The innocence of Afzal Guru

I’m far more convinced that Narendra Modi is singularly guilty for the Gujarat riots of 2002 that killed close to one thousand Muslims than I am of Afzal Guru’s guilt in the Indian Parliament attack of 2001. Yet, if life must continue to be unfair, Narendra Modi might actually be the prime minister of India if he has to oppose a political Lilliputian such as Rahul Gandhi who simply does not have the wherewithal to run a country of India’s magnitude.

Narendra Modi is the exact opposite of the current prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh. Modi will stop to nothing where Manmohan Singh does not make a beginning. Modi is a relentless and cruel man who knows politics while Manmohan Singh is a passive and weak person who has no clue what politics means.

I don’t think the likes of Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor are remotely a match to the wit and viciousness of Narendra Modi. The former are better off going bowling with a bunch of other upper class “boys” like themselves who think that growing up is a waste of time. As much as I dislike the BJP for being a deeply communal and classist party, I would have been less worried with the prospect of seeing Sushma Swaraj in the seat of the prime minister than either Advani or Modi.

I refuse to go by the evidence manufactured by the police and submitted to courts of law for which I have little or no respect. Such evidence is relative to the guilt of those who have the power to hurt without having to pay for the consequences of their actions. Modi falls in that category of relentless human beings who will ultimately be defeated but will have their brief victories along the way. Evidence means little to Modi. It was not evidence that killed Afzal Guru but politics and Modi, in particular, who stands to be a formidable opponent to Rahul Gandhi as the potential prime minister of India. Sonia Gandhi’s maternal love refuses to brook opposition of any kind. That’s the problem with all love—it needs its own delusions to exist as love. It’s obvious as daylight that Rahul Gandhi, like his father Rajeev Gandhi, is simply not prime minister material and never will be.

I’m not a priest at the confessional or a psychoanalyst to determine guilt. Therefore, my view of Afzal Guru will be that he was innocent enough not to be given the death sentence. This applies to everyone who fights for freedom from repression and brutality of a certain kind. There could be something wrong with that kind of innocence because it does not educate itself to think in broader terms. It’s a kind of innocence with more contradictions that it can deal with at any point in time. It, however, is innocence. There cannot be two views on that.

What is not innocence is the coldly calculated timing of the execution of Afzal Guru for opportunistic reasons. Afzal Guru’s torturers in the Indian army, the judges who are unaware that they will be “judged one day by life itself which is many times greater than power and the members of the Parliament who claim to represent the people of this country—I see no innocence in them. Their guilt is beyond any reasonable doubt. They’ve divided people when it suited them to do so and committed acts of violence that would make an average person shrink in terror if only he or she barely understood the dimensions of that violence.

The current Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman, PJ Kurien, was apparently involved in the Suryanelli gang-rape case of 1996 and, whatever may be the truth of the matter, a majority taken out of a sample from any part of India would actually subscribe to the view that he was one of the men who raped the minor girl. There might be some doubts somewhere as to the motives of Afzal Guru. But very few people in my view would have any doubts as to the involvement of PJ Kurien in the gang-rape. Or in using a child prostitute as one of the so-called judges who acquitted all thirty-five members is insisting upon. In fact the judge went to the extent of calling the victim a “deviant” who should not be believed.

I’m not here to determine innocence or guilt. Though in principle I’m against death punishment I’m convinced there are people who deserve to die and any mercy shown to them will have to be for reasons larger than life.

I was thirty-five when Afzal Guru was sentenced to death in 2002. Today I’m forty-five. A decade of his life was spent in fear and waiting—a decade of prison life that is punishment far worse than death in many ways. People talk about corruption and women’s rights more today than they did a decade ago. In ten years, I could see that we as Indians have neither emotionally nor economically been able to integrate as one people. The politics of meaningless suspicion continues as usual and no one region, language, dialect or caste person is willing to accommodate another person from a different group or part of the country.

In the midst of this chaos that is the rest of India how did we expect the people who belong to Kashmir to feel one with this nation? Their feelings of anger and hatred are genuine because we haven’t given them a moderate and just solution. We haven’t given them the possibility of real autonomy. We’ve been imposing leaders on them and indirectly perpetuating extremism because like the Palestinians, the average Kashmiri knows that the terms and conditions of his or her existence are dictated by “national” interest in which he or she has little or no personal stake whatsoever. The innocence of Afzal Guru is the innocence of the Kashmiri struggle for economic and social independence.

The guilt of men like Narendra Modi is the guilt of India as a nation-state. In entertaining the possibility of Modi becoming the prime minister of India, all the conditions are being created for the making of a violent social order. Both the Congress Party and the BJP do not have anything serious to offer to the people of this country but the BJP distinguishes itself by wearing the badge of communalism. Hindutva like Nazism is an evil that must be combated at all costs. It has nothing to do with the greatness of Hinduism—its philosophy or culture—or the Hindus in general. Religious minorities for all the right reasons have every reason to feel threatened under BJP rule and more so if they happen to be Kashmiris. Narendra Modi has effectively demonstrated that you can use the state machinery against one group of people and yet be efficient as a chief minister in the modern sense of the term. An attitude of ruthlessness and developmental goals are not opposed to one another.

The average Indian being the passive hero-worshipper that he is trained to be will gladly fall in line with the interests of someone like Modi who gives the illusion of stability. The American interests in India, too, are best served with someone like Modi in power. This is exactly what the West needs in the third world: a strong ruler who will allow their MNCs to function without any worry and to whom they can sell arms and ammunition that will be used to murder local people in the name of national security. This is the smell of blood on the hands that Lady Macbeth knows in her madness that all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten.

Whether he is guilty or not, my heartfelt sympathies are with men like Afzal Guru. They are misguided and their vision of the world or the making of resistance is a distorted one. I say this because I’m not a Kashmiri. The point though is that Afzal Guru went to the gallows a proud man without begging for his life from a state that he despised or did not trust with all his heart. The media says he died without “remorse.” A conscienceless and servile media can make such a statement about a man who just died while we are not even clear as to the extent of his guilt. India as a nation should feel remorse for not being able to keep men like Narendra Modi out of the corridors of power; for allowing the corrupt rich to do whatever they like with impunity and for abandoning the weak and the deprived.

Prakash Kona is a writer, teacher and researcher who lives in Hyderabad, India. He is currently working as an Associate Professor at the Department of English Literature, The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad.

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