Afzal Guru, convicted of plotting the Parliament attack 11 years ago, was quietly executed at Tihar jail early on Saturday. The hanging was carried out in dramatic secrecy amid fears that it could revive street protests in Kashmir.
Guru was convicted of plotting and providing logistic support to the five Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists who stormed Parliament on December 13, 2001. The attack was foiled, the terrorists killed and a packed House of lawmakers saved, but not before eight security personnel and a gardener lost their lives. A tenth victim, a journalist, died of injuries a few months later.
The hanging is being seen as Congress’ renewed attempts after the party’s recent Jaipur conclave to appeal to the urban middle class. As the UPA government dithered on taking a decision on his mercy plea for years, Afzal came to symbolise what the BJP called the Congress’ soft approach on terrorism. The hanging of Afzal, and before him 26/11 killer Ajmal Kasab last November, blunts this attack.
“Afzal Guru was hanged at 8am. All legal procedures were followed,” Shinde told reporters. He was later buried on the jail premises.
RK Singh said Tihar authorities had intimated Afzal’s family in Kashmir of the rejection of his mercy plea through Speed Post and registered post and the DG (director general of Jammu & Kashmir Police) had been told to check with them whether they had got it or not.
The BJP was quick to welcome the hanging. Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said: “Though belated, justice has been done.” Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who has often used Afzal to attack the UPA, tweeted: “Der aaye durust aaye (better late than never).”
Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari insisted in Chennai that politics did not have anything to do with the execution, a point the home secretary also made in Delhi.
In Sopore, Afzal’s hometown in north Kashmir, and many other places in the Valley, security forces imposed curfew, detained separatist leaders and shut down cable TV networks. Chief minister Omar Abdullah appealed for peace and ordered police to exercise restraint in handling street protests. By evening, 36 people — mostly policemen — had been injured in stray violence.