May consider Guru family's request to visit grave: Govt

Afzal family
Two days after Afzal Guru was hanged, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the government might consider the family's request to visit his grave in Tihar jail.

The family of the executed Parliament attack convict has written to authorities in Tihar, asking that they be allowed to exercise their right to visit the jail. In a letter addressed to D-G (Prisons) Vimla Mehra, lawyers for the family have said, "We do not wish to make this a political issue in an atmosphere which is already volatile. But family members, as citizens of India, have rights, which must be respected."

On Monday evening, Shinde told a press conference in Delhi, "If they (Guru's family) want to go (to the grave), it can be considered."

The family had earlier demanded the return of Guru's body to them. In a letter written to the deputy commissioner, Baramulla, on the evening that Guru was hanged, the convict's wife, son and brother had said, "Please convey our appeal and heartfelt request to the Tihar jail authorities to return the body... to carry out his last rites. ...Every human being has his birthright to go through his religion and faith for his disposal...".

A copy of the letter was sent to Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Shinde said on Monday that the family had been informed of the decision to execute Guru "as per the rules".

"The family of Afzal was informed as per the rules. The first information was sent on February 7 night and second after that. I also informed Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for the first time on the night of February 8," Shinde said. A top home ministry official said a call had been made by the ministry to J&K DGP Ashok Prasad on Friday evening, asking him to inform Guru's family.

On February 9, the family alleged that Guru had been hanged without informing them. In their letter to the D-G (Prisons), the family's lawyers said they had been shocked to hear the news on TV.

At a meeting with Mehra on Monday afternoon, Shinde sought details of the communication sent to the family before the execution. The ministry has asked the jail authorities to hand over Guru's belongings to the family.

On the veil of secrecy over the execution, Shinde said, "Police investigations and intelligence operations cannot be done in the open. If that is done, the country will not run."

Asked about the allegedly "selective" execution and the alleged "political" motives behind it, the minister said: "In the cases of (the assassins of) Rajiv Gandhi and (Punjab) Chief Minister (Beant) Singh, the cases are still pending in Supreme Court. After rejection (of the mercy petitions) cases were filed in the Madras High Court and Supreme Court. These cases are still under consideration before the judiciary. Hence it (Afzal's case) is different from these cases."

"...The files were sent to the states concerned. There they (the convicts) went for appeal," Shinde said. "Afzal's execution was not a political decision but done according to rules."

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