Sunday, October 08, 2006

Celebrating treason

Chandan Mitra (Pioneer)

With no logic, no legal figment and no public support at their command, the NGO brigade has descended to wringing out every drop of emotion, with the help of a misguided section of the media. They have spun out a tear-jerker that could be a Bollywood scriptwriter's envy. The leading light of the India-baiting jholawala brigade, one Nandita Haksar, was in her element on the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan last Thursday. Caressing seven-year-old Ghalib, son of death merchant Afzal Guru, she claimed that the (tutored) child told President Kalam that his life's ambition to become a doctor would remain unfulfilled if his father's life were snatched away. The boy cutely stood, suitably melancholic, under Haksar's ample protection while his mother and grandmother recounted their interaction with a sympathetic President. Split TV screens, meanwhile, kept zooming in on that blabbering classes' icon Arundhati Roy who can be guaranteed to cheerlead any gathering that aims to berate India's pride, rule of law, or economic progress.

Those who have made a profession out of running India down have found a new cause celebre in the death row convict. Having tasted blood by successfully browbeating the system into exonerating Afzal's co-conspirator SAR Geelani, the India bashers are convinced they can notch up another victory by getting the pusillanimous Congress leadership to buckle under pressure. Already, a jittery Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has spoken out in their favour, warning that the Valley may erupt if the hanging happens. Although his Cabinet colleague, Jammu leader Mangat Ram Sharma, has been forced to sound a dissenting note and one of the party's few mass leaders, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh picked up courage to demand Afzal's execution, the Congress is petrified at the thought of taking a decision either way.

To begin with, I fail to see why there should be a debate at all. The matter is clear-cut. Afzal Guru was one of the terrorists who stormed Parliament House on December 13, 2001 and it was he who first opened fire on security personnel, apparently killing three of the six who died protecting the majesty of democracy and the nation's honour that fateful morning. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by a POTA Court - a verdict upheld by the Supreme Court.

The same process of law failed to find sufficient evidence against his cohort SAR Geelani and acquitted him much to the chagrin of patriotic civilians as well as the security establishment.

Geelani breezed out of Tihar and held a Press conference amid the raucous applause of the 'Hate India' brigade, in which he extolled the virtues of the Indian judiciary, while slamming the political establishment.

Consequently, Geelani faced an awkward dilemma when the Hate India-wallahs started baying for the judiciary's blood in the Afzal case, claiming the convict did not get a fair trail. This was reiterated by his wife Tabassum, who falsely asserted before TV cameras that her husband did not even get the services of a lawyer - a charge she apparently conveyed to the President. The duplicity of the jholawalas who have taken control of Tabassum, in a way reminiscent of Teesta Setalvad's stranglehold over Zahira Sheikh prior to the latter's somersault, is mindboggling. If SAR Geelani got a fair trial in the same case, how come Afzal Guru did not? The bottom line of the NGO brigade's contention is that justice must conform to their likes and dislikes. So, if the Supreme Court refuses to stop construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam, it shows the Indian judiciary to be contemptible; if it awards the death penalty to Afzal Guru, there's a miscarriage of justice. But if it frees Geelani, the judiciary covers itself with glory.

Unable to explain the logic behind these contradictory assertions, some professional agitators are now claiming that most terrorist outrages in India are suspect. I heard one of them tell a TV channel that the Chittisinghpora massacre (on the eve of President Bill Clinton's visit) was "staged", while the Nanded bomb blasts were the handiwork of Bajrang Dal, the attack on the RSS headquarters at Nagpur "suspect", and there were big question marks on the Malegaon incident. First, each of these claims is patently false. Second, to obliquely suggest that the attack on Parliament was "staged" by Indian agencies reveals the depravity of their minds.

To be entertained, a mercy petition by a death row convict must consider whether he is remorseful or at least regrets his action. In the present case, the death peddler is not only unrepentant, but has actually refused to sign his mercy petition. At least he is an honest jihadi who carried out the Parliament attack in the belief (howsoever misplaced) that by seeking to destabilise India he was responding to a higher call. Afzal was driven by the same conviction that motivated several well-educated, sophisticated men to hijack planes and fly them into the WTC towers on 9/11 the same year.

Like them, Afzal was ready to die in the process, just as his five Pakistani colleagues did that morning. Why then, should his life be spared? Especially when we already have the example of Azhar Masood who had to be freed in exchange for passengers on IC 814? May be it is precisely in the hope that fellow jihadis will stage yet another successful hijack and get Afzal released that the Hate India agitators have mounted their tear-jerker campaign.

After all, their sole aim is to weaken and eventually destroy the Indian state and subsequently the civilisation itself. In any self-respecting country they would have been declared Fifth Columnists and prosecuted for treason. In India, on the other hand, they are celebrities who hog large chunks of airtime and column centimetres.

However, while the agenda and modus operandi of the NGO brigade is transparent, the Congress party's surreptitious scheming needs to be deplored roundly. Afzal's hanging, like Geelani's acquittal, is not a Muslim issue. The average Indian Muslim is not batting for Afzal. Like the rest, the Muslims regard Afzal as a traitor who has been sentenced to death by the due process of law and, therefore, deserves to be hanged. But bereft of any achievement in governance, the Congress has decided to aggressively fragment Indian society on caste and communal lines hoping to reap an electoral windfall. It believes that Arjun Singh's systematic destruction of institutions of excellence will get OBCs flocking to the party while clemency for Afzal will drive Muslims in droves into the Congress kitty. If in the process India gets irreparably mauled, so be it.

The people of India have repeatedly seen through such games. Had they been stupid, VP Singh would not have been reduced to a mere jhuggi-jhopri dwellers' leader today. The same fate could well be awaiting those Congress stalwarts who are plotting against the nation in cahoots with the jholawalas.