A Perfect Day for Democracy

Revisiting the hanging of Afzal Guru

15 January 2020
Mohammad Afzal in 2002. In a 2004 letter to his lawyer, Afzal had said that months before the 2001 Parliament attack, Davinder Singh had held him in illegal custody in Kashmir and tortured him brutally.
PRAKASH SINGH / AFP / Getty Images
Mohammad Afzal in 2002. In a 2004 letter to his lawyer, Afzal had said that months before the 2001 Parliament attack, Davinder Singh had held him in illegal custody in Kashmir and tortured him brutally.
PRAKASH SINGH / AFP / Getty Images

On 11 January 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir Police forces arrested one of their own—Davinder Singh, a deputy superintendent posted in the anti-hijacking squad at the Humhama Airport in Sringar. Singh was arrested at a checkpoint in south Kashmir, while he was travelling in a car in the company of two militants of the rebel force Hizbul Mujahideen. A third man, whom the police subsequently described as an “overground worker” of the Hizbul, was also present in the car. His arrest has raised serious questions about attack on the Indian parliament on 13 December 2001 and the hanging of Mohammad Afzal, often referred to as Afzal Guru, the prime accused in the case. In a 2004 letter to his lawyer, Afzal had said that months before the Parliament attack, Singh had held him in illegal custody in Kashmir and tortured him brutally. Afzal went on to say that following his release, Singh coerced him to travel to Delhi with one of the attackers. In a 2006 interview, Davinder Singh admitted to having tortured Afzal.  In the light of his arrest, The Caravan is republishing Arundhati Roy’s essay, “A Perfect Day For Democracy,” which was first published the day after Afzal was hanged, in February 2013.

 

A PERFECT DAY FOR DEMOCRACY


Wasn’t it? Yesterday I mean. Spring announced itself in Delhi. The sun was out, and the Law took its Course. Just before breakfast, Afzal Guru, prime accused in the 2001 Parliament Attack was secretly hanged, and his body was interred in Tihar Jail. Was he buried next to Maqbool Butt? (Butt is the other Kashmiri who was hanged in Tihar, in 1984. Kashmiris will mark that anniversary tomorrow.) Afzal’s wife and son were not informed. “The authorities intimated the family through Speed Post and Registered Post,” the Home Secretary told the press. “The Director General of J&K Police has been told to check whether they got it or not.” No big deal, they’re only the family of a Kashmiri terrorist.

In a moment of rare unity, the nation, or at least its major political parties—the Congress, the BJP and the Communist Party of India (Marxist)—came together as one, barring a few squabbles about “delay” and “timing,” to celebrate the triumph of the “rule of law.” The conscience of the nation, which broadcasts live from TV studios these days, unleashed its collective intellect on us—the usual cocktail of papal passion and a delicate grip on facts. Even though the man was dead and gone, like cowards that hunt in packs, they seemed to need each other to keep their courage up. Perhaps because deep inside themselves they know that they all colluded to do something terribly wrong.

Arundhati Roy is the author of the novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Her most recent book is a collection of essays, My Seditious Heart.

Keywords: Afzal Guru Kashmir human rights
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