NEW DELHI: Five militants, who attacked the Indian parliament in December 2001 and for conspiring with whom Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged at Tihar Jail here on Saturday morning, were carrying about 30 kg of RDX which could have destroyed the whole parliament building and decimated the entire leadership of the country.
Explosives and Rs 10 lakh given to 43-year-old Afzal Guru by the militants were also recovered from his Delhi hideout. Actually, this Delhi hideout was the residence of his cousin Shaukat Hussain Guru who had married Navjot Sandhu (known as Afsana Guru after her conversion).
Most political leaders, including the then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi, were inside Parliament when the five militants in an ambassador car stormed the complex, killing eight security men and a gardener on December 13, 2001. One journalist, who suffered injuries, died later.
All the five militants were killed before they could enter Parliament. Their plan was to take India’s entire leadership hostage. The attack brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a war as India undertook Operation Parakram for troop mobilization.
The attack was planned by Jaish-e-Mohammad which wants India to leave Kashmir.
Jaish leader Maulana Masood Azhar, who is in Pakistan, had hatched the conspiracy. This is the man who was freed by India in exchange for the release of hostages during the Kandahar hijacking of Indian Airlines’s flight IC 814 in 1999. He roams free in Pakistan today.
Maulana Masood Azhar had created Jaish-e-Mohammad to attack India after his release in 1999.
Pakistan’s ISI supported Masood’s Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hafiz Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Toiba in fueling militancy in Kashmir.
Guru, who comes from Doabagh village which is five km from Sopore, first joined the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and got training in arms from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. He claimed his descent from Kashmiri Brahmins who had converted to Islam centuries ago.
Later, while serving with a pharmaceutical firm as its area manager – the role which made him shuttle between Srinagar and Delhi – that he was roped in by the Pak-based terror outfit to aid it in the parliament attack.
Initially, Guru, his cousin and Delhi University student Shaukat Hussain Guru and Delhi college teacher SAR Geelani were given the death sentence in 2002. But the other two were later spared.
Shaukat Hussain Guru’s wife Navjot (Afsana) was also sentenced to five years in jail. But her conviction was later overturned on appeal.
Guru, who spent over 10 years in jail, was told about his execution on Friday evening. “He was clearly surprised, somewhat taken aback. Perhaps he had not expected this, considering the long period his mercy petition was kept pending,” a jail official was quoted as saying.
At 6 am on Saturday morning when the jail superintendent and doctors went to wake him up, he was already up, having got up at 5.30 am as he was an early riser, said the official.
“He looked slightly taken aback the night before. But he was at ease this morning. He was wearing a white kurta. He said his morning prayers,” an official said. He was “very peaceful and calm during the final moments. He looked very composed.’’
He had his breakfast before he was taken to the gallows, just 20 metres away from his cell. His death warrant was read out to him, and the hangman pulled the lever from under him at about 7.30 am. He was pronounced dead at 8 am. No one knows who the hangman was this time. But the specially made rope to hang him was brought from Buxar in Bihar.
Later, Guru’s body, like that of Kashmiri separatist Maqbool Bhat in February 1984, was buried inside the jail in an unmarked grave. It may be mentioned here that Pakistan-backed full-scale militancy broke out in Kashmir five years after Bhat’s execution and in 1990 JKLF militants killed district and sessions judge Neelkanth Ganjoo who had given the death sentence to Maqbool Bhat.
It remains to be seen what impact Guru’s hanging will have on the situation in the Valley where they have kept vacant the first grave in Srinagar’s `martyrs graveyard’ for Bhat’s remains which they think they will one day bring from his Tihar Jail grave.
Incidentally, this was the first execution at Tihar since the hanging of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh in 1989 in the Indira Gandhi assassination case. They were also cremated on the jail premises.
Even as the Kashmir Valley remains under indefinite curfew, the Hurriyat Conference has given a call for four days of mourning for Afzal Guru. The Hurriyat has called Guru’s execution a “political killing which has nothing to do with the legal system of India.’’
Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who head the two factions of the Hurriyat, have been placed under house arrest in New Delhi.
With the entire Valley under indefinite curfew and mobile services jammed, over three dozen people were reported injured in clashes in different parts of Kashmir. Engineer Rashid, MLA from Langate in north Kashmir, was arrested when he tried to take out a protest march.
Security measures have also been beefed up at the on-going Mahakumbh Mela where over 15 million have poured into Allahabad for the Mahasan (holy dip) at the Sangam. Intelligence agencies fear Kashmiri terrorist group Harkat-ul-Ansar might be planning an attack to cause a stampede at the jampacked ghats.
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