'They claim to be a democracy... They don't even have the courage to give us his body'
Tabassum was at the Sopore nursing home running around like any other day to ensure that everything was functioning smoothly at the hospital. Fourteen-year-old Ghalib was at a relative’s house in Khanpora Baramulla. Ghulam Ahmad Buhroo was at the local baker’s shop in Baramulla fetching bread for morning tea, while Bashir Ahmad Guroo had gone to the mosque in Doabgah to offer morning prayers.
Then the calls started pouring in. Afzal Guru’s family, including wife Tabassum, son Ghalib, father-in-law Buhroo and brother Guroo, says friends and relatives told them about a rumour, that first surfaced on Facebook, that Afzal Guru had been hanged inside Delhi’s Tihar Jail.
Against all hope, they prayed. It would be a wait of half an hour before news channels confirmed the hanging. They claim they were kept in the dark that Afzal was being hanged. Accusing the Centre and Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde of lying, Buhroo said: “They did not tell us anything.” The J&K Police said they had not been told to inform the family.
Afzal’s elder brother Ajaz Ahmad Guru told The Sunday Express: “I received a call from a close relative telling me to come home. When I reached, he told me there is a rumour that Afzal has been hanged. We couldn’t believe it... The final confirmation came from news channels.”
By then, the Army, police and CRPF had sealed Doabagh, the native village of Afzal, 5 km from Sopore. Nobody was allowed to enter. As people from surrounding villages tried to move in, they were fired at, with five wounded.
Afzal’s father-in-law, with whom Tabassum and Ghalib stay at Baramulla, said: “We met him (Afzal) on Raksha Bandhan. It was a routine meeting. We did not have any idea that he would be hanged like this. If the government had informed us, we would have at least tried to meet him one last time. What kind of democracy is this? They did not even ask him for his last wish.”
Buhroo, who was informed about the hanging by a relative, said he didn’t know how to break the news to his daughter Tabassum. “I asked one of my relatives to convey the news.” He said he called the local police station, requesting that they be allowed to go to Afzal’s ancestral home at Doabgah, 15 km from Baramulla. “The police declined. Later we took a private car to reach the village,” he said.
Surrounded by neighbours at Afzal’s ancestral house, Tabassum refused to talk to anyone.
The family believes the execution was sudden because the Congress wanted to reap political benefits. “Afzal was innocent and didn’t get a fair trial,” Buhroo said. “He was hanged by the Congress government for political gains. They know elections are around.”
The family’s only demand now is that Afzal’s body be handed over to them. Buhroo said it was their right to perform his funeral in accordance with their faith. ‘’How can they bury him inside Tihar jail? He has a family. He has a son, a wife and a brother,” he said. “They must hand over the body to us as soon as possible.”
“They are claming to be the biggest democracy... They don’t have the courage to give us his body,” he added.
The family, including Ajaz, Tabassum and Ghalib, has written a letter to the Baramulla deputy commissioner, with a copy to J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, asking for their help for the return of Afzal’s body.
“Every human being has a right (to a proper burial) as per his religion and faith. This alone can bring religious serenity and divine tranquillity to us, especially his wife and only child,” says the letter.
Some of the family members are planning to leave for New Delhi on Sunday, if the government lifts the cordon around the village, and have sought the Baramulla DC’s help for this. Ajaz said they would sit on a protest at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk if his body was not returned.
“I only want to see his face,” said Ghalib, who was just two years old when Afzal was arrested.