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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 9, February 16, 2013

Afzal Guru Case: Pancholi and Haksar’s Press Statement

Monday 18 February 2013

We are giving this statement on why we have decided to withdraw as the Guru family’s counsels. We would have preferred to have withdrawn quietly but due to subsequent events it is not possible to represent them any further.

Both of us have been engaged with the Kashmir question since the 1990s and were part of fact finding teams which exposed the human rights violations committed on the people of Kashmir in the wake of the insurgency.

Our stand was at the time and continues to be that the conflict in Kashmir must be settled in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Innumerable statements given in our personal capacity, through the organisation to which we belong, as well as the book written by Nandita called Framing Geelani, Hanging Afzal: Patriotism in the Time of Terror makes our stand clear.

People have asked why we did not represent Afzal at the time of his trial. The simple truth is that we were never approached. However, after he was condemned to death, his wife approached us to write the mercy petitions on her behalf and later on his behalf, we have represented Afzal. Without his vakalatnama we could not have visited him in jail.

After Afzal was hanged the family members phoned us from Kashmir on the same day asking for help. In accordance with the wishes of the said family members we have asked the jail authorities for permission to visit Afzal’s grave; and later for his belongings and also for his body.

Apart from this the family members also asked us to make arrangements for their stay in Delhi and provide security. When the first death warrant was issued in September 2006 the family members had great difficulty in finding safe accommodation and we had made some arrangements. This time the situation is even more volatile and so we approached the Lok Sabha MP of the relevant constituency and through him contacted Kashmir House and the Resident Commissioner agreed to allot rooms for the family. This was immediately conveyed to the said family members and they did not express any misgivings.

We do not belong to any political party and are critical of their stand on the Kashmir issue. However, we believe in engagement with the institutions and working through them because there is no other alternative but to do so.

Now there have arisen unseemly contro-versies and we do not wish to be a part to these discussions. We also do not want to distract from the main issues on which we make our stand absolutely clear:

1. Afzal Guru did not get a fair trial; he was a victim of prejudice and injustice built into the criminal judicial processes;

2. We strongly disagree with the reasoning in the Supreme Court’s judgement saying that Afzal Guru had to be hanged to “satisfy the collective conscience of Indians”. Many Indians across the country have condemned the hanging.

3. We believe that the secret execution of Afzal without giving him the opportunity to meet with his family speaks volumes of the lack of humanity of the authorities;

4. We believe that Afzal’s family has the right to go to his grave if they wish; to get his belongings and tohave his body.

The clause on disposal of the body of executed priosoners the Delhi Jail Manual states:

The body of any prisoner dying or executed in jail, shall be made over to the friends of relatives of the deceased, if claimed by them before the body had been disposed of by cremation or burial, unless there are special reasons to the contrary, i.e. the prisoner has died of any infectious disease, or if there are grounds for supposing that the prisoner’s funeral will be the occasion for a demonstration.

We are shocked that in violation of this rule the family of Afzal or his counsel were not informed before the execution so that they could make a claim to the body as per the rules. In fact under the rules the family or friends can claim the body of an executed prisoner even after the had been buried. In a democracy the government cannot refuse to hand over the body on the ground that the people want to have a funeral procession.

We feel sad that all our efforts to build bridges between the Indian people and Kashmiri people are constantly undermined by the Indian autho-rities who condemn our efforts as ‘anti-national’ and in Kashmir some political groups feel these offers of solidarity and friendship with suspicion.

Under these facts and circumstances we have decided not to represent Afzal’s family. We sent our heartfelt condolences to them, especially his wife and son.

N.D. Pancholi`
G-3, Plot 617, Shalimar
Garden Ext.1
Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, UP
Mob: 9811099532

Nandita Haksar
163, Vasant Enclave
New Delhi-110 057
Mob: 9910940248

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