A lover of Ghalib’s poetry which persuaded him to keep his son’s name after the poet, Afzal Guru had turned to religion in his years in jail. He studied religious books, offered regular prayers and even propagated Islam in confinement, inviting even the jail superintendent to convert to Islam.
In his letter to Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani in 2011, which is also the last he wrote before his hanging on February 9, Guru comes across as a man who had resigned to his fate and was ready to face up to his imminent death. But he wanted to be in full control of the image of him that was conveyed to people of Kashmir through media. While he doesn’t confirm or deny his role in the Parliament attack, Guru is particular about asserting his spotless religious credentials as a devout Muslim and a champion of Kashmir’s liberation.
Taking serious exception to the jail superintendent’s revelations to the media that Guru had not read Quran before his imprisonment and that his “ Kashmiri Brahman Pandit family” had only converted to Islam several generations ago, Guru clarifies this was not the case. “ I started reading Quran at the age of six. At the age of 14, I read (Syed Abul Ala) Maudaudi’s translation of Quran. I also read (Maudaudi’s) Khutbaat, Al-jihad fil Islam, Purdah etc,” Guru wrote. “My family may have been Brahman seven hundred years ago but it is a lie that we converted only a few years ago.
Guru writes about how he had, on the contrary, invited jail superintendent to convert to Islam. “I invited jail superintendent into the embrace of Islam’s message of universality and unity of God,” the letter reads.
The letter refers to attack on Parliament as an act that is related to the conflict in Kashmir. “It is Kashmir conflict that led to the attack on Indian Parliament. Hanging me or holding me guilty will not stop the resistance or the attacks in future,” Guru writes. “ In Parliament attack case, first sessions court, then High Court and subsequently Supreme Court has held me guilty. Now Congress government also thinks I am culpable. This is the reality. But martyrdom is my craving and wish. It will be my biggest prize”.
Guru also seeks forgiveness from Kashmiris for his mercy petition. “ I feel deep regret and shame for submitting my mercy petition. I did this on the urging of my family, friends and sympathisers. I apologize to my community for this mistake,” the letter reads.
The letter details Guru’s efforts to be shifted to Srinagar jail till the time he was executed. “ Since 2009, I have been trying hard for my tranfer to Srinagar jail. I also wrote to Home Department but in their response the department has said that the JK government is not ready to take me. But this is wrong. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been telling media that his government had no objection to my shifting to Srinagar,” Guru writes. “I am saying that either hang me fast or transfer me to a Srinagar jail till the time government takes a final decision about me”.