Seemingly fearing a backlash, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday reached out to people to clarify that his government did not sign the death warrant of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru unlike in the case of JKLF leader Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, who was hanged 29 years ago in Tihar Jail.
“It is important at this point of time that I clarify that unlike in the case of the execution of Maqbool Bhat, because there was no case against Afzal Guru in Jammu and Kashmir, the state government was not required to sign the warrant of execution or death warrant against Afzal Guru in this matter”, visibly shaken Omar told reporters here.
“I was called by the union home minister at 8 pm on Friday. At the same time, other senior functionaries of the state were informed that after the completion of all legal avenues, the execution of Guru has been scheduled for 8am this morning (Saturday). We were asked to put in place whatever plans and precautions are required to contain the fallout of the execution."
The chief minister also admitted that there is “angst” among the people of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the valley, over the execution of Guru but appealed to the masses to maintain calm to allow “us to get through this period and not let the situation get out of hand”.
“The state government has been constantly making concerns known to the government of India about the possible fallout and ramifications of the execution of Guru. I understand that there is a certain degree of angst as a result of execution. I appeal to the people not to resort to any sort of violent protest which will only make matters worse”, he said.
Omar added that based on their assessment of the situation, the state government has put certain restrictions in various towns and cities across the valley. “Security forces have been mobilised. However the army has not been called out. We are managing the situation with J&K police and paramilitary forces”, he said.
The chief minister also cautioned the people against elements that may try to exploit the situation for their interests. “I also understand there are amongst us those who would like to exploit this situation for their own personal political advantages, thereby putting the people of the state in more inconvenience,” he said.
Unconvinced by Omar’s arguments, the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said the state government cannot absolve itself of responsibility for the hanging of Afzal Guru.
"We believe that the state government cannot be absolved of responsibility in taking this crucial decision that can have long term political implications on the state. National Conference is part of the UPA and it must share responsibility for this decision”, said a PDP spokesperson.
"The PDP made an appeal to the president of India in 2011 to grant clemency to Afzal Guru and convert his death sentence into life imprisonment. We feel that at a time when there is a need to step up measures to reduce the trust deficit between the state and rest of the country the execution of Afzal Guru could produce results to the contrary,” he added.