Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah has said the "nation will go up in flames" if Mohammed Afzal Guru, who has been sentenced to death in the 2001 Parliament attack case, was hanged.
He said the death punishment could also endanger the life of the judge who delivered the verdict.
In an interview to Karan Thapar in CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate, Abdullah termed the death sentence as "too extreme" and pitched for clemency for Afzal.
The "nation will go up in flames and terrorists will destroy communal harmony" if capital punishment was carried out, he said. "The terrorists will do such things which will destroy Hindu-Muslim unity."
Last month, a Delhi court set October 20 as the date for the hanging of Afzal. It triggered violent protests in Kashmir and a debate on whether Afzal should be granted presidential pardon.
Abdullah first insisted that Afzal was "innocent", and then said the conviction was correct but the punishment "extreme".
"(If) you want to hang him, go ahead and hang him. But the consequences of hanging Afzal must be remembered," said Abdullah. "We paid the price of Maqbool Butt’s hanging by the judge who was (later) shot in Kashmir. Let me be very candid… those judges will need to be protected like anything."
The National Conference chief patron also warned of political consequences. "You will be making him a hero for centuries to come. He is a man who is least important at this time. Secondly, you are going to give a massive weapon to the separatists in J&K," Abdullah said.
Referring to the killing of Sessions Judge Neelkanth Ganju, who sentenced Maqbool Butt, he expressed concern for the safety of the judges in Afzal’s case. "Some crook will come and murder them. So my request is, for God’s sake, see that they are protected like anything," he said.
"Some bad man will go and do something in a temple. Somebody will do something in a mosque.... Kashmir will anyway be in flames…. I do not want such things to happen," Abdullah said.