Ummid Assistant

Jamia Millia launches courses on China, Afghanistan

IGNOU launches value education programme for teachers

Welcome Guest! You are here: Home Views & Analysis

Politics of death sentences in India

Saturday October 01, 2011 02:16:07 PM, Amulya Ganguli, IANS

Prima facie, it is not easy to refute Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's argument that if the Tamil Nadu and Punjab legislatures can ask for the pardon of Rajiv Gandhi's killers and Khalistani terrorist Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, why should those Kashmiris be pilloried who want a similar reprieve for Afzal Guru, the terrorist involved in the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001.

Unfortunately, there are reasons why secessionism in Kashmir arouses greater passions than separatist movements elsewhere. One is its duration. The prolonged spell is also coupled with a sense of betrayal because Kashmir was once the first choice of everyone in the rest of the country as a holiday destination. After 1989, it fell off the tourist itineraries.

But it isn't only the two-decade-long militancy which distinguishes Kashmir from the other areas of unrest, as in the northeast, for instance. What also complicates matters are some of the flawed interpretations of the centuries-old interactions of Hindu and Muslim civilisations in the subcontinent, which finally led to the country's partition.

Although Kashmir has remained with India and has its own syncretic tradition, there are political elements in India who want to exploit its Muslim background. But more of that later. For the present, it will be worthwhile looking at another reason why Kashmir is different. It is Pakistan's involvement in a "proxy war" in the valley, which has underlined the brutal reality of the jehadi objective of bleeding India with a thousand cuts.

But even more relevant is the political expediency of the Hindu right, which was hinted at by Omar Abdullah when he asked whether the fact that Afzal Guru was a Muslim made the clemency moves in the Kashmir assembly unacceptable.

Few will deny the basis of the accusation. It is no secret that the political weltanschauung of the saffron brotherhood comprising the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and others is based on an anti-minority outlook.

The question of Afzal Guru's death sentence has become mixed up, therefore, with the communal mindset of the Hindu right. This isn't the case with either Rajiv Gandhi's killers or the Khalistani terrorist since neither Sinhala Tamil nor Sikh separatism has the long background of Hindu-Muslim relations in the subcontinent which are projected in a negative light by the saffron brigade.

While the BJP's political compulsions make it insist on even advancing the date for carrying out Afzal Guru's death sentence, with its voluble president, Nitin Gadkari, asking whether the Muslim terrorist is not being hanged because he is the Congress' "son-in-law", a comment typical of the coarse jibes which the party uses to mobilise its core group of supporters, the BJP cannot but be embarrassed by the demands within the ruling alliance in Punjab (which includes it) to spare the Sikh extremist.

Tamil Nadu, of course, is too far away from the BJP's main bases of support in mofussil north India for the party to be too worried about the demands of the Tamil apologists for Rajiv Gandhi's killers. However, the implications of this move also have a disturbing aspect, though on a more muted scale than in Kashmir.

For one, Tamil Nadu had a history of separatist movements till 1962 although this is now largely forgotten. For another, there was considerable support in the state for the secessionist movement of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The state was against the government of India's policies, which was why Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a Tamil suicide bomber.

It will not be beside the point to recall that the DMK, which is part of the ruling alliance at the centre, was implicated in the assassination, which was why the Congress parted company with it in 1997. The DMK leaders had also pointedly stayed away from the Chennai port when the Indian peacekeeping force returned from Sri Lanka.

Similarly, in Punjab, there are still tiny pro-Khalistani outfits, which extol their secessionist hero, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Despite their insignificance, a predominantly Sikh party like the Shiromani Akali Dal would not like to go out of its way to displease them.

What these trends indicate is the role, not always salutary, which politics plays in relation to death sentences. These are not seen as just retribution for a crime, but either as an expression of revenge or a matter for compassion. And, as may be expected, these sentiments have a political purpose intended to appeal to a section of supporters, either Hindu or Tamil or Sikh.

Given this unfortunate tendency in India, it may be time to consider abolishing death sentences altogether as has been done in a majority of countries.
 

 

Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at amulyaganguli@gmail.com
 

 
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bookmark and Share

Home | Top of the Page

 

Comments

Note: By posting your comments here you agree to the terms and conditions of www.ummid.com

Comments powered by DISQUS

 

 

 

Top Stories

Gujarat cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt arrested

Senior Indian Police Service officer Sanjav Bhatt, in the eye of storm after he filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court implicating Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in  

IPS officer told to destroy evidence about Haren Pandya murder case

Sanjiv Bhatt charge sheeted

Full text of Sanjiv Bhatt's letter written to Narendra Modi

 

  Most Read

Aligarians in Maharashtra throw weight behind AMU Malegaon

Aligarians the elite Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) alumni spread across the world, might  

We see our future in AMU Malegaon: Write hundreds of students to VC

Judicial probe ordered into Srinagar custodial death

The Jammu and Kashmir government has ordered a judicial probe into the death Friday in police custody of a man called in for questioning along with two others in connection with allegations 

Man allegedly dies in police custody in Srinagar

 

  News Pick

PM urged to address issue of Kashmir mass graves

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been urged to set a time-frame for identifying the bodies found in mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir and setting up an  

Omar says 'mass graves' are only unmarked graves

US warns Pakistan of unilateral action against terror groups

Keeping up the pressure on Islamabad to act against Haqqani network's safe havens in Pakistan, the United States has warned that it would act on  

US-Pak ties deteriorate; Gilani musters political support

Website lists 100 unsafe zones for women in Delhi

Women in Delhi can now find out on a website the areas that are not safe to travel alone, while women across the country can report about the harassment faced by them. Whypoll, an NGO on citizen empowerment  

 

Picture of the Day

Girl students of a local school displaying the post cards posted to the AMU VC appealing him to speed up the process for the establishment of AMU centre in Malegaon

(Photo: ummid.com)

 

 
 
 
 
 

RSS  |  Contact us

 

| Quick links

News

 

Subscribe to

Ummid Assistant

 

National

Religion

RSS

Scholarships

About us

International

Culture

Twitter

Government Schemes

Feedback

Regional

History

Facebook

Education

Register

Politics

Opinion

Newsletter

Contact us

Business

Career

     

Education

     

 

 

Ummid.com: Disclaimer | Terms of Use | Advertise with us | Link Exchange

Ummid.com is part of the Awaz Multimedia & Publications providing World News, News Analysis and Feature Articles on Education, Health. Politics, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, Industry etc. The articles or the views displayed on this website are for public information and in no way describe the editorial views. The users are entitled to use this site subject to the terms and conditions mentioned.

2010 Awaz Multimedia & Publications. All rights reserved.