Picked up randomly, tortured, branded terrorist, acquitted with no evidence...

In many cases, the people are picked up off the streets with no explanation for their arrest. Numerous experiences testify to this illegal detention
Harsh Dobhal Delhi

Persecuting innocent Muslims has become a pattern in India. After every bomb blast there is frenzy in the police to prove their discredited credentials, some Muslim youths are inevitably and indiscriminately picked up, detained and tortured, many of them languish in jails before they are let free in the absence of any credible evidence against them. Media is full of stories of police catching 'terrorists' who invariably happen to be Muslims. While perpetrators of violence in Kandhamal, as in Gujarat and Mumbai, go scot-free, the collective persecution of Muslims as 'suspected terrorists' goes unabated.

Take the example of Abdul Kareem, an auto-driver from Hyderabad: "Often, during Hindu festive days like Ganesh Mahotsav, young people like me from the Muslim community are called up at the area police station every time to create an atmosphere of fear among Muslims."

Junaid, 25, a doctor in Hyderabad, gave a similar testimony, alluding to the terror unleashed on innocent Muslims based on no real evidence: "On May 18, 2007, as usual we were in the masjid offering namaaz. That was the day the bomb blasts took place. A college lecturer, Dr Mohsin, was injured. I immediately took him to Dureshavar Hospital for treatment... A few days after that incident... I was called for interrogation regarding the bomb blasts at Mecca Masjid. I was interrogated for 4-5 hours by 8-10 task force personnel. The interrogation consisted of questions about why I had been offering namaaz at the mosque. I replied that it was because this particular mosque was in my college's proximity. Then they started insinuating that I might have placed those bombs... they said the Muslims had a hand in the blast as only they frequented the mosque."

Abdul and Junaid gave their testimonies at a 'Peoples Tribunal on the Atrocities Committed against Minorities in the Name of Fighting Terrorism', held between August 22-24, in Hyderabad. Testimonies of over 40 victims demonstrate that harassment and systematic persecution is an everyday reality for minority population throughout the country. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, Muslims have become the victims of a deeply flawed system under which their persecution is not only ignored, but is in fact condoned and actively upheld by the State, police and judiciary.

This is particularly so in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, though the vicious phenomena is not limited to these states. Their testimonies illuminate their victimisation and illegal detention; their subjection to third-degree torture, long periods in police remand without bail, and prolonged trials; and finally, the traumatic impact of their persecution and repeated harassment - even after acquittal. Predictably, their families too are not spared. Of course, this saga of injustice goes non-compensated. And most are so devastated, that they have no courage to ask for justice.

In many cases, the people are picked up off the streets with no explanation for their arrest. Numerous experiences testify to this process of illegal detention. Ahmed Mohiuddin Rashid from Bhongir district, Andhra Pradesh, mentions in the tribunal, "On August 20-21, 2004, after offering evening namaaz, as I came out I was picked up from the street by some task force personnel. They took me to Zeeshan Hotel and then again put me in a four-wheeler, which already had some police officers in it. They covered my face with a black cloth and took me to jail. Some policemen told me that I was booked in that case because I was a Muslim; had I been a Hindu, I would not have faced all that." 

Karim, Junaid and Mohiuddin are not isolated cases of innocent Muslims being deliberately targeted by the State agencies and special cells. Its part of a perverse trend, systematically enacted in Modi's Gujarat, and recently reflected during and after the Batla House encounter in Delhi and Azamgarh, when the entire community was hounded, condemned, and some youngsters picked up with little evidence to show. So, if it is clean, why is the government afraid of a judicial enquiry on the Batla House case?


This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: FEBRUARY 2010