Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Mohammed Afzal Execution Debate - A Muslim Family Stands Divided

[This is a Delhi-based family. Names have been changed. Conversations, originally in Hindustani, were held between Abba, Ammi, their two sons - Ershad and Ashraf, and a house guest who was addressed as Mamma. The reporting took place on the Ramadan evening of October 3, 2006.]

Mr. Mohammed Afzal, the mastermind behind the December 13, 2001 Parliament attack, was awarded the death sentence by the trial court in 2002. The Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court later upheld it. His hanging is expected to be carried out later in the month of October, 2006.

Abba: This is all a conspiracy. The parliament was not really targeted. It was stage-managed by the government. Did you observe the eyes of those poor boys killed as terrorists? They were drugged.

Ershad: The man is being trapped. He did not have a good lawyer. In fact he was a RAW agent and after his relations were spoiled they wanted to get rid of him. So he was accused of this terrorist attack.

Ashraf: The problem people are these Pakistanis. They are responsible for turning Kashmiris into fundamentalists. Earlier those Kashmiris were such cowards that they could not even hold a rifle!

Abba - The parliament attack was stage managed by the government

Abba: If there is one country that is jaahil it has to be Pakistan.

Mamma: But is India ours?

Ashraf: What do you mean? What has this country not given you?

Mamma: They only kill us here. Chop us into pieces....

Abba: You are wrong. Whatever we have got in this zindagi, we have got here. Would you be happier in Pakistan?

Ershad - The Indian mullahs are too conservative

Ashraf: Don't forget that the Hindu lawyer Nandita Haskar is fighting for Afzal. Only in this country can a Muslim convict be defended by Hindu lawyers. TV channels of Hindus are telecasting the demands of Afzal's mother and wife. Hindu activists are sitting on dharnas for Afzal's clemency. This is possible only in India. Never in Pakistan!

Ershad: I swear I hate Pakistan. They are the problem. Hindustan ke Mussalmaan has no time to care for the Kashmiris. We are happy here.

Mamma: What about Gujarat? Did not they kill us? What about Babri masjid?

Abba: Babri is the only thing that pricks our soul. Things worsened only from that point.

Ashraf: But Muslims also are so unreasonable. We are intolerant about other religions and we expect other religions not to be equally intolerant. Have you ever tried to understand the sentiments of Hindus when they used to see that old mosque standing on the spot where their Bhagwan Ram was born?

See, we are smaller in numbers. What harm was there to shift our mosque to some other site? Imagine the love and respect we would have got from them.

Ammi - The Afzal case is the result of a saajish

Abba: What are you saying? Why would we have shifted the mosque? That is an insane reason. Babri was an excuse to attack us.

Mamma: Why only Babri? They are also creating trouble in Mathura...

Ammi: The bad luck of Muslims is our Mullah leadership. They do not give the right advice.

Ershad: These Mullahs are too conservative.

Ashraf: Our problem is that we have too many madrasas.

Ershad: What's wrong with madrasas? What's wrong with ilm? What are you talking about? Why do you have to say that?

Mamma: They just want to kill Afzal. Did you see the news? Now that Bitta (All India Anti-Terrorist Front chairman M.S. Bitta) is parading the widows of those gardeners killed in the parliament and is making a drama out of Afzal's execution!

Ashraf: So what? Aren't people executed in large numbers in Saudia - your favorite country? Isn't that execution drama?

Mamma: Saudia is different. It is a proper Islamic country.

Ashraf: Here we are so possessive about our mosques but have we asked that why there are no temples there?

Ershad: Where?

Ashraf: In Saudia? In the Arab world?

Abba: Why should we bother? I have lived all my life in India. This is my country, not Saudi Arabia. I want my mosques here.

Ershad: But if there is even an one percent possibility that Afzal was indeed a part of the conspiracy then he must be hanged.

Abba: Yes, it does not matter if he is a Muslim or not. But I tell you he is innocent. It was a plan by the Indian government. Do you remember when the army killed Sikhs in Chattisinghpura before Bill Clinton's visit and blamed the Pakistanis? Now they staged this terrorist attack in the parliament.

Even the judges are untrustworthy nowadays.

Ashraf - They must not hang Afzal

Ammi: It is so bad. Now I ask what was the point of sentencing that poor Monica Bedi to five years in prison?

Abba: Yes, poor girl. She is not a terrorist. She just forged her passport. Five years is too harsh. Bechari! She must have got two years at the most under the 420 act.

Ashraf: I agree they must not hang Afzal. Kashmiris are against it. What would be the point if they carry on with the plan? Saving his life would at least send some good message to the Kashmiris.

Mamma: Who cares for the Kashmiris in this country?

Ammi: I'm surprised. The way you shed tears about the Kashmiri have never done that for the Pandits. The mujahidins burned their houses and killed their family members. You have never talked about them, Mamma?

Mamma: The Pandits deserved it! They had started it all. They used to torture the Muslims.

Abba: Nonsense!

Mamma - But is India ours?

Ammi: But how can Afzal be a terrorist? Dil nahin maanta. It is all a saajish by the police. They needed to show something to the Hindus and they have now got their bali ka bakra.

Ershad: They had also accused Gilani (Delhi University Professor S.A.R. Gilani). But look, he was finally acquitted.

Mamma: This country hangs only Muslims. We are like step-children.

Ashraf: What bakvaas! What are you saying?

Ershad: Rubbish. I trust Hindus more than Muslims. I am more comfortable if my money is in the hands of my assistant Ram Pal Yadav than with any of my Muslims acquaintances.

Abba: You know the low caste Hindus are not so bad.

Ashraf: Yes, in fact they like us. They see us Muslims as people who do not mind sharing a jootha glass of water with them. They notice it when we ask them to sit on our sofas. They know we do not discriminate them because of their chhoti jaat. It is these Brahmins who are the problem.

Ammi: But Afzal must not be hanged. I know they are framing him.

Ashraf: I think he carried out the attack but still he must be pardoned.

Mamma: One day they will hang all of us.

Ammi: Yes, when that Narendra Modi will become Prime Minister.

Abba: If Afzal is a terrorist, which is not true, I will be the first person to take him to a firing squad.

Ershad: I'm saying Afzal is innocent. Parliament attack was a fake encounter.

[The conversation later ended for the Tarabi - a special namaaz in which the entire Koran is recited over a number of days]

Men doing the Tarabi


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