New Delhi: More than 11 years after the attack on Parliament, the key conspirator in the case, Afzal Guru, was hanged to death at 8 am on Saturday, six days after his mercy plea was rejected on February 3 by President Pranab Mukherjee. His body was buried inside the Tihar Jail with full religious rites due to security reasons and not handed over to his family in Kashmir.
Following the execution of Afzal Guru, curfew was clamped in the Kashmir Valley and cable TV services were cut off, even as there were stray protests in Sopore and Baramulla. Reacting to the development, the separatists insisted that the Parliament attack convict did not get a fair trial. To further control the situation, separatists Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani were placed under house arrest in Delhi while SAR Geelani, who was acquitted in the case, was taken into preventive custody.
Reacting to the execution of Afzal Guru, the families of the victims of the 2001 Parliament attack said they had finally got justice. As many as nine security personnel and one journalist were killed in the attack.
Though the Opposition also welcomed the hanging of the convict, it questioned the timing of the same as it came just two weeks ahead of the budget session. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) further pointed fingers at the Centre for expediting the hanging in order to balance the fallout from Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's right wing terror claims.
"This hanging was to balance the statement of Shinde...it was a political decision to carry out the hanging. Why didn't this happen earlier? Why did they delay the hanging? They should not link this to right-wing terror. I am warning the government, they will suffer if they do so," said veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi.
However, there were voices in the main Opposition party that welcomed the decision. While Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi termed it as "better late than never", BJP leader Smriti Irani said, "Today a message has gone to the perpetrators of terrorism that we have a strong legal system. The law is strong and is implemented."
The Congress, in a guarded response, cautioned against the politicisation of the issue. Speaking to CNN-IBN, Minister of State for Home Affairs RPN Singh said, "It will be extremely unfortunate if politics is played over this. We are Indians...it will not be in good taste."
While Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari called for restraint on the issue, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar termed it as a "sad decision" as he was "against capital punishment".
Members if the civil society and legal experts also welcomed the decision. While former solicitor general Soli Sorabjee said it could not be questioned, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi said the law finally turned full circle.
"The validity of the decision cannot be questioned. As for informing the family , there are many considerations to be looked at," said Soli Sorabjee.
There were some voices against the move as well. Supreme Court lawyer Kamini Jaiswal said, "Wife of Afzal Guru was not even informed about it... wife and son have the right to meet him. What is the point of doing this in secrecy? This is a shame." Senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam also termed the decision as delayed.
Afzal Guru's role in Parliament attack:
Explosives were recovered from the place of hideout of Afzal Guru in the national capital during the investigations into the 2001 Parliament attack. He was charged with conspiring to commit and facilitate the commission of a terrorist act.
Afzal Guru had voluntarily harboured members of banned terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad. The Delhi Police further established that Rs 10 lakh recovered from him was given by the terrorists.