CHURUMURI POLL: Hang Afzal, Pardon Sarabjit?

For a party that has turned its demand for the hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru into a blood sport, nothing reveals the duplicitousness of the BJP better than its demand that the UPA government ensure the release of Sarabjit Singh, who is on the death row in Pakistan. “It is unfortunate that Sarabjit Singh, who has not even been identified for any act of violence is being hanged…,” party leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra began yesterday. And this, despite Pakistan’s Supreme Court having upheld the death sentence on Singh in August 2005, for his role in three bomb blasts in 1990, which claimed four lives and injured dozens. And this, despite Pakistan’s SC having slammed a lower court for convicting him on only one count of terrorism, “when he should have been convicted and sentenced for each murder in each case.”

Admittedly, this is a complex case, that has now come to be viewed through the prism of Indo-Pak diplomacy. Admittedly, the jury is still out on whether Sarabjit can be classified as a spy, saboteur or terrorist—over the last three years he has been described as all three. Admittedly, Sarabjit has possibly been framed and is possibly paying the price for the death of a Pakistani in an Indian jail on a much lesser charge. Admittedly, Sarabjit is as much a human being as anybody else, who has family and friends. Admittedly, the man should be given the benefit of doubt, especially after languishing in jail for 15 years. And hopefully, the man will be set free, sooner rather than later.

Still, can the BJP have one stand when it comes to hanging on Afzal Guru, and one on Sarabjit Singh? Are the two cases different, simply because the Afzal Guru was party to an attack on the “Temple of Indian Democracy”? Is terrorism on our shores worse than terrorism on theirs? Is a Supreme Court ruling in our country different from a Supreme Court ruling in theirs? Are the lives of parliamentarians more valuable than the lives of ordinary people? Do cases like Sarabjit Singh only underline the need for a complete and total ban on death sentences? Or, is a human life always more easily expendable for parties and governments depending on its religious persuasion?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: A pardon for Afzal Guru?