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Afzal widow leads ‘bias’ chorus

Srinagar, Feb. 18: The widow of executed Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru today accused Delhi of having a “different set of laws” for Kashmir after the death-row trio convicted of involvement in Rajiv Gandhi’s murder escaped the hangman’s noose.

A leader of a mainstream political party said Kashmiris had got one more occasion to feel alienated, as the wounds of Afzal’s secret hanging last year appeared to have reopened.

Afzal’s wife Tabassum said her husband did not get a fair trial and his execution was a “collective shame for Indian society”, alluding possibly to the top court’s judgment upholding his death sentence.

The Supreme Court, which today commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan because of an 11-year delay in rejecting their mercy pleas, had said Afzal’s execution would “satisfy the collective conscience” of the country.

Tabassum said her husband’s execution was a blot on justice. “He (Afzal) was hanged on the basis of conscience rather than available evidence…. I want to ask the Supreme Court why it strangulated justice and hurriedly pronounced its biased verdict.”

Afzal, convicted of involvement in the December 2001 attack on Parliament, was secretly hanged on February 9 last year, six days after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition.

No information about the rejection or the date of execution was publicised. Later, his body was denied to his family over worries that it could trigger more protests in the Valley.

Tabassum said “he (Afzal) figured at serial number 21 (on the list of death-row convicts and after Rajiv Gandhi’s killers)…. It has become clear that India has different laws for Kashmir and wants to punish Kashmiris”.

Mehbooba Mufti, chief of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kashmir’s main Opposition, lauded the court’s decision to commute the death sentences of Rajiv’s killers but wished that Afzal too had been spared the gallows.

“There is more alienation here (after Afzal’s execution)…. The people here have got more occasion to feel that there are different sets of laws for Jammu and Kashmir and the (rest of the) country,” she told reporters in Jammu.

“I think Rajiv Gandhi was no less a symbol of Indian nationhood than Parliament,” she added. “Once again the people of Jammu and Kashmir are getting a feeling that they are being discriminated against on every issue.”

The ruling National Conference said Afzal’s execution had been driven by emotion, not justice. “The world knows that there was miscarriage of justice in the case of Afzal Guru’s hanging…. The verdict was delivered to satisfy the collective conscience of the country,” party leader Mustafa Kamal said.

Separatists, too, joined the chorus of protests.