By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
Police frisk men before Friday prayers during the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad September 26, 2008.
NEW DELHI: Within a few days of Delhi Police having claimed a major breakthrough in tracking down terroristsâ€™ network, through its encounter called Operation Batla House (September 19) allegedly responsible for blasts that have rocked the country recently, the capital city was hit by another blast (September 27). A low-intensity explosion rocked a crowded flower market in South Delhiâ€™s Mehrauli area in the afternoon, killing three and injuring around 20. While Muslim leaders across the country have condemned the Mehrauli blast, they have lashed at authorities for having failed to adequately combat terrorism. Blaming the police for targeting only Muslims as suspect terrorists, Indian Muslims representing different sections and regions, have held this anti-Muslim negative approach as responsible for country being hit by terrorist incidents.
In the opinion of Maulana Asjad Madani, chairperson of Freedom Fighter Hussain Ahmad Madani Education Front and a member of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) working committee: â€œIt is because only innocent people are being arrested and innocent people killed in blasts and such operations, that actual terrorists manage to escape and continue their operations.â€
â€œTill date, the authorities have not able to prove charges against a single Indian Muslim who has been arrested as a suspect terrorist,â€ Madani told TMO. The Muslim leaders are agitated about the authorities not adopting a similar attitude towards Hindu extremists indulging in terrorist operations against Christians and the ones caught while assembling bombs.
Madani also expressed concern that Muslims who are released after having languished in jails for months or years, are not given any compensation for having suffered because of false charges levied against them. â€œTheir being released is of course a great relief for them. But even this step is taken as a great favor being bestowed upon them. They deserve compensation. Besides, action must be taken against the erring officers who levied false charges against them,â€ he said. Referring to Batla House encounter, Madani views as â€œfake,â€ he said: â€œIf authorities are unable to prove charges against the two killed (Atif and Sajid), their families should be given compensation and erring officers punished.â€
Mujtaba Farooqi, secretary Jamaat-e-Islami told TMO: â€œThe Batla House encounter is just a minor example of the manner in which Muslims are being targeted as terrorists.â€ He and several Muslim leaders expressed the opinion that this â€œcommunal agendaâ€ was a follow-up of September 11, 2001 attacks in United States with only Muslims being nabbed as terrorists, in keeping with anti-terrorism pattern followed there.
It was to express their protest against the governmentâ€™s â€œnegativeâ€ attitude that a large number of Muslim organizations and other like-minded leaders staged a demonstration at Jantar Mantar (September 26), Farooqi said.
Mushir-ul-Hasan, Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University, has decided to provide legal aid to two Muslims arrested, who are students of Jamia Millia. The two arrested for their alleged role in Delhi serial blasts are:– Mohammad Shakeel and Zia-Ur-Rehman. While his role has been appreciated by Muslims and secular minded Indians, the extremist, radical minded Hindu groups have reacted strongly against it. Demanding his resignation as the VC, they displayed their anger by burning his effigy (September 25).
Dismissing speculations of his taking the decision under any â€œpressureâ€ or â€œcompulsion,â€ Hasan told TMO: â€œIt was an instinctive, spontaneous response to a crisis-ridden situation.â€ Elaborating on it being his legal as well as natural obligation to take such a stand, Hasan said: â€œOne is basically trying to uphold the rule of law, in keeping with the international principles applicable in United States, United Kingdom and India, that unless proven guilty the accused is innocent.â€ Besides, he pointed out: â€œStudents are our wards. We are their custodians not only while they are students but even afterwards. It is based on this confidence and understanding that parents decide to send their students here.â€
When questioned on the apparent bias sensed by Muslims in Indian mediaâ€™s approach towards the issue, he replied: â€œSome sections of electronic media are trying to hound us, castigate us by presenting only a negative image about Muslims (as terrorists).â€ Hasan views the governmentâ€™s approach as â€œpositive,â€ as it has so far respected the universityâ€™s autonomy and not interfered in his decision to provide legal aid to the students.
The apparent discrimination displayed by Indian police personnel in targeting Muslims as â€œsuspect terrorists,â€ without any substantial evidence has also prompted Muslim leaders to demand a major change in the police services. Maulana Abdul Hameed Noomani, spokesperson for JUH, views the Batla House encounter as a fake one and deliberately planned. He laid stress on the need to reform the entire Indian police system. Drawing attention to recent reports of Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other Hindu extremist organizationsâ€™ indulgence in terrorist activities targeting Christians and their being caught in assembling bombs, Noomani said: â€œWhy hasnâ€™t substantial action been taken against these groups? Just as these groupsâ€™ activities cannot be used to label the entire Hindu community as terrorist, why are only Muslims being cornered only because of the bias displayed by police and the media against them?â€
The attempt made to â€œjustifyâ€ Batla House encounter as â€œgenuineâ€ because of Inspector M.C. Sharma having succumbed to bullet wounds he received at the site has been refuted -by those viewing it as fake- posing the following questions. In their opinion, Sharma received shots from the back, from his own colleagues, who started firing indiscriminately to give the impression of their being engaged in a â€œheavy encounter.â€ If Sharma was killed in an encounter, where is the weapon by which he was killed, why have the forensic report of the bullets not been made public and whose fingerprints are present on the weapon that killed him? Besides, if the police personnel were sure of nabbing terrorists, why were some of them not wearing bulletproof vests? The fact that they went to the targeted house, without any search/arrest warrant only suggests that they were not even sure of whom would they meet there. The bullet wounds received by two â€œsuspect-terroristsâ€ killed in the so-called encounter were point-blank ones, which is â€œnot possible in an encounter,â€ according to Madani.