Return Afzal’s Body

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Rabia Noor

The Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde doesn’t seem to have thought twice before declaring that 2001 Parliament Attack convict Muhammad Afzal Guru’s body won’t be handed over to Kashmir. Had it been so, the statement would not have been made in the first place. The second thought would have definitely made him think in terms of the consequences of this adamant approach on part of the Union government.

The body needs to be returned to Kashmir on logical grounds, if not humanitarian. Given the visibly tense situation in the valley, it simply makes no sense for the Union government not to hand over Afzal’s body to his family.

The Valley has been on boil for past over a month following Afzal’s secret execution and burial in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Several people have lost their lives. Protesters have been subjected to brute force by police. Scores of people have been injured. Over 300 arrests have been made across the Valley on the charges of stone pelting, though J&K Police claims to have released most of them. Meanwhile, the separatist camp has been issuing protest calendars one after another that have literally brought normal life to a halt in Kashmir.

The fact remains that more the Union government remains hell bent upon not returning Afzal’s body, the worse the situation in Kashmir is likely to go. The government of India seemingly doesn’t want to see peace on our soil.

One wonders what is stopping them! Are the “prison rules”, which Shinde cited as reason, really this much stringent that they can’t be changed to bring peace to a region? Is Union government so much stubborn that it can’t take a small step that can save people in the Valley from being killed? Has it turned so insensitive towards bloodshed, not to talk about other sufferings, of Kashmiri people? More importantly, how many bodies more we shall have to shoulder for demand of Afzal’s body. Courtesy: Government of India.

Why I call it a small step is because that they are not being asked to release an alive prisoner. They have accomplished what they wanted from years by sending Afzal to gallows. So it is beyond understanding as to what purpose will retaining his mortal remains in Tihar Jail serve.

Such adamant approach on their part seems illogical, especially given the fact there has been persistent demand for the body not from just Afzal’s family but the major mainstream political parties in Kashmir. Even Chief Minister Omar Abdullah wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for handing over Afzal’s body.

Even Legislative Assembly witnessed uproar over the issue. PDP legislators and independent MLA Abdul Rashid stormed the assembly repeatedly, demanding that the House should unanimously pass a resolution seeking return of Afzal’s body.

It is surprising that even after facing so much pressure from the state, the Union government is still not giving it a thought. It is the same government that had offered Pakistan to take the body of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist caught alive during 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. On the other hand, Afzal Guru belonged to Kashmir, which India has time and again claimed to be its integral part.

So, Mr Shinde, there is a demand from me as well, not for anything else, but just for a second thought. If Afzal was hanged to satisfy the collective conscience of India, let his mortal remains be returned for the collective peace of Kashmir.

Rabia Noor is Research Scholar at Media Education Research Centre, University of Kashmir. Write to the author at mrabianoor@yahoo.co.in

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