Caught between its position as an UPA ally at the Centre and the sentiments of people back home, the National Conference has directed its legislators to vote according to their conscience when the clemency resolution for Afzal Guru comes up in the assembly on Wednesday.
Guru was sentenced to death for plotting the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001.
The Union home ministry had recommended President Pratibha Patil that the mercy petition filed on his behalf be rejected.
“Our party president Farooq Abdullah has asked all the assembly members to vote according to their conscience,” chief minister Omar Abdullah told Hindustan Times on Tuesday. “It is not a party issue, so let individual members vote according to their own will.”
The sentence for Guru is a sensitive issue in Kashmir Valley. Many feel that he had not received a fair trial and the government expects repercussions if he is executed. Chief minister Omar Abdullah had commented on the matter earlier.
In the aftermath of the Tamil Nadu assembly resolution urging mercy for the killers of Rajiv Gandhi, Abdullah had also questioned how the country would react if the J&K assembly passed a similar resolution on Guru. Two days later, on September 2, independent legislator Engineer Rashid submitted a resolution seeking clemency for Guru, which would come up for voting on Wednesday.
The People’s Democratic Party has said its 21 legislators would vote in favour of the resolution.
The Congress is unlikely to vote for the resolution, though they are yet to make a formal announcement. The Jammu-based parties — the BJP and Panthers Party — are likely to stage a walkout.
BJP has already announced a state-wide demonstration against the resolution on Wednesday. The party will hold demonstrations in all districts of the state.