Our criminal justice system has so many infirmities, including not-so-stringent laws and their unsatisfactory implementation, that it is not quite often that our prosecuting agencies succeed in getting a terrorist convicted. Further, judiciary awards the death sentence to a person only in the rarest of rare cases. That is why the conviction of Afzal Guru, the mastermind behind the outrageous attack on Parliament is significant and must be taken to its logical conclusion. It was no ordinary incident. It was an attack on the symbol of our sovereignty and a conspiracy to eliminate the entire class of our elected representatives. It is hard to imagine what would have happened if the terrorists had succeeded in their devilish design. Afzal whose death sentence has been confirmed by the highest judiciary deserves no mercy. Any leniency shown to such a person because separatist elements, vote bank practitioners and bleeding hearts want the President to pardon the man who has not even asked for it would send across a dangerous message to the terrorists outfits and their sponsors. They will interpret the grant of clemency as a sign of our weakness and may be encouraged to launch more devastating and devilish attacks on our national and religious symbols. Our war against terrorism, already weakened by UPA Government'ssoft policy, would lose its momentum if we fail to give deterrent punishment to one found guilty beyond a shadow of doubt by all the tiers of our judicial system.
No one is surprised by the vociferous demand for pardoning Afzal raised by separatist elements in J&K. They never let go even half an opportunity to arouse anti-Indian sentiments. That the CPM has also joined them is in line with its strategy to weaken the nation and create chaos essential for a communist dictatorship to take over. What is surprising and painful is J&K Chief Minister Gulam Nabi Azad'sreported telephonic request to the Prime Minister to recommend clemency for the terrorist. What are his compulsions? Communal vote bank? Personal ambition? The argument that hanging Afzal would hurt the sentiments of the people of the Valley amounts to conceding that they approve of the attack on Parliament as no one is saying Guru was framed. There is no mass sympathy for the terrorist. It is only the separatist and their friends that are agitated. Will these elements stop supporting terrorism and separatism if the President were to pardon the man found guilty of a heinous crime? If the answer is in the negative, what is the point in tampering with the Supreme Court judgement in the case? The bleeding hearts among ?liberals? need to do some introspection. Why do they get agitated when a Muslim is to be brought to justice and handed down a punishment commensurate with his crime? Why did they not raise such a hue and cry to save the lives of Indira Gandhi'sassassins?
S.A.R. Geelani, a co-accused in the conspiracy case, is in the forefront of the campaign to seek clemency for Afzal. He lost no time after his release from jail to announce that he would continue to work for the ?cause?. It is not difficult to understand what he means by the ?cause?. Whatever else he may be, he has not shown by his actions that he is a patriot. It may not be well-known that he escaped conviction on a technical ground, as the prosecution didn'tproduce as witness the person who had recorded Geelani'selectronic communications with co-conspirators. While upholding his acquittal by the High Court, the Supreme Court observed that Geelani was not above suspicion. If the CBI failed to make a strong case against the accused in the High Court, is it within its legal rights to file a review petition in the Supreme Court requesting permission for a re-trial of Geelani? One is not a student of law and, therefore, can only suggest that the prosecuting agency examine the possibility.
M S Bitta, Chairman of the All-India Anti-Terrorist Front, deserves to be commanded for his valiant fight against terrorism. Himself a victim of terrorism, Bitta has done a lot to neutralise the motivated ?save-the-terrorist? campaign. Bitta lost a leg and suffered serious injuries when he and other Youth Congress workers were attacked by Khalistani terrorists outside the organisation'snational headquarters in Delhi. He survived the bomb blast but many of his colleagues lost their lives. He has brought into sharp focus the deeply hurt sentiments of the families of those who laid down their lives fighting the terrorist during the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001. Why the elements that are so concerned about the sentiments of Muslims in the Valley have shown no sympathy for the victims of the conspiracy hatched by Afzal and his gang. And how about the sentiments of a billion plus Indian patriots who were shattered by the 2001 attack and want the guilty to be punished. Nehru had once said he would hang by the nearest lamp-post those indulging in corruption. If the first Prime Minister of India had no compunction in asking for a death sentence to a corrupt person, why are our bleeding hearts keen to protect a convicted terrorist? No less a person than L K Advani, the then Deputy Prime Minister of India, had suggested death sentence for rapists. Perhaps it was an emotional outburst. But demand for hanging the terrorist is based on solid logic and is in the national interest as it would strength our resolve to fight terrorism and send the right message to terrorists.
The President, one is confident, is suitably aware of the sentiments of the large sections of the society in this regard. He has the right to reject?at least once?the recommendation, if any, of the Government for mercy to Afzal. Let all concerned note that clemency for the guilty terrorist may provoke nation wide protests and unrest. Let the Government demonstrate its resolve to continue the war against terrorism.