To Afzal Guru — A Poem by Ramzy Baroud

Feb 10, 2020

We are proud to present a poem by Dr. Ramzy Baroud in memoriam of Afzal Guru, who was hanged to death (after 12 years of solitary confinement) on February 9, 2013 for his "alleged" role in the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. The poem, aside from a noteworthy tribute, is also a poetic manifestation of the solidarity shared between Palestine and Kashmir in their similar struggles for justice, equality and freedom.
Editor's Introduction

We are proud to present a poem by Dr. Ramzy Baroud in memoriam of Afzal Guru, who was hanged to death (after 12 years of solitary confinement) on February 9, 2013 for his "alleged" role in the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. The judgement passed by the Supreme Court of India recognized that circumstantial evidence was produced against Afzal Guru, stating that "As is the case with most conspiracies, there is and could be no evidence amounting to criminal conspiracy." The same judgement then also declared that "The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender."

According to research and writing produced by Arundhati Roy, “the two most incriminating pieces of evidence against Guru were a cellphone and a laptop confiscated at the time of arrest" with both "not sealed, as evidence is required to be." Roy adds that during "the trial it emerged that the hard disk of the laptop had been accessed after the arrest. It only contained the fake home ministry passes and the fake identity cards that the 'terrorists' used to access parliament – and a Zee TV video clip of parliament house. So according to the police, Guru had deleted all the information except the most incriminating bits." In addition, the "police witness said he sold the crucial sim card that connected all the accused in the case to one another to Guru on 4 December 2001" while "the prosecution's own call records showed the sim was actually operational from 6 November 2001."

As if the evidence being scattered in a chaotic manner didn’t suffice to produce a questionable case, the police officers on record set out to arrest Afzal Guru after SAR Geelani (a Delhi University professor, now departed) was picked up, while court records indicating that Afzal was arrested before Geelani further classified this disparity as a "material contradiction." The memos for Afzal's arrest were signed by two J&K police officers, and according to material accessed by Roy and others, "one of them" was  "an old tormentor from Afzal's past as a surrendered 'militant'."

Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, the man who Afzal Guru named in a letter to his lawyer and in his testimony, Devinder Singh, a deputy superintendent of the JK Police, was arrested on January 11, 2020 for transporting two militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen, coincidentally or not so coincidentally weeks before India’s big Republic Day of January 26th. The same Devinder Singh, as per Afzal Guru's statements, had ordered Guru to travel to Delhi and help another man (unknown to Guru) to find an apartment and get a car back in 2001 days before the Indian Parliament attack. Afzal had categorically stated that Devinder Singh had severely tortured him on multiple occasions years after his surrender as a militant (with the police officer admitting the same), yet none of this was considered crucial to the case, with new questions about Devinder Singh's involvement in Indian Parliament attack of 2001 being raised in the press at the present.

Meanwhile, during the days before and after Afzal Guru's hanging, several prominent figures of civil society, among them advocates, human rights defenders and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International reiterated their criticism over the problematic verdict passed on Afzal Guru to assuage India’s “collective conscience.” Afzal was finally hanged on February 9th, 2013, with a rope procured two days prior because the one arranged in 2005, when he was sentenced to death, broke while being tested. At six in the early morning, right after his Fajr prayers, the jail superintendent informed him that he was to be hanged at 8AM on the same day. His family received his last handwritten note on Tuesday, February 12, 2013, three days after his hanging.

Since his departure, February 9th is memorialized as Afzal Guru day in Kashmir, where the internet is shut down and a hartaal (civilian shutdown) is declared by leaders of civil society unless military curfew has been established to prevent Kashmiri civilians from congregating to pray for Afzal. Ramzy Baroud’s poem, presented here (courtesy of its poet) was originally published in the book I Remember my name, Poetry by Samah Sabawi, Ramzy Baroud and Jehan Bseiso and republished on the Palestinian Information Network. The poem, aside from a noteworthy tribute, is also a poetic manifestation of the solidarity shared between Palestine and Kashmir in their similar struggles for justice, equality and freedom.

Given the controversial nature of Afzal Guru’s sentence and the numerous unanswered questions around his conviction, select relevant links have been included (embedded directly from their source) along with useful information on Dr. Ramzy Baroud’s greater work.

TO AFZAL GURU – Ramzy Baroud

He climbed the steps briskly,
head held high,
greeted the hangman
with a gentle nod.
His beard grew defiant
as the hood plunged his face
in visible darkness
he remembered the judge
asking to repeat
alphabets of servitude.
Ignoring the judge,
he roared names
of forefathers who too had died
standing tall like the Himalayas.
He remembered his
mother’s tender touch,
his playful son named
after the poet, Ghalib;
his young, exuberant wife
whose mercy pleas went unheeded
in an unforgiving democracy;
faces of friends flashed by
as did houseboats on Dal Lake
the Shalimar
apple orchards in his hometown
his silly dreams
of heaven above
this playground below
where unruly children
refuse to learn
the etiquette of captivity
in rooms with no windows
only high grey walls
where they pumped petrol
into his anus to break him
as they had countless others
of same skin and soul.
His face was the color
of parched earth,
lips never ceased
reciting one last poem,
the hangman swore,
for God’s unruly children
to live forever Free.

Relevant Links

Ramzy Baroud Official Website and Relevant Links

Abid Bhat Photography Page

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About the Contributor

Ramzy Baroud is a US-Palestinian journalist, media consultant, an author, internationally-syndicated columnist, Editor of Palestine Chronicle (1999-present), former Managing Editor of London-based Middle East Eye, former Editor-in-Chief of The Brunei Times, former Deputy Managing Editor of Al Jazeera online. Baroud taught mass communication at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology, Malaysia Campus. Baroud also served as head of Aljazeera.net English’s Research and Studies department. He is the author of five books and a contributor to many others; his latest volume is The Last Earth, a Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018). His books are translated to several languages including French, Turkish, Arabic, Korean, Malayalam, among others. Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter (2015) and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara (2016-17). He is currently a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). Baroud’s work has been published in hundreds of newspapers and journals worldwide, including The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, Arab News, The Miami Herald, The Japan Times, Al-Ahram Weekly, Asia Times, Al Jazeera, Gulf News and nearly every English language publication throughout the Middle East. His work is regularly translated and republished in French, Spanish, Arabic and other languages. He has contributed to and was referenced in hundreds of books and academic journals. Baroud been a guest on many television and radio programs including RT TV, CNN International, BBC, ABC Australia, National Public Radio, Press TV, Aljazeera and many other stations. (Source: https://www.ramzybaroud.net/about/)