“The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, chiefly I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses.” – Bertrand Russell
December 13, 2001 marked that day when the Indian State ran into an uber frenzied state trying to patch-up for the sartorial blunders committed in the context of the very democratic fabric rather brazenly by a group of men who crashed through the gates of the Parliament, opened fire; their insolence and shifty attitude propelling them to get into the institutional temple, the ramparts of which is occupied by those with whom is entrusted the trust of a billion population and the exteriors of which is emblematic of the mainstay of the prudence with which an erstwhile nation of warring princely states has held on to its sovereign nature. As the citizens gawped at the horrendous site with fear, the eventual reaction was to begin with the scavenging act and getting hold of the puckish one who was giving a tough challenge in this joust to none other than the police and with no live survivors amongst the culprits the ‘aam aadmi’ was already crying hoarse against the Investigating Agencies, for we were seeking ways of dealing with the aftermath, at the same time hunting for a plausible butt who could absorb the boiling rage and surging agony of the moment!
This purging process did yield to substantive conclusions in December 2001 itself when the police finally got hold of the perpetrators behind the attack, ah! That yanking action hitting off well with the mood of the Indian Republic that was tired of thriving on conjectures, and after smelling the sumptuous treat for a while, it was time for a gala party; come devour the victim before someone else fizzes out the fun of that cannibal act!
What? You found it tad too gory to absorb it in a singular scan complimented with a unilateral cerebration! If only there existed a barometer to gauge the atrocities committed on Him who bore it all for having a checkered past, blurred present and no future at all though this was a predisposition imposed on him by few who would even hound his soul to grave and by the circumstances that turned their back on him for reasons beyond the understanding of the sane.
In ‘A Wife’s Appeal’ (The Asian Age dated 4-Nov-2004), Tabassum, the better-half of Mohammed Afzal Guru and a distraught woman who is trying to put the figs of her shattered nest urges earnestly to listen to their tale and then arrive at the conclusion that your sensibilities allow you to sieve through those cluttered thoughts.
Though I’m not very sure how many of us are aware of this sordid saga that has haunted Afzal Guru and his family members for long; so this is the story of eponymous ‘Him’!
Those were the heady days of 1990 when the rapacious beast of terrorism had just crawled out breaking through the shell of its egg and the youngling had begun to get itself acclimatized to the nouveau surroundings! It was during the same year when Afzal guided by some drive the youth of Kashmir is usually incited by, sneaked into the other side of the border in hope of getting proper training with regards to handling of arms & ammunition, the man getting disillusioned soon only to return back to his homeland infused with a vigor to start life on a fresh note!
With a vision in mind for a harmonious life, Afzal’s efforts henceforth were devoid of mere desultory talk, he mustered the courage to surrender before the BSF (Border Security Force) and in 1997 turned to a new leaf altogether by trying his hands in the business of medicines and surgical instruments. As Tabasum wades us through the ebb tide of their lives when despicable hectors like Major Ram Mohan Roy of 22 Rashtriya Rifles followed by DSP Vinay Gupta and DSP Darinder Singh thwacked them rather hard, the latter two critters demanding Afzal of an amount of one lakh rupees; this ruthless demand was put forward after serving him with a behavior that hints towards the savage as well as the doltish overtures of our police force; this having been preceded by instances of inducing electric shocks into Afzal’s genitals, trying to chafe his innermost sensibilities to the utmost by making use of ice cold water and pouring petrol into his anus. Voila! Do those barbaric techniques come under the purview of some sort of rehabilitation program for those like Afzal who are trying hard to strike back to the normal life of a civilian? Lump of gold owned by family and a scooter that was two-months old had to be dispensed with in lieu of a living Afzal!
Fasten your seat belts and grab your back rest ladies and gentlemen as the climax has finally huddled up for your sake!
As time elapsed and situation seemed to assume the same amorphous form as ever as before, Afzal had made up his mind to relocate to Delhi and quit the turf that offered him nothing except excruciatingly painful physical and mental agony, and had put up in Delhi recently. It was at the behest of DSP Dravinder Singh that Afzal had given his nod to help a Mohammed and a Tariq in the capital city.
He received his due remuneration of Rs. 35,000 for aiding those he was asked to stand with. The next face-off Afzal had with the men in khaki was yet again even beyond his state of fathoming it in any way as he was picked up from a bus stand in Srinagar and implicated in December 2001 Indian Parliament Attack, though he was not the only isolated being who was being preyed at by those way too busy in the chomping antic!
In case you found that narration soppy enough to turn away your head, lift your eyes, shrug your shoulders and perhaps hurl those smarting comments, “a lady trying to garner sympathy for her husband who is a few yards away from the gallows”; that languorous tone of the audience being replete with a sense of heavy feeling causing you to vacillate between ‘right’ & ‘wrong’!
I’ll take you henceforth into the legal proceedings of the case that was marred by incongruities, loop-holes, lackadaisical attitude based on superfluous assumptions and keeping in reserve the verdict even before the party had said it all in front of the men in black robes and the symbolic statue holding the precarious scales of justice!
‘Mujrim hazir ho’, it was with this melodramatic mute proclamation that the hearing began in the lower courts.
An individual had been implicated, charges already framed, what all needed to be done was to pronounce him guilty, nail him there and then and hogwash an entire generation by sending the perpetrators to gallows. While Afzal didn’t have a single lawyer to defend him in the lower court, the attorney in the High Court chose to MIS-Represent him; statement on behalf of Afzal went around that he would rather like to die by lethal injection than undergoing the pain from being hung by the ropes, with Afzal claiming that he never sent a word like this to public.
The chain of these events might leave one flabbergasted as an individual might mull over the loose ends that still exist in the entire legal set-up, availing the liberties being facilitated at the hands of law might not be a dire necessity but accessing it and allowing it to save one’s skin is a daily practice; unfortunately Afzal it seems hailed from an ‘alien planet’ (so as it seems) and that led to a greater deterioration of the spirit of a man who had posed his faith in the Public Prosecution System.
In the article ’13 Questions for December 13’ (dated December 8, 2006; KAFILA by Shudhabrata Sengupta) some straightforward questions have been put forth blatantly that pull the charade from the entire proceedings that have been carried out with brisk pace and in an utmost traditional manner mired by the impatience to arrive at the verdict and heal the gall that was inadvertently inflicted on the Nation.
Some of those questions do give you the inkling that some serious blunders have in fact been committed in this hurly-burly business of dealing with the complicit – for instance if the vigilante forces of India were apprehending an imminent attack on the Parliament, how come an Ambassador car with terrorists as passengers and laden with explosives got an entry into the premises; Politicians such as Kapil Sibbal and Priyaranjan Dasmunshi have repeatedly asked for the CCTV camera footages to be shown, they claim that there were a total of six armed men and not five (these questions being posed by activists like Arundhati Roy as well) ; repeatedly there’s a mention of a Mohammed and a Tariq, the identity of whom is not divulged properly; these are just few of those doubts that make the image misty enough for you to switch on the wipers,(letter written by Afzal Guru to his Lawyer Sushil Kumar) but do we even have ‘one’ to get rid of those trickling droplets that are hampering our vision?
And that brings us to the ‘Prime Event of the Night’, the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of India; just to apprise you of the factoids that charges had been slapped under the various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA) and the Explosive Substances Act by the designated court.
While substantive answers to the queries seem to be a far-fetched dream in this utterly intricate case, contradictions emerge making it seemingly impossible for a layman to have well-defined sequestered spaces having been kept reserved for truth and infidelity. Amidst all this mess, we mustn’t forget the classic Press Conference that was held and Afzal was compelled to make a confession in front of media wallahas who were already salivating at the smell of juicy piece of byte! Thus, at the tip of the Playwright, DCP Rajbir Singh, another hearing was held apart from the Courts of this la-la land, this time the turf being that which came under the purview of the fourth pillar of democracy. That gives me a twitch that we truly are progressing from the age of the Neanderthals and stumbling upon nouveau methods to simplify things in this bizarre society of odds! Cheers!
I would first open my mouth to spill out the contradictions and confusions that have nonetheless set doldrums in the vast stretch of my mental faculty!
Sifting through them one by one, the Supreme Court’s Judgment on the very outset of it has mentioned a series of those instances that led the investigating agencies to the doorbell of Afzal Guru. Call details analysis turned out to be a potent tool in the hands of the state that was used in a judicious manner when it was about incriminating Afzal. Herein arrives my first doubt; 9811489429 this is the number that was being used by Afzal and as per the counsel representing the state this particular number was in regular touch with the deceased terrorists from 28.11.2001 till the day of attack, further it was divulged that this particular number was in touch with the miscreants on the mayday as well at around 10:40 am, 11:04 am and 11:22 am. Charges have been framed in a manner so as to project Afzal as an aide in the entire process of machination and carrying out the malfeasance, I really wonder then that if everything was so meticulously planned what it is that the terrorists felt like sharing with Afzal at every point of time in the backdrop of the personnel employed at the Parliament opening fire at them ferociously. (Similar grounds have been cited for incarcerating SAR Geelani, Shaukat Afsan Guru and Navjot Sandhu; if only numbers had a vocal pitch of their own!)
Claims that have been framed to ensnare Afzal include the trammel that Afzal led the police men and identified those places from where chemicals used in explosives were purchased, a claim that has been refuted by Afzal who offers the contention that he was taken to those places by the investigating team and that he has had no bearing with those spots; these allegations and counter-allegations perhaps need a deeper scrutiny than just a furtive glance. It was at the mortuary of the L.H. Medical College where Mohd. Afzal identified the five terrorists who were no more to tell the truth themselves, these included Mohammed, Raja, Rana, Hamza and Haider; the exact identities of this pentad is yet to be established by the Indian investigating agencies.
Mystery shrouds the role of ACP Rajbir Singh who got a golden opportunity to enhance his CV on 19-Dec-2001 as he took over the case, his initial step in inching towards justice being that of calling forth an ‘Orchestrated Press Conference-cum-Afzal’s Confession Jamboree’ that was successful beyond anyone’s expectations. His mendacious miracle that went down so very well with media and public alike came to light when ‘Aaj Tak’ correspondent, Shams Tahir was cross-examined. Another nugget of truth that popped up hence was that Afzal’s confession was nothing but a proclamation made by him under duress as the officials had warned him of dire consequences threatening him to the extent of bludgeoning his entire family, his younger brother already being held captive by the STF for no reason at all!
In this pastiche comprising of a myriad of oddities, the legal appeal swears by exemplifying the likes of landmark judgments such as Miranda vs. Arizona (1966), whereby the US Supreme Court facilitated the defendant by the right against self-incrimination and allowing him to consult an attorney before interrogation, making sure at the same time that he is aware that the confession can be used to invoke action against him. Why are we in India then relying blindly on the custodial confession when the accussed didn’t even have any legal aid? Certainly there are lumps of falsehood that are snuggling too well with the Indian Evidence Act.
Unfortunately there still doesn’t exist a single Fehling’s Solution or Benedict’s Solution in the bulwarks of our legal laboratory using which the morbidity might be gotten rid of easily. Afzal Guru might have colluded in the murky act owing to coercion or oblivion but certainly that blunder doesn’t call for grave punishment amounting to ‘hang him till death’, pen’s nib broken there and then…..
A man who once succumbed to giving in to antagonistic forces but relinquished the idea and tried to live life like a normal civilian only to be ripped apart by the hectors of the niche doesn’t deserve soul-obliterating treatment like that of urinating in his mouth, while you feel like puking by only scouring through the lines there’s a man who has undergone through all of this. Perhaps those thousand unmarked graves in Kashmir need more attention of its brethren than the imminent carnival that would follow with Afzal’s head in one hand and a glass of beer in another!
For then it would be ‘We, the People of India’ who would have their hands blemished with the crime of transforming Afzal’s teenaged son into another Maqbool Bhat! So instead of baying for Afzal’s head we should rather mull over the following lines from the movie ‘Shaurya’ (2008) recited by Shahrukh Khan:
शौर्य क्या है?
थरथराती इस धरती को रौंदती फ़ौजियों की एक पलटन का शोर,
या सहमे से आसमान को चीरता हुआ बंदूकों की सलामी का शोर।
शौर्य क्या है?
हरी वर्दी पर चमकते हुए चंद पीतल के सितारे,
या सरहद का नाम देकर अनदेखी कुछ लकीरों की नुमाइश।
शौर्य क्या है?
दूर उड़ते खामोश परिंदे को गोलियों से भून देने का एहसास,
या शोलों की बरसात से पल भर में एक शहर को शमशान बना देने का एहसास।
बहती बियास में किसी के गर्म खून का हौले से सुर्ख हो जाना,
या अनजानी किसी जन्नत की फ़िराक में पल पल का दोज़ख बनते जाना,
बारूदों से धुंधलाए इस आसमान में शौर्य क्या है?
वादियों में गूंजते किसी गाँव के मातम में शौर्य क्या है?
शायद एक हौसला शायद एक हिम्मत हमारे बहुत अंदर,
मज़हब के बनाए नारे को तोड़ कर किसी का हाथ थाम लेने की हिम्मत,
गोलियों के बेतहाशा शोर को अपनी खामोशी से चुनौती दे पाने की हिम्मत,
मरती मारती इस दुनिया में निहत्थे डटे रहने की हिम्मत।
आने वाले कल की खातिर अपने हिस्से की कायनात को आज बचा लेने की हिम्मत।
शौर्य क्या है?