Saturday, October 07, 2006

To Hang Or Not?

Multiple courts up to the Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence given to Afzal Guru for his involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack. India almost went to war with Pakistan over this episode and in lost over 600 soldiers just preparing for a war that did not happen. Yet, there is raging debate going on in the media about commuting his sentence with the entire country looking to President Kalam to decide the fate of Mohammed Afzal Guru.

This case has taken several colors and has become complicated. In a rare display of unity, people of all hue and cry from the Kashmir valley are asking for the death sentence to be commuted. To add to that, Human Rights groups are asking for the same as they feel Afzal Guru has not been heard. Add to the mix, there is strong religious under current and a possible clemency petition in front of President Abdul Kalam.

The entire issue has been turned upside down. Now it is not whether Afzal Guru planned the heinous act of attacking the very pillar of democracy killing scores of security personnel. It also not about principled opposition to death sentence. It is now about Kashmiri politics.

If Afzal Guru is indeed put to death, it is bound create major waves in the Kashmir valley and the politicians bound to use it to create further wedge and complicate the kashmir issue even more.

But, it Afzal Guru's death sentence is commuted, what message does it send out about India's resolve fight terrorism and judiciary? Won't it embolden more people to go down the violent path?

There are no easy choices in front of President Kalam. In a politically and religiously surcharged atmosphere, whatever he does (or not) is bound to create upheaval with some sections of the society.

But, if India wants to stand firm against terrorism and send a clear message, it must let the rule of the land take its course. It is not about Kashmir or about religion, but is about justice and letting the rule of law prevail.