During his 12-year stay in Tihar Jail's high-security wards, 2001 Parliament terror attack case convict Mohammed Afzal Guru, 43, was known as a high-profile inmate who was discreet and wary of strangers.
Guru had built his world around a few coveted personal possessions — an embroidered Kashmiri rug on which he offered namaaz five times a day, a small FM radio set he used to keep track of the world, especially Jammu and Kashmir, outside the barbed jail walls and a copy of the Quran.
"Guru used to spend his time tracking political news from around the world, especially Kashmir," said a prison source. He was lodged in a 12-by-8 feet solitary cell in the high-security ward of sub-jail three, which was under 24/7 closed circuit television monitoring. Guru was hanged at 8 am on Saturday at a designated spot in sub-jail three of Tihar Prison.
From the jail library, he would also ask for a few current affairs periodicals and daily newspapers.
"For hours, Guru would pore through two Urdu and three English newspapers, and magazines such as Newsweek and Time," said the source.
Guru was apparently "glad" when a small FM radio set was made available in all the high-security wards.
"I used to interact with him during my stint as Tihar chief as Director General (prisons). He would often talk about books, political events occurring outside and his need for holy books," said Delhi's former Police Commissioner BK Gupta.
"He never discussed anything related to the Parliament attack case, though."
Of short height and slight build, Guru was usually seen dressed in a tee-shirt worn over loose pyjamas or trousers. Guru was known to be alert and polite to a fault with jail officials, conversant in fluent English at times.
To the dozen-odd people sharing the ward - most of them convicted terrorists — Guru was seen as a "hero owing to his case background", said a source.
Guru, a self-confessed 'surrendered' militant of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, was an intensely private man who allegedly tolerated the company of only a select few — usually convicted terrorists.
He was allowed to go on walks, which helped him fight off depression.
Around three weeks before his execution, Guru hoped that his mercy petition would be accepted by the President.
"Around three weeks ago, I had met Afzal in Tihar. He was optimistic about his mercy petition. He said the Centre had made it clear that they won't jump the queue to reject mercy petitions,” said Guru's lawyer, ND Pancholi.