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Justice Delayed, But Finally Delivered

By Pradyut Hande

A little over 11 years after the brazen terror attack on the Parliament House, New Delhi which claimed the lives of 10 and further endangered those of many others; Afzal Guru was finally hanged to death for his involvement in the same conspiracy. His hanging has perhaps ended one of the most protracted and sordid chapters in the country's annals. The unexpected timing of the authorities' decision, far away from the prying eyes of the media, may have come as a surprise to many; particularly those who believed Guru would remain on death row for a fair while longer. However, after having his plea for clemency rejected by the President, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, on February 3, 2013; it was only a matter of time before Guru trudged his way to the gallows.

Afzal Guru's Hanging and India's Ongoing Battle against Terrorism

Whether the move was politically motivated is subject to debate at this juncture of time, but what can be said with great certitude is that the Government of India has sent a strong message to current and potential perpetrators of such heinous acts. Adopting an inexorable garb of staunch intolerance, backed by iron-clad legislative deterrents and an efficacious judiciary, is the first step towards addressing terrorism at large. Waging war on the country by "conspiring to attack and overpower a sovereign democratic institution by using powerful arms and explosives and imperiling the safety of a multitude of people's representatives, constitutional functionaries and officials of the Government of India and engaging in a combat with security forces" is an unpardonable terrorist act of the "gravest severity". It may have taken 11 years for "justice to be delivered", but Guru's hanging, close on the heels of that of Mumbai terror accused, Ajmal Kasab's, will have far reaching ramifications at multiple levels.

To us, Afzal Guru was a well chronicled militant functionary who dared to indulge in a despicable act of terrorism against his country of birth with blatant disregard for life and property. However, he will now be perceived as a martyr by those sympathetic to his "cause"; a Soldier of God who perished in the pursuit of "jihad". So while on the one hand, his hanging, in addition to being the deliverance of justice; serves a powerful and purposeful message of deterrence to those of his ilk, on the other, he is now a symbol of defiance and inspiration to thousands of radicalised Islamic youths in the troubled Kashmir Valley and its surrounding regions. The "situational dichotomy" is worth taking note of. The Government has already acted with alacrity to ensure that the law and order situation in the volatile region remains stable in the aftermath of Guru's execution. The imposition of a blanket indefinite curfew may further rankle the Valley's already irate denizens, but is imperative in the present scenario. All it takes is a spark of agitation to snowball into a conflagration of conflict; more so in a fragile and fractured region like the Kashmir Valley.

Many believe Afzal Guru should have been hanged a lot earlier, expediting the delivery of justice and saving millions in tax payers' money, in light of the fact that he was awarded the capital punishment by the Supreme Court way back in 2005. Questions surrounding the legal process that ensured a sizable delay in his execution, abound. There have also been questions raised regarding the dilution of due legislative process that may have sent Guru to his death sooner than initially anticipated. However, acting in national interest and fueled by public anger, the Government eventually had to act and bring down the curtains on the long drawn saga. The alternate school of pro-life, death penalty-averse human rights proponents may decry the sudden hanging. However, their voices are being drowned out by those of every jubilant citizen.

India's battle against the faceless and monolithic scourge of terrorism remains continual. Similarly, given her rapidly rising socio-economic stature on the global arena, the endeavour to unleash instability and inflict mass damage and casualties on the part of such terrorists, is continual as well. The death of a single Afzal Guru although important, is never going to be enough. We can hail, celebrate, condemn or criticise his execution; but our singular "war on terrorism" is an every day battle that is far greater in magnitude and significance; and always will be.


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