Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Problem with Hailing Afzal As a Martyr

While it may indeed be intellectually fashionable to talk about humanism without nationalism (for nation-states are, after all, man-made constructs), till such time as nation-states are real, they need nationalist cohesion for progress and security, and just as loving your family over other humans is not inhuman, nor is identification with one’s country, and those Muslim rightists pleased by strong denunciations of nationalism in general should indeed realise that they would even apply to pan-Muslim nationalism, with territorial nationalism based on a shared political and economic destiny being much more rational, and pan-Muslim nationalism is anachronistic, even going by the Muslim scriptures, as I have discussed here (I know that some Muslims would question whether I, as not being a Muslim, can give my own interpretation of Islam, but if non-Muslims are not expected to study and analyze Islam, how do Muslims expect non-Muslims to not have prejudiced views about their faith?). Country-oriented nationalism does not have to be and shouldn’t be the type presupposing the morality of your government in the realms of foreign policy and engagement with secessionist forces to be axiomatic, only complaining about its naiveté or passivity, and one should be open to hearing out counter-narratives, but counter-narratives cannot entail supporting attacking the parliament. And yes, if statist nationalism of any kind is supposedly always a bad thing, then so is the Kashmiri separatist movement that strives to create a nation-state or has affinity to the Pakistani state. And their brand of nationalism, on the whole, isn’t secular (Geelani has openly condemned separation of religion and state) and is not in favour of modern freedoms and gender equality, despite some pretensions to the contrary and some genuine exceptions. From girls’ rock bands shutting down to molestations of girls participating in a marathon alongside boys to no cinema halls functioning in the valley owing to militants’ diktats, that actually represents the true face of Kashmiri ‘freedom’ but what Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz has called the “regressive left” just simply fails to see it, and many other well-intentioned people are often ignorant of the facts and form an opinion seeing only a part of the picture. Even if you declare the Indian state (and not the nation in general) established under the constitution to be your enemy, which is different from criticizing a specific political leader or party, that is an abuse of freedom of speech when you claim it under the same constitution. We didn’t see the free speech fundamentalists routing for those shouting those slogans routing for the likes of Kamlesh Tiwari.
For those questioning the judicial verdict, the Supreme Court did not declare that they were awarding the death penalty to Afzal only on the basis of “collective conscience” and without evidence. There was a reference to “collective conscience” to justify awarding him the death penalty rather than a life term, and that had no relevance to establishing his guilt, which was based on evidence admissible under the Indian Evidence Act.
Whether one thinks the judgment was good in law or not is another debate which someone can initiate only after having read the entire lengthy judgment (and not just by listening to what Guru’s lawyers who lost the case or activists for Kashmir’s ‘freedom’ have to say), but it would be totally wrong to cast aspersions on the Indian judiciary as a whole, thanks to which many innocent civilians – Muslims, Adivasis and others – falsely framed as terrorists, have been exonerated, including two people even in connection with the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, and even Kashmiri Muslims were acquitted in connection with a terrorist attack in Lajpat Nagar in Delhi in 1984. It is the judiciary which has convicted hundreds of rioters in connection with the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 (in cases relating to massacres such as in the Best Bakery, Ode, Sardarpura and Naroda Patiya), hundreds in connection with the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 (though some prominent politicians in connection with the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 are indeed yet to be convicted) and the anti-Christian riots in the Kandhamal district of Odisha in 2008 (in which MLAs like Manoj Pradhan were convicted), and recently, it upheld the right of the Greenpeace activist to travel abroad and even struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, a UPA legacy the Modi sarkar was shamelessly seeking to retain, as unconstitutional.
Besides, a letter supposedly written by Afzal Guru acknowledging his crime has been verified as being written by him by his own brother, and there are indeed several other such letters too. He even gave interviews acknowledging his guilt, as you can seehere and here. P. Chidambaram’s recent statement was most likely politically motivated, given that Rahul Gandhi was being attacked for associating with the pro-Afzal folks, and though the party as a whole disassociated from his statement, which it had to for Afzal was hanged in their tenure, the Congress often likes to speak in multiple voices to please all kinds of people, as does even the BJP.

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