Kashmiris chafe under curfew after hanging
11 February, 2013
SRINAGAR: Residents of India's Kashmir valley chafed for a second day on Sunday under a curfew imposed following the hanging of a local separatist, which has sparked a fresh debate on capital punishment.
Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri Muslim convicted of helping to plot the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, which left 10 people dead, was executed on Saturday in New Delhi's Tihar jail.
Fearing a backlash, Indian authorities imposed an indefinite curfew on Saturday in major populated areas of Kashmir, shut down Internet services and blocked local newspapers in a bid to prevent demonstrations.
One protester died on Sunday when he jumped into the Jhelum river to escape government forces in the Sambal area and another four were injured after police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd near Guru's home town of Sopore, 43 kilometres from Srinagar.
Abdul Hafeez, a resident of Srinagar, said his two-month-old granddaughter needed milk, but they were unable to go shopping because of strict orders restricting people to their homes.
"We have seen so much violence in the past. We just hope that things return to normal as quickly as possible," he told AFP.
Guru was convicted of waging war against India and conspiring with the Islamist militants who attacked parliament — an event that brought nuclear-armed India and Pakistan to the brink of another conflict.
The one-time fruit merchant and medical college dropout always insisted he was innocent and claimed that he had been denied a proper legal defence. Protesters in Kashmir have often accused the police of framing him.
The world's biggest democracy uses capital punishment for the "rarest of rare" crimes.
It had not carried out an execution since 2004 until the hanging in November last year of Mohammed Kasab, the lone surviving gunman of 2008 militant attacks in Mumbai.
The two executions — both approved under new President Pranab Mukherjee — raised concerns among human rights activists who had hoped India was phasing out executions.
"India should end this distressing use of executions as a way to satisfy some public opinion," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Amnesty International was also quick to condemn Guru's hanging as a "disturbing and regressive trend" towards executions in India.