Met PM for return of Afzal Guru's body: Omar Abdullah

Afzal Guru
Joining the chorus with mainstream and separatist opposition parties in the Valley, the Jammu Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has asked the Centre to hand over mortal remains of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru to his family.

Pointing out that Chief Minister also asked for the return of the remains of Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front leader who was hanged in Tihar Jail in 1984 following the killing of Indian High Commissioner in London, an official spokesman here tonight said that he had earlier ``strongly pleaded'' for return of Guru's family in a letter to the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on February 19. Later, during his recent meeting with Dr Singh, he again sought the mortal remains of Guru, he pointed out.

"Given the strong sentiments attached to the treatment meted out to Afzal Guru's family especially the denial of a last chance to meet their loved one before his execution and the denial of a judicial review of the case, the Chief Minister told the Prime Minister that least the Government of India can do in this matter, is to return the remains to his family,'' the spokesman pointed out.

"Recognizing the similarity between both the cases of Afzal Guru and Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, the Chief Minister also asked for the return of the remains Bhat which has been an unresolved issue and a long pending demand of his family ever since his execution in 1984,'' the spokesman said.

Both Bhat and Afzal Guru, after their hanging in Tihar Jail, were buried within the jail premises.

The mainstream opposition People's Democratic Party patron and former Jammu Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed too have in a letter to the Prime Minister sought mortal remains of Guru in accordance with the wishes of people of the state. Pointing out that a majority of people in the country too want Afzal Guru's remains returned to his family for last rites, he asked him to ``try to retrieve whatever little can be of the trust of the people in Kashmir''.

Pointing out that he was writing this letter after an agonizing fortnight that witnessed all the effort at rebuilding a relationship of trust between Kashmir and rest of the country almost evaporate into thin air, Mufti wrote that the execution of Guru ``in secrecy'' and ``very obvious unholy haste'' is not just another hugely negative reference point in Kashmir's painful history, but it could have the potential to redefine the very nature of how the people here would view their status with the union.

Expressing his anxiousness about its possible fall out on younger generations who had been struggling to come out of a nightmarish experience of life marked by blood and tragedy, he wrote that an overwhelming majority of people in the Valley and most of the secular, liberal public opinion in the country have expressed their reservations about the quality of trial Afzal received. ``While it is too late now to mention that beyong its academic and historical significance, it is the events that preceded and followed the hanging that have become such a sore point the like of which I have not witnessed in my 50 years of public life,'' he wrote.

The fact that the feeling of pain and anger did not erupt the way some had perhaps apprehended may not be construed as an absence of it, he pointed out, adding that ``I had since the very beginning pleaded for commutation of the death sentence keeping all the factors in view. But even though your government has been seeking advice on maters when things look bad as in 2010 when an all party conference was convened, you completely ignored the voices of sanity on Afzal's hanging''.

The sad facts of the run up to the hanging will unfortunately stand out for their peculiar characteristics that donot convey to Jammu Kashmir a message of being equal partners in the idea of India, much less showing any sense of accommodation or respect for the sentiments of a majority of its residents, he pointed out in his letter to the Prime Minister. Pointing out that a convict is never called out of a queue and sent to the gallows in a democracy of the size and quality of India, Mufti wrote that the people of Kashmir feel that he was hanged because the noose fitted only the neck of a man of Afzal's description and given the sad history of state's association with the union they easily relate themselves with his fate.

The unfortunate event came at a time when you as Prime Minister and your distinguished predecessor Atal Behari Vajpayee had invested a great deal in a peace process that in spite of set backs had the potential of rewriting the destiny of South Asia, Mufti pointed out. It happened after people of the state had reposed their faith in democratic methods and processes even in the face of odds and their failure of the establishment to respond in a matching measure, he wrote, adding that the result is an uneasy, forcibly implemented calm and an internalized anger, ingredients for an unpredictable future, he added.

Pointing out that he was writing to him not to seek any concession for the state, but only suggesting a way out to restore to some extent the prestige lost by the country in the entire sequence of events around the hanging, he said that the return of Afzal Guru's remains to his family is the minimum that Government of India can do to apply some balm to a deep wound.

"Needless to mention the denial of a decent burial in accordance with the religious practices of the deceased has created anxiety within the community even outside the state in rest of the country,'' he wrote

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