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Afzal hanging: The politics of it all

Saturday, 9 February 2013 - 4:11pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Talking of political mileage, what do you read of Manish Tewari’s press briefing which obviously was prepared simultaneous to the plan to hang Afzal Guru on this date.

It is amazing to see the political mileage the Congress is keen to derive out of its hanging of Afzal Guru.  If anything, the government should be lambasted why it took that many years to hang this terrorist after so many years of the Supreme Court of India having awarded the death sentence.

The government (read Congress) certainly deserves no credit for this hanging. As in the case of Ajmal Kasab, there are no kudos required for the so called secrecy about hanging a terrorist within precincts of a prison. The pomp and show of a press brief by the
home ministry too was unwarranted. Issuing of a press note would have sufficed.

RPN Singh stating this hanging should not be used for political mileage is farcical when the government itself is drawing political mileage from it. His statement that this government has always taken the toughest action against terrorists is belied by the delay in hanging Afzal Guru. Besides, what about arresting hate monger
Asaduddin Owaisi in 2013 after media uproar, despite non-bailable warrants being issued against him as far back as 2005?

Talking of political mileage, what do you read of Manish Tewari’s press briefing which obviously was prepared simultaneous to the plan to hang Afzal Guru on this date. Note his reference to Gujarat riots. Where is the connection with hanging of Afzal Guru with Gujarat riots? Note again that Kasab was hanged before the last
Parliament session and Afzal is now hanged before the approaching Parliament budget session. What about the accused of the 1993 Mumbai train bombings?

You can visualise the government gloating over the hanging of Afzal Guru, ‘tough government’ and Gujarat riots et al. Is this not drawing political mileage? RPN Singh saying we had to look at “all the legal angles” is a joke (decade plus?) as is his explanation that the government acted only after the President returned
the mercy appeal is yet another farcical statement. Considering that the President has been reduced to a government (read Congress) agent and timing of the return of the mercy appeal is dictated by none other than the government.

Why is Digvijay linking Afzal Guru’s hanging with communalism? Is this not politicising the hanging?

The most humorous part of Manish Tiwari’s press brief was his statement that the UPA government has maintained a GDP growth rate of 8.2%. Conclusively proves how this government is trying to fool the public with fudged figures.

The government is obviously is not aware of the ground situation and firmly believes that the public is totally gullible. Imagine the claim to 8.2% GDP growth when global assessment of the current fiscal is 5% growth and Chidambaram is desperately trying to soft paddle it by saying no it will be 5.5%.

What the government has never discussed in Parliament are issues like some five lakh crore annual subsidy the country has landed into, despite which prices shoot up, that only four lakh Indians have declared their annual income of Rs20 lakh and above and above all only a miniscule part of all the so called ‘garibi hatao’ schemes reach intended beneficiaries.

Why Afzal Guru was hanged today has multiple reasons. The foremost is Modi’s speech at SRCC and subsequent statements by the EU and German Embassy heads that appears to have rattled the Congress endlessly. The alacrity with which Congress spokesmen came up with the issue of Gujarat riots immediately thereafter (amusingly downplaying and even denouncing the  Gujarat development model as a lie) and orchestrated TV debates the very same evening onwards is a spectacle. The second reason is the BJP line of boycotting Shinde of “Shri Hafiz fame” during the upcoming Parliament session.

Interestingly, when Shinde came up with the startling statement that BJP and RSS are running terror training camps, nobody asked him then why he as home minister is playing marbles in his office; why with the enormous forces under his command
has he not attacked these camps or for that matter, does he know where these camps are located. The fact is that he and his ministry has no idea how to deal with the Maoist insurgency.

Note, his predecessor (Chidambaram) stated in 2010
that the Maoist insurgency will be resolved in the next 2-3 years. Interesting, while making this statement, Chidambaram quoted “as per government sources” as if he was home minister of another country – the same ping-pong Sheila Diksit and Shinde are playing concerning women security in Delhi with no one
accountable – how so convenient. The next reason perhaps is the letter by Subramanium Swamy to Manmohan Singh saying if Afzal Guru is not hanged by February 15, he will move the Supreme Court for a case of criminal contempt against him.

The ultimate reason of course is to somehow portray the Congress as tough on terrorism and highlight Gujarat riots to target Modi in backdrop of approaching elections – draw maximum political mileage from hanging of Afzal.

That is the reason of repeated emphasis that no one should draw political mileage while doing the reverse. Though without political leanings, it is amusing to see how the media is used to morph perceptions. Take Godhra itself. The Gujarat riots were initiated by a mob of some 900 strong Muslims attacking a railway bogey of 58 Hindu pilgrims, including 25 women and 15 children, returning from Ayodhya and burnt alive.

In the riots that followed, 790 Muslims and 254 more Hindus were killed and 223 people went missing. Certainly it was a despicable episode but the BJP is openly alleging that the Congress orchestrated burning the railway bogey to initiate the
riots and this has not been countered by the Congress.

So, Congress can hardly be absolved of initiating the Godhra killings. Compare this with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Northern India where more than 3000 Sikhs were massacred including
publicly in the heart of Delhi and surrounding areas, with their properties burnt by allegedly Congress led mobs.

The Congress has used every conceivable method to tie Modi directly to the Gujarat riots but has failed. Rajiv Gandhi, sworn in as prime minister after his mother's assassination, when asked about the anti-Sikh riots said "when a big tree falls, the earth shakes".

View Rajiv’s statement in the backdrop of Congress efforts to link Modi with the Gujarat riots and you can draw your own conclusions about secularism and communalism.

(Prakash Katoch is a former Special Forces Lieutenant General)

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