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Delhi blast victims' families support death penalty

By Harmeet Shah Singh in New Delhi
November 08, 2005 18:31 IST
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In silence, eight-year-old Kirti stared blankly as others around her sobbed and mumbled over and over. A fatherless child for two years, she lost her mother in the blast on October 29 at Sarojani Nagar, Delhi.

Already haunted by memories just nine days after the pre-Diwali blasts, Kirti stood alongside several parents whose children died the same day, when Delhi suffered its worst terrorist strike.

Men tried to hold back tears as women broke down in a replay of the October 29 grief on Tuesday at Delhi's Constitution Club, where they gathered in support of death penalty for mass killers.

"Those killers should be hanged," said Kirti as she turned her face to television cameras after a two-minute silence in honour of the October 29 victims. Wails echoed the club hall as women with their tear-stained eyes also screamed -'nothing but death for terrorists'.

Their call comes at a time when critics and supporters of death penalty are locked in a debate triggered by President A P J Adbul Kalam's letter to the government over clemency pleas.

"I spent all my savings fighting court cases after four gunmen killed 18 members of my family. They are on death row, but now I hear with dismay they may win presidential pardon," said Swaran Kaur, recounting an attack on her family in 1991 during the unrest in Punjab.

Bhagwan Das' 16-year-old grandson was shopping with his father at Sarojani Nagar when the blast occurred. It was pandemonium for the family that staggered in all directions after they heard their loved ones were caught up in the explosion.

"We stumbled over a rubble of metal and body parts in the market and then headed for Safdarjung hospital at 7.30 pm. VIP movements prevented me from seeing my children until 1.30 am the next day," Das said.

His grandson is dead, but he has still not been able to locate his son despite DNA testing on the corpses. "This horror cannot be explained in words. And those who author this devastation deserve no mercy," Das said.

Led by All India Anti-Terrorist Front chief M S Bitta, the stricken families met the President with a memorandum voicing their support to death sentence.

Bitta, a fierce critic of clemency, also recalled a bomb attack he had survived in 1993. A former university teacher facing execution for the attack that left nine people dead has also appealed for presidential pardon.

"My son was a competent commando. ... his memories are still fresh in our minds," said father of ITBP commando, Sukhbir Singh who was killed in the 1993 bomb attack outside the Youth Congress office here. "His killer should be hanged."

Bitta, a former Youth Congress president, however, said he believed politicians should not be allowed to entertain clemency requests from convicts - "It amounts to insult of the judiciary if politicians heading ministries try to overturn judicial verdicts."

Complete coverage: Terror strikes New Delhi

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Harmeet Shah Singh in New Delhi
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