Maintaining complete secrecy, government on Saturday, Feb 9, hanged and buried the 2001 Parliament attack case convict Mohammed Afzal Guru inside the Tihar jail complex. The family of Guru received the news through Television channels. Government sent a speed post addressed to Guru's wife Tabbasum, which was received by the family in Kashmir Valley's Sopore town two days after his execution took place in the national capital.
Now, the family of the 43-year-old convicted terrorist is demanding the govt to hand over the body. Government maintains that family can come and offer their prayers at his grave inside the jail premises. Home Secretary R K Singh said in Delhi that the family will be allowed to come and offer their prayers at Afzal's grave inside Tihar jail.
However, family have rejected the offer.
"We reject it outright. If it is the question of offering fateha (prayer) we can do it from here," said his cousin Muhammad Yasin Guru. He reiterated the family's wants that Afzal's mortal remains should be handed over to them for a traditional Islamic burial at home.
"We had on day one made a formal request to the jail authorities as well as the Baramulla district deputy commissioner to hand the body over to us," Yasin.
Moreover, his family members and friends have dug up an empty grave for Guru at Srinagar's Martyr's Graveyard. The empty grave lies next to a similar empty grave for Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) founder Maqbool Bhat. Bhat was also hanged and buried in Tihar Jail on February 11, 1984.
The epitaph on Guru's empty grave reads: Mohammad Afzal Guru Shaheed-e-Watan (martyrs' graveyard).
"We have put up a gravestone inscribed with a demand for the return of Guru's mortal remains.... We have demanded that both Maqbool saab and Guru saab's bodies be returned to us," said Tahir Ahmad Mir, senior vice-president of a breakaway faction of JKLF.
"We want his body back. Even if India declines to return his body, we have an empty grave for him like the one we have for Maqbool sahib," said a member of JKLF.
Singh also said all of Afzal's belongings left behind in the prison will be handed over to his family.
"We welcome handing over the belongings but it should not be mixed with the issue of handing over the body. They are different.... If they are so concerned, they should hand over the body," Afzal Guru's cousin Mohammad Yasin said from Sopore.
Why govt is courting unnecessary controversies over execution of Afzal?
The trial and execution of Afzal Guru is shrouded in mystery. His supporters say, the convicted terrorist was not given a fair trail. Critics of govt allege that Guru was hanged for vote bank politics. Guru's case was not a simple one. Even after his death, controversy continues. First, it was the secrecy surrounding his execution. Information has started surfacing regarding hanging of Guru.
A code name (Operation Three Star) was given by the govt to secretly plan and execute Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist Guru in Tihar Jail. Officials say Operation Three Star started on 4 February 2013, just a day after the President of India Pranab Mukherjee rejected mercy plea of Afzal Guru. A few top officials of Home Ministry were aware about secret Operation Three Star.
Guru was hanged at 8 AM in Tihar Jail and later on buried inside the jail premises. Hanging of Mumbai terror attack militant Ajmal Kasab was called Operation X. Kasab was hanged at Yerwada Central Jail on 21 November 2012.
Moreover, family expressed anger and disappointment that govt did not give them prior information about Guru's execution.
Union home secretary Singh told media that Guru's family back in Kashmir were informed about his execution. "They (Tihar jail authorities) intimated the family through Speed Post, registered post and the DG (director general of Jammu and Kashmir Police) has been told to check with the family whether they got it or not," Singh told reporters in New Delhi.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah questioned the rationale of informing Guru's family through post saying the reliability of the medium itself was questionable.
"As a human being, I find it very difficult to reconcile myself to the fact that we executed a person who was not given the opportunity to see his family for the last time. If in this day and age, we are relying on speed post to inform a family that their loved one is going to be executed, there is something seriously wrong. I wish we were the ones who were authorised to inform the family," he told a TV channel.
Family denied getting any information about the execution. "We had no idea, we were woken up by people, got to know when things were being debated and posted on facebook," said Yasin Guru, cousin of Guru.
"We have got no letter, no family member has been informed as opposed to what the government is claiming," he added. "His wife had appealed for mercy, she should have been informed that the plea has been rejected. We got to know about that from the national television in the morning," he added.
''We want the body of my father... I want to see his face,'' said Afzal Guru's 14 year old son Ghalib. ''We want to bury him here.''
"We had called the local police station, requesting them to let us go to Guru's ancestral home Doabgah. The police declined,'' said Ghulam Mohammad Buhroo, paternal grandfather of Ghalib. Buhroo said that Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde is lying when he says that the government had informed the family. '
'We met him (Guru) at Tihar Jail on Raksha Bandan. My wife and Ghalib were accompanying me. If the government would have informed us, we would have atleast gone and met him one last time,'' Buhru said. ''The government is lying. They did not tell us anything.'' Buhroo said that now that the government has hanged him (Afzal), it is our right to perform his funeral in accordance with our religion. ''How can they bury him inside Tihar jail? He has a family. He has a son, wife and brother. They must hand over the body to us as soon as possible,'' Buhroo said.
Will the govt consider the family's pleas on humanitarian grounds? Or, a dead terrorist does not deserve any mercy?