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India shows firm hand in hanging Afzal Guru

But there are lingering questions about the timing of the execution and its likely impact on politics

Gulf News

The Indian government has once again acted with a firm hand, albeit in secrecy, by carrying out the death sentence of the parliament attack convict, Afzal Guru.

In doing so, the government has shown its resolve in carrying out executions, coming close on the heels of the hanging of Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist convicted in the Mumbai attacks case. While Kasab took direct part in the attacks, the court said Guru was a key conspirator who had played an active role in the “unparalleled assault on the supreme seat of democracy”.

The government has had to move with caution after the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty — a fact reflected in the decade taken to carry out the sentence.

It has had to deal with an opposition which has tried to score political points by interpreting the delay as a sign of weakness. It has also had to consider the security issue, reflected in imposition of curfew in major towns of Jammu and Kashmir.

But the manner in which the government has carried out two death sentences in quick succession has surprised many and has prompted questions. Chief among them is the timing and whether the government is planning to call early elections as the impact on the national political scene is obvious.

Secondly, there are many other death sentences awaiting the mercy plea. The government will be hard-pressed to either carry them out or explain why only some have been singled out. While rights groups have called the hanging a “worrying trend”, it brings to an end a chapter in India’s history where terrorists bloodied the seat of democracy.