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Justice for Afzal: Implement court order

Justice for Afzal: Implement court order

Author: Editorial
Publication: Free Press Journal
Date: June 11, 2008

It is typical of the Manmohan Singh Government that it cannot bring itself up to decide one way or the other on the mercy petition of Mohammed Afzal, the terrorist sentenced to death for his role in December 2001 attack on Parliament. This indecision has emboldened the Kashmiri terrorist to openly ridicule the Government. In an interview to a news agency, Afzal challenged the Government to take an early decision on his mercy petition in these words: "I do not think the UPA Government can ever reach a decision. Congress has two mouths and is playing a double game." He then went on to say, "I wish L K Advani becomes India's next PM as he is the only one who can take a decision and hang me.

At least my pain would ease then..." Sharp words, those. If you put yourself in Afzal's shoes, you will understand that the uncertainty more than the actual decision on his petition can sap one's spirits and drain out one's energies. Living 24 hours in the fear of the unknown, the death row prisoner would recon that a quick relief either way would release him from the killer tension. Behind the veneer of that bravado, Afzal, it should be noted, would want a positive nod on his petition. For, even he isn't ready to shed his life in the cause of that ephemeral `jehad', regardless of that challenging statement to the news agency. It ought to be remembered that after an early show of defiance, he had at last signed the mercy petition to the President of India as per the laid-down procedure. Action on his death warrant was stayed in October 2006 following his plea for clemency.

Since then while the Government has dawdled, unable to accept or reject the petition, Afzal's fate has become a political football. The opposition BJP has periodically taunted the Government to implement the apex court award against Afzal while the Government has offered lame excuses for its non-action. The petition was sent to the J and K Government for its recommendations and, according to reports, it is still pending with it. Quite clearly, the State Government does not want to offer another totem to the secessionists\terrorists around which to rally their fast dwindling followers. From their point of view, therefore, no decision is absolutely good decision. But, one is afraid, from the overall national perspective the delay in deciding the fate of Afzal is an advertisement of the weak-kneed approach of the Indian State against its enemies. Regardless of what happens to Afzal, there is no denying that the resolute determination required to crush anti-State activities is woefully lacking in this country's approach in handling foreign-inspired terror attacks. Avowed enemies of the nation periodically seek to tear apart India's secular fabric in the name of Kashmiri `jehad'.

But, without doubt, the attack on Parliament was the biggest affront to Indian nationhood yet which needed to be dealt with manfully. After all, it was after the December 2001 attack that the Vajpayee Government had declared the Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi as persona non grata and had amassed troops on the Pak border. If India had pulled back from the brink after a few salutary gestures by Pakistan, and backroom American intervention, it is only befitting that the actual perpetrators of the terror attack are meted out due justice. It is not appropriate at all at this juncture to obfuscate the issue of Afzal's sentence with the pros and cons of capital punishment. Whatever one's views on the efficacy of death as a deterrent, there can be no question that those who set out to destroy the very symbol of Indian democracy deserve no mercy. It is the call of justice, nothing less, nothing more, that the punishment awarded to Afzal by the highest court in the land after a proper and fair trial is meted out without any further delay.

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