Shops and businesses shut in Kashmir on Sunday and authorities imposed a lockdown in some parts of the disputed region’s main city after separatists called for a strike to mark the execution anniversary of Afzal Guru who was convicted for Parliament attack in 2001. Hundreds of police and paramilitary soldiers patrolled largely deserted streets in Srinagar. Authorities put old parts of the city under lockdown, with major roads blocked by razor wire and barricades in anticipation of anti-government protests and possible violence. Public transport was largely off the roads.
Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in Tihar jail on charges of being involved in a 2001 Parliament attack that killed 14 people, including five gunmen. Most people in Kashmir, however, believe that Afzal Guru was not given a fair trial, and the covert execution led to days of deadly anti-government protests in the Muslim-majority region. Separatists have also called for a strike on February 11 to mark the day in 1984 when pro-independence leader Mohammed Maqbool Butt was hanged in the same New Delhi jail after being convicted of killing an intelligence officer.
Separatists demand that the two men’s remains, buried within the jail compound, be returned to the region. Meanwhile, police on Saturday summoned two journalists for questioning in Srinagar for reporting about the strike call given by pro-independence Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front.
The Kashmir Press Club called it harassment. “It has become a routine with police to summon journalists for their stories,” said Ishfaq Tantray, the club’s general-secretary. “It is an attempt by the law enforcement agencies to define new terms of journalism in Kashmir, what we should report and how we should report.” Police in a statement said they registered a case against the separatist group for “attempts to incite violence and disturb law and order situation.” India and Pakistan each claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety.
The 2001 Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru was executed on February 9, 2013, later buried in Tihar jail. The Supreme Court had awarded him a death sentence in 2004, for plotting the 2001 terror attack, however, his hanging scheduled for October 2006, was delayed after his wife filed a mercy petition. Nine people were killed on December 13, 2001, Parliament attack, as five heavily-armed terrorists drove into the Parliament complex and opened fire in the area. The terrorists were shot dead by security personnel.
Soon after, Afzal Guru was arrested and convicted along with Shaukat Hussain, Afshan Guru (Shaukat's wife) and Delhi University teacher SAR Geelani for being a part of the plot. The Supreme Court confirmed Afzal Guru's death sentence in 2004 while Shaukat Guru was released after he served his jail term. Afshan Guru and SAR Geelani were given benefit of doubt and released by the Supreme Court. Guru had confessed his role in plotting the terror attack to Delhi Police Special Cell ACP Rajbir Singh.
Upholding the decision to hang Guru, the apex court pronounced the verdict saying, "The gravity of the crime is something which cannot be described in words. The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender. The challenge to the unity, integrity, and sovereignty of India can only be compensated by giving the maximum punishment. The appellant, who is a surrendered militant and who was bent upon repeating the acts of treason against the nation, is a menace to the society and his life should become extinct. Accordingly, we uphold the death sentence.”
The UPA government had then refused to handover Guru's body to his family members post-execution. He was buried inside the Tihar jail complex. The MHA in its statement had said that "his funeral could have been used to trigger violence and disturb peace in the Kashmir valley."
(With AP inputs)