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Silence in J&K on hanging

Srinagar, Nov. 21: Kashmir appeared indifferent to Ajmal Kasab’s hanging but separatists warned of a “harsh reaction” if Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who hails from the Valley, was executed.

The death of militants from Lashkar-e-Toiba, Kasab’s outfit which claims to fight for Kashmir, have triggered protests in the past.

Nothing like that occurred today, barring a minor incident of some youths burning tyres and a few others sympathising with Kasab on social networking sites.

Hundreds protested at Kashmir University today, but against the Israeli attacks on Gaza. Even a statement by hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who had condemned the US for killing Osama bin Laden, had no mention of Kasab’s hanging. The Opposition People’s Democratic Party, too, chose not to react.

Chief minister Omar Abdullah, however, lauded the Centre. “Gotta hand it to the governments at the centre and in Mumbai for the mature way they handled this. Shows we can still keep a secret if we need to,” he tweeted.

Omar criticised the western media for describing Kasab as a gunman and Hamas as terrorists. “So Hamas are terrorists but Kasab was a ‘gunman’. Well done American media you really call it like it is. Sarcasm.”

By contrast, opinion on Afzal Guru was shriller. Hurriyat spokesperson Ayaz Akbar warned of a “storm” of protests if Guru was executed. “The government should think a thousand times before doing that.”

Moderate separatist leader Nayeen Khan claimed pro-azaadi and pro-India political parties shared the view. “You have leaders like Ram Jethmalani saying Afzal Guru was not provided a fair trial. The Supreme Court in its verdict said the collective conscience of India could be satisfied by hanging Afzal, which proves that his death sentence was illegal.”

Khan recalled a 28-year- old hanging. “It was the hanging of (J&K Liberation Front founder) Maqbool Bhat (in 1984) that later led to an armed struggle in Kashmir. India should not forget that Afzal Guru’s hanging will also lead to a harsh reaction.”

Independent legislator Sheikh Abdul Rasheed, whose “Save Afzal Guru resolution” was admitted in the Assembly last year but could not be taken up because of disruptions in the House, contended today that hanging was not a solution.

“The right to live is supreme and should be respected at all costs. That is why we have been appealing for accepting the clemency petition of Afzal Guru. Those who are justifying the death punishment should know that just hanging someone will not be a solution.”

Afzal, along with Delhi University professor Rahman Geelani, Showkat Guru — all hailing from Baramulla — and Showkat’s wife Afshan, was charged with plotting the December 13, 2001, attack on Parliament. The Supreme Court upheld Guru’s death sentence but acquitted Geelani and Afshan. Showkat, sentenced to 10 years, was released after completing his term.