The Hanging of Afzal Guru: How an Execution Is Roiling Kashmir

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On the morning of Feb. 9, India-administered Kashmir woke up to deserted streets. There were no newspapers to be bought that Saturday morning — no television, no Internet. Streets throughout the valley had been taken over by Indian security forces before dawn broke, setting up barricades and a strict edict for all residents to stay indoors. Locals who ventured out to look for breakfast essentials like bread and milk were sent back home. “I went out of my home to offer prayers in a local mosque and to buy milk for tea, but I was surprised when policemen didn’t allow me,” says Bashir Ahmed, a Srinagar resident. “When I asked them the reason, they tried to hit me with a bamboo stick, and I ran away.”

What Ahmed didn’t know was that New Delhi was on a mission to keep as much information as possible out of Kashmir about the execution of Muhammad Afzal Guru early Saturday morning. In 2002, a special court convicted Guru of aiding terrorists in planning the 2001 attack on Parliament, in which five gunmen entered India’s legislative house, shooting indiscriminately. Fourteen people were killed, including the gunmen, and 18 were injured. The government accused Guru, a former Kashmiri militant, of being a member of the separatist extremist group Jaish-e-Muhammad, which the government held responsible for the attack. Fearing repercussions in the valley, where the 43-year-old was from, New Delhi cut off all Internet in the region, forced Kashmiri daily newspapers to stop printing for four days and prohibited cable networks from broadcasting news channels apart from the state-run Doordarshan. A curfew was imposed in 10 districts.

The order did not go as New Delhi might have planned. As news of Guru’s execution reached the valley, Kashmir erupted into unrest that is still continuing nearly a week later, concentrated mostly in Guru’s home district. Small groups of protesters gathered together, defying the curfew, shouting anti-Indian slogans and burning the Indian flag. Three people died and 50 people, including 23 policemen, were injured in the protests. On Thursday, the curfew was temporarily relaxed in Srinagar’s old city, but was withdrawn within minutes when protesters started gathering in the streets. The unrest has prompted Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to appeal for calm in a televised address. On Feb. 14, lawyers from the Kashmir Bar Association took to the streets demanding the Indian government return the remains of Guru, who was buried inside Tihar Jail in New Delhi. On Friday, a blanket curfew was reimposed across the valley to prevent a planned protest march by separatists.

The draconian measures to keep information out of the region last weekend surprised none, but angered many. “In Kashmir everything is seen through the prism of security,” says Shameem Meraj, editor of the English-language daily the Kashmir Monitor. “Even newspapers that are the most authentic source of information are seen as possible inciters.” Many have said the restrictions were designed to stop people from visiting Guru’s family, who live in the Kashmiri town of Sopore. Guru’s village, Seer Jagir, lies on the banks of the Jhelum River, which passes through an army camp. The official communiqué regarding Guru’s hanging reached his family two days after it happened, angering many who questioned why the government couldn’t have used a quicker medium like the telephone to convey the message. Indian media reported that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was upset that the message of Guru’s hanging reached his family so late. “As a human being, I find it very difficult to reconcile myself to the fact that we executed a person who was not given the opportunity to see his family for the last time,” Abdullah told the Indian television channel CNN-IBN. “If in this day and age, we are relying on speed post to inform a family that their loved one is going to be executed, there is something seriously wrong.”

On Wednesday, the two-story house where Guru spent all his free life was silent with grief. Tabassum, Guru’s wife and a paramedic in a nursing home in Sopore, sat in a corner of the living room, her face buried in her arms. When neighbors came to offer condolences, she stood up and hugged them with dry eyes. She says she still hasn’t had the courage to read the last letter that her husband had written to her from Tihar Jail, where he had been imprisoned for the past 11 years. “When the news of his hanging broke out, it was more than mourning,” says Haji Farooq Ahmed Guru, Guru’s cousin. “He died as a martyr.”

Guru’s guilt was never established in the mind of many Kashmiris, who believe he was falsely implicated in the case and was not given a fair trial. After he was sentenced to death, Kashmir’s chief minister often warned the central government that his hanging could have serious consequences. It would not be the first time. In February 1984, Maqbool Bhat, a Kashmiri separatist leader and founder of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, of which Guru too was a former member, was also hanged in Tihar Jail for the murder of a Crime Investigation Department inspector. After Bhat’s execution, the valley exploded into a full-blown insurgency for almost three decades, a fact that was not lost in New Delhi as they planned their clampdown last week. “Most of the youngsters who are on the forefront at present were not even born when Bhat was executed,” says Khurram Pervez, a social activist in Srinagar. “Still he became the hero … [Guru] has lived in [the youth’s] heart as they have themselves witnessed everything. His death has only cemented the belief of hatred and radicalization among Kashmiris.”

Many in Kashmir, and elsewhere in India, see broader political maneuvers in Guru’s sudden hanging, carried out in absolute secrecy by the state. Until very recently, the last time India put somebody to death was in 2004. But Guru was hanged a mere few months after 26/11 attack convict Ajmal Kasab, one of 10 Pakistani terrorists who laid a siege in Mumbai in 2008, was executed. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party had been clamoring for Guru’s execution and accusing the ruling government of being soft on terrorism. New Delhi was also drubbed after Pakistani soldiers allegedly violated the border last month and cut off the head of one Indian soldier, reportedly in retaliation for Indian attacks on Pakistani troops. Critics have said the back to back achieved simultaneous political ends: to silence the opposition and to win back public confidence ahead of 2014 elections after the ruling Congress Party has been beset by a string of scandals. “It does project the image of a government that is being reasonably determined in dealing with national security issues at a time when it is being accused of various other lapses,” says C. Uday Bhaskar, a New Delhi–based political analyst. “It does shore up its image.”

It is unclear whether the valley will descend into further protests, as New Delhi feared when it put controls in place last week. Many Kashmiri youth today have more faith in the political process than in arms. “When Bhat was hanged I was not born. When I came to read about him later, he became our hero,” says Arifa Gani, a student of diplomacy and statecraft at the University of Birmingham. “I have never felt the way I am feeling this time [after Guru’s execution] … We will retaliate, but we won’t take to arms like our elders. We will react more intelligently.”

— With reporting by Aliya Bashir / Srinagar

66 comments
NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

I think the debate here is going off-path.  Afzal Guru is a convicted terrorist, a criminal who was pronounced death sentence by the Supreme Court of India.  He was hanged.  When a criminal is hanged no civilian need to empathize with him whether a Hindu or a Muslim or a Kashmiri, period.

In addition the\ media and people of the Western Countries MUST understand the situation.  If US can bomb Afganistan, Iraq and other countries in the name of War-against-Terror post WTC, killing god knows howmany innocent civilians on the way, why can't the Western World understand the simple step of India hanging a convicted criminal?  Why r these double standards and hypocricy?

rorywong654
rorywong654

Don't buy or have any business deal with US unless necessary

Biarah
Biarah

Put it rigth way ‘the collective conscience of saffron’ being satisfied by awarding the death penalty to an innocent person

tjpratap27
tjpratap27

@time@time world ...The remaining 1000 will also be hanged.

madjock77
madjock77

@TIME @timeworld hanging one afzal Guru have created another 1000 afzal gurus

RubinaMemon
RubinaMemon

@TIME @TIMEWorld It will bring revolution...

kaashur
kaashur

@TIME @TIMEWorld Its not riot,its revolution.

IrumporaiKanaikaal
IrumporaiKanaikaal

India's system of governance has not changed or reformed since its independence from Britain, that employed various methods that suited for the needs of those days, such as arousing one cast against the other. After inheriting this eroded system, the Gandhi-Neruhvian elites simply made amendments to make sure that the Hindu upper casts and the Hindi speaking population stuck with them in the belief that the minorities were not allowed a say in the govt. It enabled even more hardliners to come to power and stir the country further away from all inclusiveness.  This execution and those still pending after the notorious Pranab Mukharji took office as president, show the manner in which the minorities and the Southern Indian less privileged groups like Muslims, Christians and "lower cast people" are being deliberately targeted. It's in this context of having carried out the execution of this Muslim man, whom many believe hasn't been given proper access to defend, the interior ministry is eager to hang a few more people in TamilNadu to show that they act impartially, and thereby redeeming the expected Muslim vote-bank in the upcoming election.

outspoken
outspoken

AFZAL  GURU will  be  KHUDIRAM  of   modern   Indian  history.  Torture and  killing  is now  norm  of the  largest  democracy of the

world and so called  champion of  Human rights  is silent.  Remember Hitler was democratically  elected leader of Germany.

debanjanbanerjee2009
debanjanbanerjee2009

@SudeepKanjilal @Mazo @SanjeevChhiber  

Dear All,

              First of all Kashmirir dogra-speaking Pandits are not the original inhabitants of the land rather they happen to be the descendants of the Dogra army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh which had invaded and occupied Kashmir before going to Afghanistan on behalf of their British masters. These people should be considered in the same league as the "Pied Noirs" in Algeria and Israeli colonists in West Bank.

             Comparing Tibbet and Kashmir , Chinese rule in Tibbet is more humane and better than Indian rule in Kashmir. Chinese have been building huge railway networks and construction projects in Tibbet providing jobs to local Tibbetans. The current mayor (and the local CPC chief representative) in Lhasa happens to be a Tibbetan who is also a Phd-holder in Marxist philosophy from Peking university. This clearly shows that under Chinese rule Tibbetans have prospered. Under Dalai lama all the land and resources used to belong to a minority (1%) clerical establishment but the Chinese presence in Tibbet allowed the marginalized peasant class to get proper education and stand upon their own feet. 

           Can you show me at least one example of any comparable construction in Kashmir by Indian establishment ?

           My thoughts on the protests in Delhi following the rape is simple. When Shabra and Shatila happened Menachem Begin said "look Goyem kill Goyem and you blame us Jews." Similarly , Indian middle-class youth have never bothered about the plight of those who do not look like them or speak their tongue. Very recently there were rape of women from North-East and Delhi youth just shrugged off. I would say that North-East people would accept Chinese rule if they are allowed to choose so.

Take care

Debanjan

SanjeevChhiber
SanjeevChhiber

India will never give up Kashmir. We will go to a nuclear war over it. Those who think otherwise are deluded. Like china and Pakistan are.

The west too must realise that there will be no compromise.

The Hindu Pandits having been genocided (sic) out of Kashmir the call for inevitable Islamic rule have begun.

Why is it when in a minority Muslims talk of a secular democracy and when in a majority talks of Islamic sharia begin?


debanjanbanerjee2009
debanjanbanerjee2009

@Sudeep 

Dear Mr. Kanjilal many innocent Kashmiri men and women have been killed by the Indian security forces but at the time mainstream Indian Hindus like you did not feel any empathy. Whereas when a hindi-speaking Hindu woman was raped in Delhi you were up in arms demanding death penalty for the perpetrators. This again proves how the myth of World's biggest democracy goes , just another myth after all.

Chinese rule in Tibbet is actually much better compared to Indian misrule ad oppression in Kashmir. 

Take care

Debanjan

gs_291
gs_291

India has fake democracy. The govt is afraid of the very people who it claims elected it to power. If people want to protest against something it  clamps down on protests. This is nothing new. Couple of weeks back they shutdown the metro service at New Delhi so that people who want to protest against the law and order situation cannot get to the protest venue. Now they shutdown the whole communication system in the Kashmir valley, for what? So that people cannot come to know what it does. Who are they afraid of? The people? Way to go.

SudeepKanjilal
SudeepKanjilal

He was a traitor, and a terrorist. Period. He deserved no mercy, as he showed none to his victims.

I am sickened by apologists for terrorists. Is is these apologists that give such mass murderers the political space to operate. They share the blood on their hands too.  

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@Biarah Who is the so-called innocent person? I hope it's not a Trained Terrorist from Pakistan who plotted an attack on Parliament of India and showed no remorse, U r calling innocent; are U?

fahmidjama
fahmidjama

@kaashur @TIME @TIMEWorld pk man thank u very much

riyaz01
riyaz01

Read unbaised history.. Do not trust Propoganda spread on Forums run by the liers.

Nimraa
Nimraa

India is occupying people in Kashmir under sheer force with 1 armed perosn for every 8 residents, this is the haeviest presence of armed forces in any region of the world, inspite all of its repression it is unable to kill the struggle of Kahsmiris for freedom from last 60 years. 

Mazo
Mazo

@debanjanbanerjee2009 Clearly you have NO IDEA about Chinese rule in Tibet to make such absurd allegations. 

If India ruled Kashmir like Tibet - executions would be the LEAST of your troubles! India would have uplifted Kashmiris and scattered them through out India and resettled the Kashmir valley with others. Your "muslim majority" would be non-existent fiction and any attempt at free press, political organization, UN rights groups etc would be denied and those who tried shot. 

India's "occupation" ( a disingenous term considering that India has every legal right while most "Kashmiri" people themselves don't have adequate legal papers to their homes! ) is far more benign, especially after the Kashmiri genocide of the Hindu population of the area. 

SudeepKanjilal
SudeepKanjilal

@debanjanbanerjee2009 Are you seriously for real??? 

A girl gets gang-raped, and killed, you vermins like you can think hindu-muslim?? I guess you would have felt some pangs of shame and pain if she was a muslim?

Can you low lifes see a girl for who she is - a woman? instead of EVERYTHIN thru prism of religion? 

Crawl back to sewer you came from

Mazo
Mazo

@gs_291 India has neither the NEED or the DESIRE to get some ISLAMIST's validation of its democracy. Kashmir is a VERY VERY small part of India's electorate and most India hate Kashmiris for being terrorists and supporting Pakistan despite India pouring so much money into this ungrateful region. So "democracy" of INDIA isn't afraid of Kashmir and fully supports the execution of ALL terrorists who attack the nation. This is evident in the entire political class supporting the execution of Afzal Guru! Further, just because this terrorist was a Kashmiri does NOT in the eyes of justice grant him any special provisions or special rights! 

The right to protest and the preservation of the rights of other citizens is a balance every nation makes. Only anarchies allow their citizens to run rampant and unlike civilized nations Kashmiris hardly have the ability to protest peacefully without resorting to arson, rock throwing and other barbarism. The protests in New Delhi were in DECEMBER - not a couple of weeks back! And it is unfair and ignorant to compare the protesters in New Delhi with the terrorist sympathizers of Kashmir who protest for a dead Terrorist when most of India is celebrating! 

Finally, India has more freedoms in allowing its citizenry to protest and express themselves than almost any nation on the planet. At any given day, literally hundreds of protests on a huge multitude of subjects take place across India - to claim India discourages protests is ignorant, to claim that India's attempt to manage protests is un-democratic is simply foolish!

gs_291
gs_291

@SudeepKanjilal 

Dude, he was convicted to death without any direct evidence against him by the same courts which routine acquit corrupt to core politicians for lack of evidence when we have evidence flying all over the place. Why do you have developed a sudden faith in the same courts that they have got the right man? We know what kind of investigative agency India has. Ready to please their political masters at the drop of a hat. Last I checked the premier agency CBI hasn't done anything other than giving clean chits to politicians in their various scams. Sufficient to say what other other agencies are like. Do you simply not care because he was a muslim?

kaashur
kaashur

@fahmidjama @TIME @TIMEWorld Im kashmiri.

fahmidjama
fahmidjama

@fahmidjama @kaashur @TIME @TIMEWorld so u are fantastique

SudeepKanjilal
SudeepKanjilal

@Mazo @debanjanbanerjee2009 Given you and Sad are so worked up about Kashmiris, how about you guys also raise your voice to prosecute your own Pakistan Army and your general, for the largest genocide in history (after Holocaust), in Bangaladesh?

3 Million innocent and unarmed Bangladeshis killed, millions of more women gang-raped in an week long orgy of violence, rivers running red in blood and so thick with dead bodies that they chock? These are not 'Indian Propaganda' - its now being thoroughly investigated by Bangladesh Truth commission.

If you Pakistanis think this is BS, represent your self there. But then, I think not, right? Cat got your toung?

I simply cannot understand you Pakistanis. You could not manage to rule your original country, went crazy killing your own people, and lost half of it. Now again, you are unable to rule your left of the rump of your state, and are busy suicide bombing your own people. Carry on, and you will lose another half.

Why don't you pakis learn to first live in peace with what you have?

sad
sad

@SudeepKanjilal @debanjanbanerjee2009yes, justice should be done and anyone who does any bad act should be punished. Asking for justice for anyone in Kashmir does not mean not asking for justice for anyone in Delhi. The question is why so deaf dumb and blind when such acts were perpetrated in Kashmir? Not saying current awakening of conscience is bad, but why it kept on sleeping for thepeople of Kashmir (and still seems to be)? 

Kashmiris have the right to be masters of their own destiny. Now for years they have been protesting peacefully, with your new awaken conscience are you going advocate for their rights with the same zeal? Or you going to keep them in one of the most militarized regions on earth, cut off from rest of the world????

NikkaAlhuwali
NikkaAlhuwali

Indians are sensitive to outside criticism because behind the label of 'the world's biggest democracy' it hides a cast based society which has medieval infrastructure, appalling corruption, little effective rule of law, massive arms spending to pocket public money, heavily protected and uncompetitive manufacturing and an almost unique cruelty to poor and low caste people who compris 65% of India's total population. They tell a lot of lies.

sad
sad

@Mazo @gs_291 "Kashmir is a VERY VERY small part of India's electorate and most India hate Kashmiris", "India pouring so much money into this ungrateful region"
Very easy solution you can keep ur hard earned money, just get out of the illusion that Kashmir is a part of India. All these people most of you hate so much will be sad to see all ur money being poured into Kashmir go, but will learn to live with that.


Mazo
Mazo

@gs_291 @SudeepKanjilal "Dude" - the Supreme Court of India upheld his conviction after examining the evidence and unlike you and other ignorant Kashmiri and other terrorist sympathizers, they know their business pretty well! They have stated clearly that direct evidence is NOT REQUIRED to execute somebody as the circumstantial evidence and the electronic evidence convicts Afzal Guru unequivocally. Even the HRW has not tried to claim he is innocent of his crimes and neither have any other "rights" groups even if they protest the punishment of execution! 

Only ignorant people continue to believe in a fantasy of an "innocent Afzal Guru". He was convicted in TWO courts on MULTIPLE charges and further not all the suspects he was charged with were found to be similarly guilty as he was and the cases against them were thrown out - but Afzal Guru's was NOT. He is a convicted terrorist that would have been convicted in ANY court in the civilized world. 

As to the Kashmiri "feelings" - the Feelings of 1 BILLION Indians of his continued survival are more important than the feelings of a few Kashmiri sympathizers. An attack on the Indian Parliment nearly led to nuclear war that would have made Kashmir into a desert and killed millions of people - Kashmiri's should be glad Indian's are so lenient. The last time when Sikh Khalistani's assassinated Indira Gandhi, all Indians were calling for their blood. 

SudeepKanjilal
SudeepKanjilal

@gs_291 @SudeepKanjilal Really? So you are going to throw the muslim card at me now? Thats who you are - always muslim quaam first. No humanity, no love for peace nothing. Just muslim and islam.
Bravo!

bahadur227
bahadur227

@Sudeep Kanjilal,

The trouble with you bunderstanis is you can not face the truth.When you run out of any real argument,you turn to abusive language.Be real and use civilised language.

I can be abusive and use bad examples agains hindu religion as well.But I don't want to go that road,because,there will be no difference between you and me.I don't want to fell in the gutter,like you,who most likely have been born in a gutter and will stay in a gutter mentaly an physically all his life,like 90% of people of your country.

bahadur227
bahadur227

Tut Tut,no credible argument to suport and you come down to abusive language.What a shame,how soon you bunderstanis show your real face.You people are so down rate slump dewalars that you could only use abusive language.

More than 75% of your people live below poverty line and you claim how shinning is bunderstan.Get real and accept reality and stop abusive language.It shows you have no real case to argue.

SudeepKanjilal
SudeepKanjilal

@bahadur227 And Islam is not a religion, you fool. You guys are worshiping a murdering warlord, a psychopath, who was accurately (in cartoonishly) depicted in that you-tube video last year.

bahadur227
bahadur227

Kashmir is not part of bunderstan at all.See the UNO resolutions.It is a disputed territory.Its final outcome has to be decided yet.Which will be FREE KASHMIR,whatever,you bunderstanis say.Will not effect its position as a dispute.The sooner you morons realise,the better it will be for the people of the region.

SudeepKanjilal
SudeepKanjilal

@bahadur227 Yeah yeah yeah, there you go again.

Listen genius, Islam was created by a mass murdering pedophile rapist in 7th century AD You pakis and islamist are the last in line in laying claim. 

So, go back to the sewers from where you all crawled out of.

bahadur227
bahadur227

These pundits are not real Kashmiris.They are occupiers.Therefore,must be treated as such.The history will not change by your lies,however you try .

SudeepKanjilal
SudeepKanjilal

@sad @SudeepKanjilal @debanjanbanerjee2009 This is BS. This article is about hanging a terrirost, a sucm of humanity, no bter than Hitler, who murders innocent people simply because he dies not agree with their ideology/religion/hair-style/pick-you-own-bs.
 

As for Kashmir is part of India, and will always be. Just like Confederate states were part of USA. So, stop this propaganda..

sad
sad

@Mazo @sad @SudeepKanjilal @debanjanbanerjee2009At least you came to the admission that these people are not your people. And thats exactly what they want, because they dont like the rule "to be free" and they want to leave and take their land along. Kashmiri  people want to live freely in Kashmir without you or anyone else telling them what to do.

Mazo
Mazo

@sad @SudeepKanjilal @debanjanbanerjee2009 Comparing a TERRORIST who wages WAR AGAINST the nation to gangrapists shows the delusional mentality of Kashmiri Islamists, who believe that terrorism is a valid means of expression. 

Afzal Guru got justice - for being a terrorist who waged war against the nation! "Direct evidence" of him being caught red handed is neither required nor necessary for the death penalty because there was enough "evidence" in total - including the contents of his laptop, mobile phone calls, associates etc which confirmed his culpability in the crime. 

Before the Kashmiri nationalists speaking about "justice"' what justice have the 30 million Hindu pandits received for being driven from their homes and murdered senselessly for decades while the rest of these so called nationalists instigated and watched quietly ?? Sorry but Indians have no tears to shed for your people! 

Those who don't like India or its rules are free to leave - simple. 

bahadur227
bahadur227

Be real moran and stop blaming Kashmiri Freedom Fighters for the sins they never committed.You bunderstanis are always ready to spread lies about Freedom Fighters Or ISI without any real proof at all.This is a real lie always thrown by the occupiers in every place,where, a freedom movement is fighting for their freedom.But when the freedom is achieved,the same accused are treated as heros.Same will happen to these brave Kashmiris after they will succeed in getting rid of thes terrorist occupier army of bunderstan(india).How much you hate it,will happen soon,in the shape of FREE JAMMU & KASHMIR.

SudeepKanjilal
SudeepKanjilal

@sad @SudeepKanjilal @debanjanbanerjee2009 Debanjan, all rapes are reprehensible. Act of cowards, and low lifes. But one rape DOES NOT justify another.

Yes, any Indian soldier who rapes a woman, Kashmir or otherwise, deserves to be hung. But then, so do all the islamic facist terrorists in Kashmir who raped pandits and created genocide. And scums like Afzal are one of them - and deserve to be hung.

gs_291
gs_291

@Mazo @gs_291 @SudeepKanjilal 

In case you didn't get the argument let me put it in a simpler way for you. Supreme Court Of India is a Kangaroo court which 'routinely' acquits politicians accused of serious crimes. Suddenly you guys trust its judgement so much that you feel its alright to kill a fellow human on this corrupt court?