An empty open grave and a stone marked ‘Shaheed Afzal Guru’ lie at the Idgah burial ground in Srinagar. Some 80 km from here, in the Seer Jagir village of Sopore district, his family still awaits the remains of Guru, who was hanged to death on February 9, 2013, after being convicted in the Parliament attack case. A year down the line, his wife Tabassum says nothing has changed...“the injustice, the unanswered demands, the open grave”. Excerpts from an interview with Panini Anand:
It’s been a year since your husband was hanged. Will you and Ghalib (their son) be visiting Delhi?
Tell me one good reason why I should come to the capital of India. I hate the Indian government for what they’ve done to me. They killed my husband. They didn’t even let his son and family see his face for the last time. They buried him in the same jail instead of giving the body to the family for his last rites. I have no faith in the government. The conspirators have killed my husband for their dirty politics.
But what about his belongings; don’t you want them back?
We tried. We made a written request to the home ministry of India but they didn’t even bother to reply, forget about the remains and the body. A 14-year-old son was not allowed to see his father’s face. Aapki sarkar, aapki hukumat ghatiya hai. What should I expect from them?
He has a family and every Kashmiri is proud of him. They will bring his remains and belongings back. I don’t want to make it an event for the Indian government and media to propagate themselves as large-hearted.
Have you tried to get help and support from the J&K government?
It is no different from the Indian government; all were conspirators in Afzal’s case. Chief minister Omar Abdullah, whom I prefer to call Omar Singh, he has his own plane. He knew about the hanging. He should have taken the family there; at least, the son. So, I don’t think there is any reason to trust Omar Singh as well.
The Supreme Court recently said, “Whether the convict is a terrorist or an ordinary criminal, delay is a ground for commutation of death sentence.” Do you think Afzal would have been spared the noose had the judgement come earlier?
"The J&K govt is no different from the Indian govt. Omar Abdullah, whom I prefer to call Omar Singh, has a plane. He could have flown us.”
How was this going to happen, anyway? Afzal was 21st in the row, Ajmal Kasab was 28th. They hanged both of them because they were Muslims. Now they have given relief to the convicts of the Indira Gandhi assassination case, to a Sikh (Bhullar) and many others. The Supreme Court announced the death sentence for Afzal in 2005 but he was hanged to death in 2013, without informing anyone from his family or even the media. Afzal’s mercy petition was before the government of India. They hanged my husband for their votebank politics. But this Congress is cursed and look at what has happened to them now; they are suffering.
So you are blaming the Indian government for not informing the family....
Of course, and they didn’t even give us the body and belongings. The Indian government should learn something from the Pakistani government. They have at least given the body of Sarabjit Singh, who died in Pakistan, to the family and the Indian government participated in his last rites. If Pakistan can give the body to the family, why can’t the Indian government do the same? Isn’t the government of India more inhuman than Pakistan? Pakistan has given a misaal for India; they must learn something from them.
So, what is your demand now from the Indian government?
What to demand? They say that British rulers were brutal and bad but they are worse than them. The injustice that happened in Afzal’s case did not happen even in the case of Bhagat Singh. I also read Bhagat Singh and the history. I find the British better than the Indian government.
But what about the politics around Afzal’s name and his death within the state? The separatists, regional parties and others...
All of them are trying to get political benefit out of his death. But they will not succeed. Afzal is a shaheed now. Every single child is proud of him. His martyrdom will give power to the struggles of people in the Valley. The grave prepared for Afzal in Srinagar is still waiting for him and I am sure the people of Kashmir will get the remains of their hero here someday. Ghalib, our only son, is in 9th class now. He will grow up here. He doesn’t have to go to jail (Tihar) to pay respect at his father’s grave.