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Afzal hanging pits Jammu against Kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir Newsletter)

Posted on Mar 16, 03:56PM | IANS

By Binoo Joshi, Jammu, March 16 : The execution of Afzal Guru has politically pitched the Hindu-dominated Jammu region against the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley in Jammu and Kashmir.

This is evident from the developments taking place in the state assembly ever since the budget session began Feb 28.

The valley-centric Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) boycotted the first day of the session, demanding that the Kashmiri Guru's body be handed over to his family.

Guru, who hailed from Sopore in north Kashmir and was accused of plotting the 2001 Indian parliament attack, was hanged in secrecy in New Delhi's Tihar Jail Feb 9. His body was buried in the prison complex.

The PDP moved an adjournment motion to debate the execution.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti asked: "Why was Afzal Guru, who was in serial number 28 in the queue of those facing the death sentence, picked up and sent to the gallows without getting an opportunity to approach the Supreme Court?"

It is a question many in the Kashmir Valley are asking. But for most people in Jammu, these niceties don't matter; for them, he was a terrorist and he deserved to die.

Speaker Mubarak Gul ruled the adjournment motion could be taken up. By then, the ruling National Conference and the CPI-M's lone member from the valley too supported the demand.

All this was opposed by the Jammu-centric Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Jammu Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) and an independent member of the Jammu Mukti Morcha (JMM).

They called Guru "a terrorist who had masterminded the attack on Indian parliament".

The house did take up the adjournment motion, leading to verbal clashes between the Jammu- and Kashmir-centric parties.

The Congress, which has influence in both the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley, was opposed to a discussion. But it could not have its say as its ally the National Conference wanted it.

The National Conference is competing with the PDP in the valley politics.

Suffixing of the word "sahib" with Guru by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his party colleagues in the debate enraged the BJP and the JKNPP.

Day in and day out, the assembly has been divided, more so after Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde rejected the demand to hand over Guru's body to his family.

The PDP announced a boycott of the assembly session from March 13. The budget session ends April 5.

Again the BJP, JKNPP and JMM members totalling 16 in the house of 87 were not enough to counter the voice of Kashmir-centric parties. The PDP has 21 MLAs and the National Conference 28.

The Kashmir Valley also has four independent legislators.

Congress Minister Sham Lal Sharma from the Jammu region told IANS: "The usage of 'sahib' or 'shaheed' (martyr) for Guru is not acceptable. Any member who makes a statement against India should be suspended."

On March 13, five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men were killed in a suicide attack in Srinagar. This prompted the JKNPP to bring in an adjournment motion.

Whent it was rejected, the JKNPP legislators walked out of the house. They were joined by the BJP and the JMM.

Ashok Khajuria (BJP) said: "By taking up the adjournment motion on Afzal Guru and rejecting one on the attack on the CRPF camp, the government is boosting the morale of terrorists and demoralizing the security forces."

On Friday again, the Jammu-focussed parties protested against the Pakistan National Assembly resolution condemning Afzal Guru's execution.

The Jammu region has 37 assembly constituencies. Thus, the larger Kashmir Valley is politically more powerful and decisive in the assembly.

(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at binoo.j@ians.in)