You are aware of the repression on us by the nexus of Company management-Police-Government, as 13 MSWU members have been sentenced to Life Imprisonment and 4 more workers handed 5 years by the GurgaonSessions Court on 18 March 2017 – without a shred of evidence, and solely on the false witness accounts by the management.
But against this repression, thousands of workers in this industrial belt and across India and world are protesting. On the evening of the Verdict on 18thMay, 30000 workers in Gurgaon-Manesar did tool down strike against the injustice. The Maruti Suzuki Mazdoor Sangh (MSMS)–the joint platform of Maruti Suzuki factories–had given a call for Protest on the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh-Rajguru-Sukhdev on 23rdMarch in Manesar. Despite prohibitory orders of Section 144, thousands of workers from the industrial belts in Haryana and Rajasthan rallied in protest from factory after factory in Manesar. Aletter from the Jailed workerswas read out, and a call given to intensify the struggle for the release of the Jailed workers. It was also decided to give economic assistance to families of the Jailed workers.
On this 23rdMarch Protest program, we already appealed to all to observe 4thApril as an all-India Day and International of Protest. Preparations for the same have already begun in various places. Meanwhile, recognized Central Trade Unions later issued a call to organize all-India Protest in solidarity with the Maruti Suzuki workers on 5thApril. So,We appeal to all workers and pro-worker forces to observe 4th/5thApril 2017 as all-India and International Days of Protestand show solidarity in whatever ways possible.
The struggling workers in the Gurgaon-Manesar-Bawal-Neemrana industrial belt in the states of Haryana-Rajasthan are showing that they will not relent on their legitimate rights and strengthen their class unity against the capitalist onslaught. We have also received great courage and thank the amazing show of solidarity of workers with the struggle for Justice of Maruti workers. Since the last few days, there have been protests by lakhs of workers in this and other industrial belts and by various workers, student-youth, human rights and other democratic organizations in over 30 cities-towns in the country. We also greatly encouraged and thank the amazing show of international working class solidarity with protests, deputations and solidarity positions and actions in over 21 countries. This is a long battle, and only the growing force of the movement and wider solidarity can take the struggle forward.
for more information contact
Provisional Working Committee,
Maruti Suzuki Workers Union
Contact: 7011865350 (Ramniwas), 9911258717 (Khusiram) on behalf of the PWC, MSWU.
“The central jail in Raipurhouses 3,275 prisoners as against the capacity of 1,190, while the central jail at Durg has 2,114 inmates as against the capacity of 1206R
Raipur Mar 21 All five Central jails in Chhattisgarh are “overcrowded” as over 13,000 inmates are lodged there against the existing capacity of 5883, the Legislative Assembly was told today.
“As against the capacity of 5883, there are 13,093 inmates lodged in five central jails as on December 31, 2016,” State Home Minister Ramsewak Paikra stated in a written reply to a query of the congress MLA Motilal Dewangan.
These facilities are located in Raipur, Bastar, Bilaspur, Sarguja and Durg districts.
“The central jail in Raipur houses 3,275 prisoners as against the capacity of 1,190, while the central jail at Durg has 2,114 inmates as against the capacity of 1206.
“Similarly, the central jail at Bilaspur houses 3,397 prisoners though it has facility to keep only 1,328. The central jail at Jagdalpur (Bastar) houses 1,967 inmates and one at Ambikapur (Sarguja) 2,340 as against the capacity of 1139 and 1020, respectively,” the reply said.http://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/all-central-jails-in-chhattisgarh-overcrowded-assembly-told/1011510
In 2009, the Government of India announced a new nation-wide initiative viz. “Integrated Action Plan” (IAP) for broad coordinated operations to deal with the ‘Naxalite’ problem. This plan included increased funding for special police for better containment and reduction of Naxalite influence. Kobad Ghandy’s arrest in September 2009 was a direct fall out of this IAP.
Kobad Ghandy, born in 1951, studied in Doon School; St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and went to London to study chartered accountancy. He often wrote in newspapers and journals. Prior to his arrest he was living in Delhi since 2006. He was said to be in charge of expanding the Communist Party of India (Maoist) [CPI (Maoist)] in urban areas. He was actually arrested days before 20thSeptember, 2009 – the date touted by the police – at the Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi by the Intelligence Bureau. He was illegally detained, tortured and interrogated till his formal date of arrest. At that time a T.V. news channel compared him to Lashkar-e-Tayiba founder Mohammed Sayeed; while the 2008 BBC interview quoted Kobad Ghandy:
“The first step is to distribute land to the tiller … We have a clear-cut definition of development.”
Kobad Ghandy was charged under the Draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention), Act (UAPA) inter alia for the offences under Sections 20 and 38 of UAPA. The investigation was assigned to the then Additional Commissioner of Police (ACP) Special Cell of Delhi Police. The police raid – allegedly conducted at the premises of Kobad Ghandy – yielded a large number of books, CDs, DVDs, computer, CPU, pen drives, laptop and other material/articles. As per the Police Report submitted to the court the material contained codes, email ids and telephone numbers related to CPI (Maoist), a banned organization under UAPA. The Police Report further stated that the recovered electronic material related to Maoist activities/ programmes e.g. Kobad Ghandy’s disclosure that he had gone to Nepal to meet Prachanda! (Ironically the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi had met Prachanda in October, 2016 during the BRICS summit, Goa!!)
By order dated 16 July, 2012, charges as above were framed against Kobad Ghandy to which he pleaded not guilty and claimed trial. The prosecution examined in all a total of 37 witnesses including top bureaucrats, police and intelligence officers both from various states as well as Central government e.g. Deputy Superintendent of Police Intelligence; Inspector General of Police; Special Branch, Additional Superintendent Police; Secretary, Govt. of National Capital Territory of Delhi; Deputy Secretary; several Deputy Commissioners of Police. Prosecution evidence was closed on 4 November, 2015 when recording of evidence of accused was fixed for.
Ms. Rebecca John, Senior Advocate addressed arguments on behalf of Kobad Ghandy. She was assisted by Mr. Bhavook Chauhan. Rebecca John argued:
that recoveries shown to have been made at the instance of Kobad Ghandy were planted;
that CPI (Maoist) had actually been outlawed only on 22 June, 2009; none of the material alleged to have been recovered pertained to any period after 22 June, 2009;
that no material is produced to show that Kobad Ghandy continued to be a member of CPI (Maoist) after 22 June, 2009;
that heavy reliance was placed by the prosecution on digital storage devices such as CDs, DVDs, pen drives and hard drives; but none of these media/devices were sent for forensic examination to any Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL) to verify genuineness and authenticity of their contents;
that no photograph or voice sample of Kobad Ghandy was obtained and sent to any FSL to establish that the voice/video footage contained in the said media was that of Kobad Ghandy;
that unverified newspaper reports placed by the prosecution cannot be said to be evidence;
that FIRs involving Kobad Ghandy had been placed on record to prove that he was a member of CPI (Maoist); that authors of these FIRs had not been examined; that these FIRs were thus inadmissible in evidence;
that Section 20 of the UAPA makes punishable membership of a terrorist organization “which is involved in terrorist act”; but no evidence on record shows Kobad Ghandy had advocated any terrorist act;
that additional charge against Kobad Ghandy was under Section 38 of the UAPA; but this Section would not apply to Kobad Ghandy since CPI (Maoist) was not declared to be a terrorist organization when he allegedly became a member;
that the Sanction Order was declared to be illegal by the Court of Shri P.K. Jain through its order dated 28 March, 2012; and the second Sanction Order dated 28 March, 2012 could not cure the defect which was there in the earlier Sanction pertaining to Section 45(2) of the UAPA;
that there was absolutely no time given to the Sanctioning Authority to consider any material;
that in the absence of any valid Sanction Order, the prosecution of Kobad Ghandy for the offences under UAPA fall through;
that the prosecution had relied on the recovery of written material and digital storage media touting it to be incriminating evidence at that time;
that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Kobad Ghandy had led the police team to the premises from where incriminating evidence was recovered;
that the prosecution had relied on material downloaded from the internet as evidence of association and membership of Kobad Ghandy of CPI (Maoist);
that this material was downloaded by the prosecution and assessed from certain nine named websites which had hosted the information; servers of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are used to host these websites on the internet;
that prosecution had furnished signed certificates under Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act in support of this downloaded information;
that the prosecution witness had assessed the information by using his computer and then taking print outs of the same; the material was thus neither generated nor stored in the computer system used by the prosecution;
that as per Section 65B(2) of the Evidence Act the information in the electronic record has to be produced by the computer from which it is retrieved; only then it is deemed a document;
that the said electronic records relied upon by the prosecution are therefore inadmissible in evidence;
that the prosecution witness was not competent to sign the certificates as he had no control over these websites; therefore the said electronic records are inadmissible;
that emails attributed to Kobad Ghandy were assessed by the prosecution and relied upon to prove his association.
For the very same reasons (supra) that the Court had observed that the electronic records produced by prosecution was inadmissible in evidence, the print outs of the emails too could not be looked into or read in evidence. This was the Court’s observation. The emails were stored in the servers of the email service providers viz. Yahoo. The computers used by prosecution witness did not produce the emails, but provided access to these emails. Prosecution would therefore not be competent to give any certificate under Section 65B of the Evidence Act in regard to the emails stored in the servers of Yahoo.
The Court observed in its judgement:
“108. The task of the prosecution is to establish its case against an accused beyond any reasonable doubt. The same has been reiterated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in several cases. In the case of Paramjeet Singh vs. State of Uttarakhand (2010) 10 SCC 439 it was held that the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and that the law does not permit the Court to punish the accused on the basis of moral conviction or suspicion alone. The more serious the offence, stricter the degree of proof required, since a higher degree of assurance is required to convict the accused. In the case of Kali Ram vs. State of Himachal Pradesh (1973) 2 SCC 808 it was held that when two views are possible, one pointing to the guilt and other to the innocence of the accused, the view favourable to the accused must be taken. When Court entertains a reasonable doubt regarding the guilt of the accused, the accused must get the benefit of that doubt. In the case of Datar Singh vs. State of Punjab (1975) 4 SCC 272 it has been held that suspicion, however grave, cannot be a satisfactory basis for convicting an accused person. When the superstructure of the prosecution has crumbled, it is impossible to not give the benefit of the doubt to the accused.
In the facts and circumstances of this case, there are reasonable doubts on the version of the prosecution on charge under Sections 20 and 38 of the UAPA. The benefit of the same will have to go to the accused. …
Hence in the absence of any evidence in support of these charges, Kobad Ghandy is acquitted for the charge framed for the offences under Sections 20 and 38 of the UAPA.”
This judgement was announced in the open court on the 10th of June, 2016 by Shri Reetesh Singh, Additional Sessions Judge, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi.
The prosecution had submitted to the court that Kobad Ghandy had disclosed that he had gone to Nepal in 2006 to meet Prachanda, the Chief of Nepal Maoists and other Maoists leaders in Nepal. This was held against Kobad Ghandy even as he was charged under UAPA. Ironically Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister had met Prachanda in October, 2016 during the BRICS Summit, Goa. Does Modi know the following facts about Prachanda?:
That Prachanda’s Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) declared a “peoples war” on 4 February, 1996 and started looting weapons of policemen posted in rural Nepal.
That the Maoists started blowing up police posts.
That Prachanda led the bloody civil war for ten years during which over thirteen thousand people were killed; over one thousand disappeared; and thousands were displaced. Prachanda still faces cases of his involvement in killings of people during the armed conflict.
That ending his twenty-five year long underground life, Prachanda made a public appearance at the then Nepal Prime Minister’s residence on 16 June, 2006. It culminated in a 2006 peace deal. Prachanda was elected Prime Minister in August 2008; and is presently the Prime Minister of Nepal in his second term.
During Modi’s meeting with Prachanda in 2016, the Chinese President Xi Jinping was also present. Does Modi know the following facts about Xi Jinping?:
That Xi Jinping is the General Secretary, Communist Party of China (1974-Present).
That Xi Jinping has been referred to as Maoist both in ideological terms and in how he tries to control Chinese society.
That Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s or Mao Zedong’s Marxist-Leninist theories, military strategies and political policies are collectively known as Maoism.
– That critics of Mao consider him a dictator who was responsible for forty to seventy million deaths through starvation, prison labour and execution.
Modi was appointed Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001. He was elected to the legislative assembly soon after. His administration has been considered complicit in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Several scholars have described the violence as a pogrom, while others have called it an example of state terrorism.
As far as Kobad Ghandy is concerned there is not a single act of violence committed by him, yet he continues to be in custody for over seven years and continues to fight cases under Draconian laws in several states in India even as he approaches the end of the seventh decade of his life and is in precarious health.
Advocate R Mahadevan has relatives who won’t talk to him any more. They don’t understand why he represents ‘people who hate their country’.
“I tried explaining the importance of a defence lawyer, but now I have just come to accept these things,” Mahadevan says.
He is currently representing suspects in the Bangalore serial blasts case, when nine bombs exploded in the city in 2008, killing 2 and injuring 20.
It’s not easy arguing for the damned. Threats of violence and death are common. Some lawyers find notes stuck on their cars, detailing the whereabouts of their children.
And then there are the attacks from within their circle — friends distance themselves; neighbours ask, why do you do it? At a family wedding, a relative may start an argument; during a festive gathering, suddenly the focus shifts to you.
“At a friend’s son’s wedding, I was asked by a relative, ‘Why did you undo the hard work done by the police?’ It was disturbing to think that even people who know me think of my work like this.”
In Lucknow, Mohammad Shoaib was beaten up in a courthouse, by other lawyers, for defending Aftab Alam Ansari, accused in the 2007 Lucknow court blast case. Charges against him were later withdrawn. “I had evidence that Ansari was at a doctor’s office on the day of the blast,” Shoaib says
But terror is one of those crimes where you are guilty, to most of society, until proven innocent. Which is why, constitutional experts say, the role of the criminal defence attorney in terror cases is even more vital.
Multiple acquittals in cases like the Akshardham temple attack of 2002 (all six accused acquitted) and the Delhi serial blasts of 2005 (two of three acquitted), with the judgements raising questions about the investigation process, underline this point.
“A large number of innocent people are arrested in terror-related cases,” says civil rights lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan. “Most of these suspects are poor and can’t afford good lawyers. In such a situation, not only should there be more lawyers to fight their cases but more organisations helping them with lawyers who will fight pro bono.”
The role of the defence lawyer in sensitive terror related cases is also very important as it upholds the values of the Constitution. In the case of Ajmal Kasab [the lone surviving gunman in the 2008 Mumbai terror siege] we had two lawyers arguing for him as he was the citizen of another country. This is the kind of transparency we need to uphold.—Ujjwal Nikam, public prosecutor who handled the 1993 Bombay serial blasts and the 2008 Mumbai terror siege cases, among others.
Instead, such organisations are few and fiercely embattled.
The legal cell of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, one of India’s largest Muslim NGOs, is currently funding representation for over 600 people accused in cases across the country, most but not all of them Muslim.
Since 2007, when the organisation started supporting such cases, they have seen 120 people acquitted.
“In the beginning, there was only Shahid Azmi working on such cases in Mumbai. Now we have five lawyers willing to help in the city. We also have lawyers in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. But Shahid Azmi was killed, the other lawyers they are routinely threatened and the establishment makes light of these threats,” says Gulzar Azmi, secretary of the legal cell.
(With inputs from Poulomi Banerjee)
‘I WAS TOLD, WHY DO YOU NEED A GUN? THE TERRORISTS WILL DEFEND YOU’
Sharif Shaikh, 44, Mumbai
Has represented terror suspects in the twin blasts at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazar; the 11/7 Mumbai serial train blasts, and the Ghatkopar bus blast of 2002.
Sharif Shaikh is never alone. He commutes with colleagues. At court and when heading out for an after-lunch stroll, he takes at least two others along. “I used to enjoy my independence. I used to like to go on long walks alone, but for the last few years my life has been like this,” says the Mumbai-based advocate.
Shaikh began practice as a criminal defence lawyer in 2001.
Advocate Sharif Shaikh has taken on more than 20 terror cases, including the 2002 Mumbai bus bombing in Ghatkopar. (Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)
“When I first started getting threats in 2014, I applied for a gun licence. My application was rejected. I went to a state minister to appeal and he mocked me, saying, ‘Why do you need a gun when terrorists will defend you anyway?’” —Sharif Shaikh
A year later, a bomb exploded on a bus in the eastern suburb of Ghatkopar, killing two and injuring 50. Among the eight people arrested was Arif Paanwalla. His brothers, who knew Shaikh, were desperate.
“They said there was no way he could have been involved, and asked if I could help,” he remembers.
The charges hinged on the testimony of one witness, the conductor of the BEST bus. The case took an about-turn when that witness turned hostile, in March 2005. “Sometimes people are asked to lie because it will be a service to the nation and good for national security. That kind of thing is depressing,” he says.
All eight suspects in that case were acquitted by mid-2005.
Since then, Shaikh has taken on more than 20 terror cases. Four of these clients have been acquitted; two convicted. The rest are ongoing.
His public image, though, has been tarnished by his work.
“People consider the accused to be a terrorist as soon as the investigating body arrests them,” he says. “At a friend’s son’s wedding, I was asked by my cousin, ‘Why did you undo the hard work done by the police?’ It was disturbing to think what even people who know me, think of my work like this.”
Shaikh says that in that instance he at least had the opportunity to present his side. “I explained how, in many cases, my work has exposed flaws in the investigation. Thankfully, my cousin listened with interest and seemed to change his mind,” he says.
Pressure comes in different forms. Sometimes, it is direct threat calls, sometimes an extra round of grilling by security guards at the entrance to a courthouse.
“I was once told by a guard, ‘Why have you come here? We cannot ensure your safety if something happens’” he says.
Sometimes pressure comes from the family too. “My mother and my wife sometimes tell me I should stop taking such cases so that we can have a normal life. But they also know the helplessness of the people I fight for,” he says.
The attitude of the government has not been too helpful either. “When I first started getting threats in 2014, I applied for a gun licence. My application was rejected. I went to a state minister to appeal and he mocked me, saying, ‘Why do you need a gun when terrorists will defend you anyway’,” Shaikh says.
“OURS IS A HORRIBLE LIFE”
Abdul Wahab Khan, 46, Mumbai
Represented suspects in the Zaveri Bazar blasts case of 2003 and the 26/11 terror siege of 2008.
“Being a defence lawyer is horrible,” says Khan, who has been practising since 1998.
After five years of handling cases of robbery and murder, he took up his first terror related case after the Zaveri Bazar blasts, where two powerful bombs concealed in parked taxis exploded in the packed Mumbai market, killing 50 people and wounding 129.
“Recently, a client was sent a message in jail, through another under-trial, that he should not take me on as his advocate because I would intentionally lose the case. That hurt.” —Abdul Wahab Khan
The threats began almost immediately, anonymous calls telling him to drop the case.
“It’s frightening,” he says. “I worked with advocate Shahid Azmi for years, and he would talk about the death threats he got for representing people accused in cases like the serial train blasts of 2006 and the Malegaon bombing of 2006, and he was finally murdered in 2010.”
Fighting these cases has consumed his life and he says that work is something that he lives with every waking minute. “I am cross-questioning three or four witnesses in different cases every day, which more or less takes up all my time,” he says.
The pressure comes in indirect ways too. “Recently, a client was sent a message in jail, through another under-trial, that he should not take me on as his advocate because I would intentionally lose the case. That hurt,” he says.
Meanwhile, his wife and children have been affected; as have his earnings.
Most of his terror cases are done pro bono. “In a way, I am able to fund my time and effort on those cases because my earnings from other cases,” he says.
The stresses of juggling his workload and worrying about clients who face a possible death sentence have taken a toll too.
“To defend a man who is pitted against the sentiments of most of society and the system, one has to give it one’s all,” he says. “In cases like this, you are fighting for a man who is virtually on his deathbed.”
This leaves little time for a social or even a personal life. “Over the past two years, I have taken stock of my life and started to make some changes,” he says. “I hardly took any vacations for almost 15 years. Now I ensure that I take some time off each year with my family, and at least I come back refreshed.”
The threats have more or less ceased to matter. “I’m more concerned with finding out why someone is willing to lie on the stand, and how to break him,” Khan says.
“I’VE HAD NOTES PASTED ON MY CAR, THREATENING MY FAMILY”
Muhammad Shahwar Khan, 43, Delhi
Represented Syed Abdul Karim alias Tunda, an alleged bomb-maker for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit.
Advocate Muhammad Khan, who practices in the Patiala House court in New Delhi, took up his first terror-related case in 2001.
“The Special Cell of the Delhi Police had arrested four people. The allegations were that they had planted bombs at Sena Bhawan, Dalhousie Road, India Gate and caused explosions at the BSF Headquarters. All four were eventually acquitted as the prosecution could not prove the charges,” he says.
“As soon as one gets the chargesheet, a good lawyer can see through it. But whether a client is innocent or not is not the job of the lawyer. His job is to represent the accused to the best of his ability.”
Muhammad Shahwar Khan, a lawyer with the Patiala Court in New Delhi , goes for drives and indulges in his love for photography to relieve himself from the stress associated with his job. (Ravi Choudhary/HT PHOTO)
“There were chits pasted on my car with details of my family members. The last one was an SMS with a death threat, after which I have to move around with police security for a while.” —Muhammad Shahwar Khan
He tries to keep his personal life far from his professional life and tries not to get emotionally attached to a client or the case. “I may not be able to do justice to a case if I get emotionally involved,” he says.
But his family has been drawn in. “Soon after I took up the first case, I used to get calls from unknown numbers, some international, asking me to withdraw from cases. Later, there were chits pasted on my car with details of my family members. The last one was an SMS with a death threat, after which I have to move around with police security for a while,” he says.
But he does not let the pressure take over. “If I thought too much about it, I wouldn’t have been able to follow up on even one case. I never think about these things,” he says.
To unwind from the long days and stressful work, he indulges his passions for photography and driving in the hills. A team of friendly colleagues helps matters.
“I play for the Patiala Court Bar cricket team,” he says, chuckling.
But outside the city, the attitude of fellow lawyers has not always been friendly. “I went to Mathura in Uttar Pradesh in 2009 to represent a terror suspect who has been in jail for over 14 years. Over 300 local lawyers surrounded me outside the courthouse, shouting slogans against me. It was terrifying,” he says. “But when you do a good job, and the holds in the case are exposed, there is a special joy in seeing an innocent man go free.”
“THERE WAS A TIME MY FRIENDS WOULD AVOID ME”
Khalid Shaikh, 46, Ahmedabad
Has been representing 123 alleged members of the banned outfit SIMI since 2001
“Have you seen Jolly LLB 2?” asks Khalid Shaikh, referring to the 2013 dark comedy about a lawyer fighting a rich man on behalf of a group of poor labourers. “The film shows things in a lighter vein, but I really identify with it,” Shaikh says. “It’s one of the few films I’ve made time to see.”
In some ways, time has stood still for Shaikh since 2001. That’s the year the government of India banned the Students Islamic Movement of India, for alleged involvement in terror acts, and 123 people were arrested in Ahmedabad.
“Jolly LLB 2 shows things in a lighter vein, but I really identify with it.” — Khalid Shaikh
With support from my seniors I plunged into the cases as I was convinced that many of them were innocent of any wrongdoing,” Shaikh says. “In a year, all the accused got bail. But the final judgement just keeps dragging. Some of these people are bright professionals who cannot go abroad unless they are acquitted.”
On the upside, that case gave him the confidence to fight in other cases where society and the system were heavily pitted against the accused, like the Akshardham temple attack case of 2002.
His family is a big reason he has been able to carry on. “They value the work I am doing,” he says. “They saw the men’s faces when six accused were acquitted by the Supreme Court in the Akshardham case, with a strongly worded judgement against the investigating agency. It’s a special kind of joy when you are finally able to get justice for someone falsely accused.”
But he has not always been the toast of the town. Some friends avoided him when he was on sensitive cases. “No one said anything directly but I could feel I was being excluded from get-togethers,” he says. “They do understand that I work for the wronged.”
“THE TWO EXTREME NARRATIVES ABOUT MUSLIMS ANGER ME”
Parvez Alam, 50, Bhopal
Has been representing the families of two SIMI activists killed in an alleged fake encounter last year.
Senior lawyer Parvez Alam took up his first terror related case in 2009, when 14 persons were arrested under the UAPA in Madhya Pradesh for possessing banned literature and illegal arms. “They were all acquitted in two years,” he says.
He was also fighting the case of the alleged SIMI activists who were killed last year in what has been claimed to be a fake encounter. He is suspicious when first approached about his work. “How do I know who are you, or on whose behalf you work,” he says.
“There are two narratives about Muslims being spread: one of a peaceful Muslim and the other of an extremist, I think both are rubbish. Like every community, there are all kinds of Muslims.” — Parvez Alam
After some confirmation of identity, he continues, “I am always concerned about my children and try to keep them away from my professional world. I track them at all times.”
One thing he will talk about: The fact that almost all the terror suspects cases he has represented are Muslim men.
“I am completely against religious bias. There are two narratives about Muslims being spread: one of a peaceful Muslim and the other of an extremist, I think both are rubbish. Like every community, there are all kinds of Muslims, because that is how humans are,” he says.
His cases, he adds, drag on for many years and leave little time for anything else. “Since 2009, I have attended about two or three weddings. Whenever I go out of town I have to return within days,” he says.
Being identified as a ‘terrorist’s lawyer’ has been hard too. “A few months ago, I went out to buy clothes and the shopkeeper came up to me and asked, ‘Why do you take up such cases?’ I was a little upset and took a while to explain that till a murder has been proven, one cannot be called a murderer. Similarly, till the case has been proven, someone cannot be called a terrorist either,” he says.
A Maharashtra court on Tuesday convicted wheel-chair bound Delhi University professor GN Saibaba and five others under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for ‘waging war’ against India and for their alleged Maoist links, and sentenced all but one to life imprisonment.
GN Saibaba, JNU student Hem Keshavdatta Mishra, journalist activist Prashant Rahi, tribal farmers from Gadchiroli district Mahesh Kariman Tirki and Pandu Pora Narote, and a tribal labourer from Kanker district in Chhattisgarh Vijay Nan Tirki have been prosecuted for the offence punishable under Sections 13, 18, 20, 38, 39 of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, with Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code. While five have been given life imprisonment, Vijay Nan Tirki has got 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.
Reacting to Gadchiroli Sessions Court’s judgment, Saibaba’s wife Vasantha Kumari said the charges against her husband had been concocted. “This judgment is shocking. In the history of Maharashtra, this is the first case in which all the persons charge-sheeted were convicted in all the sections with life imprisonment.”
A lion in a forest eats almost all animals and birds. It eats away zebras, buffaloes, Ostrich etc. It has no biological feature to differentiate taste of meat. However, it prefers a prey which is easy to hunt , in other words, which is vulnerable, meaning not as a tiger or a cheetah, or which traverses against it with a face-to-face confrontation.
State is such a consolidated machinery which acts dastardly and effectively on most vulnerable sections and would not take to leave any of its contenders uncaught especially when they take head on. The distance between line of thinking of State and the line of thinking of the specified prey qualifies anyone as its prey.
Prof. Saibaba , a regular teacher of English literature in Delhi University , has been a voice against the State scuffling with it when it comes to the corporate plundering, green hunt or tribal rights. A man who is 90% disabled and much revered in academic and student circles, stood against the odds of the functioning of the state unequivocally raising his voice within India and internationally. He had been invited as a speaker by several universities to understand his voice of welfare and development of India, amongst other topics like literature. Prof. Saibaba is widely viewed as one of the finest intellectuals of balanced thinking amongst academia and as a confidant amongst students. He is the one who spearheaded the issue to implement reservations for OBCs in Delhi University.
There have been several writers, intellectuals and several activists in the country who championed the cause of the maoists including Prashanth Bhushan , who fought many cases of human right violations in respect of Maoists; Arundhathi Roy , who wrote out a sympthasising note as a complete book on how she wondered the commitment and ideology of Maoists spending time with them; VaravaraRao, an out and out revolutionary writer and supporter of Maoists; Prof. Haragopal, who was a conciliator when an IAS officer was abducted in Odisha by Maoists and has been instrumental representing the voice of Maoists in discussions with Government; Late Shankaran, IAS, who stood beside the tribals in the Naxal affected areas against practices of the Government ; and there are several to count on. While these venerable voices too have been targeted by the State, the kind and style of the victimisation of Saibaba is unparalleled. The basic question – how do we qualify one to be part of Maoists , who live their life underground, and how do we catergorise someone as ‘helping’ Maoists ?
Babasaheb Ambedkar was clearly unfavourable to violence naming it as ‘ anarchy’ (in his book on ‘Parliamentary Democracy’ ) and, however, he observed that failure of constitutional mechanism would invariably attract violence making the country self-destructive. As may be observed from the constitutional debates, he has not given any weightage to physically sabotaging any extreme deviation from constitutional morality even in case of Hindutva, on which he spent his life in despising it by heart. Babasaheb cautioned the Indians on imminent and persistent possibility of using administrative tactics to overrule constitutional morality as a dangerous phenomenon. The entire episode of victimization revolves around supersession of administrative tactics over constitutional morality. While the uprising of Maoists is the effect of failure of the Governments and relinquishment of constitutional morality by all the political parties as well as Government, the portrayal of Naxalism, by the State, as the prompter of invalidation of constitutional morality in the public does not hold strength. This is a country, where an ideology which considers fantasizing masturbation is considered as rape rules the entire Indian civilization of present age.
The charges against Prof. Saibaba and others is – “hatching a war against the Government “ under various sections and all the sections were accepted in entirety, which is actually rare and unique for any court. As we all know Police files charges against any accused under all possible sections, regardless of remote connection with them, as a matter of principle to ensure that the accused is surrounded with all possibilities of conviction and, in practice, it remains as a negotiation of punishment with the judiciary by police resulting in nullifying some and accepting some. The appalling story of Prof.Saibaba’s victimsation goes like this ( The fine details of dates are not mentioned here as the narrative is meant to give an idea of the backdrop and sensitise the perverted functioning of the Police, Bureaucracy, Politics and judiciarythe but not go around the thrill around the chilling experiences )–
The Naxal menace, as the Governments term it, has strong footholds on the borders of Maharashtra, Telangana and Chattisgarh especially encompassing Bastar/Dandakaranya forest area. Three tribal marginal agriculturalists and wage earners were caught by Maharashtra Police , reportedly when they were on their way to meet a lady maoist leader. The state police machinery, under the leadership of then IG Ravindra Kadam, pulled in another two ideological sympathisers – Hem Mishra, a JNU student, and Prashant Rahi, a journalist, though they were separately nabbed. While the torture and interrogation was on its way, Prof. Saibaba’s name , out of the blue, popped up in the charge sheet, filed against these five accused. We must understand here that Prof. Saibaba, raised in a backward caste family, came up in life out of abject impoverished family conditions. He grew up to head Revolutionary Democratic Front, a Marxist political urban organisation, at India level at a very young age. His physically handicapped body could not, at any time, pose as a hindrance to his furtherance as an activist and academic intellectual. The social capital built up around was not in consonance with the intellectual capital he has built in over a period of time and that made him more vulnerable comparative to others as illustrated above. By the time it was sensed that a conspiracy was building around, Prof. Saibaba’s house was raided by Maharashtra Police , under the guise that a house was burgled in a place called ‘ ahire ‘ in Maharashtra and the possible thief could be Prof. Saibaba residing in Delhi ( Please consider this fact and this is not a joke ! ). They raided Saibaba’s house in search of stolen property and took away Marxist literature and hard disk of his laptop. While this is so, the password to the hard disk was provided by Saibaba himself and the books are shown by Saibaba’s family itself which are lying in the open book shelves. Thereafter, in a span of two months, Police served a notice to Prof. Saibaba for an interrogation on the material they gathered from his house and the message was outspread to students, faculty and media. It was to their distressed dismay that Police found 200 people standing outside the residence of Prof. Saibaba , in solidarity with him, during the interrogation. This interrogation histrionics were subsequently mentioned in the chargesheet as the thwarted attempt to arrest him. Highly cautioned by the local foothold of Prof . Saibaba, Police had a different plot to arrest him. On an afternoon, while Saibaba was returning from an evaluation Centre after evaluating examination papers of the students, his car was surrounded by Police and the driver was taken into captivity too. The driver was blindfolded and the police took over the car to drive Prof. Saibaba to the air port. The location of his arrest was such, the same is in neither his college nor university campus nor his residence. As per the submissions of his family, the Police have kept intelligence police around the house for previous few weeks observing his daily movements and the same was forwarded to the notice of NHRC too by his family citing unwarranted invasion into their privacy. His wife was given a notice of his arrest through a telephone call from an unidentified number without revealing complete details of what is next. ( The fair details of authenticity of his arrest warrant and surrendering him before the magistrate at Gadchiroli could not be gathered by the author ). Prof. Saibaba was kept under Police custody under dreadful conditions in an Anda cell along with other non-political accused. Prof. Saibaba was not given proper medication for his ailments and was deprived of humanly sanitation conditions with no consideration to his physical disabilities. It is also reported that Prof. Saibaba was given medicines few days before attending the court during trial period so that the medical reports do not bring out glaring irregularities in his health and his bail petition was continuously got denied. Lastly, Supreme court could grant an interim bail reprimanding Police for playing the tactics to keep him under custody. One prime reason for non-bailability of Prof. Saibaba despite carrying most reasonable grounds for an accused entitled for bail, was the exaggerated severity of the crime under UAPA. The defence played by the Prosecutor was that Prof. Saibaba could disappear any time if the bail is granted. After, few more months Saibaba could get the final bail. In the meanwhile, despite given UGC rules, the university did not absorb him into regular duty and appointed ‘one man’ commission to look into how suspension cannot be invalidated. During the trial period, the family was vacated from the quarters and family went under several perils to find a house in Delhi having a toilet convenient for a physically challenged person. Added to this, it is gathered that police used to call up the owner directly advising them to abstain from any such attempt to let out the house to his family. Prof. Saibaba’s health drastically deteriorated during his remand and his left hand remained far less functional than it was. The attempt of the doctors to replace damaged muscle in the left arm was not considered as workable. The entire episode of trauma went on nearly for 4 years for Saibaba before it reached the final judgment stage. And, during this period , the family was financially rammed down into debts.
The hard disks and other evidences furnished by Police to the court were unsealed and forensic report, thus, cannot be ruled out as a fabricated one. The judgment repeatedly blamed him for being a member of Revolutionary Democratic Front which is a legal organisation and its ban in 2 states is already challenged in Supreme Court. Many of the witnesses include police too, which actually goes against ‘conflict of interest’ in the case. The legal experts are reviewing the entire case wondering how every section under which the charges were framed could get accepted by a Court in toto and consider such a lengthy imprisonment without proving his physical involvement in any of the unlawful activities.
Before Prof. Saibaba was sentenced for life imprisonment, he was hospitalized for treatment to Pancreas infection. The doctors advised him to undergo an immediate surgery within a month’s time. The present health condition after he is taken into custody is unknown.
The above narrative is gathered from Saibaba, his wife, the correspondence by Saibaba, charge sheets, judgment and other related case papers. These facts are absolutely frail to be proven in the manner and fashion the courts and bureaucracy desires them to be so and this remains as the version unheard in main strea,. However, certain absurdities remain unresolved and unanswered.
How Prof. Saibaba can have alliance with tribal agriculturists to wage war against the Government ?
How ‘a hire’ theft case got linked to UAPA case ?
Why Saibaba was abducted in a fashion nothing less than hooliganist way ?
How Prof. Saibaba’s ideological commitment can be eligible for punishment ?
What the links with Maoists does exactly mean ? Is a shared appreciation part of terrorist activity ? How this ‘link ‘ can be established when no single Maoist was caught (charged ) along with him except for all legal individuals ?
How Prof. Saibaba travelled near double digit number of countries exposing the harassment of tribals at international fora getting visas from the respective Governments ?
When fascism of governance takes its full shape, the common sense gets disappeared in every aspect, which is national and international historical experience.
Victim of conscience and media trial
The question is whether Prof. Saibaba has got some connections with Maoist party or not is actually less relevant. The ponderable question is – if a person is at the other extreme end of raising an argument against the functioning of the Government,is branded as a total loathsome individual. Our civilized society is putting bar on the extent of disagreement with the principles of governance. It is ‘fake encounters’ which get easy moral as well as social acceptance. Till date, the loss of lives due to police raids and army combing operations is larger than what Maoists committed.
Lack of social capital around Prof. Saibaba
Prof. Saibaba, having raised from a poor rural backward caste family joined the Marxist thinkers community could actually not gather as much social capital required as for such a range of activism. He suffered utter lack of adequate expert legal counseling and tried to manage within the limits. His financial constraints too could not give a flexibility to stretch beyond a limit to fight the case.
Association with tribal cause
It is apparent in Indian civil society that tribals are less considered as Indians and any specific protection of their interest is never viewed in countenance. The areas like Bastar have already got an image like they stay away from the country. The tribals were never part of discussions in main stream sections except when a large industrial projects are planned in their habitations.
A war against intelligentsia
The Governments have no political solution to address Maoist issue in this country while the liberal academic and urban intelligentsia started rallying behind the ideology mooted by them. This is gathering a moral support at a macro level and attaching credibility to the sincere anger of Maoists. In such case, Governments resorted to a war on Intelligentsia in which prof. Saibaba has become an important victim.
A dreadful UAPA
while there has been enough debate all over on this dreadful act which arms Government and Police with all unreasonable powers, it is not to be misled that the very arrest of Prof. Saibaba itself is an inappropriate execution of legal frame work and the manipulative and unchecked functioning of the State , that can happen around any other Act too.
The case of Prof. Saibaba would remain in history for all its peculiar absurdities and a rarest instance of total acceptance of Police charges by a Court in such kind of instances. This uniquely teaches a lesson that the principle, on which the State is functioning is perfect, theoretically and practically,and the same can be challenged within a ‘delta’ range but not in any range encompassing a specific ideology like Marxism or Islam.
At the end of the day, this remains as a classic case to convince international academia that a 90% disabled man, who has a family in the heart of a metro capital attending several mass and academic gatherings and catering to his professional teaching in college can wage a war against the Government and he can be sentenced as much to a level as a murderer.
P Victor Vijay Kumar
( The writer can be reached on his mail ID ‘ [email protected] ‘ or at his face book ID ‘ P V Vijay Kumar’ )
Soon after its adoption, the Constitution of India was amended in 1951. At the time, several progressive judgments (Romesh Thapar versus the State of Madras, 1950; VG Row versus the State of Madras, 1950; and the AK Gopalan case, 1950) by the judiciary held that laws which curb fundamental rights are essentially unconstitutional and fundamental freedoms could only be curbed in the most extreme of cases.
The First Amendment countered this by amending Article 19 to add the word “reasonable” before restrictions and to add “public order” as being one more ground for abridging fundamental rights.
The evolution of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) has to be seen in the background of this gradual but steady constriction of Article 19 which guarantees the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, association, etc.
The UAPA, 1967
The next major step in the abridgement of freedom of expression, assembly and association occurred in the shape of the 16th Amendment in 1963. Further “reasonable restrictions in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India” were amended to Article 19 (2).
This amendment occurred in the immediate wake of the Indian Army’s defeat in the Sino-Indian War, as well as the threat posed by DMK’s contesting elections in Tamil Nadu with secession from India being part of their manifesto.
It was in this background that UAPA was enacted on December 30, 1967 – to satisfy the need of the Indian State to declare associations that sought secession from India as “unlawful”. In this way, UAPA 1967 gave powers to the central government to impose all-India bans on associations.
The process of banning associations could simply be done by the government announcing them as “unlawful” and hence banned (Section 3). Though the original 1967 Act too had provisions for a tribunal to review or to hear an appeal against the ban, this remained a mere farce as seen in the case of Students Islamic Movement of India(SIMI).
In 2004, amid public outcry against the misuse of POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act), the government repealed the Act but majorly amended the 1967 version of UAPA at the same time. The repeal of POTA was an election promise of the then newly elected Congress government.
The amended UAPA made substantial changes to the definition of “unlawful activity”, included the definition of “terrorist act”, “terrorist organisation” from the repealed POTA, and also introduced the concept of a “terrorist gang”. In fact Chapters IV, V and VI dealing with “punishment for terrorist activities”, “forfeiture of proceeds of terrorism” and “terrorist organisations” respectively, were heavily borrowed from the repealed POTA. The Schedule to the POTA Act of “terrorist organisations” too was incorporated into UAPA verbatim. A sunset clause that was earlier part of so-called anti-terror acts like TADA and POTA was done away with.
Even if one were to buy the “desperate times call for desperate measures” logic, where a restriction to fundamental rights is reasonable given the extraordinary situation of a threat of terrorism, one cannot justify the absence of a sunset clause in the UAPA.
In fact, the justification to the inclusion of a sunset clause in previous extra ordinary acts like TADA is that when there is a drop in the perceived threat, there would be no need of the legislation.
2008 and 2012 Amendments
On December 17, 2008, another amendment of the UAPA was moved and adopted following the attack by armed gunmen in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. More provisions similar to POTA and TADA regarding maximum period in police custody, incarceration without charge-sheet and restrictions on bail were incorporated into the UAPA.
The 2012 amendments to the Act further expanded the already vague definition of “terrorist act” to include offences that threaten the country’s economic security.
What is a crime and who is a criminal?
Like earlier anti-terror laws such as TADA and POTA, UAPA too, criminalises ideology and association. By virtue of declaring an organisation “unlawful” or/and “terrorist” and banning them, these Acts have de facto criminalised their ideologies.
Hence, mere possession of any literature of such an organisation or even upholding an ideology common to that organisation in the absence of any violent act is construed as an offence. On the other hand, mere membership or association with such an organisation too becomes an offence.
It is by this logic, that very often, organisations advocating the rights of a certain minority community or that of oppressed sections are easily labelled as fronts of a proscribed organisation under the Schedule of the Act. Their activists or members get arrested and remain in prison for years, denied bail.
Repeal of UAPA
If UAPA 1967 made anti-secession law a permanent requirement, UAPA 2004 made anti-terror law permanent. After it effectively substituted POTA in 2004, the UAPA has been used by all law enforcement agencies throughout the country as the foremost anti-terror law. The repeal of POTA was indeed an eye-wash.
(Many states have their own anti-terror laws, such as Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (MCOCA), Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA), Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978; Andhra Pradesh Public Security Act, 1992, etc. These local laws are sometimes as draconian if not more, and are used by state prosecution agencies in addition to UAPA.)
In the absence of any sunset clause or provisions for mandatory periodic review, the repeal of UAPA will depend on a mass movement. However, merely mentioning its misuse or low conviction rate may eventually lead to another eyewash, as in 2004.
A movement against UAPA should hence clearly stand for its repeal and that of all other state anti-terror laws with similar provisions.
Draconian provisions of UAPA in a nutshell
– The Act introduces a vague definition of terrorism to encompass a wide range of non-violent political activity including political protest.
– The Act empowers the government to declare an organisation as “terrorist” and ban it. Mere membership of such a proscribed organisation itself becomes a criminal offence.
– The Act allows detention without filing of a charge-sheet for up to 180 days, police custody can be up to 30 days.
– The Act creates a strong presumption against bail and anticipatory bail is out of the question. It creates a presumption of guilt for terrorism offences merely based on the evidence allegedly seized.
– The Act authorises the creation of special courts, with wide discretion to hold in-camera proceedings (closed-door hearings) and uses secret witnesses.
– The Act contains no sunset clause and provisions for mandatory periodic review.
I would not express any opinion on the legality of Prof .Saibaba’s
conviction and the award of a term for life in prison because I
have not read the judgment , have not gone through the evidence before
the court and most importantly am not a legal expert.But I would like
to examine its legitimacy and morality because the judgment’s
legality is no the only question that concerns the people .If the
legality of a law and judgment were all that should be of concern to
the people , then the racial segregation in South Africa was sound
, Hitler’s anti-Jew laws causing death of millions of Jews were sound
, slavery was was sound , anti-Hindu and anti-Christian laws in
Pakistan are sound .By the same token ,the Rowlatt Act enacted by the
colonial government to suppress the ‘revolutionary movement ‘was also
sound ; but the people of India did not think so , rose in protest
against it ,which led to the massacre of more than a thousand peaceful
men , women and children, who had gathered at Jallianwalabag to
protest against the black law .And the Rowlatt Act was a very liberal
and just law compared to the draconian laws enacted by democratic
India .It is not enough that a law should be legally sound but it must
also be morally sound and legitimate must ensure justice .A law and
its operation , which do not deliver justice is immoral and
illegitimate and not a proper law .
Prof.Saibaba of Delhi University is 90% physically challenged and is
bound to his wheelchair .He is incapable of a violent act unless one
is blind enough to say that he can fire from a gun sitting in his
wheelchair. He cannot kill , maim or break bones .Prof.Saibaba at best
or worst can only be a non-violent revolutionary due to his
physical handicap.He has not been found guilty of any violent act ,
but has been convicted of unlawful activity .Even the judgment says
the accused had conspired ‘to create violence , cause public disorder
and spread disaffection towards the central goverment and the state
government.’ .’The court does not find him guilty of inciting any
particular violent incident , but inciting violence because of his
ideas , which support the use of violence by the Maoists.I DO NOT
KNOW IF THE FINDING OF THE COURT IS TRUE , BUT WOULD ACCEPT ITFOR THE
TIME BEING TO MAKE MY POINT.
Mahatma Gandhi was prosecuted and charged with sedition ( Raj Droh
,1922) for creating hatred and disaffection against the government of
India .He confessed to the court that he was the biggest rebel
against the British Raj . He also confessed that he was in a way
responsible for the violence at Chaura Chauri and in Bombay despite
his commitment to non-violence . .He was prosecuted for his seditious
articles published in the Young India .The punishment for sedition
was imprisonment for life , but Gandhiji was sentenced to just six
years.Bal Gangadhar Tilak was also charged with sedition (1909) for a
number of articles published in the Kesari he edited .He had expressed
the view that violence by the young revolutionaries was a reaction
against the repressive government .Tilak was also awarded six years
of transportation ( imprisonment in Andman Nicobar ).
Compared to the award of six years of imprisonment to Tilak (1909) and
Gandhi for sedition by an imperial court , the life sentence awarded
to Prof .Saibaba by a court of democratic India appears as nothing
short of judicial lynching.Our judges in such cases appear so devoid
of human feelings ,sense of proportion and sense of morality .The
case of Tilak and Gandhi should be the measure for judging the
justness and legitimacy of a sentence in cases in which no violence is
planned or committed by an accused and is held only guilty of
inciting hatred or disaffection against the goverment .
Our Criminal Justice System is a Criminal Injustice System.Several
thousand innocent Sikhs were openly butchered in Delhi following
Indira Gandhi’s assassination , but the then P.M.Rajeev Gandhi and his
men continued to rule the roost despite the public knowledge that his
hands were blood-stained .Hundreds of Muslims were butchered in
Gujarat riots of 2002 , but Modi remains innocent in the eyes of law
because no court has found him guilty of the shedding of innocent
blood of the Muslims .But the people know the difference between truth
and judicial truth.The best example is the case of Md.Shahabuddin
,three or four time M.P.of Siwan ,and probably the most cruel and
savage criminal known .But he, too, was an innocent and respectable
leader like Rajeev and Modi till the arrival of Nitish Kumar as Chief
Minister , whose government got him convicted of the crimes he had
been committing with impunity .
The State follows a double standard in the application of law .With
the coming to power of Modi , the terrorists associated with the
Parivar, who were charged with the bomb blast at Malegaon ,Samjhauta
Express and Ajmer ,are being bailed out or acquitted with the open
support of the government .The NIA persuades the Public Prosecutor to
help the terrorists involved in the bomb blast at Malegaon and
Samjhauta Express secure acquittal .The NIA did not oppose the bail
application of Pragya Thakur, an accused in Malegaon terror attack
.The Public Prosecutor , who had been conducting the case , resigned
because she was being persuaded to collude with the accused .The
culprits of 2002 Gujarat riots are receiving full protection of the
State, and the state agencies are changing their stand to help the
There is discrimination in dealing with the people accused of the same
or similar crimes .The policy being followed is to kill and rape those
who are suspected to be Maoists or their supporters and to protect
those who do the killing ,maiming or raping and also to instigate
the police to kill, rape and maim with impunity in Bastar,
Chhattisgarh as has been discovered by the National Human Rights
Commission .Prosecute Zakir Naik for ‘spreading communal hatred ‘and
give a free hand to the RSS, BJP and the other members of the Pariwar
to not only spread communal hatred but to engineer communal riots .
Communalism has become the ‘Raj Dharm’ and its adherents are above the
law while the Minorities and the Maoists are the enemies of the Raj
not entitled to the protection of the law and to be witch-hunted .
The discriminatory criminal justice system has robbed the judiciary of
its majesty and credibility and made its judgment devoid of legitimacy
and morality .It is not in command of the criminal justice system and
cannot be blamed for its ills , but it must find some way to prevent
its ‘ Cheer Haran ‘( Disrobing ) because Shree Krishna would not
come to its rescue.
And finally , why is the judgment in Prof.Saibaba’s case devoid of
legitimacy and morality ? Because while Tilak and Gandhi , the
towering and formidable enemies of the British empire , were awarded
only six years of imprisonment by the judges of an imperial government
, Prof. Saibaba , a 90% disabled person and the co-accused in the
case were sentenced to life by the court in democratic India .The
judiciary must change its mindset and do justice uninfluenced by the
ideology of the power that be if it does not want to become a
handmaiden of the government .The judiciary must act as a protector
not only of legal rights but of justice by cutting through the maze
of technicalities created by the Executive, which has made justice
captive to serve its interest .
* I am not a suporter of the Maoists, do not support violence as a
means of solving political problems, but believe in adherence to the
rule of law to ensure justice to all without discrimination . I
believe that adherence to the rule of law is the way to prevent
violence as emphasized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in
the following words:
WHEREAS IT IS ESSENTIAL IF MAN IS NOT TO BE COMPELLED TO HAVE
RECOURSE , AS A LAST RESORT , TO REBELLION AGAINST TYRANNY AND
OPPRESSION , THAT HUMAN RIGHTS SHOULD BE PROTECTED BY THE RULE OF LAW
SRINAGAR: “I have never ever given in to any pressure and will continue to protest and fight for justice” says Parveena Ahangar, chairperson of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP).
Ahangar is unassuming and usually a soft spoken woman but her voice gets louder and firmer as she speaks about the resistance and justice. Sporting a snow white headband which carries the word “disappeared’’ and a symbol of a hand in black, with a finger—middle one– chopped off , Ahangar shows up on the 10th of every single month along with a knot of women at Srinagar’s Pratab park—all wearing the same bands– to hold peaceful sit-ins.
The symbol on their headbands signifies the family with one of its members missing. The group of protesting women including Ahangar herself are the family members of victims of enforced disappearances. They are looking for justice starting with the whereabouts of their kith and kin since the past many years.
Ahangar , a 2005 Nobel nominee comes from a very humble back ground. In the early nineties, like thousands of middle class Kashmiri women she would manage her family chores. This all changed when her 16 year old son Javed Ahmad Ahangar disappeared, having allegedly been taken in by the Indian army.
“There is no trace of him ever since army men in civvies picked him up on August 8, 1990 from his uncle’s home at Dhobi Mohalla of Batamaloo area during a raid in the dead of night ” said Ahangar.
Ahmad Ahangar according to her mother was a student of class 10th and had nothing to do with militancy. After a few days of search in different army camps, Ahangar registered an FIR with Shergarhi police station and also approached almost all movers and shakers in politics and establishment. But as nothing came out of it she rose above personal trauma and came up with the idea of fighting in tandem with the families of other victims.
The first thing that Ahangir undertook was a rather arduous task—gathering information about the victims of enforced disappearances across Kashmir.
“During those days a prominent Urdu newspaper would carry exclusively the small pieces on custodial killings and enforced disappearances on daily basis. These pieces turned out very helpful for me to collate the information”
As all the areas of Valley were not telephonically connected in the mid nineties, Ahangar amidst despicable violence — often putting her life on the line– visited well -nigh every pocket of Kashmir, even the remotest and heavily militarized areas of the north and south to mobilize the families of victims.
“It was a way difficult thing and even more difficult was to prod and encourage them to come forward, speak up and fight as the Indian forces had unleashed a reign of terror everywhere” Ahangar said.
Finally in the year 1994 she founded the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). The organization not only holds monthly protests and fights the cases of victims in different courts but also helps some of the affected families financially out of the donations it collects from local philanthropists who rally their cause. The organization also receives a small grant from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights under its voluntary fund for victims of torture.
“We have a plethora of members confronting the economic insecurities particularly the half widows—women whose husbands stand disappeared– as they could not inherit the property of their spouses because they have not officially been declared dead so we have to make every effort to do away with some of their severe financial troubles”, Ahanger said.
According to an estimates there are around 8000 enforced disappearance cases in Kashmir. In 2011 APDP released a report –Half Widow, Half Wife? Responding to Gender Violence that puts the number of just the half widows at around 1500.
Besides receiving the nominations for the peace Noble peace prize, in 2011 Ahangar rejected CNN-IBN now CNN-News 18’s “Indian of the Year Award”.
“It was a sheer hypocrisy as the channel instead could have upped the pressure on government to provide us the whereabouts of our children? Which it never did,” Ahangar added.
Although so far there does not seem to be much hope insofar state action to trace the disappeared is concerned, Ahangar said that she would not fold her tents and would fight relentlessly till the end.
(The writer is a fellow with National Foundation for India, New Delhi)
NEW DELHI — Barely three weeks after the serial bomb blasts in Delhi killed 67 people and injured over 200 in October 2005, Mohammed Rafiq Shah was picked up by a joint team of officers from the Delhi Police Special Cell and Kashmir Police’s Special Task Force. Later, Shah would recall how the officers barged into his Srinagar home around midnight, beat up his family members, and bundled him into a police car.
“I was forced to drink urine instead of water, kept naked and forced to suck private parts of body (sic) of other co-accused,” he told the court in 2008, when he was being charged with planting a bomb in a DTC bus on 29 October 2005. “Rats were poured into my trousers. Police officials were laughing and taking my naked photographs with their mobile phones.”
“I was forced to drink urine instead of water, kept naked and forced to suck private parts of body (sic) of other co-accused.”
Shah, then a masters student of Kashmir University’s department of Islamic Studies, repeatedly told the police officers and the court that he was in fact attending classes in Srinagar at the time the blasts took place in Delhi. Despite his attendance record submitted by four of his professors, the case went to trial, and Shah stayed in jail for 11 years until he was acquitted by a trial court in Delhi on 16 February, 2017.
“When I was crying for help, they used to tell that (sic) every Kashmiri is a terrorist,” Shah told the court.
“To shake my religious sentiments, (sic) small pig was brought in got my whole body touched with it. After that I was locked along with the small pig in a single cell,” Shah told the court.
Crucial ‘Loss’ Of Evidence
The local police, in its investigation, relied on a witness who had apparently provided a physical description of the man who planted the bomb in the DTC bus, and had even helped the cops draw a sketch of the accused. However, the witness told the court that he had only seen the bomber’s back, and could not identify the person. The portrait too, disappeared from the police file, and was never shown in court.
“When I was crying for help, they used to tell that (sic) every Kashmiri is a terrorist.”
The Delhi Police Special Cell claimed they never saw such a portrait even though the case file was transferred to them within a couple of days after the blasts. The police did not try to conduct a ‘test identification parade’ (TIP) through this witness either, where the witness could have picked the accused from a lineup of suspects.
The police did try to conduct a TIP through another witness who claimed to have seen the bomber, but his description of the man he saw was completely different from that of the other witness. Shah refused to be part of the TIP, alleging that the police exposed him to this witness several times so that he could ‘correctly’ identify him, a common technique in police procedure in which the witness is sometimes tricked into believing that he has seen the suspect before.
At the same time, despite statements by Kashmir University professors who said Shah was attending his classes in Srinagar when the blasts took place in Delhi, one of the police investigators told the court that he did not know Shah was a student there. Shockingly, the cop had actually written a letter to Kashmir University asking for Shah’s attendance records, as revealed in court.
The police never followed up on this line of investigation, which established that Shah was not present in Delhi at the time of the crime and was one of the main reasons why he was acquitted last week. The court called the police’s explanation for not following up on his alibi “rather lame to say the least”.http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2017/02/20/rats-in-pants-made-to-drink-urine-called-a-terrorist-the-shoc/?ncid=fcbklnkinhpmg00000001
I know why the caged bird sings: Ramesh Gaichor (second from right) and Sagar Gorkhe (third from right) celebrate their release from prison with fellow Kabir Kala Manch activists Photo: Karan Khosla
Finger-pointing songs: Sambhaji Bhagat (in blue shirt) and Kabir Kala Manch at a 2013 performance in Bengaluru Photo: K Bhagya Prakash
“I think they’re just waiting to rearrest them,” jokes Jyoti Jagtap, a member of Pune’s Dalit-Left cultural troupe Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), to the small group of people waiting in the visitor’s courtyard of Navi Mumbai’s Taloja jail. We’ve been here for over an hour now, awaiting the release of KKM members Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor on bail after four years in prison for alleged links to Naxalites, when Jagtap notices a group of plain-clothes cops standing next to the jail’s imposing blue gate. A passing policeman tells us they’re from the Intelligence Bureau. Gaichor’s sister looks on in concern as the rest of the group trades stories they’ve heard of people being bundled into waiting police jeeps as soon as they step out of jail. The mood is one of anticipation, but with a strong undercurrent of tension and worry.
“You know when you’re returning from a vacation and you’re close to home, it feels like time has slowed down,” says a middle-aged woman — a lawyer — who has travelled with the group all the way from Pune. “It’s like that. We’re all just waiting for the moment we can finally see them.”
That moment arrives half an hour later. Gorkhe and Gaichor walk out of the blue gate with big smiles plastered on their faces, their eyes searching the courtyard for their families and comrades. Gaichor is immediately smothered by hugs from his sister and his wife Jagtap. A few steps behind, Gorkhe is reunited with his wife (and KKM member) Rupali Jadhav, while fellow KKM members Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle pat him on the back. On the road outside the jail’s main gate, the two pose for pictures in between phone calls to their parents. Their friends hand out sweets to passers-by, including the jail officials who walk up to congratulate them on their release. Once things settle down a bit, the group relocates to a nearby chai-stall, where Gorkhe and Gaichor regale us with jokes and stories about their time inside. The sense of relief all around is palpable. Their six-year-long nightmare is finally ending.
Founded by college students in 2002 as a response to the Godhra riots, the KKM is a troupe of cultural activists who rose to prominence in Maharashtra with their songs about caste oppression and workers’ rights. In 2011, Dengle and Bhonsle were arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad for their alleged links to Naxalites. The rest of the group went into hiding, resurfacing only when Dengle and Bhonsle were let out on bail in 2013. Bombay High Court Justice Abhay Thipsay wrote in his ruling, “It is surprising that highlighting the wrongs prevalent in the society and insisting that there is a need to change the situation was considered as evidence… of them being members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).” Emboldened by the ruling, former KKM president Sheetal Sathe and her husband Sachin Mali — the two have since left the group citing ideological differences — courted arrest in April 2013, and the rest of the group followed in May. Sathe, pregnant at the time, got bail three months later. Gorkhe, Gaichor and Mali — who were lodged in Arthur Road jail — would have to wait for almost four more years.
“I wake up in the middle of the night and look around, just to make sure I’m not back in the barracks,” says Gorkhe, when I meet him and the rest of the group a week after his release. We’re sprawled on the living room floor of his small flat in Pimpri Chinchwad, discussing the difficulties of adjusting to life outside prison. Gorkhe speaks about being stuck, unable to go past the haze of prison memories. Yesterday, he finally sat down to watch Sairat, but five minutes into the film he was staring at the wall, lost in thoughts. “There’s a negativity in prison that tries to break you,” adds Gaichor, who has been silent and pensive. “The feeling of being completely under someone else’s control, being unable to make even the simplest choices for yourself. The people who control you, they don’t look at you like you’re a human being. You’re not even an animal, they’re better with cats and dogs. So you have to fight that negativity with studying, writing, creativity, or you will go insane.”
Gorkhe and Gaichor thought they were well prepared for prison. A day in Arthur Road’s overcrowded and filthy general barracks quickly disabused them of that notion. Around 250 inmates were packed into a space meant for 80. There was no space to sit, and inmates were sleeping on their sides in tightly packed rows. Three of the four bathrooms had broken doors, and only one working tap between them. The food was so bad that they barely ate for the first few days.
The two were later shifted to the high-security section in Taloja jail, which also houses those booked under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) as well as terrorism-related cases. The situation was a little better there, they had their own room with a functioning fan and 24-hour water supply. But life in the anda cell brought new challenges. Locked away in their rooms for most of the day, unable to even see each other, the inmates struggle with loneliness and depression. Events of the day would swim in their head all night, conversations replayed over and over in a state of anxiety. Sleepless hours would be spent thinking about their homes and families. Gorkhe was so disturbed he went to the prison psychiatrist for medication, but that only made him vomit. He eventually took to meditation to deal with the stress.
“Also in the anda cell was a policeman held for a fake encounter and he used to scream at night. A couple of people tried to kill themselves,” interjects Dengle. When Dengle was picked up outside his workplace in 2011, the police allegedly tortured him for a day in lockup before registering an arrest. Gorkhe and Gaichor’s high-profile status as political prisoners at least protected them from the beatings meted out to less-fortunate prisoners. But there were other little ways to harass inmates — verbal abuse, interception of private letters, confiscation of books and reading material. Both men were also upset that their wives and comrades were harassed by the police and even — in one instance — assaulted by the ABVP. They kept their spirits up by engaging in political analyses of the burning issues of the day, filing RTIs, helping other inmates with paperwork and once organising the inmates to protest against the terrible prison food.
What also kept them going was their art — the two not only wrote over 100 songs, they also worked on plays and books of poetry. They would perform the songs they wrote to other inmates and sympathetic jail officials, or constantly sing them to each other so they wouldn’t forget the tune before they found a way to put it down. “It really helped us cope,” says Gorkhe. “We knew we couldn’t do anything physically but at least we could work with ideas.”
While they were in prison, they say their families struggled with police harassment and the social stigma attached to the ‘Naxalite’ tag. Their parents and siblings, they allege, continue to be regularly visited by the police, who intimidate and occasionally pick someone up for a few hours of interrogation. When the group was still in hiding, one policeman allegedly visited Jadhav’s mother, showed her a picture of a woman killed in a police encounter and claimed it was her daughter. The mother had fainted on hearing this. When Jadhav took up a job as a receptionist, the police started turning up at her office to investigate her. Meanwhile, Gorkhe’s neighbours and extended family started a social boycott of his parents. “Their water was turned off, their electricity was switched off,” remembers Gorkhe. “They had to deal with constant taunts from their neighbours. Eventually, they had to shift out of that basti, despite not having any money and no jobs.”
Legal experts have warned us for years about the flagrant abuse of anti-terrorism laws like the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) to target activists and non-violent dissidents. Over 77,000 people were arrested under its heavily criticised predecessor TADA, with thousands of them spending long stints in jail as their trials dragged on. Only 725 were ever convicted, at a conviction rate of one per cent. Similar data for UAPA cases is not available, but a report last year by The Tribune indicated that not much has changed. According to the report, over the last seven years, a 100 UAPA cases in Punjab have led to only one conviction. The pattern — of the trial as punishment — repeats itself.
In its order granting bail to Gorkhe, Gaichor and Mali, the Supreme Court noted that the State had told the court last July that the trial would be completed in six months. But till January 2017, not even one of the 147 proposed witnesses had been fully examined. At that rate, they would have spent a lifetime in jail waiting for the trial to end. This is by no means an anomaly. In a recent article for DailyO, political activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves explain how such delays are the result of “a deliberate dalliance between police and prosecution to postpone service of summons, hold back witnesses, neglect bringing the muddemaal or physical evidence to court and other such means to ensure that the trial process is effectively paralysed.” The end result is a de facto “sentence” that keeps “the undertrial rotting in jail without the hassle of obtaining a conviction.” The chilling effect — other activists censoring themselves to avoid state harassment — is a nice bonus.
Both Ferreira and Gonsalves are speaking from experience, having spent years in jail on Naxalism-related charges. They add KKM to a long list that includes Binayak Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Soni Sori, Laxman Madavi and, most recently, seven members of a Telangana Democratic Front fact-finding mission to Bastar.
Back at the chai-stall, after a round of tea and omelette pav, Gaichor breaks out into a song that he wrote in prison. Gorkhe taps out a rhythm on the plastic table. A full-on jam session breaks out, with everyone joining in on the chorus as they pick up the words. The woman who runs the stall stops her work to applaud when the song ends. Gaichor and Gorkhe make their way through more songs, in both Hindi and Marathi. The performance ends with a dedication to lokshahirs Annabhau Sathe and Vilas Ghogre. Despite the six-year ordeal, their revolutionary zeal remains intact. There is a lightness to their step, an eagerness to put their jail time behind them and get back to work. As we walk to wards my car, I ask Jagtap what is the first thing they’ll do once they’re home. “We’re going to Camp,” she says with a mischievous smile. “Beef khayenge.”