[Following is a statement by the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association (JTSA), dated 23rd October 2012.]
Fasih Mehmood’s Deportation: Déjà vu, once more
In September, we brought out a report, Framed, Damned, Acquitted documenting 16 cases where trials of terror accused had resulted in acquittals for not only lack of evidence but obviously concocted evidence. Each of these cases was accompanied by a section on how media had publicly tried and ‘executed’ these unfortunate men when they were first arrested—to abandon them or bury their stories in the inside pages when they were later acquitted. The release of the report had generated a genuine interest in the media—and one may dare say, an introspection of the media’s own role as the handmaiden of the investigative agencies.
However, the reportage surrounding the deportation of Fasih Mahmood has belied the expectations of all those who were hoping for a more balanced reporting in arrests of those alleged to be terrorists by agencies. While television channels led in competitive shrillness, the newspapers were not far behind. Most mainstream papers published the statements of those accused and chargsheeted in the Chinnaswami blasts or the Jama Masjid shootout to pin the culpability of Fasih Mehmood in terrorist activities. These statements, the newspapers can hardly be unaware, have no value as evidence in the courts, and yet they are used routinely to build a story of guilt. One newspaper has even gone ahead and published Fasih’s Interrogation report (“5 IM members still holed up in Saudi, says Fasih”, TNN, 23 October). Unnamed police sources have been rampantly quoted. On the whole, the media has chosen not to question the version of the investigative agencies, which is getting more colourful and convoluted with every passing day.
The agencies till date have been unable to put together a credible sequence of events regarding Fasih’s arrest.
Hard pressed to explain how Fasih found himself in Saudi custody in the first place, a story is being suddenly pushed now that Fasih was arrested and serving time in Saudi for a ‘minor visa related crime’.
While most papers have reported that a red corner notice was issued in May 2012, they conveniently forget to add that it was issued after Fasih’s wife Nikhat moved a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court.
The MHA’s (Ministry of Home Affairs) affidavit filed before the apex court stated that a trial court in Delhi had issued a arrest warrant against Fasih on 26 December 2011, for his alleged involvement in the Jama Masjid bomb blast case (2010). If indeed, this was the case, what took the agencies more than five months to issue a red corner notice? Were they working the back channels with the Saudi government, as hinted by some newspapers reports? In which case, how did the MHA state under oath to the Supreme Court that Indian agencies had no role in his arrest in Saudi.
Today, the Secretary, MHA is gloating over his ‘prize catch’, but in days after Fasih’s detention in Saudi, when Fasih’s family members had approached him, he had feigned total ignorance about his whereabouts. When precisely did he learn that his prize catch had been detained in Saudi Arabia?
These are hard questions that we need to ask the MHA and the assorted agencies tripping over each other to claim credit for Fasih’s arrest.