New Delhi: A protest against what the activists called the 'unfair' targeting of Muslim men in the name of fighting terror was called by various civil society organizations on Thursday at the residence of Home Minister P Chidambaram in the national capital. The activists had planned the protest outside Chidambaram's house, but they were detained by the police as soon as they gathered at the venue.
On May 13, a Bihar engineer Fasih Mahmood was picked from his home in Al Jubail in Saudi Arabia, and his whereabouts are still unknown. The government on Monday told the Supreme Court that Mahmood went missing in Saudi Arabia last month, was not in police custody in India and the Saudi authorities were not co-operating in tracing him. Mahmood hails from Barh Samaila village in Darbhanga district of Bihar.
Only last week another terror suspect, Qateel Siddiqui, who wasn’t yet chargesheeted seven months after his arrest, was murdered in Pune Jail. In the last week of May, two students of Jamiatul Falah were picked from Kaifiyat Express at Aligarh. They were produced in court seven days later. Concerned over what the activists called a growing and unfair trend, the activists released the following letter to Chidambaram during the protest.
The Home Minister,
Government of India.
We are forced to gather outside your residence today. We have broken with our tradition and etiquette of protest, i.e., to demonstrate at public offices rather than private residences because a large section of our population no longer feels safe in their own homes. Disappearances and illegal detentions have become rampant in the name of fighting terrorism. It is as though a new wave of counter-terrorism has been launched to terrorize the youth belonging to a community.
In this Kafkaesque world over which you preside, young men are picked up, some times snatched by one agency from another and presented to the world as dreaded terrorists. You may remember the case of Naquee Ahmed who was aiding the Special Cell in tracing two suspects in Mumbai when the Mumbai ATS abducted and kept him in illegal custody before announcing that a sensational arrest had been made. The Special Cell of course abandoned him. Competition between the agencies is costing innocents their life and liberty and when these squabbles spill into the media, your Ministry merely considers them bad PR rather than genuine concerns of a democracy.
You have stated, Sir, that Fasih Mahmood, the engineer picked up from Jubail in Saudi Arabia, is not in the custody of any of your agencies. Is it of no relevance that Indians accompanied the Saudi Arabian police when Fasih was taken away from his home? It is another matter that a red corner notice was issued for his arrest after his wife moved a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court. Another matter also that an affidavit submitted by the Karnataka police in the SC had details of his employment and an itemized list of his alleged guilt. And still, the Government of India claims to be clueless, even as to whether he is alive or dead.
Talking of death, Qateel Siddiqui, alleged IM operative arrested last November in Delhi, was killed in the Yerwada Jail, Pune by fellow inmates. Taken to Maharashtra by the Mumbai ATS on remand, to probe his role in a blast in a temple that did not take place (and of which there is no evidence except of course in now-dead Qateel’s disclosures). But this non-existent blast ostensibly enraged his fellow inmates to the extent that they strangulated him the day his remand was to end. A murder in broad day light in a high security prison. And what a convenient answer. An inmate booked for murder takes all blame. ‘Nationalist’ and ‘patriotic’ Mafiosi have been attributed with such killings in the past. Remember Shahid Azmi, Sir? The courageous lawyer with his own troubled past?
We think it’s important to recall the deep links of these ‘nationalist’ forces of the underworld with our very own Intelligence Bureau. In 2005, when the Mumbai Police swooped down on Vicky Malhotra, close aide of Chota Rajan, whom did they find sitting next to him in the car? Mr Ajit Kumar Doval, recently retired head of the IB. And the man who pulled the trigger on Azmi was himself eliminated later. So certainly, the theory that these were lone hit men, out to avenge their nationalist hurt, must be treated with a lot of circumspection.
Is it too much to ask that DK Basu guidelines for arrest be followed by your agencies? Is due process of investigation and law only to be followed in its violation? We are not opposed to any investigation, but surely, the law of the land must be followed? Agencies cannot be handed over a license to pick and detain anyone at will. Will we continue to pick one Muslim dominated town after another, branding it the hub of terrorism?
In the meeting of the Chief Ministers held to discuss the NCTC — whose unbridled powers to arrest suspects under UAPA will further aggravate the situation — you lamented that “in practically every case, a small section of the people springs to the support of persons who are detained for interrogation or arrested and charged. There is no apparent reason for such support other than the affinity of religion or sect.” With one sentence, you dismissed the genuine fears and demands about the rife misuse of powers by agencies being articulated by civil rights groups as sectarian (and as though the articulation of such fears by religious groups somehow rendered it illegitimate).
You ask us Sir to “observe caution and restraint and place faith in the integrity and impartiality of the investigation.” How can we, when the lessons from Malegaon and Mecca Masjid are not being heeded? When the NIA drags its feet in the cases of Hindutva terror? When we see that the Special Cell, despite its claim of a water-tight case against the senior journalist Syed Qazmi, asks for 90 more days to file a chargesheet?
From a poor construction worker like Qateel to a veteran journalist like Syed Qazmi, respected for his vast experience and bold views, all Muslims appear to be under the scanner. We have come here today to say to you that this ceaseless assault must end. Investigating agencies’ reign of terror must stop. This is not a sectarian issue, Sir. The very future of justice and democracy rests on this.
All India Students Association (AISA),
Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan,
Centre for Policy Analysis,
Champa - The Amiya & B.G. Rao Foundation,
Citizens for Democracy,
Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Association (JTSA),
JNU Students' Union,
Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians (MOEMIN),
National Campaign against Fabrication of Cases ( www.fabricated.in),
NCDHR (National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights),
PUCL (Delhi unit),
Revolutionary Youth Association,
Syed Kazmi Solidarity Committee.