Original Heading – ‘Secret Hanging’- a new political tool?
By Rashmi Talwar
How the Rajoana hanging was torpedoed ?—— By Rashmi Talwar RK
Has the ruling government at the center found a new tool in ‘secret hanging’ to wrench the power of political manipulations for its exclusive use? This question has been uppermost in the minds of political parties, especially regional ones whose role has suddenly been eroded in the power-plays.
In the past, these very parties had employed sharp tactics of ‘arouse-n-appease’ their publics for vote bank politics, whenever dates of hanging of convicts were announced. Similar political tactics have been seen to be used blatantly by successive union governments by manipulating CBI case hearings, case announcements, judgments or even new cases openings, to puncture the opponent’s rising influence, especially as a diversionary tactics or in some cases ‘just to put the opponent in their place’.
Take the case of, Balwant Singh Rajoana, the assassin of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, who was to be hanged on May 31, 2012. Three days prior to carrying out the death sentence, a clemency plea in favour of the convict, no-less, than by the present Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, was admitted by President Pratibha Patil, who returned it to Ministry of Home Affairs to further review the case and saved him. The Rajoana case was ‘stayed’. In other words it was the victory of a regional political party, Shiromani Akali Dal led by Badal, who emerged as a saviour for an assassin, convicted of killing Beant Singh- a ‘Congress’ Chief Minister.
In August 2011, when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha moved the resolution in the state assembly to commute the death sentence of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins- she used the arouse-n-appease tactic to save Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan the killers, citing the sentiments of Tamils.
No sooner had Jayalalitha’s plea for mercy been broadcast, a simmering Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah angrily tweeted that ‘if Jammu & Kashmir made such a mercy plea for Afzal Guru- a convict in the Parliament Attack (a Kashmiri), then the public reaction would have not been so subdued’. He even went ahead and queried that if other states were throwing their weight behind Rajiv’s assassins, Beant’s assassins and mass murderers, why was it wrong to ask for clemency for a Kashmiri Afzal Guru.
The clemency pleas of Rajiv’s assassins, Rajoana and Davinder Pal Bhullar, spiralled into issues of sharply divided opinions, arousing passions and subsequently opportunism in political parties. The field was open for all political parties, especially regional parties, to politically manipulate the situation by arousing local passions and finally stepping in to save the state subject. Thus, gaining popular support for this supposed ‘gallantry’.
On the one side it was seen as a virtual ‘defeat’ for the ruling party at the centre in such scenarios. In a quick swoop, the supporting (regional) parties showed the central government as a cruel ‘imposing authority’. On another side, these very parties were successful in making the convict appear as a forthcoming martyr or hero for its community as the state chief ministers came out openly in their support.
Defeating such ploys of state governments, the first secret hanging in recent times came of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving assassin of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Although, in Kasab’s case the state governments had limited role to play in view of the fact that he was a Pakistani national, this was probably an experiment by the central government in deriving political mileage out of such ‘secret hangings’. This hanging was seen by all, as resurrecting the sagging image of Congress that was viewed as ‘weak’ owing to slow or delayed reaction on vital issues of major public sentiment and interest. Enthused by the positive feedback generated Kasab’s ‘secret hanging’, the central government was now ready for the second such experiment, this time around with an additional advantage of taking the wind out of sails of the regional satraps.
This time it seems to be Union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde’s loose statement had antagonized the majority community. A senior political analyst sees it as -“It may appear to be farcical but the statement made by our Home Minister wherein he said that ‘training camps of both BJP and RSS are promoting Hindu terrorism’ may have proved to be the proverbial last nail in Afzal Guru’s coffin”.
While Kashmir flared up post Afzal Guru’s hanging, the senior political analyst, equally upset with the manipulations of the union government, made the picture clearer, he said – “Shinde’s remark, coupled with the fact that the Congress party is popularly perceived to be minority appeaser, had obvious negative fallout. The Congress poll pundits viewed Shinde’s outspokenness as a ‘verbal bomb’ that had antagonized the majority community and results of this blunder would surely emerge in the forthcoming elections in 2014.”
He further analyzed– “Whatever the ruling Congress party may do to woo the minorities, no political party in India can afford to win the parliamentary elections without a strong support base in the majority community. Hence, as a damage control exercise, as also to dodge a belligerent Narendra Modi- a projected candidate for PM and a three time CM of Gujarat- who is breathing down their necks, Afzal Guru had to go”.
Otherwise why is it that convicts before Afzal Guru like Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted for killing Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995, Devinder Pal Bhullar, another sikh extremist on death row for killing nine persons in a 1993 car blast case, Murugan, Perarivalan and Santhan – convicted in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi-are still alive and Afzal Guru is hanged?
In the case of Afzal Guru, senior political analysts have castigated Omar Abdullah for speaking about the negative fallout of the hanging. Prabhu Chawla, the editorial director of The New Indian Express and The Sunday Standard asked –‘Why is young and bright Omar Abdullah taking up the issue of Afzal Guru. Didn’t Guru attack India of which J&K is an integral part?’ Akhilesh Mishra, a right wing activist contends about Omar’s stand that – “By publicly saying that a new generation of Kashmiris might be driven towards separatism, Omar Abdullah is actually seeding the idea himself.” What they probably have missed out though is that Omar Abdullah’s ire may actually be expression of the frustration of a regional political party (NC) against the central government (UPA) for maneuvering such cases to their own political advantage.
In this entire scenario, it is sad to see this disgraceful trend, in which the ruling party at the centre on one side and state governments on the other have jumped on to a populist bandwagon of either hanging or defending hardcore convicts on partisan lines of community or caste or region, only for vote bank politics! Whichever side gains advantage in this sad game of one-upmanship, it is the nation that loses in all circumstances.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR –