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Open Letter to President on Mohammed Afzal

Letters

Open Letter to President on

Mohammed Afzal

W
e, on behalf of the All India Committee against Death Penalty, demand that the president should consider the case of Mohammed Afzal very sympathetically and commute the death sentence of the only person given capital punishment in the Parliament attack case.

We wish to put forward the following arguments in favour of this demand:

  • (1) Md Afzal, while doing his MBBS course, joined the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in 1990. When he was disillusioned about the movement, he surrendered to the BSF with two other fellow members. He was given a “Certificate of Surrendered Militant”. Afterwards he tried his best to lead a normal life with his family members.
  • (2) But the STF and other security forces operating in Kashmir continuously harassed and tortured him in the name of extracting information about the militant activities.
  • (3) Md Afzal was made an accused in the Parliament attack case, but the Supreme Court has acquitted him of charges of belonging to any terrorist organisations or gang under POTA.
  • (4) It is also a fact that he was not involved in the actual attack on Parliament. He did not kill or even injure anyone.
  • (5) He did not get an opportunity to properly defend himself in the court. He did not get a lawyer of his choice and so was denied a fair trial.
  • (6) The role of investigating agencies in this case was very much biased and sloppy. These agencies not only tried to implicate a Delhi University teacher S A R Geelani (who was subsequently acquitted by the high court and Supreme Court), but also pressurised Afzal and his
  • family members to not speak during the whole trial process. The people of India deserve the right to know the real facts behind the attack on the Parliament, and also about those persons and outfits responsible for this terrorist attack. We are of the opinion that by hanging Afzal some of the real facts of this attack will also be buried forever.

  • (7) We also appeal to you to commute the capital punishment of Md Afzal on theoretical and moral grounds:
  • (a) The root causes of violence and terror are inherent in the socio-economic and political system. Without changing the system we cannot stop terrorist activities by hanging a few individuals like Md Afzal.
  • (b) The death penalty is a brutal, inhuman and disgraceful form of punishment, which amounts simply to an act of vengeance by the state. Vengeance cannot be the basis of modern law or a legitimate motivation of the state.
  • (c) Worldwide, 120 countries have already abolished the death penalty either in law or in practice. So, the Indian state should also abolish this brutal form of punishment.
  • (d) The death penalty is an inherently unjust and arbitrary
  • (Continued on p 4516)

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    Economic and Political Weekly October 21, 2006

    Letters

    (Continued from p 4390)

    punishment. Global studies suggest that death penalties are being awarded mostly to poor, less educated and marginalised sections of societies. In India, such punishment is being given mainly to the landless, dalits, OBCs and Muslims. We have already put before you the facts of Bihar, when our delegation met you with an appeal to commute the death sentence of the Bara Case accused.

    (e) All investigations are subject to human error. Such error becomes irreversible if the death penalty is imposed. There have been cases of executed persons being proved innocent after their death.

    (f) One strong argument in favour of the death penalty is that it deters people from crime. But the global evidence in this respect is singularly lacking. Countries like the US and China, where huge numbers of accused are awarded the death punishment, do not show any decline in the number of crimes.

    So we earnestly appeal to you to pardon Md Afzal by commuting his death sentence. It will also help in solving the militancy of Kashmir. We have already witnessed that the hanging of Maqbul Bhatt in the 1980s sparked off a long phase of unrest in Kashmir.

    NIRMALA DESHPANDE, SURENDRA MOHAN, GAUTAM NAVLAKHA, TRIPTA WAHI, ALI JAVED, SUNIL AND ARJUN PRASAD SINGH

    Convenors of All India Committee against Death Penalty Delhi.

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    Economic and Political Weekly October 21, 2006

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