Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rajiv’s Killers Versus Afzal Guru


The contrast also compares the two democracies, Tamil Nadu, J&K.

There were two developments that riveted our attention last week. And the mayhem in the state Assembly was not one of them despite the injury to a PDP legislator or the slapping of a marshal by one of the party’s legislators. One, was the commutation of the death sentence of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s killers to the life imprisonment by the Apex Court. And second the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha’s decision to release all the seven of them and the ensuing confrontation with centre. The clash made for a gripping political drama and heady television. But Kashmir was hooked for a different reason. 

One, that the killers of a former prime minister of India and a member of the ruling dynasty who were on death row for the past eleven years were granted a due recourse to law and their plea accepted by the court. Second, Tamil Nadu CM dramatically deciding to set them free and setting a three day deadline for the centre to respond. 

New Delhi went into a tizzy, objecting to the release. Supreme Court stayed the move but that was not what was important. The important thing was that even the killers of a prime minister of India, if they are not from Kashmir, can expect not only a fairer process of justice but even clemency with a Chief Minister’s support to boot. Contrast this with what happened to Muhammad Afzal Guru who, by Apex Court’s own order had a circumstantial link to the parliament attack. So he had to die to “satisfy the collective consciousness” of India. He was pulled out of the death row queue where he was at around number 30 and sent to gallows without his family getting a wind of it. He was told about the rejection of his mercy petition by the president only an hour before his death. And his mortal remains continue to be withheld from his family. 

And all the political class in the state has behaved as if they could do little about it. More so, the Chief Minister whose response has veered from publicly complaining about his advise against hanging being ignored by the centre to being kept in dark about the hanging itself. And ever since CM may have issued statements against the hanging, warned of a fallout in Kashmir and Afzal’s long term iconization for the new generation of Kashmiri youth, even seeking his mortal remains but there has never been an occasion when he has made us confident of his will or ability to do something about it. 

Unlike Tamil Nadu government, his government couldn’t get up the courage to pass the resolution on Afzal and nor does his government build a pressure or even make a case for the return of Afzal’s mortal remains. The truth is that behind the CM’s Afzal outrage – honestly felt or politically dictated – there has been a little veiled squeamishness about being too strongly identified with him. But no such defensiveness for Jayalalitha. Not also for Badal, who has BJP as an ally. Rajiv’s and Beant Singh’s killers respectively are not only an opportunity for political posturing and playing to their constituencies but also for some credible action which forces centre to rethink and revise its decision. 

The point here is not to fan an already deep sense of victimhood in Kashmir but to highlight a persisting democratic paradox in the state: the inability of the so called democratic representatives to adequately represent, respond or even play to the legitimate grievances and sentiments of their people. True, mainstream politics in the state cannot project the sentiment of Azadi but this was also never expected of them. Majority of the people who vote for them are conscious of this fact. But what they want from them is not only to deliver the good governance but also fight for their interests and rights and take an unambiguous stand when New Delhi seems to have discriminated against the state. 

And not only talk about it in no uncertain terms but be seen to act to undo it. But what we get is either apathy, a cryptic silence, may be sometimes a statement or two expressing an opinion or simply a show of silence. If anything, the case of Rajiv’s killers exposes the democracy in the state for what it is always suspected to be – a government by the people but obliged to if not representative of New Delhi. 

Source: [accessed 24 April 2014]

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