More than five years after he had first recommended rejection of Afzal Guru’s mercy petition, former home minister P Chidambaram’s “grave doubts” about the extent of Guru’s alleged involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack provoked a sharp reaction from the BJP.
Urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu wondered why the former home minister was being so sympathetic.
“He served as the country’s home minister and the execution took place during their (UPA) regime. The then government gave its nod to the same. Why this new sympathy, all of a sudden?”
As the Union home minister, Chidambaram had recommended rejection of Guru’s plea in August 2011 to then President Pratibha Patil. Rashtrapati Bhavan, however, did not act on the recommendation and put it on hold.
Guru was hanged after the mercy plea was considered afresh by Chidambaram’s successor in the home ministry, Sushil Kumar Shinde, and rejected.
Guru was executed days later, on February 3, 2013, without reportedly giving him a chance to exhaust his legal remedies. Guru’s execution has been a sore point with many in Kashmir and has been used by militants to inspire the youth to take to arms.
“There were grave doubts about his involvement (in the conspiracy behind the attack on Parliament) and even if he was involved, there were grave doubts about the extent of his involvement. He could have been imprisoned for life without parole for (the) rest of his natural life,” Chidambaram was quoted as saying by The Economic Times.
Chidambaram had said though the government at that time could not have held the court decision wrong, “an independent person can hold an opinion that the case was not decided correctly”.
In the Rajya Sabha, finance minister Arun Jaitley referred to his “distinguished former colleague” supporting the arguments of those lauding Guru and asked the Congress not to respect anti-Indian protests.
As Chidambaram came under attack from the BJP, the Congress quickly distanced itself from his views.