I just want his body back: Guru’s wife
Srinagar, February 21, 2013 (PPI-OT): “I just want his body back” were the words of Muhammad Afzal Guru’s widow, Tabassum, who was sitting huddled in the dark on the floor of a large room, closely surrounded by grieving female relatives in the home of her husband’s family.
Tabassum, a soft-spoken woman with dark eyes and a full face that was tightly wound up in a light headscarf in her first media interview since her husband’s hanging, said, “That’s all,” blinking back tears as a relative held a candle to her face because the electricity had gone out in the town of Sopore.
The family has refused an invitation to pray over his grave at Tihar Jail. “I am very angry with the Indian government. His body should be sent back so that we can bury him with proper religious rites,” Tabassum added.
“If I want to visit his grave 100 or 1,000 times, I cannot go to Delhi,” she said. “I want it to be here.”
In Sopore, a two-hour drive from Srinagar, Tabassum and her son recalled their visits to Afzal in Tihar Jail once a year. “He was a loving husband and usually talked about what was happening in the house,” she said.
“I was shocked and my mind became numb” upon hearing of the execution, said Ghalib Guru, his 13-year-old son, who is named after an Urdu poet. “They should have told us a week before,” he said. The slender boy with dark flashing eyes was wearing a traditional Kashmiri perhan — a long woollen cloak worn in the winter — over jeans, along with a round prayer cap.
His son, who was a year-old when his father was imprisoned, said he only remembers him behind bars.
“I am proud of him. He is like what Bhagat Singh was for Hindustan,” he said, referring to the Indian independence movement leader who was hanged by the British in 1931.
Ghalib, who is in the eighth grade, recalled that most conversations with his father were about his own studies. While his father wanted him to be an Islamic scholar, he hopes to become a cardiologist, he said.
The elder Afzal’s extended family described him as a serious-minded child devoted to school.
Yaseen Guru, his cousin, said that in 1993, Afzal left for three years to study politics and history at Delhi University, and came back in 1996 to open up a shop selling surgical equipment in Kashmir. After he returned, Yaseen said that his cousin was often picked up and questioned by forces before being arrested in 2001.
Yaseen remembers his cousin’s decade of incarceration in Tihar Jail as a period when he became a voracious reader, especially of books by the Egyptian author Sayyid Qutub, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was executed in 1966.
Seclusion in prison had made Afzal more devout, and he increasingly read books on religion, philosophy and comparative religion, Yaseen said, a change that was reflected in his appearance, from clean-shaven to a long bearded man.
“During my visits, he would always give a list of books for me to get. He had even read the Vedas,” the cousin said, referring to sacred Hindu scriptures. “He named his son Ghalib so you can understand his love for poetry,” he added.
Family members said that they never really expected the death sentence to be carried out. Many Kashmiris see the Indian government’s decision as politically-motivated to appear tough on terrorism ahead of the 2014 elections.
For more information, contact:
Kashmir Media Service
Phone: 92-51-4435548, 4435549