As the UPA government came under attack again for delaying its decision on Mohammed Afzal’s mercy petition, government officials hinted that the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir is the primary reason for the inaction.
The government had stayed the warrant for Afzal — sentenced to death for his role in the December 2001 attack on the Parliament — in October 2006 in view of a mercy petition filed with the Rashtrapati Bhavan. A copy of the petition was sent to the governments of Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir for their opinion.
Officials in the security establishment in Srinagar and Delhi are of the assessment that a prompt decision — read rejection of Afzal’s mercy plea — could give separatists in Jammu and Kashmir a rallying point to mobilise people.
"The concern is that if the death sentence is executed, he would be made out to be a martyr… maybe become another Maqbool Bhat," a senior official said. Bhat, who led the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court and hanged in 1984 in Delhi’s Tihar jail.
His personal belongings and body were never handed over to his family. His death anniversary on February 11 is still marked by a general strike throughout Kashmir and people demanding the return of his remains. "This is the real reason why there has been no decision on Afzal… but it is not a reason that anyone can go public with," the official said.
Meanwhile, the BJP steered reiterated its stand on the issue despite Afzal’s remarks about LK Advani in an interview earlier this week. Afzal had said he wanted Advani to become the next Prime Minister, as the BJP leader would take a swift decision on whether to hang him or not. Afzal has been on death row for the past three years.
Advani, who had previously criticised the delay in executing Afzal, wanted the BJP to reiterate the party’s line.
"Hang him or spare him but dare to do something fast. Afzal’s allegation of the UPA government being indecisive is a serious charge. The Congress-led government has been double-faced on the issue. The decision of the apex court needs to be implemented at the earliest," he said.
Asked if the party has softened its stand, Rudy said, "Our stand on the issue remains the same. None should be confused of any change in our demand of speedy execution of the court orders (of Afzal’s hanging)."