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December 24, 2006
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December 24, 2006

Page: 5/32

Home > 2006 Issues > December 24, 2006

UPA?s ungallant fall and desperate Afzal defence
By Sandhya Jain

To its everlasting shame, the UPA has preferred to allow family members of the police martyrs who lost their lives defending a terrorist attack upon Parliament in 2001 to return their gallantry awards, rather than meet the aggrieved families and assure them that no injustice would be done to dishonour their valorous dead.

That this is dictated by the UPA?s desperation to woo the Muslim vote in the context of the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh elections is clear from the Prime Minister?s staggering statement that Muslims had the first claim on national resources, following the pre-programmed Sachar Committee report. Ostensibly highlighting the deplorable plight of Muslims in the post-Independence period, the Sachar report fails to explain the Muslim preference for madrasa education to formal secular schooling, nor does it factor in the economic conditions of Muslim artisans and craftsmen who surely must be making a decent living even if they do not go in for formal schooling.

Even more critically, the report does not touch the question why the condition of lowly Muslim converts did not improve under successive Muslim rulers of the past, whose actions and policies resulted in the conversions in the first place. The question is pertinent because missionaries today are citing the poor condition and backwardness of Dalit Christians in order to make a case for reservation benefits, and the clergy of both communities need to be brought to account on this score.

Still, even by the standards of Indian ingratitude, it is shameful that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should be silent in the face of the terrible anguish of the families of the slain policemen, while Home Minister Shivraj Patil feels no remorse in stating blandly that it could take years to process the clemency plea of accused Mohammad Afzal Guru, the brain behind the attack, whose death sentence was recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

Ironically, after Afzal?s mercy campaign was launched by professional India and Hindu baiters like Arundhati Roy, a famous news channel carried an interview by his own brother clearly stating that Afzal had links with the Pakistan-controlled Jaish-e-Mohammad. There could not be a more blistering indictment of the man, and yet his Indian admirers have gone ahead and produced a detective account of the mystery behind the whole Parliament attack, the purpose of which is to suggest that it was the handiwork of the Atal Behari Vajpayee regime! If you find this difficult to believe, just remember that Ms. Roy once wrote a famous ?eye witness? account of the rape-cum-murder of the daughters of a former Congress MP in the Gujarat riots. When the man?s son came from America to perform the last rites, he said he had no unmarried sisters in the state and could not explain the rape-cum-murder story! So much for credibility.

And now this excreable group of human rights activists has joined hands to humiliate the families of national martyrs that they have returned gallantry awards to Rashtrapati Bhavan on the fifth anniversary of the attack. This is a terrible indictment of the ruling coalition, particularly the Congress party, as it means that they have lost all hope for justice and respect from the system. The statement that a political party was egging on the families of the martyrs was simply in poor taste and reflected the supreme indifference of the government to the lives of valiant policemen and the suffering of widows and children.

The Afzal hanging has been shamelessly politicised by various politicians. First Kashmiri Muslim politicians like Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, and Ghulam Nabi Azad all took the stand that it was a case of Kashmir vs. the rest of India. They virtually espoused violence by warning of the ?consequences? of hanging Afzal, with the result that a petrified government sought solace in postponing the hanging. And now, UP and other elections will probably ensure that the petition hangs fire till another government is voted to office.

Ms. Sonia Gandhi has maintained her typical duplicitous silence on the issue, though the Afzal drama has stretched over two months. Initially, the perception of public revulsion made Congress ask senior leader Digvijay Singh to oppose the mercy petition, but thereafter the party took a different stand on the Muslim question in general, and seems to have decided that clemency for Afzal is a small price to pay for the Muslim vote.

Congress is playing with fire. Having lost connection with the people, it does not realize that the public at large has deep respect for soldiers and policemen who lay down their lives in the defence of the nation. People also respect institutions like Parliament, but they do not respect criminals in Parliament and appreciate the judiciary when persons like Shibu Soren are sentenced for murder. Any attempt to infringe judicial power in this context is viewed with distaste. Thus, even at this stage, congress would do well to quickly process the mercy petition and expedite the hanging of Afzal so that the martyrs are not disrespected in death and their families spared further agony.

It is worth recalling the words of former Chief Justice of India Mr. R.C. Lahoti, in the context of terrorist attacks: ?Which penalty is required other than death for this dastardly act? ?.. We forget the family of those killed, injured and totally uprooted?? As he rightly stressed, the first duty of Government is to enforce the law as ?nothing can destroy a Government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws or worse, its own disregard of the charter of its existence.? The UPA would do well to read the writing on the wall.

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