STATE TERRORISM: THE SHAME OF INDIA

 

Saturday, April 19, 2008

 

 

STATE TERRORISM: THE SHAME OF INDIA

 

State after state, the special police squads, organised as ATS (Anti-Terrorist Squad) and STF (Special Task Force), are rounding up innocent Muslims, brand them as ‘terrorists’, jail them under draconian laws for days, months and years and try every trick in the trade to deny them justice. The volume of such arrests country wide has increased manifold.

 

This only points to a conspiracy to import US/Israeli agenda into India with a distinct proactive commitment to flaunt India’s constitution, its democracy, its rule of law, it’s ingrained respect for judicial process and flagrant violation of Human Rights.

 

India’s most active upholder of Human Rights, TEHELKA magazine, in the following article, exposes a diabolical attempt to subvert the system of justice and to make India a virtual police state, by openly promoting special police units to become the judge and jury in the case of Indian Muslims by denying the accused through chauvinist propaganda, the services of lawyers for their day in court.

 

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main38.asp?filename=Ne260408lawyers_judges.asp

 

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 16, Dated April 26, 2008

 

Presumed guilty –

 

When Lawyers Turn Judges 

Bar associations in Uttar Pradesh have enforced a peculiar boycott of justice: no lawyer will plead a terror suspect’s case. But one man has refused to obey. ANIL VARGHESE reports

ARE YOUNG Muslim men victims of an unofficial Emergency? An unusual meeting that went unnoticed took place in Allahabad a couple of weeks ago. Away from the media glare, over a thousand Muslims gathered to speak aloud a question increasingly being asked in their community: are they the collateral damage in the fight against terror? The gathering took up the specific example of Uttar Pradesh where, in an unprecedented denial of justice, Muslims slapped with terror charges are being shunned by local lawyers. And with no lawyer ready to fight their cases, the police is finding it easy to pick up, detain and interrogate suspected ‘terrorists’ in flagrantly illegal ways. The Allahabad meeting was called to raise a voice against this State terrorism.

The banner stuck below the dais read, ‘ATS-STF Vibhag, Aatankvad Ka Doosra Naam’ (ATS-STF Department, Terrorism’s Other Name). The ATS (Anti-Terrorism Squad) and the STF (Special Task Force) are special police forces tasked with tackling the growing number of jehadi attacks in UP. One of the speakers warned the audience: “Please do not be consoled that the one picked up by the STF was not you; it could soon be you.” Waliullah, Aftab Alam Ansari, Mohammed Khalid Mujahid, Mohammed Tariq Qasmi, Sajhadur Rehman, Mohammed Akhtar. These are not just names. The families of each of these men have accused the police of acting illegally but none could seek any legal recourse because one after the other, district bar associations passed resolutions boycotting the accused.

The Faizabad bar association set the trend following the attack on the makeshift temple in Ayodhya in 2005. Varanasi followed suit when the trial of Waliullah, accused in the 2006 twin explosions in the Sankatmochan Temple and the Railway Station, was about to begin. Lucknow and Barabanki joined the boycott after the November 22, 2007 serial blasts in three courts — at Varanasi, Lucknow and Faizabad. Days before the blasts, lawyers at a Lucknow court had even assaulted three men arrested by the STF for a plot to assassinate Rahul Gandhi.

In Phulpur village, 40km from Allahabad, Waliullah appeared for questioning at the local police station on March 25, 2006. The next day, he was asked to make the short trip to the IFFCO campus for another session where midway, he was stopped by men in three Bolero jeeps, shoved into one of the jeeps and driven away. Affectionately known as Muftisaab, Waliullah ran a madarsa and was also the Imam of the Phulpur mosque. The STF’s FIR says Waliullah was arrested in Lucknow with explosives in his possession on April 5, ten days after the date given by witnesses. His brother, Wasiullah, firmly denies the STF’s allegation that Waliullah was carrying a passport and had Rs 50 lakh in his bank account.

While awaiting trial in Varanasi, his “confession” to the police was broadcast on TV. Attacked in court and spurned by lawyers, his case made no progress for one-and-a-half years. It was then that he moved the Allahabad High Court for a transfer of his trial. The case was shifted to Ghaziabad where the family managed to hire a lawyer for Waliullah who has spent two years behind bars. He had left a pregnant wife and two little sons behind. Ask Varanasi lawyer Anupam Verma — part of the boycott — about Waliullah and he says, “These are people who betrayed the nation. Theirs is a matter of police investigation, and the police’s word should be deemed final.”

THE LAWYERS have for all purposes turned into judges. The serial blasts outside the courts united the legal community in outrage, and the five accused in these cases were rendered especially untouchable. Mohammed Shoaib, a lawyer based in Lucknow, defied the ban by the bar association to come to their rescue. Shoaib pleaded on behalf of Aftab Alam Ansari who the STF had labelled a HUJI terrorist. “Aftab’s mother and I were not allowed to meet him in prison. When I filed a complaint in court, the judge asked for a report from the jail authorities instead of acting on the complaint,” Shoaib recalls. But his efforts met with success and Aftab was released a few days later after Shoaib demolished the police’s theory.

The lone legal warrior was soon approached by the families of co-accused Mohammed Khalid Mujhahid and Mohammed Tariq Qasmi. “Khalid was picked up by the STF in Mariyahu (Jaunpur district) town where he had gone to buy vegetables. Hundreds of witnesses have signed a declaration testifying this,” says his wife Shabnam Banu. The date was December 16, 2007; the couple had been married for less than two months. Tariq’s story is similar. “He was arrested from Saraimir in Azamgarh on December 12 while on his way to Mohammedpur. When the people in the vicinity asked the STF personnel where they were taking him, they said they were taking him home. Instead, they dumped him in Lucknow Jail,” says Arshad Khan, leader of the National Loktantrik Party who led street protests in Lucknow following Tariq’s disappearance.

The protests led to the Director General of Police calling a press conference on December 22 to announce the arrest of two Harkat-ul-Jihad-al- Islami (HuJI) militants, suspects in the court explosions. The two suspects were Khalid and Tariq who, the DGP claimed, had fallen into the STF’s trap in Barabanki on that very day. Innocents or hardcore HUJI militants? Forget the legal work Shoaib is putting in, the lawyer also has to fight the “untouchability’’ factor that is operating so strongly against the “terror” suspects — it has reached the officials in the bottom rung. Requests for copies of case documents fell on deaf ears. It was now not just the lawyers, even the jail officials were lending silent support.

In Faizabad, the jail superintendent failed to respond to a show cause notice after he had failed to present the accused in court. The Chief Judicial Magistrate was forced to make an unusual move. Recalls Shoaib, “He went to the prison complex and read out the chargesheet to me and my clients,” says Shoaib. The jail authorities have still not produced Tariq and Shahid in court. When Shoaib went to submit the bail application in Barabanki, he was warned by Pradip Singh, secretary of the local bar association, of a possible assault if he didn’t withdraw from the cases. Bowing to pressure, he withdrew, and returned to Lucknow having struck his name off his clients’ papers. Distraught, the families of Khalid and Tariq have asked him to reconsider. Aware that the possibility of finding another lawyer is almost nil, Shoaib told TEHELKA, “In all probability, I will be the replacement.”

Any accused is not guilty until proven guilty, but this fundamental legal principle has not passed muster in some parts of Uttar Pradesh. The lawyers’ boycott has come as a cruel blow to the families of the suspects. There seems to be little remorse about the effect the boycott is having. Sabhajit Pandey, secretary of the bar association in Faizabad, had said while passing the resolution, “The lawyers voiced their personal stand when they passed the resolution. It was inspired by their love for the nation. It will continue against similar cases in the future.” The boycott has been in practice for three long years and it is only now that Shoaib has filed a writ in the Allahabad High Court against the boycott resolutions of the Lucknow, Faizabad and Barabanki Bar Associations.

The hearing is scheduled for May 22 — a date the families of the accused are looking forward to. Meanwhile, Shoaib’s list of “helpless clients” is growing. He now also represents Sajjhadur Rehman and Mohammed Akhtar, the two remaining accused in the court explosions. He is similarly defending Kaushar Farooqui, arrested under dubious circumstances from Kunda, Pratapgarh for the January 1 attack on the CRPF camp in Rampur. “In my career spanning over three decades, I have seen nothing of this sort. Even during the Emergency, when I was underground for over a year and was subsequently jailed for two months, I could still avail legal recourse,” says Shoaib. In parts of UP, there seems to be an unofficial Emergency looming over young Muslim men.WRITER’S E-MAIL :
anil@tehelka.com

 

 

 

 

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