In the wake of every explosion, small and big, a number of young Muslims were rounded up by both the NDA and the UPA governments. Most of them languished in prison for many years before being acquitted for want of evidence. But if they were innocent, who were responsible for the explosions in the first place? The editor of the fortnightly Milli Gazette, Zafarul Islam speaks to S. Khurram Raza about his plan to bring out a white paper on terrorism.
What will the White Paper focus on?
This white paper is not limited to only Muslim youngsters who have been arrested; it will be one of the aspects that the paper will cover. Our idea is to throw light at the violation of human rights in India and how the state machinery misuses the laws. The white paper will focus on how common men, especially Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis and the poor are persecuted by this system.
We will look at laws which are still in force since the days of the British and which limit the liberties of Indians, not just Muslims. These are, sometimes, used nationally and sometimes by states to rob people of their Constitutional rights, human rights, religious rights, ethnic or linguistic rights. The paper will look into encounters, fake encounters, torture cases, police issues and much-needed police reforms.
How did this idea of white paper germinate?
In 2003 LK Advani, the then Home Minister, announced that the government would bring out a white paper on terrorism but he didn’t and we knew he could not. Not only him, but if any minister would have come out with a white paper on terrorism, it would have been a bunch of lies, because we know how Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), Intelligence Bureau (IB) are being misused, how state apparatus is being misused and how judiciary is being fooled by various people. So, we started working on it in 2005-06 but since we have minimal resources, the process has been slow.
How far have you progressed so far ?
We have completed almost 90 per cent of the work and hope that in the next four to five months we will come up with the white paper of around a thousand pages.
Was the idea to counter Advani’s proposed white paper?
The idea was to present the real picture on what was going on in the name of fighting terrorism. I would like to mention that the final indictment in TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) and POTA (The Prevention of Terrorism Act) cases was mere 2 per cent while 98 per cent of those arrested were let off and this is what is happening, now under UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act).
A majority of the people after spending ten, twelve or twenty-two years in prison are acquitted. There is no case against them, there’s no evidence and everything falls flat in the courtroom.
We have reliable documents which show that the police, ATS and the special Cell of Delhi Police not only fabricate cases, but also extricate confessions using unjustified extreme methods, including physical threats to the women in their family.
Are you casting aspersion on the working of ATS, Police and even the judiciary?
No, we are not accusing the judiciary because courts look only on papers put in front of them. These papers are prepared by the police, by the special cell and Special Task Force (STF) and all these papers remarkably have failed to convince the courts of the guilt of the accused. Many young Muslims, who lost fifteen to twenty-five years in jail, have been set free. Who is going to pay for that?
If most of the people arrested for the explosions get acquitted, who carried out those blasts?
Somebody surely did.
Who and where is that somebody?
The then chief of Maharashtra ATS, Hemant Karkare, arrested some of those involved in blasts carried out between 2003 and 2008. In one case they had used a motorcycle to plant the bombs and then they erased the chassis and engine number but Karkare sent these motorcycles to the manufacturing unit from where they obtained details, which led to the arrest of Sadhvi Pragya, Swami Aseemanand, Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit and many others. They were partly responsible for the bombing of Samjhauta Express. We believe that the Intelligence Bureau also had a hand in it.
I think governments are also culpable. They would like to create a kind of police state. This is happening in America and these operations are called false flag operations. The intention of governments is to push through some agenda or laws, which would otherwise not be possible.
And ATS, IB and Special Cells have secret funds and this is a very serious matter. These secret funds are not audited, and some of it is suspected to line their pockets and the rest is possibly misused. In the absence of any audit or accountability, nobody knows for sure.
Are you suggesting that if these funds are audited then these activities will come down?
It will be reduced substantially. These agencies audit their funds themselves, no outside agency like CAG or other independent agency audit their accounts. It is important that government funds are audited. In case of IB and ATS, these secret funds are never audited.
You cannot be suggesting that no Muslim was involved in terror activities?
I never said that. It is possible some Muslims are involved but I believe the number to be very small.
What is that small percentage could be?
It may be two per cent.
You mean to say only 2 per cent of Muslims are actually involved in terrorist activities and rest of the 98 per cent involved are either IB people or Hindutva terrorists?
Yes, this is my assumption. Most of the arrested Muslim boys are implicated on false confessions. I have published a book in Urdu Begunah Qaidi (innocent prisoners) in which it is mentioned how they are tortured, threatened and blackmailed to sign confessions.
The only document, which sends these people to gallows is this confession which is not allowed anywhere in the world. Anywhere in the world the confession given to police official is not accepted by the courts. Only under UAPA, TADA, POTA confession given to police official is accepted in court and because of this I call these laws unconstitutional.
Confessions should happen only in front of a judge. After the Mumbai serial train blasts, 13 people were arrested and 12 of them signed these confessions because of the torture meted out to them and also their parents were paraded naked in front of them. These tactics are illegal, unconstitutional and unethical. These 12 people were sentenced to death which was later converted to life imprisonment based on these confessions. The one person who did not sign these confessions was acquitted. This is an extremely terrible and dirty game and is very much against the spirit of the Constitution.
Why do you say that the Intelligence Bureau is unconstitutional?
There is no law passed by the parliament to create this organisation but still it exists and it is the most powerful in this country.
To create any organisation one must pass a law – either a state law or national law - and it didn’t happen. In happened in 1893 when a telegram was sent by British government from London to create this organisation and only basis of this organisation is that telegram which is untraced. Even the Vice President of India Hamid Ansari has demanded that the IB must be brought under the purview of the Parliament and an Act should be passed to make it accountable. Right now, it is not accountable. It is accountable only to itself.
What should the government do to compensate those Muslims who have been acquitted after spending several years in jail?
Muslim organisations have been persistently demanding that these youngsters should be compensated and an apology must be tendered. This has happened only in a single case in Hyderabad. Here too, the police gave them apology letters and a nominal compensation of ₹ 30,000.
There is another demand that cases should be registered against police officials who booked them under false charges. In one case, a judge, in the verdict, had stated that a case should be registered against these officers but it did not happen.
If it is not done then isn’t it contempt of court?
Yes, it is contempt of court. But these people are so exhausted and broken that they do not have the ability to pursue the case.
What is the role of Indian Muslim organisation to combat terrorism?
Indian Muslims and Muslim organisations, from the very beginning, have been vocal against terrorism and had been saying that terrorism is not part of Islam. Quran says that “If you kill one innocent person it is tantamount to killing the whole humanity and if you save one person it is tantamount to saving the whole humanity”. So, one cannot go and just kill somebody.
Does mere saying and believing that Islam does not preaches terrorism serve the purpose. Are you satisfied with the role played by Muslim leaders and organisations?
Yes, I am very much satisfied and Rajnath Singh also seconds my view when he said several times that he is thankful to Indian Muslim community for standing up to terrorism clearly and vocally.