The President of India rejected the mercy petitions of three people accused and convicted by the courts for "being part of conspiracy" in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi twenty years ago. Following this, events have moved in quick succession. The Tamilnadu assembly passed a unanimous resolution opposing this and requesting the President to reconsider the issue. The Madras High Court has stayed the date of hanging by two weeks.
Meanwhile, two other political cases where the mercy petitions against death penalty have yet to be disposed off have also created political furore.
In Punjab, there is wide spread demand that Prof Bhullar's death penalty be waived. Prof Bhullar has been on the death rows for many years, and he is currently undergoing treatment in a mental hospital, having become insane. He has been convicted for allegedly organizing a car bomb attack on Youth Congress leader MS Bitta in 1993 in Delhi. His confession was extracted under torture and threat of death by the Punjab police. The presiding judge of the three judge bench which passed the death penalty actually declared the confession inadmissible and the accused innocent. The other two voted for death penalty. MS Bitta is still alive. Prof Bhullar is to die. The Akali Dal, the All India Sikh Students Federation and sections of the Congress Party in Punjab, have pointed out to the President of India, that Prof Bhullar has been falsely convicted of participating in a conspiracy, whereas the other so called conspirators have been let off. How can it be, they ask, that there is a conspiracy involving only one person!
The case of Afsal Guru, who has been given the death penalty for the Parliament attack case 10 years ago, has drawn widespread condemnation in the Kashmir Valley. Afsal Guru's crime was that he is supposed to have hired the car which was used by the alleged terrorists involved in the parliament attack, all of whom were killed. It is widely known in the Valley that Afsal Guru is a victim of the ongoing state terrorism in the valley. As a young man during the early nineties, he was forced by the security forces to work on their behalf, as a captured former militant. In the parliament attack case, it was clear from his trial that he was sent to Delhi by a notorious SP of Anantnag to Delhi with definite instructions of hiring a car and giving it some persons. He had no other knowledge of this attack. No conspiracy was proved against Afsal Guru or anyone else. The SP was never investigated. in fact who organized the parliament attack never came to light during the court proceedings. Afsal was openly made a bali ka bakra (scapegoat) by the highest courts of the land, saying that the "collective conscience" of the country could only be satisfied if someone was punished! J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has posed the question in public, what happens if the J&K assembly passes a resolution like the Tamilnadu Assembly, asking for mercy for Afsal Guru?
What is common in all three cases are that those facing the gallows have been convicted of political crimes. The killing of Rajiv Gandhi took place at a time when the whole of Tamilnadu was up in arms against the dispatch of the IPKF to assist the Sri Lankan army to crush the rebellion in Eelam. Punjab was the scene of unparalleled state terrorism, where thousands of innocent Sikh youth were slaughtered by the Punjab police, after Operation Blue Star and the massacre of Sikhs in 1984. Kashmir Valley has seen over 70,000 killings of innocent people by the armed forces over the past two decades.
What is common in all three cases is that the courts, from the trial courts to the Supreme Court, passed political judgments based on concocted evidence by the state. The ruling class whipped up passions and the courts passed judgments accordingly. The court verdicts are a continuation of the policy of state terrorism unleashed by the Indian state against the people in these areas.
People can see the terrible irony of justice or the lack of it in our country. On one hand, on the flimsiest of evidence, or no evidence, that they were involved in any conspiracy to murder, people are facing the gallows. On the other hand, it is well known that for example the highest leadership of the Congress Party organized the 1984 massacre of Sikhs and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi organised the slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat. The organizers of these genocides roam around freely and occupy the highest positions in the state and in political life. Police and security personnel, who have been shown to have carried out encounter killings, are actually awarded medals and promotions. The army personnel who have raped and slaughtered thousands upon thousands of people in Kashmir and the North East enjoy immunity from civil criminal investigation under AFSPA and go around unpunished, and are even rewarded! In other words, the guilty are not punished.
That even sections of the ruling circles, particularly in Tamilnadu, Punjab and Kashmir, are voicing their opposition to the proposed hangings, and demanding commutation of the death penalty is a reflection of the widespread perception amongst people in these states that gross injustice has been carried out. The sustained struggle in Kashmir and the North East, for removal of the armed forces and paramilitary and other security personnel and the special powers enjoyed by them to rape and kill with impunity, is a clear indication of the mood and sentiment of the people in these places.
State terrorism is a favorite weapon in the hands of the ruling class to crush the resistance of the people and push ahead with their policies in favour of the biggest capitalist monopolies. This is what the experience of our people over the years has clearly shown. Not only are communal and sectarian massacres periodically organized by the state, but communal and sectarian passions are also continuously whipped up, to create an atmosphere in which these acts can be justified. The ruling class parties and their leaders, who have been proven, through innumerable and irrefutable evidence, to have masterminded the killing and destruction of thousands of people are never convicted or punished under this system, because the culprit, the judge and the hangman are all collaborators to perpetuate the same system. On the other hand, thousands of innocent people are jailed, tortured and incarcerated for long years on mere suspicion and even sentenced to death, though no conclusive proof of their guilt could be established. In fact, these death sentences again become an occasion to whip up further communal and sectarian passions, as is the case with Afsal Guru.
Taking into account all these considerations, the Communist Ghadar Party of India demands that the death penalty in all these three cases be waived. Those facing it have been convicted on political grounds and on the basis of flimsy charges. On the other hand, those guilty of state terrorism in Kashmir and North East, of the genocides against Sikhs in 1984 and after, and of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, must be punished. The struggle against state terrorism and for punishment of the guilty must be continued without let-up.