Hindu New Year: A Celebration of Unity and Heterogeneity

The Hindu New Year or Nav Varsh is celebrated with different festivals – Navratri, Gudi Padwa, Ugadi, Navreh, Cheti Chand symbolising the intermingling of religion with local culture and rituals and celebrating the beauty of heterogeneity, cultural assimilation and diversity.

It beautifully tells us that no culture is superior, while we should be proud of our culture, we must also respect the culture of others, that unity may not always be in homogeneity, we can be different and we have to learn to respect and celebrate the difference, that there is a certain beauty in co-existing which cannot be experienced in dominating and replacing. We must understand what our festivals try to teach us.. focus on the underlying essence, the ideas not the visible, the material.

Nav Varsh ki Hardik Shubhkaamnaye!

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Role of People in Improving Indo-Pak Relations

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Photo Source: Internet

While British India became independent and was divided into India and Pakistan for a more peaceful and saner future, we know that this is yet to be realized. Since separation, there has largely been a culture of war and extreme hatred. In these 67 years, there have been 4 major wars, countless ceasefire violations and indirect clashes suffered by divided families, prisoners and fishermen.

Yet, there exists a very pessimistic attitude towards peace. It has also been reduced to an issue of mockery. Working to improve relations is seen as passive and futile. Also, these views emanate not from the stakeholders but from the common masses in both countries. There is
not just a pessimistic attitude but also a severe questioning of it, especially on times of a clash. During any disturbance, the peace groups and activists are targeted. They are rendered accountable. Their loyalty towards their country is questioned. They are asked to prove their love for their country by condemning the other. Their efforts are regarded to be futile and showy.

In general, there exists a view that war and peace are in the hands of those who have political power. What can you and me do about it? The conflict is regarded to be a conflict between the state heads, between New Delhi and Islamabad. Is this true? Do people have no role to play?

What is then the purpose of interactive sessions, seminars, public demonstrations and student exchanges?

Another view that anyone who advocates for peace witnesses is that there can be no peace unless we solve the core issue, the Kashmir or the K-issue. Is this the only way to establish peace?

While the two views regarding the state’s role and the need to resolve core issue are not wrong, they are narrow and insufficient. We use the term “peace process”. The word “process” signifies that peace, like any process, will come under certain conditions and through a systematic way. It will come under a certain culture. While peace and conflict definitely depends on the political head, the decision or the official policy is never in isolation with the views of the people. The states manufacture consent. There is a certain ideological culture that it manufactured to create as well as sustain the official policy. In our context, hatred for India/Pakistan has been manufactured and sustained. There exists a culture of hatred and suspicion on both sides of the border. Both sides have constructed their own stereotypes and misconceptions. These have been aggravated, if not carefully constructed, by the lack of communication and by miscommunication. Both sides believe that they are right and the other is wrong. Both sides think the other does not want peace, the other is unjust and cruel.

These misconceptions are used to justify clashes. The state and public opinion cannot be said to be in isolation with each other. Both affect and influence each other. It was the public anger that killed Sarabjit Singh and Sanaullah Ranjay. It is public opinion that determines the action and ‘reaction’ on the borders. If we talk about issues of prisoners and fishermen, it is not just the state but the people’s biases (as prison guards, advocates and judges) that aggravate their sufferings. Thus, it is essential that a culture of peace, respect and understanding is established. People need to become sensitive and need to realize the importance of peace for a better future. They need to realize that the other, like them, wants peace and friendship. It is also this culture that will contribute to resolving of core issues. In the present scenario of jingoism, opinions are only classified as “pro-Indian” and “anti-Indian” or “pro-Pakistani” and “anti-Pakistani”, not in a rational way. They are not seen from a human perspective. It is the culture of peace that will motivate them to think rationally and in a just manner. Peace needs to be created before being established.

Thus, people cannot be regarded to be passive agents. The people of both countries need to take charge for a better future. 

This article got published on The Pakistan Today and CSS Current Affairs Pakistan website

Photo Source: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/multimedia/dynamic/01261/indo-pak_jpg_1261225g.jpg

When Cricket ‘Threatens’ The ‘Integrity’ Of A Country

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“Where the head is held high and mind is without fear”, wrote Noble Prize Winner and Renowned Poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Rabindranath Tagore doesn’t need an introduction for any Indian. The nation respects him and his thoughts. However, today it turns out that the nation that derives or rather claims to derive inspiration from his thoughts, have reduced this thought to mere words.

The reference is to the action of the State Government of Uttar Pradesh and Subharti University (a private university in meerut) taken against the kashmiri students who cheered for the Pakistani Cricket Team. Both the government and the university have maligned the concept of fearless minds. They have instilled fear in the minds of the citizens who shall now think before praising any country for any reason.

For the state government regarded the act of praising Pakistani cricket team and cheering upon its victory to be so dangerous that it booked the students with the charge of sedition. Similarly, the university had expelled these students. It had also not taken into account the fact that other students in their protest against the act of kashmiri students had broken windows and vandalised their hostel rooms. For it, their act was much more dangerous than their right to life that was also under threat. Isn’t that a problem?

This incident has several other aspects to it.

VIOLATION OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

A very basic thing that comes to one’s mind is that it is clear violation of freedom of expression. They were merely expressing their choice and preference. How can a government tell us whom we should cheer for? Will the state now govern our choices and preferences? It is yet another blot on the world’s largest ‘democracy’.

Also constitutionally speaking, supporting Pakistan or any country with whom we have a diplomatic relation and which India has duly recognized as a sovereign state, in no way constitute any crime unless and until it coupled with hatred or motive to destruct and a will against the Elected Indian Government or Constitution.

EXPRESSION OF RESISTENCE

While it cannot be assumed that kashmiri students were cheering for Pakistani cricket team as a way to show their resistance against Indian oppression. However, even if they were, I think India should care more much about the oppression than the expression of resistance against it. They should be bothered more about why they are protesting.

Another point is that even if it was an expression of resistance can this method be seen as seditious? Cricket is afterall a game, just that and if not then may be we should start solving our international issues through it.

INCREASING STATE’S ROLE

If we accept this today, let’s be prepared for more such acts. Today, they do it with Kashmir and so we are silent but tomorrow, the state will come up with more definitions of sedition.

IS SEDITION ONLY FOR THE CITIZENS?

If merely speaking or cheering in favor of another country or condemning one’s own country counts to sedition, then there have been innumerable situation wherein the Indian government itself should to be charged under sedition. Violating human rights of kashmiris, applying force on peaceful demonstrations of people and suppressing vioces should come under sedition because it degrades the fundamental essence of democracy that are the citizens.

EDUCATION SYSTEM AND NATIONALISM

The action taken by the university clearly shows how we are generating hatred, intolerance and radicalism through our knowledge-systems. Our knowledge systems should emphasise on the values of equality, justice and humanity. They should not become an apparatus of the oppressive state.

HARMING THE ‘DEMOCRATIC’ IMAGE OF INDIA

Needless to say, this incident has also raised questions on the country in the international sphere. The country or the so-called democracy is being condemned for this shocking and unacceptable reaction.

As we noted, this incident raises several issues. It forces us to think that where are we heading to? 

 This article was published on Countercurrents and Kashmir Times dated 9 March 2014.

Kashmir: A People and Region torn between Two Maps

It was in the 18th-19th century, in the British period, that cartography came to India. It was in this period that a map was drawn for India. It wasn’t simply a map – it had given British India a marked and formally recognised territory. Since then, India has been quite protective about it. So post-independence and partition, India had claimed all the regions that constituted the map of British India. It has also tried to extend it, make the map bigger. Today, India is among the largest nations, or rather one should say, India has one of the largest maps in the world.

But in its quest for a bigger map, India doesn’t seem to mind being inauthentic. It doesn’t mind having a map that does not reflect the reality. This points to the region of Kashmir that is actually a part of Pakistan. The region in question is what is called ‘Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’ in India and ‘Azad Kashmir’ in Pakistan. In the first India-Pakistan war (1947-49), Pakistan had conquered one-third of Kashmir. But still India has not recognised it. It has refused to make any changes in its big map. The entire Kashmir is shown as a part of India.

It seems to be a paradox as this is the same India which has created such an uproar about Arunachal Pradesh being shown in the map of China. While India cannot tolerate Arunachal Pradesh being shown in the map of China, it has parts of Kashmir that are formally with Pakistan.

So how does one read this? For this, we must look at the importance that any country attaches to the map. The map is an epitome of a nation-state. It marks its territorial sovereignty. Maps are serious and sensitive pieces of paper. India, like other countries, attaches a high value to it. For India and Indians, the map of India is and should be fixed. Any change in it would mean the collapse of the entire nation-state. Failing to reflect the reality post the India-Pakistan war of 1947, shows this sentiment. The unchanged map serves to reflect the notion that India was, is and has to be, a unitary and bounded nation-state, even though it is just an illusion.

The unchanged map shows India’s refusal to accept or acknowledge that some parts of Kashmir were conquered over by Pakistan. The use of the word “occupied” in “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” also shows that India considers Kashmir to be a part of India. In such a scenario, can India and Pakistan really resolve the Kashmir issue? When India has already claimed Kashmir to be its part, what solution can they arrive at?

The world atlas reflects the reality. It shows Azad Kashmir and the region of Gilgit-Baltistan as part of Pakistan. But India is adamant about it, as though if it doesn’t change its map the reality would change. Speaking of reality, beyond these imaginary boundaries lies the reality of a terrible life that people in Indian Kashmir live, or rather, survive. In the name of protecting the ‘sovereignty’ of the nation, Kashmir is ruled by draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) which has changed the meaning of ‘normalcy’. The ‘normal’ in Kashmir is characterised by heavy militarisation, check-posts on every corner of the street, fake encounters, torture and rape. Kashmiris live in the shadow of guns. They live with the constant threat to their lives and honour. This seems to be the cost that they are incurring to keep the map of India intact.

It is tragic that people seem to be more concerned about the map than about the people inhabiting the region. The unchanged map also points out that there remains a possibility that India may try to recover the territories that were taken over by Pakistan. But in this ongoing struggle over the maps, who is suffering? What is at stake? It is not the map, not the nation, but common lives. It is time that India should leave this hypocrisy and reflect the reality in the map. The entire Kashmir is not a part of India and in the part that is, India should respect the inhabitants of the land, and not the land. Life is more important than a map. Let there be peace. If it is the question of being fair, let the people of the land decide for themselves. Let them re-draw the map if they have to. Kashmir is not just a territory to be acquired; it is not just a barren land, a battle field and a mere location on a map. It is a region with human lives. 

This article was published on South Asia Monitor and they have the copyright. 

The sinicization of Tibet

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A Tibetan protestor during the recent visit of Chinese PM in New Delhi

In 1950s, China incorporated Tibet into its territory and since then, it has began a major reform of all aspects of Tibetan life – social, religious, political and economic. The Tibetans had organised an armed resistance but it could not challenge the Chinese army. As a result of this, thousands of Tibetans fled from Tibet and seek asylum in nearby countries like India, Nepal and Bhutan where they have created refugee or exile communities. But other forms of resistance had been continued and is still continued by Tibetans in Tibet and in exile.

In 1951, the Chinese Government had pressurised the Tibetan Government to sign the “Agreement of the Central People’s Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet”. Amongst the 17 points of the “Agreement” were clauses authorizing the entry of Chinese forces into Tibet and empowering the Chinese Government to control Tibet’s external affairs. It guaranteed that China would not alter the existing political system in Tibet and not interfere with the cultural and religious beliefs and would grand regional autonomy to Tibet. After the formal acceptance by the Tibetan Government, soon, the whole of Tibet was virtually under the PLA’s sway and from this position China refused to reopen negotiations and Tibetans and the Dalai Lama had effectively lost the ability to either accept or reject any Tibet-China “Agreement”.

Gradually, even the autonomy offered to the Tibetans to preserve their traditional belief and lifestyle in the agreement was flouted. Their traditional political system, economy and religious beliefs have been suppressed.

Chinese rule has forced the traditional living as nomads to lead a sedentary commune life and forbidden from roaming with their herds in search of seasonal pastures. One of the important ways to undermine and suppress the Tibetans has been the large influx of Chinese migrants in Tibet. The migrants are offered higher salaries than their counterparts in China. They have taken almost all the jobs of the artisans, market stalls, restaurants and repair units. This has led to food shortages and unemployment among the Tibetans. The police also favors the Chinese. It expels the illegal Tibetans immigrants from the hinterlands to the city but pays no attention to the illegal Chinese migrants.

Similarly, the religious and cultural life of Tibetans has suffered. There is a dominance of Chinese language in the education system. As for religion, Tibet’s social and religious systems are considered to be “alien to China’s atheistic  taste”. The Chinese had vandalized monasteries, nunneries, temples, and other cultural institutes. All articles of value and precious stones were looted and sold. Religious texts were burnt and mixed with field manure. The sacred mani stones were used for making toilets and pavements. Monks and nuns were forced to copulate in public and taunted to perform “miracles”. Ruined monasteries and temples were turned into pigsties; starving monks and nuns in Chinese prisons were told to “get food from the Buddha”(DIIR 2001: 37-8). It is also to be noted that even when Chinese have been forced to restrict their control over Tibetans through violence, the strategy to undermine and degrade cultural beliefs have been continued. It is, infact, intensified.

The PLA or the People’s Liberation Army has also committed atrocities on the  civilians. They are accused of torture, rape and killing of the civilians. The document by the Department of Information and International Relations(DIIR) of Central Tibetan Administration states,

An internal Chinese military document states that from 1952 to 1958, the PLA crushed 996 rebellions and killed over 10,000 Tibetans in the northeastern region of Kanlho. Golog, another Amdo area, saw its population halved from an estimated 140,000 in 1956 to about 70,000 in 1964. Referring to this area, the late Panchen Lama told Beijing’s leaders: “If there was a film made on all the atrocities perpetrated in Qinghai Province, it would shock the viewers. In Golog area, many people were killed and their dead bodies rolled down the hill into a big ditch.  The soldiers told the family members and relatives of the dead people that they should celebrate since the rebels had been wiped out.  They were even forced to dance on the dead bodies. Soon after, they were also massacred with machine guns (DIIR 2001: 24).

All forms of protests and resistance movements have faced similar consequences. By the end of 1994, the authorities had adopted a new series of measures to eliminate the roots of protest movements. These were the “anti-Dalai” or the “anti-splittist” campaigns. The Third Forum of Tibet had advocated this “struggle” was not a ” a matter of religious belief, nor a matter of the question of autonomy, it is a matter of securing the unity of our country and opposing splittism…No one should be careless about it.  This is a life-and-death struggle”.

Thus, new security measures were adopted to tighten control over the tibetans. People were forced to provide information about colleagues and neighbours on the fear of losing housing, employment, education, a place in the monastery, etc. Telephone hotlines were set up. During religious festivals, special security cameras were installed on pilgrim routes and at key sites. In 1995, the authorities had introduced a new strategy for the suspects wherein they would be detained for short periods, for two days every week. They would be tortured with sophisticated torture techniques that would leave no visible marks. These would include exposure to extreme temperatures or making detainees stand in icy water in winter or sit in crippling positions for long periods. From the year 2000, the suspects would also be taken to  PSB (Police Security Bureau) guesthouses where they were interrogated and tortured, often for four to 24 weeks. This technique was used typically against people suspected of communicating information on the situation inside Tibet to the outside world. When the victims were released, they were warned against telling anyone about their detention.

The report of DIIR submitted to the United Nations committee against torture in 2000 had also stated that since 1996, there has been an increasing rise in the death of tibetan prisoners due to torture in jails. Torture in prisons include hard labor, the forced extraction of blood, inadequate and unhygienic food and water, psychological torture to humiliate and degrade them on the basis of their religious beliefs. The report mentioned that some people were forced to carry human feces on the thanka (a sacred religious painting). There have also been reports of nuns being raped.

In Tibet, militarisation has meant a deterioration of their traditional political, economic and cultural life. The militarisation attempts to eliminate the Tibetan identity. The military forces also commits inhuman atrocities on the civilians. This is because militarism or militarisation is, as Walter Benjamin argued, the compulsory, universal use of violence as a means to the ends of the state. Violence has been used to preserve the state. In both the regions, the militarisation is embarked on “protecting” the interests of imagined communities called nations, even though they violate human rights. It is, as if, a situation of citizen rights v/s human rights.

It is another tragic reality of the world. The modern nation-states were crafted by dividing territories. Since their formation, there has been a persistent struggle for controlling as well as extending territory. In order to survive, they also instilled strong and blinding emotions of patriotism. And in all this struggle for “territory”, they forgot the inhabitants of the territory. China claims Tibet, not Tibetans.

References

Anderson, Benedict 1983 Imagined Communities. London Verso.

Benjamin, Walter. 1968. Critique of Violence. In Reflections. New York: Schoken Books.

DIIR. 2001. Tibet under Communist China. Publication Information missing.

DIIR. 2000. Torture in Tibethttp://www.tibetjustice.org/reports/un/torture.pdf (Last accessed on 24th May 2013).

Harris, Nigel. 1993. “Tibet and Empire”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 28, No. 39: 2069-2070.

 McGranahan, Carole. 2005. “Truth, Fear, and Lies: Exile Politics and Arrested Histories of the Tibetan Resistance”,  Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 20, No. 4: 570-600.

 

Afzal Guru, Sarabjit Singh And Now Sanaullah: The Vicious Cycle Of “Justice”?

Three people have succumbed to the injuries of inhumanity intertwined with extreme nationalism. All three have been linked together to serve “justice”. But have they really served “justice”?

I will begin with the case of Sarabjit Singh. After about 20 years, Sarabjit Singh, an Indian prisoner was attacked by fellow inmates in the Lahore jail. As he struggled for 6 days in the hospital, there was an exchange of dialog between the Indian and Pakistan Government. The Indian Government had requested the Pakistan Government to act on “humanitarian grounds” and release him (the prisoner). The Pakistan Government was claimed to have “positively considered it”. However, this positive dialogs could not materialise as Sarabjit could not survive. And now, his death has once again started the vicious circle. Sarabjit has become a national hero in India. Pakistan Government has “again” “betrayed” us and once again, India has proved to be “weak”, “powerless” and “submissive”. “We” have again “lost”.

This is the story that is known on the Indian side of the border. The story on the other side of the border is that Sarabjit Singh, an accused who had pleaded “guilty” in the Karachi bomb blast had been attacked by fellow inmates. He was an Indian “spy” who had been given the death sentence by the Supreme court. The Pakistan Government, however, did everything that they could to save him after the attack in the jail. But he could not be saved. Based on the comments in Pakistani newspapers, the popular reaction has been that “justice” has been served. People argued that “He” who had killed mercilessly was also bound to have a similar fate. They pray for the families of the 14 people who had died.

A third story presented by Sarabjit’s kin and advocate Awais Sheikh was that he was not guilty. He was a farmer who had crossed the border in a drunk state. But was falsely implicated in the Karachi bomb blast that had occurred three days before he had crossed the border. He was mistaken to be “Manjit Singh”, the accused in the bomb blast. He was “innocent”. Sarabjit Singh was under trial.

These are the three versions of the same story and now we should attempt to search the “truth”. But is there any? If yes, “who” will establish it? But more importantly, is it important now to establish it? A man has lost his life. A man who was under trial has been killed to serve “justice”, as people of Pakistan believed or was made to believe. And now after his death, people of his home country has claimed him and declared him a “martyr”.

To me, his story is an appeal as was the story of Afzal Guru. Besides the link that has been drawn by people surrounding “justice”, if we look closely, there are several other similarities in the cases of Sarabjit and Afzal Guru. Both were considered to be “national terrorist”. For both, there were mercy pleas. While in the case of Sarabjit, the Indian Government had claimed to have appealed to the Pakistan Government, for Afzal Guru, there were public debates. However, in both the cases, the appeal proved ineffective because they were based on humanitarian grounds, rather than the claim and the evidence to prove that they were perhaps innocent and were falsely implicated. This is surprising as one of the biggest evidence in both the cases were also the “vague” court verdicts. For Sarabjit, the court declared that “whether Sarabjit Singh or Manjit Singh, the name does not matter” and for Afzal, it was even more vague that even though there was no strong evidence, he should be hanged “to satisfy the collective conscience”. Both were cases that involved (as constructed) popular sentiments. Both were deprived of a fair and unbiased trial.

However, it is true that Sarabjit was definitely luckier than Afzal who was never declared a “martyr”. The people of India are still unaware that to “satisfy” their “collective conscience”, an innocent person was hanged to death.

But what is more painful for me is that both of them were perhaps the victims of nationalist politics. With Afzal Guru, democracy was also hanged to death. Afzal was not given a chance to present his petition in the world’s largest democracy. In the case of Sarabjit, yet again, a person who may/may not be innocent (he was still under trial) was seen as more an Indian rather than as an accused. This is true not only for Pakistan but also for the Indian Government who kept “pleading” that for “20 years, an Indian has been away from his home country. He should be sent back”. What kind of a petition is that? If he had really committed the horrendous crime which I feel that the Indian Government did buy or if he was really a spy, does he have the right to evade punishment just because he is an Indian? A criminal is a criminal, whether he is an Indian or Pakistani. Since it is unclear whether the attack on Sarabjit was planned by the Government, it is unethical to raise questions to them but it is valid to ask them about the security of prisoners, especially the ones whose trial is ongoing. Based on the statement of Awais Sheikh, his advocate, this attack was predictable as there were tensions in Pakistan after the death of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru. Why didn’t the Pakistan Government took the appropriate measures to ensure his safety?

Sarabjit Singh had succumbed to the injuries of inhumanity and extreme nationalism. Why was he killed? Because he was an accused in a bomb blast or because he was an Indian prisoner whose life had become a source of political and nationalist tension in Pakistan? What had killed him?

Another sad reality is that his death has also re-awakened nationalist sentiments in India. The people of India, the Government and the media has suddenly reclaimed Sarabjit. They have made him a “martyr” not of injustice and inhumanity but of their war against Pakistan. His death has become another opportunity, a “fresh breach”, as some media have claimed, in the Indo-Pak relations. The people of India are outraged at this “inhumanity” of Pakistan Government and the competition to prove who is more “inhuman” has begun. The competition has already claimed another life, that of Sanaullah Ranjay, a Pakistani prisoner in the Jammu jail. While some have condemned it, there are others who take it as a “mere reaction” and justify it by arguing that now “justice” has been served.

But now that Afzal Guru, Sarabjit Singh and Sanaullah have died, has our “collective conscience” been satisfied? Has justice been served? Have we “responded” satisfactorily to the inhumanity caused? With them, the human has died.

Afzal Guru or our democracy…who was hanged?

Published at Greater Kashmir 

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This is not a direct appeal for abolishment of capital punishment though it does raise questions on it. Afzal Guru was one of the accused in the 2001 parliament attack. After 12 years, today early in the morning, he was hanged till death.

As justice was buried, there was an outpour of reactions, carefully sorted and handpicked by the news channels across the nation. The ruling party pated its own backs and talked about the need to take this “crucial” step. The largest opposition party, BJP, expressed its “relief” even though it meant that another point on their agenda has been dismissed but nevertheless they criticized Congress for the delay. People rejoicing or expressing relief that finally, “justice” has been done.

Afzal Guru was given the death penalty way back in 2002. It was upheld in 2006 by the Supreme court and then after a series of approval, on the republic day, this year, the President passed the recommendation to depart justice in the country.

Yes, today, justice was buried, it departed. And this does not involve just a questioning of whether this would mean the end of terrorism or insurgency. It has re-iterated questions on the world’s largest democracy to have denied the right to free trial, the right to present his case and the right to prove his innocence.

Afzal Guru was presented as the biggest terrorist in the country, even “bigger” than Ajmal Kasab. And this charge suppressed any voice to counter or question it. There have been several debates on his case on major news channels. However, the debates were mostly on the death sentence and not on the hard facts that render him innocent and another victim of dirty and communal politics.

When in 2006, Afzal Guru’s execution date, time and place was announced, there were widespread protests in Kashmir. The protests involved thousands of men, women and children taking to streets. The protests continued for several days and had also involved several political parties and leaders of the Kashmiri movement for self-determination. There is also a SaveAfzal Guru Campaign that primarily demanded for his right to be heard, to present his story and for justice.

More importantly, let’s focus on the innumerable petitions that were filed by Afzal Guru himself. These petitions were not petitions of mercy. Here are some excerpts from a petition submitted in 2006 to the then President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam:

“It is true that I did not file any petition before you but it was not out of any arrogance or ill will. I had no hope of getting justice. Besides, I was told that my lawyers would be filing a curative petition and I was hoping that I may still get justice from the Supreme Court. But my lawyers did not file any such petition and instead my death warrant was issued.”

“I am aware that there is one other argument being given for hanging me. They say I have not shown remorse or begged for forgiveness. Your Excellency, I cannot ask for forgiveness for something that I have not done.”

I take this opportunity to write to you, the President of India as a Kashmiri because very few kashmiris get an opportunity to be heard.”

In his petition, he narrated the daily experiences of a kashmiri. He had joined the secessionist movement to demand freedom and the right to basic human rights for his people but he himself had surrendered to the Border Security force, only to face a life of torture and indignity. In his petition, he exposed the corrupt and inhuman treatment by the Security Task Force.

One of the allegations that he was charged with was that he knew the people who were involved in the attack. To this, he said:

“It was these officers of the STF who used me and introduced me to one Mohammad who was one of the persons who attacked the Indian Parliament. I do not know who this Tariq was and I did not know what the plot was. I became involved in the conspiracy to attack Parliament without my knowledge, intention or willingness. Your Excellency, I was made a scapegoat by the investigating agencies because they could not catch the real masterminds behind the attack”, petitioned a MBA-degree holder.

In the petition, he exposed the truth of the investigating agencies, the torture and how he was falsely implicated in cases to “crack” the case. He provided his side of the story, the evidence and the loopholes in all the charges that he was accused of. According to him, he was never given a proper lawyer. According to him, out of 80 prosecution witnesses, only 22 were cross-examined by the advocate appointed to “represent” him.

Besides his petition for a fair trial, there is a need to look at the findings and the verdict of the Supreme Court of India. Quoting from several newspaper clippings and the publication “The Afzal Petition – A quest for justice”:

“The Supreme Court did not award Afzal the death penalty because he was the mastermind or because he was involved in killing any of the security personnel or even of actually planting any bombs. The charge sheet did not have his name. The five accused who had carried out the attack were all Pakistanis, though no proof of their identity was produced. Therefore, it is clear than even the prosecution did not accuse Afzal of being involved in the actual attack, killing or planting. Infact, there was no evidence at all that Afzal belonged to any banned or illegal organization. He was acquitted of charges of belonging to any terrorist organization.”

But he was hanged till death with the logic given by the Supreme Court that:

“The incident, which has resulted in heavy causalities, has shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender”.

He was hanged, said the Supreme Court, to “satisfy” the collective conscience of the society. What conscience is this? Re-iterating the inhuman practices of the past to impart “justice”?

We need strict laws but not the barbaric and inhuman ones. There is also a need to ensure that the innocent do not get targeted. There is a need to check on the corruption and the biases in the legal and judicial proceedings. 

Most importantly, we need to strike the roots. Even if Afzal Guru was really a terrorist, we must remember that terrorists are not out of this society, they are a creation of this very society. There is a need to reform the society, a need to attack these forces of inequalities, hatred and religious fundamentalism.  

With remorse, I have written this piece. We have “granted” death to a man who may have been completely innocent. ButAfzal Guru was not the first person who has met this fate. He was one of the many who has died as a victim of communal and corrupt politics, as a victim of extreme and blinding nationalism and another blot on the ‘secular’, ‘democratic’ republic of India.