SRINAGAR: The Congress, which lost power in the recently-held Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, has ‘joined’ the bandwagon of separatists demanding the return of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s body to his family.
“Handing over (Afzal’s) body to his family is a humanitarian issue,” J&K Congress vice-president Ghulam Nabi Monga told Express.
Afzal was secretly hanged at Delhi’s Tihar Jail on February 9, 2013, during the reign of the Congress-led UPA-II Government. He was not allowed a final meeting with his family members before he was put to death. His body was buried within the jail premises.
The Congress, which won 12 seats in the Assembly elections, is trying to stay relevant in the Valley, from where from it had secured four seats.
By raising Afzal’s hanging issue, the party is trying to “keep its constituency in the Valley intact” and counter the PDP’s “soft” policy on Kashmir.
All the separatist groups and the PDP have been demanding the return of Afzal’s body to his family for proper burial. The PDP, which is engaged in talks with the BJP on government formation in the state, has been pressing the saffron party to include its demand for revocation of AFSPA, resumption of talks with separatists and Pakistan in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP). The PDP has been seeking a commitment from the Union Government in this regard.
The Congress also found support from Shashi Tharoor, who tweeted on Monday saying, “I think the hanging was both wrong and badly handled.”
“His family should have been allowed a last meeting and body returned,” Tharoor said.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad recently had to play the “Afzal Guru” card to get re-elected to the Rajya Sabha and retain his Leader of the Opposition (LoP) status in the Upper House of Parliament.
On February 7, when elections to the four Rajya Sabha seats in J&K were held, five newly elected Congress legislators close to Azad issued a joint statement admitting that not allowing Afzal’s family to meet him was a mistake and that the demand to return his mortal remains was a humanitarian issue.
The joint statement was issued by Congress MLAs to persuade independent legislator from the Valley Engineer Abdul Rashid to vote for Azad in the RS polls.Rashid had been demanding an apology from the Congress on Afzal’s hanging and voted for Azad after the Congress came out with the statement.Azad won after Rashid and two other independent legislators, besides the NC and the Congress members voted for him.
Kashmir observed a shutdown on Monday in response to the strike called by separatist groups to mark the death anniversary of Afzal.