On a day before the fourth anniversary of the 2008 Batla House “encounter,” Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA) conducted a program at the FTK-CIT hall at Jamia to formally release a dossier detailing persecution of Muslims by the Delhi Police’s Special Cell in a report titled, “Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers of a ‘very’ special cell” on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.
Speakers invited to speak on the occasion included Justice Rajender Sachar, a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court; Arundhati Roy, a well-known writer and activist; N.D.Pancholi, lawyer and president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties; Syed Maqbool Shah and Mohammed Amir Khan, victims of police persecution who were found innocent of all criminal charges and acquitted after spending 14 years in prison. Other speakers included Manisha Sethi, president of JTSA; and Sanghamitra Misra, member JTSA; Trideep Pais and Jawahar Raja, lawyers who played a major role in writing the JTSA report.
Addressing a large gathering of students, media persons and activists Sanghamitra Misra, a member of JTSA spoke about the objective of securing legal help for all those who were arrested in Batla House, something that actually prompted the idea of forming JTSA. She spoke of how JTSA’s sphere of work has expanded over the last four years and the fact finding investigations that the association has carried on. Giving details about the report to be released, she said, “The report contains 16 such cases where people were incarcerated for even as many as fourteen years – picked up, kept and then released without a single charge against them and all these were arrested by the special cell of the Delhi Police, hence the sub-title ‘Dossiers of a very special cell’.”
Expressing disappointment with the media in relation to these cases, she said that “the media has acted as faithful stenographers of the police, always presuming that the accused are guilty.”
Justice Rajender Sachar
After the panelists formally released the report, Justice Rajender Sachar (retired) expressed his happiness over the initiative taken by JTSA in bringing out a consolidated report, because people forget things and such reports are good reminders, he said.
Castigating the government for its inaction in such cases and questioning the government machinery, Justice Sachar said, “You [government] want to be fair but your actions show the other way round. Why is there a difference between what you say and how you act?” He further added that the fight against injustice isn’t a personal issue; it has to be a united one.
Syed Maqbool Shah
Who can return the fourteen years of life that were lost? Why is there no law that can return the lost happiness? If someone suffers because of some agency of the system, doesn’t that person deserve compensation? These were some questions raised by Syed Maqbool Shah and Mohammad Aamir Khan, both of whom had been falsely implicated in separate incidents and sent behind bars before being released as innocent after spending fourteen years in jail.
Maqbool, a resident of Kashmir, narrated the woeful tale of his journey from Srinagar to Delhi for livelihood where he was picked up in 1996 for his alleged involvement in Lajpat Nagar blasts. I lost my father while I was in jail, I couldn’t even see his face. Depressed after seeing my condition in jail, my sister died too. My happiness was lost somewhere in the darkness of the cell, mourned Maqbool.
Mohammed Amir Khan
Aamir, a resident of Delhi, narrated a similar tragic tale of how he was tortured in police custody, how his father died while fighting for justice for his only son, how his mother got paralysed while he was languishing in jail, how all his dreams were shattered and how uncertain the future looked. I don’t call it arresting, I call it kidnapping, Aamir asserted.
He made a plea to the government to help in rehabilitation and compensation for all the victims of wrongful detention, fast and fair trials, and urged students to further the cause of truth and justice.
Following Amir, Pancholi said that there’s a need to set up organizations that can monitor the working of government agencies and the police. People need to raise their voice against injustice; otherwise democracy can’t be truly functional.
Speaking about the Parliament attack case, Pancholi said, “There were too many manipulations and fabrications done by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. Even when this is on record, there’s no action taken against these officers, which is really shameful.”
Sharing his experience of a visit to Kashmir in 1991 when curfews would be in place for almost 22 hours every day, he said how some Kashmiris questioned him, asking him, “In your nation of 80 crore people, are there not even 80 who can come forward and speak up for us?” He emphasized upon the need to understand each other’s pain, to question the wrongdoings of police that is even supported by the government and called the meeting and the release of the report by JTSA as a big step in this direction, adding that the movement for truth and justice must move forward.
Trideep Pais and Jawahar Raja
This was followed by Advocates Trideep Pais and Jawahar Raja, both of whom have been lawyers in SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) related cases. They said, “there was a crying need for legal aid, especially for the families of those who are falsely charged in terrorism related cases. The stories we heard from Aamir and Maqbool are classical examples of what happens when procedure itself becomes punishment,” Jawahar said. Law and justice are too important to be left to just lawyers and courts, the advocate declared.
Next to speak was Manisha Sethi, president of JTSA. Sethi read out some of the JTSA demands; these included setting up of a national commission of enquiry, compensation and rehabilitation packages to victims, public apology by the government and investigating agency to people wrongfully detained, disbanding the Special Cell of Delhi Police, action against officers involved in frame-ups, scrapping of the present Prevention of Torture Bill and be replaced with a new bill in conformity with the international conventions against torture, and bringing intelligence agencies under the purview of parliamentary oversight.
The last speaker to address the gathering was the Booker Prize winning author and activist, Arundhati Roy. Roy spoke about issues ranging from unmarked graves in Kashmir to the role of some specific journalists in Delhi, how the Special Cell controls particular journalists in the media and how the government has created two sets of terrorist bogeys, namely the Islamist terrorists and the Maoist terrorists to make things convenient for itself; and then uses these bogeys as excuses to militarize.
“The point is not to convict people or produce evidence,” Roy said, “but to use the system to terrorize certain communities.” She read out the statement of the Supreme Court judgment on Afzal Guru, convicted in the Parliament attack case, where the Court clearly stated that while enough evidence wasn’t found against Afzal Guru, the decision to convict him was important in order “to satisfy the collective conscience of the society.” Criticizing the role played by media, she added that it’s the media that’s actually creating this “collective conscience.”
She also asserted, “it is not about Hindu and Muslim; it is about Power. It is about how are you going to keep people distracted; what excuse can we have to have an increasingly militarized state.”
She concluded by saying that India today is behaving exactly like a colonial State did and is actually dividing us by pitting us against each other to keep us busy; and added that “there’s a need to look at all this politically, for it’s not just an aberration in our democracy; solutions may not lie in petitioning the State that’s creating the problem.”
Prof. M.S. Bhat
Earlier, in the welcome address, Prof. M. S. Bhat, President of Jamia Teachers’ Association, stressed upon the need to look at the JTSA report, not as something anti-national, but as an important investigation and a critical input for delivering better justice and ensuring rule of law in the country.
It is pertinent to mention that the 16 cases highlighted in the report are just a small part of a much larger problem. The report raises serious questions over the credibility of a force that is seen as one of the most-elite counter terrorism agencies in India. Through detailed analysis of judgments, the report unravels the manner in which false cases are filed against innocents and how the Special Cell uses the obvious immunity that it enjoys to manufacture stories of guilt.
To order printed copies of the report, write to : [email protected].
Scenes From the Event
Click on the links to download and listen to the speeches delivered by the panelists at the event. Speakers are listed in order of appearance:
Watch a short 10-minute video of Arundhati Roy speaking at the event:
Click on a picture to enlarge: