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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jostling over ‘return of mortal remains’ in 2015, PDP, Cong mute on Afzal Guru’s hanging anniversary

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Feb 9: In February and March 2015, Jammu and Kashmir’s mainstream political theatre was plush with histrionics over the Valley’s populist demand of return of Afzal Guru’s mortal remains to his family. A year later, on Guru’s third execution anniversary on Tuesday, history made it clear that the PDP’s and the Congress party’s jostling was nothing beyond an act of hypocrisy and competitive appeasement aimed at winning election for two seats in the J&K Legislative Council and a seat in Rajya Sabha.

Omar Abdullah’s National Conference chose to remain silent on the demand around the elections as it was at the receiving end of a deluge of criticism. Both, the separatist as well as the mainstream parties and leaders castigated Omar for “collaboration” in Guru’s execution and raised questions why the Chief Minister had not arranged the Sopore family’s travelling to New Delhi and meeting with the Parliament attack convict before he was sent to the gallows on February 9, 2013.

Omar pleaded his helplessness and clarified that he was not in the loop until the Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had ordered Guru’s hanging. But he had few takers to his claim of innocence. Among the mainstream political parties, PDP was in the forefront of the demand of returning Guru’s mortal remains to his family.

Even after the PDP formed the government in an alliance with the BJP on March 1, 2015, it sought an independent MLA Engineer Rashid’s vote to ensure victory of the party nominees’ for two seats of Legislative Council. Rashid publicly insisted on the hard bargaining complaining that it was none other than PDP that had failed his resolution in Assembly when in he in 2011 he sought to mount pressure on the Government of India for granting clemency to Guru.

On March 3, 2015, nine of the PDP MLAs, obviously on the direction of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti, signed and issued a statement to the best of the independent MLA’s satisfaction. It read: “PDP has always maintained that late Afzal Guru’s hanging was travesty of justice and constitutional requirements and process was not followed in hanging him out of turn. The statement added: “PDP stands by the demand for return of his (Guru’s) mortal remains, and the party promises to follow vigorously for the return of the mortal remains”.

“We believe that the resolution brought by Er. Rashid to seek clemency for late Afzal Guru was justified and should have been adopted by the House at that time,” the legislators admitted to please the MLA. Those who signed the statement included the PDP MLAs Mohammad Khalil Bandh, Zahoor Ahmed Mir, Raja Manzoor Ahmad, Mohammad Abbas Wani, Yawar Dilawar Mir, Advocate Mohammad Yosuf, Aijaz Ahmad Mir and Noor Mohammad Sheikh.

However, in a stage-managed show, PDP’s coalition partner BJP claimed to have taken strong note of the PDP MLAs’ statement. It sternly asked the PDP to “shun this kind of politics”. The BJP Secretary Shrikant Sharma said in a reaction: "Terror has no religion. We condemn this type of politics. Terrorism is an enemy of humanity and the whole country should unite to root this out. BJP believes in zero tolerance to terrorism”.

In the previous month, when Ghulam Nabi Azad contested on a Rajya Sabha seat from his home State of J&K  to retain his prestigious position as Leader of Opposition in the Upper House, Congress too decided to rope in Engineer Rashid. The independent MLA, who held key to Azad’s victory and defeat in case the BJP would manage another independent MLA Hakeem Yasin’s absence, insisted on Shylock’s pound of flesh. He made it clear that he would not vote for Azad until the Congress admitted its guilt and offered apology for Guru’s execution. He asked Congress to endorse his demand on return of Guru’s mortal remains.

Consequently, on February 8, 2015, five of the Congress MLAs signed and issued a joint statement to placate Engineer Rashid. They included Vikar Rasool Wani, Ghulam Mohammad Saroori, Mohammad Amin Bhat, Haji Abdul Rasheed and Gulzar Ahmad Wani. They admitted that not allowing Guru’s family to meet him before his hanging was a “mistake” and return of his mortal remains a “humanitarian issue”.

"The group of legislators also said that his (Rasheed) demand about the return of the mortal remains of Afzal Guru is a humanitarian issue and his resolution in this regard could have been looked into from a humanitarian angle….The views of Engineer Rasheed regarding allowing the last meeting to the kith and kin of Afzal Guru are genuine and based on humanitarian values and that same was a mistake", said the five Congress MLAs’ statement.
Contrary to the two statements, neither PDP nor Congress issued any statement on the demand of the return of Guru’s mortal remains on Tuesday.


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