Afzal Guru hanging: Protests erupt as India executes man for 2001 Parliament attack

Feb 09 2013, 20:50 IST
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SummaryIndia hanged a Kashmiri militant on Saturday for an attack on the country's parliament in 2001, sparking clashes in Kashmir between hundreds of protesters and police who wielded batons and fired teargas to disperse the crowds.

Afzal Guru hanging: India hanged a Kashmiri militant on Saturday for an attack on the country's parliament in 2001, sparking clashes in Kashmir between hundreds of protesters and police who wielded batons and fired teargas to disperse the crowds.

President Pranab Mukherjee rejected a mercy petition from Mohammad Afzal Guru and he was hanged at 8 a.m. (0230 GMT) in Tihar jail in the capital, New Delhi. Security forces anticipating unrest had imposed a curfew in parts of insurgency-torn Kashmir and ordered people off the streets.

India blamed the 2001 attack on the parliament of the world's largest democracy on militants backed by Pakistan, targeting the prime minister, interior minister and legislators in one of the country's worst ever militant attacks.

Pakistan denied any involvement and condemned the attack but tension rose sharply and brought the nuclear-armed rivals dangerously close to their fourth war. Nearly a million soldiers were mobilised on both sides of the border and fears of war only dissipated months later, in June 2002.

The hanging was ordered less than three months after India executed the lone surviving gunman of a 2008 attack in the city of Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.

Saturday's execution could help the ruling Congress party deflect opposition criticism of being soft on militancy, as it gears up for a series of state elections this year and a general election due by 2014, while grappling with an economic slowdown.

"Congress has decided to be more proactive in view of the elections, not only in terms of economic policy but also matters like the hanging of Afzal Guru," said political analyst Amulya Ganguli.

"The Congress has now deprived the BJP of a propaganda plank," he said, referring to the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Government officials dismissed suggestions that electoral politics played a role in the decision to execute Guru.

In major towns of Indian Kashmir, where security forces have battled a Muslim separatist insurgency for decades, barricades were erected and hundreds of police and paramilitary force members were deployed.

"The hanging of Afzal Guru is a declaration of war by India," said Hilal Ahmad War, leader of a separatist faction.

Authorities shut down internet services and blocked social networking sites to try to stop unrest from spreading. The chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state, Omar Abdullah, made a televised appeal for calm.

Scuffles also broke out in New Delhi between Hindu activists and demonstrators who gathered at a city-centre protest site

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