Conflict & Justice

Kashmir assembly uproar stymies resolution demanding clemency for convicted terrorist

Chaos in the Kashmir state assembly prevented the passage of a proposed resolution to demand clemency for Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri sentenced to death for his involvement in the 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament Wednesday, reports India's NDTV.

A scheduled vote on the resolution had to be postponed after protests by Bharatiya Janata Party legislators forced repeated adjournments, and the Congress demanded their expulsion for allegedly breaking rules against cross-voting during the winter session, the news channel said.

The opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) accused Omar Abdullah's ruling National Conference government of scuttling the debate and vote, while both the National Conference and the Congress said they would not issue a whip and would instead urge members to vote according to their conscience on the issue.  

The Hindu nationalist BJP legislators -- clinging to the party's zero-tolerance for terrorism policy -- naturally tried to shout the resolution down before it could reach a vote.

The proposed resolution was been inspired by events in the Tamil Nadu assembly, where legislators passed a unanimous resolution asking that the death sentence be commuted for three men who were scheduled to be executed this month for assassinating former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Their case is now being reviewed by the Madras High Court.

In J&K, the resolution on Afzal Guru has been introduced by independent MLA Engineer Rashid. He says that although he condemns the attack on Parliament, any decision to hang Afzal Guru will have serious repercussions on the situation in Kashmir.

Afzal Guru, or Mohammad Afzal, was convicted for plotting an attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001. Five terrorists had attacked Parliament House in the Winter Session, killing seven security personnel, before being shot dead. Afzal was found guilty and sentenced to death by a sessions court in 2002. 

The verdict was upheld by the Delhi High Court on October 29, 2003 and then by the Supreme Court on August 4, 2005. Subsequently, the sessions court set October 20, 2006 as the date for hanging Afzal Guru. But his wife Tabassum Guru then filed a mercy petition.