Unless we learn to forget our differences and stand together as Indians first, earnestly believing that the cause of the Motherland is bigger than the interests of our groups and parties, the terrorist network cannot be rooted out, says Tarun Vijay.
Afzal Guru was a dreaded terrorist who was part of a meticulously planned attack on India's parliamentarians by the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.
The five jihadis attacked the greatest symbol of India's democratic life. It was termed as a 'war on the Indian State' by the Government of India.
The attack by the cowards was foiled by the braveheart security personnel and it is time we pay tribute to them with a solemn pledge to defend the nation with characteristic Indian solidarity and might.
It is unfortunate that while the entire nation, rising above religious and party lines, has welcomed the long-awaited execution, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar expressed 'sadness'.
The All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat -- an umbrella body of several Muslim organisations -- condemned Afzal Guru's hanging. The organisation's President Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan told Rediff.com that Guru's execution was 'unjustified and he did not get a fair trial'.
Anything surprising here?
The attack on December 13, 2001, shook the nation. It was a black day. The Supreme Court judgment (of August 4, 2005) gives a graphic description of the ferocity and destructive intentions of the terrorists:
There is practically no dispute in regard to the details of actual incident, the identification of the deceased terrorists and the recoveries and other investigations made at the spot.
Five heavily-armed persons entered the Parliament House complex in a white Ambassador car. The said five persons were heavily armed with automatic assault rifles, pistols, hand and rifle grenades, electronic detonators, spare ammunition, explosives in the form of improvised explosive devices, tiffin bombs and a sophisticated bomb in a container in the boot of the car made with an enormous quantity of ammonium nitrate. The high court observed: 'The fire power was awesome enough to engage a battalion and had the attack succeeded, the entire building with all inside would have perished.'
It was a fortuitous circumstance that the Vice-President's carcade, which was awaiting departure from Gate 11 was blocking the circular road outside the Parliament building, with the result the deceased terrorists were unable to get free and easy access to the Parliament House building. The attack was foiled due to the immediate reaction of the security personnel present at the spot and complex. There was a fierce gun-battle lasting for nearly 30 minutes.
Security agencies investigated and found Afzal Guru, Shaukat Hussain and S A R Geelani and Navjot Sandhu aka Afsan as the main plotters and accused them in the chargesheets filed in the designated special court presided by Justice S N Dhingra. The trial concluded in about six months and Afzal Guru, Shaukat Hussain and Geelani were convicted for offences under Sections 121, 121A, 122, Section 120B read with Sections 302 & 307 read with Section 120B IPC, sub-Sections (2), (3) & (5) of Section 3 and Section 4(b) of Prevention of Terrorism Act and Sections 3 & 4 of the Explosive Substances Act.
Navjot Sandhu aka Afsan was acquitted of all the charges except the one under Section 123 of the Indian Penal Code for which she was convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for five years and to pay a fine. Death sentences were imposed on the other three accused for offences under Section 302 read with Section 120B IPC and Section 3(2) of POTA.
A trial court sentenced Shaukat Hussain, a cousin of Afzal Guru, along with Afzal and Geelani, a Kashmiri lecturer working in Delhi, to death on December 16, 2002.
While India was said to be almost on the verge of war with Pakistan over this issue, there were movements by the so-called secular elite to pressurise the government to free Afzal Guru and Geelani. The death sentences to these accused were opposed by the 'seculars' on various grounds.
The media was reporting on the involvement of the key conspirators in this manner:
'The attack on Parliament on December 13 was a joint operation of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT) terrorist groups in which a Delhi University lecturer, Syed A R Geelani, was one of the key facilitators in Delhi, Police Commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma said on Sunday.' (The Times of India, December 17, 2001) and 'Varsity don guided fidayeen': 'During interrogation Geelani disclosed that he was in the know of the conspiracy since the day the 'fidayeen' attack was planned.'
According to The Hindu , a group called the Delhi University Teachers in Defence of S A R Geelani issued a statement bearing the signatures of 84 teachers from DU, JNU, Jamia Milia etc.
The statement said: 'Institute a high-level judicial inquiry into the illegal practices of the Special Branch of the Delhi police, including allegations of corruption, violations of fair trial standards and allegations of false encounters. Institute a judicial [inquiry] into the allegations made by Mohammad Afzal and his wife about the torture and extortion by the STF officers. Punish the guilty policemen who framed Mr Geelani and Afsan Guru.'
Author Arundhati Roy wrote a long essay in a popular news magazine defending Afzal Guru and said: 'In Kashmir, public opinion is equally overwhelming. Huge angry protests make it increasingly obvious that if Afzal is hanged, the consequences will be political. Some protest what they see as a miscarriage of justice, but even as they protest, they do not expect justice from Indian courts. They have lived through too much brutality to believe in courts, affidavits and justice any more.'
'Others would like to see Mohammed Afzal march to the gallows like Maqbool Butt, a proud martyr to the cause of Kashmir's freedom struggle,' Roy wrote. 'On the whole, most Kashmiris see Mohammed Afzal as a sort of prisoner-of-war being tried in the courts of an occupying power (which it undoubtedly is).'
Meanwhile Afzal Guru's family submitted a mercy petition to President A P J Abdul Kalam and in reaction, the family of Kamlesh Kumari, a Central Reserve Police Force jawan who attained martyrdom in the attack, warned that they would return the Ashok Chakra if the President accepted the petition.
On December 13, 2006, the families of the deceased returned the medals to the government to protest the delay in hanging Afzal Guru and the accusations of the secular elitist circles about the security forces for 'falsely implicating' the accused.
Later, the Delhi high court upheld the death sentence of Shaukat and Afzal, and acquitted Geelani in October 2003, stating that the proof based on phone-tapping was insufficient for his conviction.
In 2005, the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Shaukat and dismissed 12 of the charges slapped on him, reducing his jail term to 10 years. The apex court also upheld the death sentence on Afzal Guru and Geelani's acquittal.
On December 30, 2010, Shaukat Hussain Guru, sentenced to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment, was released nine months prior to his official date of release due to his 'good conduct.'
The Supreme Court judgment, confirming the death sentence on Afzal Guru and acquitting Geelani, is really important and I am quoting some parts of it for the benefit of readers.
Delivered on August 4, 2005, by a bench consisting of Justice P Venkatarama Reddi and Justice P P Naolekar, the document is too significant.
The phone calls
Phone call details were obtained and analysed from the respective cellular mobile service providers.
Analysis of the call records indicated that the number 9811489429 which was found on the ID cards, (subsequently discovered to be that of the accused Afzal) appeared to be integrally connected with the deceased terrorists and this number had been in frequent contact with the cell phone No 9810693456 (recovered from the deceased terrorist Mohammad at Gate No 1) continuously from 28.11.2001 till the date of the attack.
It was further revealed that this number of Afzal, namely, 9811489429, was in contact with the above cell phone of Mohammad, just before the incident, at 10.40 am, 11.04 am and 11.22 am. It was also ascertained that the said number of Afzal was activated only on 6.11.2001 close to the attack.
Further analysis of the cell phone call records showed that another cell phone number 9811573506 (subsequently discovered to be that of Shaukat and recovered from the 4th accused Afsan Guru) appeared to be in close contact with Afzal's number namely 9811489429 and these numbers were in contact with each other a few minutes before the attack on Parliament commenced. It was also found that the said number of Shaukat was activated only on 7.12.2001 just a week prior to the attack.
An analysis of the call records relating to Shaukat's mobile phone further revealed that soon after the attack, at 12.12 hours, there was a call from Shaukat's number to the cell phone number 9810081228 (subsequently discovered to be that of S A R Gilani) and there was a call from Gilani's number to Shaukat's number 10 minutes later. Moreover, it was ascertained that Gilani's number was in constant touch with the other two accused, namely Shaukat and Afzal. It transpired that Afzal's cell phone bearing number 9811489429 was reactivated on 7.12.2001 and the first call was from Gilani's number.
With the recoveries of the cell phones and SIM cards and on an analysis of the details of phone numbers noted on the slips of papers in the light of the call records, the investigation narrowed down to three numbers, namely, 9811489429, 9811573506 and 9810081228 which belonged to Afzal, Shaukat and Gilani respectively. It was also found that the first two numbers were cash cards and hence the details regarding their ownership were not available.
However, as regards 9810081228, the information was received from the service provider (Airtel) that S A R Gilani with the residential address 535, Dr Mukherjee Nagar, Delhi was the regular subscriber.'
At any rate, there is room for doubt. No doubt, as per the deposition of DW 6, the brother of Gilani and the version of Gilani in his statement under Section 313, the relevant query and answer was in the context of quarrel between him and his wife with regard to the Kashmir trip during Eid appears to be false in view of the tenor of the conversation. At the same time, in view of the discrepant versions, on an overall consideration, we are not inclined to disturb the finding of the high court.
However, we would like to advert to one disturbing feature. Gilani rejoiced and laughed heartily when the Delhi event was raised in the conversation. It raises a serious suspicion that he was approving of the happenings in Delhi. Moreover, he came forward with a false version that the remark was made in the context of domestic quarrel. We can only say that his conduct, which is not only evident from this fact, but also the untruthful pleas raised by him about his contacts with Shaukat and Afzal, give rise to serious suspicion at least about his knowledge of the incident and his tacit approval of it. At the same time, suspicion -- however strong -- cannot take the place of legal proof. Though his conduct was not above board, the Court cannot condemn him in the absence of sufficient evidence pointing unmistakably to his guilt.
In view of the foregoing discussion we affirm the verdict of the high court and we uphold the acquittal of S A R Gilani of all charges.
On Afsan Guru
The trial court convicted her of the offence under Section 123 IPC imputing her the knowledge of conspiracy and concealing the evidence of design to wage war by reason of her illegal omission to inform the police. The high court acquitted her of the charge. We are of the view that the high court is fully justified in doing so. The prosecution case against this accused, who is the wife of Shaukat Hussain, is weak.
Every step taken towards eradication of terrorism and punishing the masterminds should be welcomed, but at the same time a solidarity among all Indians, irrespective of caste, religion and parochial affinities, should be forged to eliminate this menace which is eating away the vitals of the nation and seriously affecting the social fabric.
Unless we learn to forget our differences and stand together as Indians first, earnestly believing that the cause of the Motherland is bigger than the interests of our groups and parties, the terrorist network cannot be rooted out.
This is exactly the time when we must move in this direction and there is a role for all non-partisan leaders to come forward and be gamechangers for the nation.
Tarun Vijay is a Bharatiya Janata Party member of the Rajya Sabha; member, Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs; national spokesperson, BJP; and honorary director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.