Should it have taken us this long to realise that the hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru by the State must be questioned? Why did we have to wait for the arrest of police officer Davinder Singh last week to finally sit up and raise question over Afzal Guru’s hanging? Why are we now finally, so very late, holding debates and discussions about his hanging? Should his case be re-opened so that all those villainous characters who are actually terrorizing the hapless masses be finally unmasked?
Those of us who have read and re-read Nandita Haksar’s book –‘Framing Geelani, Hanging Afzal- Patriotism in the Time of Terror’ ( Promilla & Co in association with Bibliophile South Asia), do realise that Afzal Guru was a victim and not a terrorist. He was trapped and targeted by the agencies and also by the cops - the likes of Davinder Singhs. In her book, Nandita Haksar, has been, as always, direct and forthright. She has detailed how Afzal Guru and his family was ruined by Davinder Singh. She has also bared names with designations of the other villainous characters together with the relevant specific details.
She has also written extensively how Afzal Guru was severely tortured and humiliated whilst in custody. One detail after another – right from the time he was brought to Delhi and kept in the lock-up of the Special Cell at Lodhi Road, where he was beaten and “Policemen urinated in his mouth and all over”. Worse tortures followed when he was imprisoned in Tihar Jail.
Together with him, his family also went through hellish situations.
And in another of her books on the Kashmir situation-‘The Many Faces of Kashmiri Nationalism –From The Cold War to the Present Day’ (Speaking Tiger), Nandita Haksar has very deftly webbed in letters of Afzal Guru and this includes a 10-page handwritten letter. It is relevant to point out that none of Afzal Guru’s letters tucked in the pages of Nandita’s book carry terrorizing offloads or thoughts or sentiments. On the contrary, they come across as not just philosophical but loaded with his definite views. To quote Nandita, “Though Afzal Guru had lived in the closed and claustrophobic cells of Tihar Jail, his mind was open, and he continued to read extensively. Tabassum said after Ghalib was born, Afzal would complain ‘Waai Pyaari mye mileha kanh goaph (O pyaari, I wish I could find a cave to read in). After his imprisonment, Tabassum would tease him ‘Goaph mileye?’ (have you found the cave now ?),to which he would respond ‘Zabardast goaph (Incredible cave ! )’ … Afzal wrote long letters to friends also.
Sometimes he would make copies and give me one or send it to me through his channels. Most of these letters were in English. In the letters, he discussed his ideas about religion and nationalism. Like many other Kashmiri Muslims, Afzal too had become disillusioned by the idea of nationalism and had taken refuge in Islamist ideologies. For Afzal, both India and Pakistan had betrayed the Kashmiris. He was worried about the radicalisation of the new generation. He called it indoctrination and expressed his concern in a letter written from Jail No 2, in Tihar Jail, to a fellow Kashmiri : ‘Our home is in a state of ANARCHY( morally - politically, socially etc ) sandwiched between two antagonistic Forces. One country is simmering other on indoctrinating the highly volatile kids mobilizing the noble feelings of these uneducated and unaware youth for their own existence and survival.
They want to engage the huge army stricture with huge budget by a handful of highly motivated people. The other side the Army wants to rest and to have a highly luxurious life. It is this hypocrisy that made few people to change the state of simmering of the pot into boiling State. It got boiled but unfortunately these two countries do not learn rather they do not want people to live in peace. They are living on the threshold of the same boiling stage. I was not alone nor am I. I do not belong to any org. I belong to feelings and ideas ( felt globally ) by those who are being humiliated and silenced unwillingly.’
In fact, Nandita’s focus on Afzal through his letters projects him as a well-read man who was introspecting and questioning ever so constantly. To quote her from this book – “Afzal was wrestling with the ideas of religion and nationalism. In a long letter written to me on 8 January 2008 he asked: ‘Respected Nandita , when Naga conflict is not Christian, why conflict in Kashmir is branded Islamic. Fundamentally it is political , social and historical in nature. Robert A Pape’s book, Dying To Win, has given a sophisticated analysis of 300 suicide attacks ( from 1980 - 2003 ) out of which 76 were executed by the LTTE. The common cause he says is political and social injustice, oppression and brute policies of the political establishment and occupational powers.’”
In another letter, Afzal Guru writes on the- “State’s senseless policies – The constant humiliation and trauma will ignite the heat of conflict. These policies will cultivate the militant and radical culture towards irreversible end. Police Stations have become terror and slaughter houses. Families of killed people do not go to police station because it is the police station which is spreading the sense of terror into the hearts and minds of people. You may be feeling this exaggeration of state terror but this is a bitter fact of constitutional colony that is Kashmir.”
Nandita also focuses on yet another letter of Guru wherein he reasons out why economic packages alone will not solve any of the problems in Kashmir – “Jesus son of Mary (Maryam) (Peace be on them ) says man cannot live by bread alone. Economic packages cannot bring peace in Kashmir. The people who are constantly living in the flux of humiliation and fear does not need bread for which Allah has given every person for a single mouth. What people need is a political framework in which they don’t feel themselves vulnerable, humiliated or terrorized …The closure of all democratic means and vents will naturally push the educated youth towards radical wall. Noam Chomsky says if we do not believe in the freedom of expression for the people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. RSS’s philosophy and its political, social and militant offshoots and off springs are communalising and polarising whole of political and social fabric and this culture of hatred is penetrating the other local institutions as well and don’t exclude Tihar Jail. There is no doubt ISI is also playing its role in this process through its devices of hatred. In fact, is nurturing on anti-India rhetoric.”
And in the 10-page long handwritten letter which Guru wrote to Nandita (which she’d received on 8 January 2008 ) and the sentiments and thoughts contained in this letter makes one sit up, questioning the very concept of death penalty, of State hangings! Just these last lines from his hand written letter are enough to relay the man’s philosophical outlook–“In the end, I request you don’t colourize or dress my words in any colour or dress except a purely responsible human concern for humanity …I am in Universe in such a way that I am myself Universe - I live in a space but I am space less.”
The State hanged Mohammad Azfal Guru. He was killed by the State.
As a civil society we should prevent any further hangings of the prisoners languishing in captivity behind those high walls. Double or triple whammy for the hundreds and thousands for all those imprisoned who could be absolutely innocent yet sit implicated, trapped and targeted. Also with biases running high, its extremely tough for the Kashmiri prisoners, as Nandia Haksar says, they inhabit a “horrifying world”, a world full of “terrifying reality of illegal arrests, dark damp prison cells and the barbarity of the torture and the pain of a child waiting for his father to be hanged.”
Views expressed in the article are author’s own