The Telegraph
Thursday , February 14 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chorus rises against Afzal hanging

New Delhi, Feb. 13: Voices critical of Afzal Guru’s execution last Saturday appear to be gathering steam.

On a day Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav urged the Prime Minister to return Afzal’s body to his family, prominent activists, including two from the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council, condemned the hanging and the CPM reversed its endorsement of the hanging.

“Afzal has been punished for his crime. Now, I will request the Prime Minister to consider the wishes of his family so that they can perform his last rites. It should not be considered a matter of national pride,” Yadav, also the NDA convener, said.

Yadav cited the case of Ajmal Kasab to justify his appeal. “We had informed Pakistan about Kasab’s hanging and asked them to take his body if they want. The same right should be given to everyone,” he said.

The Dal (U) boss may have made the appeal as the minorities are a crucial component of his party’s poll calculations in Bihar. He could also be taking “corrective” action after party colleague and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said Afzal’s hanging had been long overdue.

The activists’ group did not demand the return of the body but condemned in a statement the “secrecy” with which Afzal’s execution was carried out. Among the signatories were NAC members Aruna Roy and Farah Naqvi.

“The tearing hurry and secrecy with which Afzal Guru’s was hanged, accompanied by the flouting of all established norms by not giving his family their legal right to meet him before taking him to the gallows, clearly indicates that there were political considerations behind taking this step,” the statement said.

The activists also made a strong pitch for abolition of capital punishment.

The CPM, which had initially endorsed the hanging by saying the law had taken its course, added to the growing critical pitch by revising its stand.

“The people of Kashmir can conclude that Afzal Guru has been hanged given various political considerations and that this is a selective execution…. The feeling that a Kashmiri is expendable… will only be reinforced,” the editorial in People’s Democracy said, citing the lack of urgency in handling other death-row cases.

The CPM mouthpiece is edited by politburo member Sitaram Yechury. He had said after the hanging last Saturday that the law of the land with all its provisions had “finally been completed”.

The party also appeared to reverse its stand on the death penalty, leaning towards the activists who are demanding its abolition.