th December 2001 speak in one voice and give a clear message to the world that India is not a soft state and those who attack India, its' sovereignty and its institutions, will be held accountable. Though belated, Justice has been done," he said.

Gujarat Chief Minister Naredra Modi tweeted: "Der aye durustha aye! #Afzal Guru (Better late than never)."

Questioning the delay in executing Guru, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told media: "Justice has been delivered at last. People of the entire country have this feeling that it should have taken place earlier."

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan told reporters: "The entire country is delighted and relieved following Afzal´s execution. But one question always strikes in the mind as to why there has been so much delay in hanging Afzal Guru."

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said: "My party welcomes this decision of the government."

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) spokesperson Ram Madhav tweeted: "Afzal Guru´s hanging is welcome. He hd challenged d sovereign power of India by attacking our Parliament. He deserved to be shown that power."

"I am sure we as a sovereign nation will forcefully counter the fall out n frustrate d attempts of Afzal´s chelas who r active here n there," he said.

Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut told media: "The government showed courage in hanging Guru."

Yoga guru turned anti-corruption activist Baba Ramdev however said the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru now was but a political gimmick to appease the Hindu community after giving terrorism colours like saffron.

"This is vote bank politics of the government to divide the Hindus and Muslims. First they talk of Hindu terrorism and now they hang a Muslim terrorist to appease Hindus," Baba Ramdev said at the Maha Kumbh venue in Allahabad.

Expressing disappointment over the move, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spokesman Nayeem Akhtar told media: "The PDP is disappointed at the hanging of Afzal Guru."

Condemning the move, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani said Guru was not involved in the Parliament attack.

Geelani told media: "We declare it as injustice because our stand on Afzal Guru ´sahab´ is that he was not involved in the Parliament attack. Personally, he was not involved in the attack. He was not given the chance to defend himself in the trial court....On the basis of that, I can say that the punishment given to him is injustice and I condemn this."

Former top cop turned social activist Kiran Bedi tweeted: "Afzal Guru hanged. Law finally turned FULL circle!"

Apart from politicians, common men reacted to the hanging of Guru and expressed their thoughts on micro-blogging site Twitter.

One Meena Kandasamy tweeted: "Afzal Guru hanged. So our government is now a secret society that does secret hangings."

Another netizen Jaffer said: "Kasab hanged just before winter session.. Afzal guru hanged just before budget session! Coincidence? #Afazalguru."

One Varid Aeron tweeted: "First kasab then afzal guru hanged without any prior information , is the govt trying that hard to win next years election."

Another, Dhanunjay said: "Afzal guru hanged but still the people are talking about human rights..!"

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