Challenging Witch-hunt of Minorities

AISA-RYA Dharna at Azamgarh

Student and youth activists of RYA, AISA and PUHR held a protest dharna on October 4 at the District Collector’s office at Azamgarh, against the witch-hunt of Muslim youth and students in the name of fighting ‘terrorism’. RYA National President Mohd. Salim, AISA State President Ramayan Ram, RYA State President Balmukund Dhuria and National Secretary Om Prakash Singh, PUHR’s district convenor Basant Kumar, CPI(ML)’s Gazipur leader Dr. Salauddin, former MLA Alam Nabi and CPI(ML)’s Azamgarh in-charge Jaiprakash Narain addressed the protest, condemning the communal profiling of Azamgarh and demanding a judicial enquiry into the Jamia Nagar encounter. Many intellectuals from Azamgarh also joined the dharna.

People's Convention in Azamgarh

A People's Convention titled "Terrorism, Harassment of Muslims, and Democracy" was held on October 19 2008 at Azamgarh, in solidarity with the people of Azamgarh, and to challenge the deliberate communal polarisation and profiling in the town. Addressing the Convention, CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said that terrorism is rooted, not in Azamgarh but in politics dictated by America. He said that the communal attacks on the religious minorities in the name of terrorism is in reality an attack on the past and future of India. The convention was organised by the CPI(ML), People's Union for Human Rights (PUHR), Revolutionary Youth Association, All India Students' Association (AISA), Jan Sanskriti Manch, All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) and Rajnarayan Vichar Manch.

Human rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer Nandita Haksar said that the Human Rights movement would have to be premised on a political, anti-imperialist agenda. The Convention demanded a enquiry into Batla House encounter by a Supreme Court Judge; ban on VHP and Bajrang Dal and arrest of Yogi Adityanath of Gorakhpur who had recently visited Azamgarh to fan up communal frenzy, and scrapping of the Indo-US nuclear deal. The Convention was presided over by a 4-member presidium, comprising Jayprakash Narayan, Vijay Bahadur Rai, Manoj and Dr. Salahuddin and it was conducted by managing editor of Samkalin Janmat K.K. Pandey. The Convention was also addressed by JSM’s General Secretary Pranay Krishna, Tahira Hasan- National Vice President of AIPWA, PUHR President Manoj Singh, Advocate Wasiuddin, Aslam from Jamia Milia Islamia University, RYA National President Mohammad Salim and Liberation editor Kavita Krishnan among others.

AIPWA-Tehreek-e-Niswan Team Visits Azamgarh

A team of women activists, led by Tahira Hasan, Convenor of Tehreek-e-Niswan and National Vice President of AIPWA, visited families in Sanjarpur, Azamgarh, on October 20. They met family members and relatives of many youths who have been killed in the Jamia Nagar 'encounter', arrested or abducted by the police. Relatives told the team that the police/ATS had taken away their kin without any ground and now they have been implicated in false cases on false grounds. Most of the youth were first abducted by the police many days before the date when their arrests were shown on paper. Many of them are still missing.
The team demanded a judicial inquiry into the matter, a stop on the illegal arrests and immediate withdrawal of police and ATS from the village.

Public Hearing in Jamia Nagar

A Jan Sunwai on the Batla House 'Encounter' was organized by the Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group (JTSG) outside Khalilullah Masjid in Jamia Nagar on October 12, 2008. The following scholars and activists associated with civil rights movement constituted the jury: Swami Agnivesh, John Dayal, Members of the National Integration Council, historians Tanika Sarkar, Tripta Wahi, and Vijay Singh, Nirmalangshu Mukherji, Professor of Philosophy, Delhi University and Harsh Mandar, social activist.

The Public Hearing was held in the neighbourhood to counter the increasing communalization of public discourse in relation to the issue of terrorism and its association with the Muslim community, to overcome the sense of alienation and fear and to extend solidarity to the community residing in the Jamia Nagar area. This act of solidarity was welcomed by the people who attended in thousands to be part of the deliberations.

After hearing over a dozen testimonies given by local residents, the jury observed that the predominant sentiment among the local residents about the 'encounter' is one of anger and disbelief. The links that the media and the state is making between education, especially professional technical education among the Muslim youth and terrorism has fueled fears that it will inhibit the progress and social advancement of the community.

People’s testimonies and the identification proofs establish the credibility of the boys killed in the encounter as students seeking opportunities and a career in the city. The statement by people who bathed the bodies of the dead boys before their burial was striking: they testified that the skin on Atif's back was sloughed off; there was smell in his body; there were multiple bullet injuries on Sajid's head. On the nature of firing, all residents uniformly testified that the firing happened in quick succession punctuated by short intervals for nearly an hour after Inspector Sharma was brought down. People testified that they had seen him coming down with an injury – blood was oozing out from the wound. The members of the locality raised questions about the long duration of firing in L-18. The death of Inspector Sharma too is shrouded in mystery.

Concluding from the testimonies that there is ample ground to doubt the veracity of the police version of the sequence of events on 19th September, the Jury demanded a judicial probe into the 19th September encounter by a sitting Supreme Court judge, and handing over of investigations to the Central Bureau of Investigations.

Apart from members of the jury, the Jan Sunwai was also addressed by writer Arundhati Roy, PUCL member Kavita Srivastava, and CPI(ML) CC Member Kavita Krishnan. On behalf of the JTSG, Manisha Sethi presented a detailed critique of the Delhi Police versions put out by “embedded” journalists. Excerpts are given below.

Some Questions for the Delhi Police and Embedded "Journalists'

The last few days have seen the Delhi Police "returning fire" at the critics of the Jamia Nagar encounter. Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group responds to the latest Police claims.
1) The police was caught by surprise. Or was it?

In its response to the questions being raised by the civil society, the police say, "the presence of armed terrorists took them by surprise." "The police did not expect an encounter at L-18." (Indian Express October 9)

However, Praveen Swami in his "Alice in wonderland" article in The Hindu (October 10) writes that "the investigators learned that top commander 'Bashir' and his assault armed squad left Ahmedabad on July 26 for a safe house at Jamia Nagar." Further he says, "the investigators came to believe that Atif Amin either provided Bashir shelter or the two were one and the same person."

Surely, there can be only one truth:

a) The police knew that a "top commander" and his "armed assault team "was residing in L-18 (as claimed confidently by Swami). In which case, the Special Cell's almost cavalier approach is inexplicable -- unless we accept Swami's contention that Inspector Sharma's team did as well as it could "given their resources and training".

b) The Police went to L-18 merely for investigation and was ambushed. In which case, isn't it surprising that it took them only a few hours to crack nearly all cases of bomb blasts that have occurred across the country? It was of course inconvenient for UP, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra state police, who had been claiming their own successes in uncovering their 'masterminds'.

The Police must pick one of these 'truths'. It cannot claim both to be true simultaneously.

2) The puzzle of the Bullet Proof Jacket

Again, the Delhi Police has not made up its mind on this one. JCP, Karnail Singh and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Alok Kumar have reiterated that the Special Cell team members were not wearing BPVs. ["Entering a crowded locality would alert the suspects and give them time to escape" (Indian Express Oct 9); "To maintain secrecy in a cramped area like Batla House." Tehelka Oct 4)].

However, now we are also told that some police men were wearing Bullet proof vests. This new version has appeared following the outcry after the publication of pictures of Sajid's body, which clearly show that he had been shot repeatedly in the head. Such bullet injuries suggest that he could have been killed from extreme close range while he was crouching or kneeling. This it self raises a huge question mark over the 'encounter'. "Senior police sources" now claim that Sajid was "lying on the floor when he opened fire at a cop. The cop, unlike Inspector Sharma, was wearing a bulletproof vest. He retaliated by firing a burst from his AK-47, which hit Sajid on his head." (Times of India, Oct 8).

Neat. It explains why and how Sajid was killed. And also, why the cop in question was not as much as injured when Sajid was supposedly firing at him.

Nonetheless, the Delhi Police must also make up its mind if the cops that day were wearing Bullet proof vests or not?

3) Corroborative evidence?

Believe it or not, the evidence in support of their claim that the boys living in L-18 were terrorists, the police presents a bucket, adhesive tape and a bag! (Indian Express, Oct 9).
Let it be noted that legal requirements were flouted with regard to seizures. The police is required to prepare a seizure list of all items recovered from the site and it should be attested by two public witnesses unconnected with the police. Given that a huge crowd had gathered at the site, surely, the police could have sought the assistance of members of the public. And why does L-18 continue to remain sealed?

4) Why are the post mortem reports of Inspector Sharma and Atif and Sajid not being made public?

5) "Over confident terrorists":

In response to why these supposed 'terrorists' left a trail of identification marks which would have made them sitting ducks, the police have a simple answer. They were over confident. (Indian Express, October 9)

These boys (aged 17 years – 24 years) were so confident that they had their tenant verifications done in which they provided their genuine addresses; Atif had his driving license made by providing his genuine details; carried out blasts and returned home coolly to watch their exploits on television; felt no need to flee or change residences frequently; bought sim cards in their own names; registered as students in schools and institutions; sat for examinations midway through planning and executing blasts. And yet, these masterminds had no inkling of the special cell surveillance, and indeed helpfully stored material such as photographs of blast sites on their laptops and cell phones, so that their guilt could be proved promptly by the police whenever they were caught.

Swami writes that that "the allegations leveled over the encounter tell us more about the critics than the event itself." Sure, we are skeptics, unwilling to lap up everything that comes forth from "police sources", senior or otherwise; but what does ghostwriting an article for the Special Cell tell us about you, Mr. 'journalist'?

Our doubts remain. Our questions unanswered. Only a time bound, independent inquiry under the sitting judge of the Supreme Court can illumine the truth. What does the Delhi Police and the Government have to fear if the truth is on their side?

Liberation Archive