Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday condemned the execution of Jaish-e-Mohammad militant Afzal Guru for his role in the Parliament attack case, even as indefinite curfew continued in the Valley for the second day.
Omar said it was a “tragedy” that Guru was not allowed to meet his family before he was hanged and not allowed a “final farewell”.
Expressing himself against death penalty because “I have no bloodlust,” Omar said as long as capital punishment exists in the statute there should be no “pick and choose”.
Mobile Internet service remained down for the second day in the Valley as a “precautionary measure” and news channels were aired by cable TV operators as per “government directive”. Newspapers also failed to hit stands on Sunday morning due to “media clampdown by authorities in Kashmir on Saturday night”.
Reports said people tried to defy curfew at a few places during the day but the situation was brought under control immediately. Srinagar city has been turned into a fortress with thousands of troopers manning the lanes.
On Saturday, defying the restrictions, violent mobs had pelted stones at police and Central Reserve Police personnel in Baramulla, Srinagar and South Kashmir’s Anantnag districts. At least, 38 people, including 23 policemen, were injured, forcing the authorities to impose harsher restrictions on Sunday.
A 31-year-old man drowned in the Sumbal area of Bandipora district in North Kashmir after he was allegedly chased by the police and forced to jump into the Jhelum river.
The police told Deccan Herald: “Tariq Ahmad Mir was trying to turn his boat back to the other side of the river on spotting a group of stone pelters which led to the mishap. There were six people in the boat. While Tariq was drowned, five others were rescued”.
A police spokesperson said that curfew continued in major towns of the Valley on Sunday with the situation remaining “normal by and large.”
Even as the chief minister questioned Guru’s hanging in a hush-hush manner, sources said he had prior information about the decision.
Omar had told a national news channel: “ I wish we were the ones authorised to give the news to the family.”
The sources, however, claimed Omar was informed about the decision when he was in New Delhi on January 31 where he met several leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
“Omar had a detailed meeting over the issue with Manmohan Singh, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who is also part of the Cabinet Committee on Security, on January 31 in New Delhi,” they added.
The Jammu and Kashmir Directorate of Information circulated the statement about Omar’s meeting with the central leadership in New Delhi on January 31 itself. “Though it is a routine matter, the official statement on his meeting with Sonia Gandhi was a little surprising. Omar didn’t want that the news should get leaked to media in anyway and he ensured that his meeting with the Central leadership should look like a routine one. He asked the state Information Department to circulate news about his meeting with the leadership in Delhi,” the sources said.
“Even Sonia discussed the issue with Omar on the same day. Though Omar had some reservation about the consequences on the streets in the Valley, the central leadership convinced him that there was no way out but to hang Guru to silence the right wing BJP leadership,” they added.
Alienation and injustice
Omar said the execution would reinforce a sense of alienation and injustice among the youth in the Valley. He observed that the long-term implications of Guru’s hanging were “far more worrying” as they were related to the new generation of youth in Kashmir “who may not have identified with Maqbool Bhat but will identify with Afzal Guru.”