The Congress brass will need to take a political call on the Afzal Guru case, with the party divided on the possible fallout if the Parliament House attack convict, who has petitioned for clemency, is hanged.
While the BJP has demanded his immediate execution, senior Congress leaders like Digvijay Singh have publicly demanded that Afzal Guru be hanged “at the earliest”.
But a section is worried that such a move could spawn violence in J&K, where the government is striving hard to build peace between communities.
“There will be a surge of violence in J&K if he is hanged. After Maqbool Bhatt was hanged in February 1984, the state went into a tailspin of violence from which it has yet to recover,” said one Congress leader.
According to him, “while legally and administratively, there is a case for Afzal Guru’s hanging, politically one needs to rethink on it as it is a very sensitive issue.”
In his view, the Afzal Guru case is different from that of 26/11 convict Ajmal Kasab’s who is a Pakistani national. Afzal Guru is an Indian and incarcerating him for life may not be a “bad idea”, he said.
Others, however, maintain that any discrimination between the two cases could invite a reaction from other countries, including Pakistan.
After Kasab was handed the death sentence, the Afzal Guru case came into focus with the home ministry urging the Delhi government to forward its comments on the convict’s mercy petition with the President.
In a shift of stance Congress leaders, who would earlier maintain that clemency petitions would be dealt with in sequence, have lately begun claiming there is no hard and fast rule to it and the matter could be fast tracked.