Afzal Guru Hanging: Fourth Anniversary
Sopore: On the fourth anniversary of the secretive hanging of Afzal Guru inside New Delhi’s Tihar Jail, his home in Sopore – where live Guru’s wife Tabassum and son Ghalib – a ritual of remembrance was observed once again on Wednesday. For the fourth time in as many years, Afzal’s family invited some Imams to read the Quran, in which the young Ghalib read along, and food and Kashmiri tea (nun chai) was served the whole day to numerous visitors who came to pay their tributes.
Afzal’s hanging, “to satisfy the collective conscience” according to the Supreme Court, was done without informing his family members. His body was buried inside Tihar Jail instead of being given to his family.
Tabassum, his widow, told Kashmir Reader that she expected the “world’s biggest democracy” – and she did not mean it as a compliment – to at least return to her the diary in which her husband wrote about his time in jail, his copy of the Quran, his radio, his specs, his clothes and his books.
Tabassum also recounted the distressing memory of seeing her husband in chains in Tihar Jail.
“After Afzal sahib was arrested, I used to see him once a year, in August, for twenty-five minutes. Most of his body was in chains. It was painful to see him in that condition, but those twenty-five minutes were also a great relief at seeing him alive. I always took his leave with the hope that we will meet again the next year. By hanging him without informing us, they have snatched everything from me. Now my son Ghalib is my only hope; I see his father’s reflection in him,” Tabassum said.
“Despite claiming to be the largest democracy in the world, India did not hand over his body to us. At least they can give us the things which my husband used in the jail. I want those things. If they are there, then give them back to us, or let us know if they have been destroyed. Why are my husband’s personal belongings still in India’s possession?” she asked.
Tabassum also lamented that the present government in Kashmir, which had promised to bring Afzal’s remains back, has made no effort to fulfill that promise. “They are all the same when they are on the chair,” Tabassum said of Kashmir’s politicians.
Ghalib, who is in Class 12 now, was one-and-a-half year old when his father was arrested for the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001. He was 13 years old when his father was hanged. Two years ago, Ghalib secured the 19th rank in the merit list of Class 10 board exams.
“I will never forget the day when I saw my father for the first time. It was in Delhi’s Tees Hazari court in 2004. He had chains around his neck, ankles and hands. After taking permission from a police officer, he came and sat beside us. He took me in his arms. I cried a lot at first because I felt scared at seeing this strange man with a long beard and in chains. But when he put his specs down and kissed my forehead, I stopped crying and all of a sudden I called him papa,” Ghalib said.
“After that meeting I used to irritate my mother a lot, asking her to take me to papa. She used to tell me, yes, we will meet him soon. I saw my father about ten times in my life. He always advised me to pursue the dream of my mother – which was to see me as a doctor – rather than pursuing his dream – of seeing me as a scholar. He always told me to be kind, generous and helpful. Those meetings will remain with me as the most beautiful part of my life,” Ghalib said.
Ghalib last saw his father in August 2012. Afzal was hanged in February 2013. Ghalib never saw his father’s body.
Tabassum recalled, “When Afzal sahib left home, I discovered thirty-two rupees in his trouser pocket. That little amount has been with me as a mark of remembrance of my beloved husband. My son keeps a copy of his father’s Quran, which Afzal sahib used to read in his spare time.”
Four years after Afzal Guru’s hanging, the collective conscience of society is still to be satisfied, it seems from the death sentence given to Muzaffar Ahmad Rather, a 23-year-old native of Kulgam, in a case of carrying fake currency and trying to cross over illegally into India from Bangladesh.