A day after approaching the authorities at Tihar Jail, seeking handing over of Afzal Guru's body to his family, two lawyers representing them on Wednesday withdrew as their counsel, citing "unseemly controversies" and "suspicion" by certain political groups in Kashmir.
"Now there have arisen unseemly controversies and we do not wish to be part to these discussions. We also do not want to distract from the main issue on which we make our stand absolutely clear," lawyers N D Pancholi and Nandita Haksar said in a two-page statement.
The two lawyers had sent a letter to Tihar Director General Vimla Mehra on behalf of Guru's family on Tuesday, in which they demanded handing over his body to them, besides seeking his belongings. The lawyers had also sought permission for the family to offer prayers at Guru's grave at Tihar Jail when they come to Delhi.
"We feel sad that all our efforts to build bridges between the Indian people and the Kashmiri people are constantly undermined by Indian authorities who condemn our efforts as anti-national. In Kashmir, some political groups view these offers of solidarity and friendship with suspicion," they said without elaborating on the immediate reasons for their decision.
Replying to criticism on why they did not represent Guru at the time of his trial, Haksar and Pancholi said they were never approached to fight the legal battle.
"After he was condemned to death, his wife approached us to write the mercy petition on her behalf and later on his behalf. Without the vakalatnama, we could not have visited him in jail," they said.
Haksar and Panchouli said after the hanging of Guru, his family members telephoned them on Saturday seeking help and in accordance with their wishes, they asked the jail authroties to hand over his body to the family and permission to visit the grave.
Criticising the government for carrying out the execution of Guru without giving him opportunity to meet his family, the lawyers said under the rules, the family or friends can claim the body of an executed prisoner even after it is buried.
The lawyers, however, did not give details of the rules .
Claiming that Guru did not get a "fair trial", the lawyers said he was a "victim of the prejudice and injustice" built into the criminal judicial process.
"We strongly disagree with the reasoning in the Supreme Court's judgment saying that Afzal Guru had to be hanged to 'satisfy the collective conscience of Indians'. Many Indians across the country have condemned the hanging," they said.
Haksar and Pancholi said the family had asked them to make arrangements for their stay in Delhi, following which they approached a Lok Sabha Member of Parliament of the "relevant constituency", through which they contacted the resident commissioner of Kashmir House who agreed to allot rooms for them.
Both the lawyers claimed that they have been engaged with the "Kashmir question" since 1990s and were part of the fact-finding teams which "exposed" the human rights violations in the wake of the insurgency in Kashmir.