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29 May 2023

Afzal Guru's family snubs offer to visit jail grave


The family of a Kashmiri separatist who was executed at the weekend has rejected an offer by Indian authorities to pray at his graveside inside a prison, insisting the body be buried in his home state.

Home Secretary R.K. Singh made the offer Tuesday and said that the belongings of Mohammed Afzal Guru, an Indian Muslim who was executed and buried at Tihar Jail on Saturday, would be handed over to his family members.

"We have no problem if the immediate family of Afzal Guru wants to come and offer prayers at his grave in Tihar jail. Belongings of Afzal will be returned to the family," Singh told reporters in Delhi.

However a relative of Guru said that the family had no intention of visiting his grave, insisting that the body be brought back to Kashmir.

"As Muslims we can pray for Afzal from here," the separatist's cousin Yasin Guru told AFP from the family's hometown of Sopore in the Kashmir Valley.

"We will go to Tihar only if the government of India is kind enough to hand us his body for burial here."

The announcement comes amid criticism of the government for failing to inform the family about the execution before he went to the gallows.

A letter sent from the government announcing that his mercy plea had been rejected only arrived at the family's home on Monday morning.

Kashmir's Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, normally an ally of the government, has been among those criticising the handling of the execution, saying he found it "very difficult" to reconcile himself to the fact that Guru was not given the opportunity to see his family for the last time.

Guru was convicted of helping a group of Islamist militants plot an 2001 attack on the Indian parliament which left 10 people dead.

He always maintained his innocence and many of his supporters accused police of framing evidence against him in the case.

A curfew has been in place since Saturday throughout much of Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state.

There have also been protests on the Pakistani side of the de facto border which cuts through the disputed region, known as the Line of Control.

A burial plot, complete with a headstone, has been prepared for Guru in the so-called 'Martyrs' Graveyard' in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The inscription reads: "His mortal remains are lying in trust with the government of India, the Kashmiri nation awaits its return," according to an AFP photographer who has seen the tombstone.