Wednesday, May 29, 2013

'Abdullahs are hypocrites, they can't fool people for long'

In a chat with Aditya Raj Kaul after the hanging of Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru, Prof. SAR Gilani, under house arrest, talks about the duplicity of politicians and repercussions of their actions in the Valley

What was your reaction when you heard about Afzal Guru’s hanging?
When I first heard they are going to hang him, I was shocked. It was around 6.30 in the morning. I thought of immediately confirming with the family. When I called his wife, it woke her up from sleep. I asked if she had any news about Afzal. I told her about the rumours doing the rounds. She was shocked that nobody had informed her. As I came to know about the curfew in the Valley, I got a firm indication.

Do you think the government has actually mishandled it?
I have been talking about the legalities of the case, about Afzal not getting a fair trial. The manner in which it has been done doesn’t only violate the law of the land but also democratic principles. Very basic human values were trampled upon.  There is no doubt that it was nothing but a politically motivated decision.

Political commentators have been speaking about similarities between the hanging of Maqbool Bhat in 1984 with the present case. Do you think there will be repercussions in the Valley like we saw in 1989-90 onwards?
I was right now talking to my friends about the very same issue. I pity the leadership in this country. The leadership that is supposed to run a huge country, the largest democracy on earth, their vision is so narrow that they cannot see beyond the 2014 elections. It will definitely have very serious repercussions. I can see the situation developing right now, especially among the youth. I think this is going to be a disaster. I wish it (Afzal’s hanging) never happened. The way they have handled it, they have given a message to the people of Kashmir, that you’ll never get justice. Nothing happened immediately after Maqbool Bhat’s hanging. Similarly, at present, it may not happen immediately, but it will have far-reaching consequences. Secondly, we were kids during Bhat’s hanging and our generation, as I see it, wasn’t very politically aware. The generation now is highly aware. We live in an era of information. In Afzal’s case, everyone knows how systematically justice has been denied to him. Everyone knows how this decision was politically motivated.

You were charged in the case in the beginning, but the Supreme Court acquitted you. Later, there was an attempt on your life by unidentified people. Looking at the developments since Afzal’s hanging, do you fear for your life today?
The attempt on my life and the two years I served on death row were orchestrated by the system. There is no doubt about it. And when you stand against the system, they target you. I know that I am in danger. They even tried to gag me for the last three days. I know this case in and out and know how injustice has been done. As a human being, if you can’t open your mouth when you know a wrong is being done, then I don’t think you have any right to call yourself a human being. By doing this, I may be putting myself in danger but I cannot stop myself. My conscience won’t allow me to do that.

J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah said that those Kashmiris who didn’t identify with Maqbool Bhat will today identify with Afzal Guru. How do you look at the statement?
Omar Abdullah is trying to wash his hands off. He is equally responsible. It (Afzal’s hanging) wasn’t done without his consent. I will take you a bit back when Ajmal Kasab was hanged amidst secrecy. That day Omar Abdullah had tweeted that similar kind of secrecies can be maintained in other cases related to national security. He was actually linking to this particular case, suggesting that the execution could take place just as the way it was done in Ajmal Kasab’s case. It’s not that Omar was earlier not aware of this whole thing. If you remember, in 2006, when death sentence was given to Afzal, Farooq Abdullah made such a hue and cry stating that Kashmir will burn. After Afzal’s hanging, he changed his stand completely. Abdullahs are hypocrites. They can’t fool people for long.

JKLF chief Yasin Malik shared the stage in Pakistan with Hafiz Saeed. Do you think it was right?
As I know about Yasin’s visit to Pakistan, he has basically gone there to see his family. He has a young daughter, who he had not seen for a very long time. She did not have travel documents and there is a policy back in Pakistan that they don’t allow travel documents unless the father comes. After Afzal’s hanging, he sat on a protest hungerstrike outside Islamabad Press Club. This was not something in hiding. It was an open meeting. If there are people coming and going and during the protest this man (Hafiz Saeed) also comes, that doesn’t mean that Yasin Malik had invited him. I think the way the Indian media is taking it up isn’t the right thing to do.

There has been a virtual curfew across the Valley for days, even the newspapers haven’t been allowed to publish. Doesn’t this make things worse?
As I told you, I actually pity the politicians of this country. You deprive people of their basic right – their right to protest. There was no violence. You are gagging people. Just last month, there was a hue and cry in Kashmir over freedom of expression. I want to ask where are those champions of freedom of expression now when the whole of Kashmir is being gagged. It’s not just in Kashmir, even Kashmiris outside Kashmir are being gagged. The way I was put under house arrest. Syed Ali Shah Geelani is here and was put under house arrest and is not being allowed to move out of his house. For the first two days, they (police) were sitting inside his room and not even allowing him to move. That was the kind of situation. Even Mirwaiz has been put under house arrest.

Source : IIPM Editorial, 2013.
An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri
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