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DNA Special: J&K Congress leaders press for handing over Afzal Guru's body

Friday, 15 February 2013 - 9:00am IST Updated: Thursday, 14 February 2013 - 9:57pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

The central government is looking into suggestions by some top Congress leaders to hand over body of the hanged Parliament attack convict Guru to his family for burial in his village.

The central government is looking into suggestions by some top Congress leaders to hand over body of the hanged Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru to his family for burial in his village near Sopore to defuse the situation. But, sources told DNA that suggestion was still at formative stage, and any decision will be taken after watching the evolving situation in Kashmir over next few weeks.

On the forefront of demanding the body be returned to families are the leaders of the Jammu and Kashmir Congress leaders, who feel their political space in Kashmir Valley and Muslim majority of Jammu region has been squeezed by the ruling National Conference (NC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Both the Kashmir mainstream parties took public stand on opposing hanging of Guru and have now joined with separatists in demanding his body be returned to Kashmir.

The state Congress leaders, who are are here lobbying for the ticket in the upcoming Legislative Council elections in the state have conveyed their worries to party high command. Their belief is that the Muslim majority  areas of Jammu region had voted overwhelming for the party during past assembly polls. They believe the party will have to pay heavy price in any elections in the state unless some remedial measures are adopted quickly to send out a proper message to the agitated Kashmiris.

The grave for Afzal has been already dug in the martyrs' graveyard in the downtown Srinagar to keep his hanging high on the mind of the Kashmiris, but the tempo can be reduced if the government persuades the family to bury him in his village itself. The state Congress leaders think the family will agree to such a suggestion since even his last letter to his wife, Afzal has appealed for maintaining peace.

Encouraged by the  last letter writing by Guru to his family asking for peace and avoiding bloodshed as reported in the media, and Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh going  went public  that it was unfair to deny a last meeting of Afzal with the family, the state leaders have also joined the chorus that returning his body may be a kind of package to address frayed nerves. "According to procedures, the convict's last wish has to be granted. If it has not been done, it is unfair," he said after listening to these party leaders how Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has put all blame on the Congress for the "political decision" in the hanging.

It is also a public knowledge in the Kashmir valley that the Army and the Unified Headquarters as also the Intelligence Bureau had also conveyed that this was not the right time for the hanging and hence the full blame is coming on the Congress.

The demand for hand over of Afzal's body for burial in Kashmir has been coming since last Saturday when he was buried in the Tihar Jails premises itself, soon after his execution. The family has written to Omar Abdullah also for getting it the body, but the chief minister did not take any responsibility, just saying that he would take this up with the Centre.

The chief minister's apprehension comes from the way the Kashmiri youths have been using photo of Afzal extensively on the social media not only to protest against the hanging, but also propagating victimhood due to government decision of not returning his body and also not informing to the family about his hanging.

The state Congress leaders say the party had earned a lot of goodwill of the people because of many measures taken by the centre in the past few years. But all stand washed out from the hanging, which may become yet another reference point for revival of the militancy. They are worried that the hanging has seriously undermined the peace process in valley as the repercussions would be felt for a long time to come.

They leaders  were quite happy over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing his displeasure to Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde for not following the basic parameters of informing in advance Afzal Guru's family about his hanging.  Sources say Shinde has already given his explanation to the Prime Minister that he was not at fault.

After signing the order in lieu of President Pranab Mukherjee rejecting the clemency petition, Shinde said he had asked Home Secretary Raj Kumar Singh to follow the normal procedure in completing the task.

Singh, may have to explain why he asked the Tihar Jails authorities to sent out the message only on Friday, a day before the hanging, knowing well that a Speed Post letter won't reach the remote village in Kashmir on the same day to help the family rush to Delhi for a last meeting with him.

Digvijay Singh was strong votary of awarding death sentence to Afzal to execute Supreme Court verdict. But he has been also on the forefront criticising government for not extending “basic human rights” to the family.

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