Hang Kasab, keep Afzal Guru alive in jail
I’m no supporter of capital punishment. But honestly speaking, I haven’t, regardless of my reservations against the dictum of an eye for an eye, been able to bring myself around to pleading lesser punishment for Ajmal Kasab.
I think the Indian State has been quite fair in ensuring for him the defense he needed in his trial for waging a war against our country— and for carrying out pre-meditated wanton killings. In his pursuit, he butchered innocent people of all faiths including Muslims.
Our Supreme Court has justified death penalty in the “rarest of rare” cases. Kasab’s crime fits that description. But in his walk to the gallows, he should be afforded the appeals to which he’s entitled under the Law. That will establish before the world the fairness of our judicial system, at once denying Kasab’s Pakistani mentors any opportunity to cry foul.
Many political parties, politicians and activists have demanded that Kasab should be executed at the earliest. Such clamor does not show us in good light. Death for him could only be as early as it’s permitted under the Law. The government must and should do everything to show that it resisted short cuts amounting to denial of judicial redressal even to a man like Kasab whose crimes deserved no mercy.
But the case of Kasab, a Pakistani brain-washed by the Lashkar-e-Toiba, is different from that of Afzal Guru, an Indian awaiting death in the 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament. The delay in the latter’s execution on account of a pending mercy petition, is the subject of a major political controversy. The debate has gotten revived by reports that the delay was on account of the Delhi CM’s failure to submit her comments on Afzal’s plea.
Be that as it may, I’m of the view that while Kasab should get death at the time determined by law, Afzal should be spared the gallows. That is the only way to keep him from becoming a martyr for the misguided Kashmiri youth.
The logic behind Maqbool Bhatt’s burial in the jail premises on being hanged at Tihar in the 1980s was to deny the separatists a rallying point in the form of his grave. By the same argument, Afzal should be wasted in jail as an ordinary criminal even if it means risking future hijackings for his release.
I’m aware that my stand on the sensitive issue would have very few takers. But I’d request those in disagreement to consider the argument in the context of the times in which we live. The war in Kashmir is as much for the mind space as it is over a disputed territory. And my worry is that by hanging Afzal, we, as a country, might cede a chunk of that space to our adversaries.