Behind hanging of Afzal, dragging talks on Kashmir
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Would the government have gone ahead with the hanging of Afzal Guru had their been any robust movement in the Kashmir dialogue process, both internally and externally? There is no one answer to this question, with some even contesting that once a government takes a political call, such noble intentions count for little.
But the fact remains that the Kashmiri sentiment and, particularly the impact on the delicate peace process with Pakistan, were factors at the heart of the indecision over hanging Afzal all these years. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had himself invested much in this process and hoped for an internal dialogue to dovetail the larger peace effort.
While the ruling Congress by itself never took an official stand on this, there has been enough to indicate that the party had no serious views on this. Digvijaya Singh had made this clear some three years ago.
So, why the delay? One argument is that it was former president Pratibha Patil's fear of bad karma that came in the way, leading to a difference of views with North Block. Once that alignment was set right with Pranab Mukherjee's entry into Rashtrapati Bhavan, it was felt that this "business" would not take any longer.
Quite true, even though we tend to forget that Patil did reject two mercy petition despite her predilections.
But while this may be enough to explain the alacrity in Ajmal Kasab's case, it still does not join the dots in the case of Afzal. For that, we again come to the Kashmir issue.
And it's important to see where it stands now. Over the last few months, even as the political blocks fell in place to take this hard decision on Afzal, the dialogue on Kashmir has gradually lost its way, with the principal actors in the Valley refusing to use the political space on offer.
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