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No clemency for Afzal: Indian-Americans
Seema Hakhu Kachru in Houston | October 12, 2006 12:15 IST
In the midst of the controversy over death sentence to Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal, concerned non-resident Indians are closely monitoring developments on his mercy.
A sizeable number of Indian Americans feel that justice and the rule of law must not be sacrificed at the altar of sheer expediency and speculative political considerations and likely fallout.
Dr Subodh Atal, foreign policy analyst based near Washington DC, said the issue is not surprising given India's consistent history in recent years as a soft state.
"Giving clemency to a terrorist, who has been found guilty of involvement in the attack on one of the greatest symbols of Indian democracy, undermines the nation's foundation as a strong republic with global aspirations.
Such an action would be in line with previous episodes, particularly the cave-in to (1999 Kandahar) hijacking, with (the then) external affairs minister Jaswant Singh escorting dangerous international terrorists to Kandahar," Atal said.
Sreeram Chaulia, a New York-based human rights activist, is opposed to death penalty in principle as he does not believe in state-sanctioned murder.
"However, the political reasons being bandied about for his clemency seem dubious to me. If we were to take the principle of equality before law into account, there is no reason why Afzal should be treated separately from other prisoners on death row," he said.
"Kashmir's exceptional status should not once again weigh in and be used as a justification to spare Afzal when so many others are going to the gallows. If Afzal should be pardoned, so should every other prisoner on death row all over India," Chaulia said.
Rahul Pandit, the president of the Indo-American Kashmiri Forum, says India would much rather see a freed terrorist who has been convicted of murder and treason than a rehabilitated Kashmiri Hindu who has lived in refugee camps in Jammu and other places for the past 16 years, Pandit said.
He was critical of Indian human rights activists and other 'overnight sympathisers' requesting clemency for a person who has attacked the nation's capital. "This would be analogous to someone storming the US Capitol and being forgiven for it," he said.
Hari Dayal, Professor of Preventive Medicine at UTMB, Galveston, Texas and the founder of the Indo-American Association of Houston, believes that the appeals for clemency from various rights activists in India are routine.
"More disturbing are the clemency appeals from politicians, including Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, and some Muslim groups. Clemency is the
concept of jurisprudence practiced in the cultures that do not subscribe to mutilation as a form of punishment," he said.
Vijay Sazawal, a US-based Kashmiri Pandit activist based in Washington DC and a spirit behind Indo-American Kashmir Forum, said, "In my view, the due process should be allowed to run its course."