By Rajnish Singh
New Delhi: For 11 years he has been incarcerated in a 16×12 foot high-security cell in the Tihar Jail here. But Mohammed Afzal Guru, convicted for masterminding the attack on India’s parliament in 2001, does not dread the same fate that 26/11 attacker Ajmal Amir Kasab met.
Since Pakistani terrorist Kasab’s hanging Nov 21 in a Pune jail, the fear of a similar execution has not affected Afsal Guru yet, a jail official told IANS.
“Afzal Guru is lodged in a 16-foot-long and 12-foot-wide cell in Tihar Jail No.3. He has so far not shown any fear that he will be hanged like Kasab,” Tihar spokesperson Sunil Gupta told IANS.
“So far he has not shown any emotions about dying. In fact, the gallows are just 15-20 metres from his cell,” said the official.
Afzal Guru spends his time like any other prisoner, but unlike them he is lodged in a high-security part of the prison, meant for high-risk prisoners. His cell is guarded by a contingent of nearly 50 armed personnel drawn from the Tamil Nadu Special Police, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the Central Reserve Police Force.
“He spends his time doing routine work like the other inmates,” Gupta said.
On Dec 13, 2001, five Pakistani terrorists attacked the Indian parliament, but were killed by the security forces. Three other men, including Afzal Guru, accused of masterminding the entire plot, were absconding.
On Dec 14 and 15, the investigating agencies, together with the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, captured four people under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) that was then in force. They were Afsal Guru; S.A.R. Geelani, a Delhi University professor; Navjot, also known as Afsan; and her husband, Shaukat Hussain Guru.
Geelani and Afsan were let off and Shaukat Hussain Guru’s death sentence was reduced to 10 years’ imprisonment and he is now out of jail. Afzal Guru was sentenced to death on Dec 18, 2002, by a trial court, which the Delhi High Court upheld on Oct 29,2003. His appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court on Aug 4, 2005. His mercy plea is pending with the president.
Human rights activists and liberal intellectuals say he should not be hanged, arguing that, unlike Kasab, he was not present at the scene of the crime and evidence against him was circumstantial.
According to jail authorities, Afzal Guru, in his 40s, spends most of his time either alone or with his books.
“There is a huge pile of books inside his ward. He has a radio, which airs only two stations. He occasionally listens to music but does not interact much with anybody,” another jail officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IANS.
Hailing from Baramulla district in Jammu and Kashmir, Afzal Guru wakes up early in the morning between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and begins his day with Namaz (prayer).
For breakfast, he is provided bread, tea and potato vegetable around 9 a.m. as per the jail manual. For lunch he is served dal, vegetable and chapati, which is also his evening meal.
Like other inmates, he goes to sleep between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Every week, he goes through a medical check-up. He is allowed to take a round in the garden outside his cell but in the company of his guards.
Security officers guarding him said there are times when he interacts and talks to them.
But interacting with him is not easy otherwise. It is allowed only through the director general and deputy inspector general of the prison.
“If the jail superintendent has to talk to him, he has to seek permission from the DG,” the officer added.