India hangs Kashmiri man, protests erupt

Afzal Guru, sentenced to death for 2001 attack, executed after his mercy plea was rejected by Indian president.

India hangs Kashmiri man, protests erupt

World Bulletin / News Desk

India hanged a Kashmiri man on Saturday for his role in an attack on the country's parliament in 2001, sparking clashes in Kashmir between hundreds of protesters and police who wielded batons and fired teargas to disperse the crowds.

President Pranab Mukherjee rejected a mercy petition from Mohammad Afzal Guru and he was hanged at 8 a.m. (0230 GMT) in Tihar jail in the capital, New Delhi, officials said.

"This is only about the law taking its course," Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters after the execution.

Barricades were erected and hundreds of police and paramilitary forces were deployed in major towns of Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Five men stormed the heavily guarded parliament complex in New Delhi on Dec. 13, 2001, armed with grenades, guns and explosives, but security forces killed them before they could enter the main chamber. Ten other people, most of them security officers, were killed.

Guru, an Indian national, was convicted for helping organise arms for the attackers and a place for them to stay. Guru had denied any involvement in the conspiracy.

The hanging last year of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving attacker of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, after a long lull in executions prompted speculation that India would move quickly to execute Guru.

But unlike Kasab's execution, which sparked celebrations in the streets, Guru's case was seen as more divisive.

Some Kashmiri leaders warned that hanging Afzal would fuel the Muslim revolt against Indian occupation in the Himalayan region that has killed tens of thousands of people since 1989.

Saturday's execution could help the ruling Congress party deflect opposition criticism of being soft on militancy, as it gears up for a series of state elections this year and a general election due by 2014, while grappling with an economic slowdown.

"Congress has decided to be more proactive in view of the elections, not only in terms of economic policy but also matters like the hanging of Afzal Guru," said political analyst Amulya Ganguli.

"The Congress has now deprived the BJP of a propaganda plank," he said, referring to the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Government officials dismissed suggestions that electoral politics played a role in the decision to execute Guru.

The curfew has been imposed in Srinagar, the region's summer capital in the Kashmir valley, and major towns including Baramulla, Guru's home town.

"The hanging of Afzal Guru is a declaration of war by India," said Hilal Ahmad War, leader of an independence movement.

Authorities shut down internet services and blocked social networking sites to try to stop unrest from spreading. The chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state, Omar Abdullah, made a televised appeal for calm.

Scuffles also broke out in New Delhi between Hindu activists and demonstrators who gathered at a city-centre protest site to condemn the hanging, a Reuters witness said.

Last Mod: 12 Şubat 2013, 10:10
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