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Archives for : Gujarat Police

#India – #Gujarat State of lawlessness

July 7, 2013

Nitya Ramakrishnan

“Why this selective concern about encounter killings in Gujarat — these happen all over the country,” pleaded Gujarat’s lawyer at a Supreme Court hearing of veteran journalist B.G. Verghese’s public interest petition on 22 unexplained police killings in that state.

When a 13-year-old boy was abducted from a Delhi jhuggi by Gujarat police officials on a whim, the State government’s defence was first that the boy was Bangladeshi, next that he was 16 and not 13, and finally that he had gone willingly with the gun-wielding policemen.

The Delhi High Court, issuing a writ to restore the child to his family, treated Gujarat’s pleas with the disdain that they deserved, but the State is still shielding the errant policemen.

Conjecture as science

Yet another time a court in Gujarat convicted 12 Muslims for the murder of former Gujarat Minister Haren Pandya, by postulating a conjecture that defied every rule of science and logic.

The conjecture that the dead man’s body had jumped up inside a Maruti car and contorted itself just so, to get shot in the left scrotum from the top end of the right side window, led the High Court to express its disapproval in the strongest terms of both the quality of investigation and of the whimsical reasoning adopted by its subordinate court of law.

The scale of absurdity in the stances unhesitatingly adopted reveals something far more serious than a breach of the law.

The police in Gujarat wear lawlessness as a badge of honour, and that explains the extraordinary phenomenon of such a rich crop of high ranking Gujarat police officers in prison.

Any administration that nurtures such lawlessness is plainly unfit to govern, but that’s not the whole of it. The ruling political establishment of Gujarat has made an ideological campaign in support of murder, rape and extortion by its highest rung of officers, based not on any credible factual challenge, but instead as a turf battle.

Non-partisan struggle

The people who have fought to bring the violators in Gujarat to book are also those who fought against the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, the Meerut killings of 1987 and many serious human rights violations irrespective of the political regime under which they occurred.

The constant refrain that this is a Congress ploy against the BJP will simply not wash, for it is not the Congress at all, but a spirited group of activists who have tirelessly worked to expose the now obvious design to create a hype of Muslim terror.

Even as unlikely threats to security were targeted in encounters and flimsy cases, the Gujarat police let real threats like the much-wanted Mufti Sufiyan slip away. There is good reason to suspect that there was active private interest behind these operations. This then is the answer to the hollow indignation, “why Gujarat.”

The unbridled run given to ‘security’ agencies in the last years has no doubt contributed to the greatest security risk that citizens face; and bringing Gujarat to book is an important step towards restoration of institutional integrity.

(The author is a Delhi- based advocate and has defended many terror cases in Gujarat and elsewhere, including the Haren Pandya case.)

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[Exposé] Ishrat Jahan Encounter: CBI Probe Nails IB Officer’s Role

Shocking testimonies and a sting implicate IB Special Director Rajendra Kumar and Modi’s top guns. Rana Ayyub scoops the file

Rana Ayyub

2013-06-29 , Issue 26 Volume 10

In cold blood In 2011, the SIT told the court that Ishrat was killed in a fake encounter

In cold blood In 2011, the SIT told the court
that Ishrat was killed in a 
 Photo: Trupti Patel

The is set to drop a bombshell in a case of extrajudicial killing of four alleged terrorists by the Gujarat Police nine years ago. TEHELKA has learnt that the CBI will testify before a trial judge in Ahmedabad that one of the accused officers has, in a sworn testimony, identified , now a Special Director with the Intelligence Bureau (IB), as a mastermind of the encounter killing of a woman and three men, all Muslims, on 15 June 2004. The agency, on the directions of the Gujarat High Court, is expected to file its chargesheet before the trial court on 4 July.

Explosively, a testimony by another officer claims that Kumar met the 19-year-old woman, , while she was in illegal police custody before being killed. Another testimony by a cop claims that an AK-47 assault rifle, which the police said belonged to those killed, had actually been sourced from the Gujarat unit of the IB, to which Kumar belonged then, and planted on the four dead bodies.

The allegations, if found true, would not only fix Kumar’s lead role in the murder of the four people. It would also unequivocally demolish the state government’s long-held claim that the four were terrorists on their way to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and were killed by the police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in a predawn exchange of gunfire. The testimonies are especially stunning as this is the first occasion in India’s history that the IB, an opaque Central agency that functions virtually with no public oversight, has been dragged into the middle of a sordid crime.

Rana

It is the CBI’s case that Kumar knowingly provided false intelligence to the state police, claiming Jahan and the three men with her were terrorists. On 18 June, the CBI questioned Kumar at length in Gandhinagar, the state capital. An intra- agency war has broken out with IB Director Asif IBrahim accusing the CBI of targeting Kumar. But the evidentiary material with the CBI could make it difficult for the IB to continue backing Kumar.

Shockingly, one of the testimonies with the CBI also implicates Amit Shah — a Modi confidant who was Gujarat’s junior home minister at that time — as the one who ordered the cold-blooded killings. The CBI’s upcoming submission in the court on 4 July is bound to kick up a massive political storm as Modi has been tasked to lead his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in next year’s General Election, making him a contender for the job of the prime minister. Shah has been put in charge of the party in Uttar Pradesh, India’s politically most influential state that the BJP must win to rule New Delhi.

TEHELKA has exclusive information that the CBI  also possesses a secret audio recording made by a key accused, , who was one of the police officers who shot the four that fateful night. That recording of November 2011 is a conversation among Gujarat’s then junior home minister, Praful Patel, who had succeeded Shah in the job a year earlier; Additional Principal Secretary Girish Chandra Murmu, an IAS  officer who has served in Modi’s office since 2008 and considered to be one of his closest advisers; the state government’s most senior law officer, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi; his deputy, Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta; an unnamed lawyer; and Singhal. (Patel, not to be confused with a namesake who is a Union minister, lost in the Assembly elections in December and did not find a place in Modi’s new cabinet.)

In the conversation the participants allegedly discuss ways to cover-up the crime by sabotaging a probe by a Special Investigative Team (SIT) of police officers appointed by the Gujarat High Court in 2009. The conversation shows the participants aimed to prevent the SIT from fingering the officers for the shootout. On 21 November 2011, the morning after the conversation, the SIT told the high court that there had been no shootout and Jahan and her companions had been killed in cold blood. The CBI will submit the audio recording, which has already been sent for a forensic examination, to the judge on 4 July.

According to a CBI officer who spoke to TEHELKA, Singhal has admitted he recorded the conversation as he feared he might be arrested and wanted to save the proof of the wider conspiracy. Indeed, Singhal is emerging as a crucial talking head in the case — as the one who has identified both Kumar and Shah as the masterminds. TEHELKA is aware of the identity of the other police officers who have given sworn testimonies to the CBI implicating IB officer Kumar and the others. However, we are withholding the names in order to protect their identities before 4 July, when the CBI would submit their signed testimonies to the court.

Additionally, a curious occurrence has come to light. Two days before the encounter, someone made two separate phone calls from a public telephone booth an hour apart from each other. One of them was made to the Ahmedabad office of the IB’s state wing. And the other was made to the mobile phone of Javed Gulam Shaikh (formerly a Hindu named Pranesh Pillai), who is the central figure among the four alleged terrorists and who was bringing them to Gujarat in his car. Who was making those phone calls and who did the caller speak with at the IB office? What did he speak of with Shaikh? The answers to these questions would further implicate Kumar, according to the CBI officer.

An Indian Police Services (IPS) officer since 1979, Kumar has been tying himself in knots since the CBI zeroed in on him. He reportedly told the CBI this week that he could not remember details of the events leading up to the shootout. In any case, he told the CBI, he merely provided the intelligence input and did not ask the police to kill Jahan, Shaikh and the two others. But CBI officers have sourced videos that news channels shot at the scene of the encounter where Kumar is prominent among the swarming police officers. CBI officials say Kumar, an intelligence officer, had no business being there.

In fact, two other testimonies the CBI has recorded afresh, directly implicate Kumar in another case: the extrajudicial killing of a Muslim youth, Sadiq Jamal, in January 2003. An officer with the Manipur- Tripura cadre stationed by the IB in Gujarat as joint director during 2000-05, Kumar had provided an intelligence input that said Pakistani terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) had tasked the 23-year-old Jamal to assassinate Modi. (A year later, Kumar forwarded an identical input that LeT had despatched Jahan, Shaikh and the two other men, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar, both allegedly Pakistanis.)

The CBI is probing Jamal’s killing, too. Police had arrested him in 2002 for gambling and presented him before a judge in Bhavnagar, 175 km south of Ahmedabad, 10 days before Kumar sent out the intelligence input about Jamal being a terrorist on the prowl. He followed it up with a second missive to the state’s then Director General of Police K Chakravarty, giving out the various locations in Bhavnagar where Jamal could be found.

Subterfuge GL Singhal’s (circled) tape of the cover-up talk implicates many others in the case

Subterfuge GL Singhal’s (circled) tape of the cover-up talk implicates many others in the case
Photo: Mayur Bhatt

One of the new testimonies with the CBI is by an intelligence officer named Ambady Gopinathan who was serving with the IB’s state wing in Maharashtra when the intelligence input about Jamal cropped up first in October 2002. He says a colleague of his in Mumbai submitted a “source report” that Jamal, “a dreaded terrorist had arrived from Dubai to kill certain right wing leaders”. It further said Jamal was in Ahmedabad and was “busy surveying the targets for his nefarious designs”. Gopinathan, who subsequently retired as assistant director with the IB’s Maharashtra unit, forwarded the report to two other state IB officers who in turn forwarded it to the IB in New Delhi.

Gopinathan’s testimony blows to smithereens the story that Jamal was a terrorist who the Ahmedabad crime branch killed in an encounter. He says that on 19 December 2002 Jamal was arrested from a hotel in Andheri East, a Mumbai suburb. “For about a week different SIB (State Intelligence Bureau) officers used to… interrogate Sadiq,” Gopinathan says. “We came to the conclusion that there was no substance to the input that Sadiq had any intention to cause harm to any VVIPs. The interrogation report containing the details and conclusion was sent to the central intelligence unit of the IB.” On 3 January 2003, Jamal’s custody was handed over to the crime branch in Gujarat. Ten days later, “I came to know from the media that Sadiq was killed in a police encounter”.

Surprisingly, even after being given a report of Sadiq’s innocence, Kumar claimed he was an absconder, in a third input generated soon after.

A CBI source told TEHELKA that two intelligence officers from Mumbai are also on its radar. One of them, Gururaj Savadatti, is a “suspect” as he was the one who had submitted the original “source report” about Jamal being a terrorist. The other officer is Sudhir Kumar, who was then IB central director, western zone, and who Gopinathan had sent the source report. The CBI believes the two Kumars, Rajendra and Sudhir, conspired to label Jamal a terrorist, which led to his encounter killing in Gujarat.

The other fresh testimony with the CBI is by a senior IPS officer in Gujarat, Anupam Singh Gehlot, a deputy inspector general in charge of coastal intelligence posted at the state police headquarters in Gandhinagar. Gehlot had been a deputy superintendent of police during 2002-04 at Bhavnagar. Jamal was a resident of Bhavnagar and the intelligence about him was sent to the city police for verification. Gehlot has now told the CBI that J Mahapatra, an IPS officer who was then director general of police in charge of statewide police intelligence, telephoned him and told him to expect a call from Rajendra Kumar. When Kumar called, he sent Gehlot on a wild goose chase by telling him to go look for a man named Ayyub Islam in the city.

“Later I got another phone call(s) from Rajendra Kumar and Mahapatra giving me name of a person called Sadiq Jamal who lived in Bhavnagar, a trained LeT militant (who) was out to kill BJP leader Narendra Modi,” Gehlot says. “I could make out that Kumar was keen on detailing Sadiq Jamal irrespective whereas Mr Mahapatra was keen on me verifying facts.” On 30 November 2002, Gehlot’s men went to Jamal’s house and found only his mother. The local police station told them they had booked Jamal for gambling. “We found no evidence against him and this was reported to the central intelligence unit. It was election time and I was busy with election supervision. On 15 January 2003 I received a phone call from the Ahmedabad crime branch asking me to inform the family of his (Jamal’s) death and to collect the dead body.”

The CBI says Mahapatra has been questioned and he is cooperating. Expect fireworks on 4 July.

[email protected]

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 26, Dated 29 June 2013)

 

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#India – Custodial Torture – Tailor, Farmer, Bootlegger, and many young men #mustread

The Hell Of Living Souls

A tailor. A farmer. A bootlegger. Often just young men going about their day. brutally tortured, then acquitted. G Vishnu captures the impunity with which this happens. And why society needs to react
G Vishnu

G VISHNU , Tehelka

1-06-2013, Issue 22 Volume 10

If the protector becomes (the) predator, civilised society will cease to exist… Policemen who commit criminal acts deserve harsher punishment than other persons who commit such acts, because it is the duty of the policemen to protect the people and not break the law themselves

Supreme Court of India, 2010

Marked man Harak Chandra Chakma, who was arrested and tortured by the police for taking part in a tribal celebration in Tripura, ended up in hospital for 10 days

Marked man Harak Chandra Chakma, who was arrested and tortured by the police for taking part in a tribal celebration in Tripura, ended up in hospital for 10 days

On 14 May, police rounded up four men in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh, 260 km west of the state capital, Lucknow, in connection with a month-old case of murder. Three days later, one of them, a 33-year-old farmer named Balbir Singh, lay dead in a hospital in Lucknow. “The police gave him electric shocks and injected acid and petrol in his body,” says his brother- in-law, Sunul Kumar. “They forced him to sit on an electric heater that burnt his body horribly.” According to Kumar, Singh told him before dying that the police wanted him to confess his involvement in the murder.

So critical was his condition that Singh was moved to three hospitals in as many cities before he died. He named the policemen who tortured him in a dying declaration before a magistrate. The police were forced to register a case of murder. Five lowly policemen were suspended. No arrests are yet made. A sub-inspector is on the run. Devendra Pandey, who heads the police station of the alleged perpetrators, was merely transferred, though, according to Kumar, it was Pandey who gave Singh the electric shocks. Singh has left behind a one-year-old son and a pregnant wife.

The scourge of torture by police and prison officials is routine, random and vicious across India. On 18 May, Khalid Mujahid, 32, fell dead on his way back to a prison in Lucknow from a court in Faizabad. His death has generated unusual focus and political attention on the issue of police torture and custodial deaths. For the most part though, police torture hardly ever features as a red-button issue for Indians. First, there is a sense that torture only happens to the deserving. Second, there is a common perception that torture is the only — even if illegal — way of extracting crucial information from deadly terror suspects or mafia gangsters. Both these assumptions are false. Torture almost never yields accurate information. In fact, it is a security hazard as victims often confess in utter desperation to crimes they have not committed, while the real perpetrators roam free. Equally, torture is not restricted to rare cases. Often, it is perpetrated on those caught on trivial charges. According to the NHRC, over 14,000 people have died in police custody and in prisons in the decade ending 2010. This translates to a rate of more than four deaths a day. In the past three years, the NHRC has recorded 417 deaths in police custody and 4,285 deaths in judicial custody.

The story of Ratanji Vaghela is symptomatic of the sheer randomness of this brutality. On 27 April, Gujarat Police arrested Vaghela, a patient of depression and amnesia, for crossing the path of an official convoy in Gandhinagar. The family alleges torture, due to which he had to be hospitalised with severe wounds. “There are very few countries in the world where torture is as systematic and endemic as in India,” says New Delhi based campaigner Suhas Chakma. Rights activist Teesta Setalvad of Mumbai agrees: “Torture is not the exception, but the norm in jails as well as prisons across India.”

 Sarfaraz
‘At the station, the inspector forced my penis into my mother’s private parts. He kept shouting ‘rape her’ the whole time’
Sarfaraz A Mumbai domestic worker who was arrested when he went to report his wife’s suicide

Vaghela may still turn out lucky. On a plea from Chakma, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an autonomous statutory watchdog, has ordered the state government to pay him an interim compensation of Rs 3 lakh and probe the allegation that he was tortured. But for the tens of thousands of citizens subjected to brutal torture across police stations and prisons in India, there is virtually no end to the tunnel.

“I have seen people beaten until they collapsed. I heard a prisoner was beaten until he died,” says Binayak Sen, a rights campaigner in Chhattisgarh, who spent two years in prison and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010 for sedition. “There is no question of natural justice. It is done with impunity. This is the everyday reality of torture in Indian jails.” Sen, whose incarceration became a global cause and who is on bail having appealed his conviction, says he was called crazy when he protested the torture of fellow prisoners. He says he never saw a victim of torture try to seek justice.

While the rest of the world is no stranger to torture by State agencies, India has the dubious distinction of sticking out as a sore thumb in the comity of nations. Along with half-a-dozen tiny nations such as Comoros and Guinea-Bissau, India is the only big country that has failed to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture, by outlawing torture and legislating punishment, despite signing it. An attempt to legislate to outlaw torture went into deep freeze in 2010 after rights campaigners pointed out howlers in the draft Bill and a parliamentary committee began to sift through it.

As a result, an architecture of torture dominates India’s law enforcement, and the judiciary turns a blind eye. “We have seen the courts demand action against the police, but in most cases, torture invokes only a verbal outrage on the part of the judiciary,” says Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover, a long-time campaigner against torture. “It does not necessarily lead to effective prosecution of the perpetrators of torture.”

If ever a stink stirs judicial and quasi-judicial agencies, compensations are paid out, but any prosecution of the guilty drags forever. Stunningly, data from the National Crime Records Bureau, a government agency, shows there have been no convictions despite numerous cases filed against policemen and prison staff.

Activists reckon that most deaths emanate from torture, though, of course, officials always deny that. Most deaths are written off as suicides; very many are put down to illnesses and diseases. And the number of those who survive is exponentially larger and highly underreported. For most victims, torture begins a never-ending nightmare.

Mukesh Kumar, 21, was arrested on 24 January in Sheikhpura, a district in Bihar 120 km south of state capital, Patna, for bootlegging. According to a complaint he later filed with the State Human Rights Commission, Kumar was taken to the official residence of the city’s Superintendent of Police (SP) Babu Ram and thrashed. A baton was pushed into his rectum. (The police deny the charge.) Doctors at a hospital where he was brought four days later found his intestines had ruptured. He was told they might never heal.

 Naresh
‘When the policemen caned my soles, the pain shot up here (head). Three days later, I confessed that I had planted the bomb’
Naresh Sank Kujuri A tribal who was accused of planting a bomb in Gadchiroli that killed 12 CRPF personnel

Kumar’s relatives admit that, desperate to feed his family of five, he had taken to plugging moonshine. They were forced to bring him to the State-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi for surgeries that have already cost Rs 2 lakh. “He passes stool through a pipe and can’t walk to the toilet,” says Kumar’s uncle, Dhiraj Singh. “What do you do when the guardians of law commit such a crime?” After newspapers wrote of the torture, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered the SP transferred out. “All the policemen involved in the case, including the SP, have been transferred,” says Sheikhpura’s new SP, Meenu Kumari. “I cannot comment further.”

With 11 crore people, Maharashtra has just over half the population of Uttar Pradesh. Yet, it tops the country in the number of cases of custodial deaths and torture by police and in prisons, beating even India’s most populous state. Recurrent bombings, supposedly by homegrown Islamic fundamentalists, and a Maoist rebellion in the state’s east have stoked the appetite for torture among the law enforcement agencies.

On 26 March 2012, a bomb exploded in Gadchiroli district, killing 12 members of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force. It responded by raiding surrounding villages with the police, who arrested 11 men. “Every morning and evening, we were hung upside down and our feet, ankles and back caned,” Nanaji Chambrupadha Bapra, 28, told this reporter on a visit to his village. “After four days, the police stopped the torture but still won’t release us,” adds Shatrugan Rajnaitham, 18. The men were instead charged with waging war against the State. They were bailed after three months.

“There is no evidence against them but they were picked up because it was convenient,” says their lawyer, Jagdish Mishram. And fruitful. “When they caned the soles, the pain shot up here,” says Naresh Sank Kujuri, 26, pointing at his head. “Three days later, I told them I had planted the bomb.” The families of these men, all poor farmers, have run up debts of lakhs of rupees on legal and health expenses. Of course, the police reject the charge. “None of the men were tortured,” Gadchiroli SP Suvez Haque told TEHELKA. “We arrested them on the basis of evidence.”

Kujuri’s story illustrates how torture is entirely self-defeating. Bandhu Mishram, 46, a tailor in Nagpur district and a veteran of torture, describes how the police set about implementing their regime of torture. He has been arrested thrice in a short life: in 1984, 1996 and 2010. In his early years he was targeted, he says, for his trade unionism and activism to demand a separate state of Vidarbha in the east of Maharashtra. In 2010, the police named him a Maoist rebel and arrested him.

“They break you down scientifically when they want a confession,” he says. “They know how to make you feel hurt and anxious.” Mishram was hung upside down between a tyre and his feet were caned for an hour. They made him believe his wife and mother were being raped in the next room. For hours he heard screams as the policemen laughed. A fellow inmate told him his wife had been raped and killed, and her body chopped and dumped. “I wanted to kill myself. Thankfully, I saw my wife in the court the next day.” Mishram spent three months in jail before being bailed. In 2012, he was acquitted of all charges. He has filed a petition against his tormentors.

Does Indian law allow torture? Actually, no. Activist Arun Ferreira, who spent four years in Nagpur prison until January 2012 and was charged under the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA), witnessed many fellow inmates suffer torture. “Even solitary confinement is illegal but every prison in India has cells for solitary confinement,” he says. “The State uses torture as a weapon. It is systemic for a reason.” He points to the hypocrisy of the State in an anti-torture Bill that the government rushed through Lok Sabha in 2008 and that, activists found, actually exempted torture in some cases.

‘At the 2008 UN Human Rights Convention, many countries asked India why it still hadn’t ratified the convention on prevention of torture. Then India had said it would legislate a domestic law. Five years later, there’s no law yet’

Vrinda Grover Human Rights Lawyer

‘Doctors ought to provide relief and recourse but medical services available to prisoners are inadequate. The medical staff treats them with disdain. By and large, doctors reinforce the messages imposed by jail authorities’

Binayak Sen Pediatrician and Public Health Specialist

‘Torture needs to be defined under the IPC. An amendment is pending in Parliament and that needs to be enacted. There is a proper definition of torture that is universally accepted, and it should be brought in as an offence’

Teesta Setalvad Civil rights activist

‘The worst thing is that courts don’t take notice of complaints. When undertrials are presented before them, they invariably complain about custodial torture. Courts brush aside these claims. They don’t pay any heed to such grievances’

SR Darapuri Former IG, Uttar Pradesh

 

Former Indian Police Service officer-turned-activist, SR Darapuri of Lucknow, has a rare insider’s perspective on torture. “The worst thing is that the courts do not take notice of the complaints. When these victims appear before the courts, invariably they make these complaints and the courts just brush them aside. Our whole system is infested.” As for the courts, although they have begun to take greater cognisance of torture by police and prison staff, they are still far from being in an overdrive to end the practice. A public lawsuit against custodial torture filed by lawyers Rebecca Gonsalves and Vijay Hiremath is gathering dust at the Bombay High Court since 2003. Over six years ago, the Supreme Court directed all states to set up a Security Commission as a watchdog for law enforcement to free it of political control. That is yet to happen.

“We must recognise that our criminal justice system has all but collapsed,” says the petitioner in that case, former Uttar Pradesh Director-General of Police Prakash Singh. “Even simple cases take three to five years.” Then, the society expects quick results. “Decent people have asked me why don’t we just take out criminals and terrorists. Torture is easy closure because they know justice won’t be delivered otherwise.”

Singh says reforms alone would make the police democratic and accountable and not dance to political masters. But says Supreme Court lawyer Grover: “More than reforms, we need accountability. The police have an institutional bias against minorities, the Dalits, the poor and the women. And the political class uses the desensitised police to push its agenda.” Mumbai lawyer Yug Mohit Chowdhry, who has represented several victims of custodial torture, says the police are understaffed, under-equipped, underpaid and stretched. “They have to manage everything from law and order to domestic disputes,” he says. “When we make them work like animals, they behave like animals.”

Actually, animals behave better.

When Naushad Sheikh, 45, accused of being a thief, died in custody in Navi Mumbai on 16 March, police said he had banged his head on an iron grill. The autopsy showed wounds across the body. A co-accused told the Maharashtra Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) that Sheikh was subjected to “bhajirao”, a severe lashing with police uniform belts whose buckles caused deep wounds on his head. The co-accused also said Sheikh was hung upside down and beaten with a cricket bat.

“Custodial death is inhuman. Nobody should be subjected to torture,” Additional Commissioner of Police Qaiser Khalid told TEHELKA. “Let us wait for the CID findings.” But will a probe be impartial? Not in the experience of the family of Rafiq Sheikh, 35, a cosmetic company executive in Mumbai, who was arrested on 28 November 2012 in a fake currency racket. When his brother, Majhal, went to meet him on 2 December, Sheikh was dead. “The deepest wounds were on his legs. The soles of his feet had blackened from the beating,” says Majhal. “I want those cops to pay for what they did.”

In this case, too, a co-accused testified that policemen belted and caned Sheikh for hours. A judge of the Bombay High Court noted that the wounds appeared inflicted by others. When Sheikh’s family filed a criminal case, the police assigned the probe to a CID team that includes an officer who was himself once charged with the killing of an accused named Khwaja Younus in January 2003. Now Assistant Commissioner of Police, Praful Bhosale was known as an “encounter specialist”, who had killed 74 alleged criminals. Bhosale was suspended for four years and reinstated in 2010.

On 15 April 2011, police in the northeastern state of Tripura arrested Harak Chandra Chakma, a 32-year-old tribal, for taking part in a tribal celebration. He claimed the police attacked him with a blunt object. Photographs showed injuries on his thighs, back and below the knees. He was hospitalised for 10 days. Four days after the torture, the Asian Indigenous and Tribal People’s Network, an NGO, moved the NHRC. An inquiry proved Chakma’s torture by the police. What happened then to the guilty? One of the three named in the report was suspended. No action was taken against the others.

A hair-raising account of torture has come from a Bengaluru journalist, Muthi-ur- Rahman Siddique, who was released in February after being in prison for six months allegedly for a terror plot. In all, there were 14 accused in the case. “One was beaten, hung upside down, and had petrol poured into his private parts,” Siddique told TEHELKA. Another accused, Obaid-ur-Rehman of Hyderabad, had his finger broken. “Most were given electric shocks on their genitals.” The police deny the allegations.

Justice typically eludes victims of torture for decades. In 1989, a domestic worker named Sarfaraz went to the police in Navi Mumbai to report that his wife had hanged herself and died. Instead, the police accused him of being responsible for his wife’s death. They allegedly called his mother to the police station, stripped both of them, and forced them into sexual positions. “After some time, a constable took me into a room where my mother was being held,” reads Sarfaraz’ shocking statement to the court. “She was in the nude. I was forced to strip naked even as I begged them to let us go. An inspector took me to my mother and put my hands on her breasts. After making her lie down on a bench, he asked one of the constables to shake my penis. They tied me up and beat me again. I was untied after a point and they pushed me on my mother. The inspector was forcing my chest to her breasts and my penis into her private parts. The inspector kept shouting ‘rape her’ the whole time.” It is a narrative that Sarfaraz reproduces with a kind of clarity as though it happened yesterday. He was then paraded naked in his neighbourhood. After he was acquitted in 1991 of trumped up charges, he filed cases against the three policemen who were instrumental in making him suffer. It was only last year that the case was finally taken up by a fast-track court.

 
‘Every morning And evening, We were hung upside down and our feet, Ankles and back caned. The torture continued for four days’
Shatrugan RajnaithamA tribal from Gadchiroli who was charged with waging war against the State

Policemen long enjoyed impunity from prosecution because the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), a set of rules coded in 1973 to administer criminal jurisprudence, stipulates that officials cannot be prosecuted for acts committed in the discharge of their duties. The Indian Penal Code of 1860 had allowed sentences of up to seven years for a range of acts that can be considered as torture. But to prosecute cops under these laws has traditionally been next to impossible. Few victims are forensically examined. A lack of a witness protection mechanism deters the victims from taking on the guilty. Compensation is yet not a fundamental right. The courts have taken a minimalistic view on claims for compensation from acts of torture. As such, awards vary across India.

In 2005, an amendment to the CrPC mandated a judicial probe on the death or disappearance of a person or rape of a woman in custody. But it has hardly lessened the use of torture. Deaths from torture are almost always passed off as suicides. “What led them to the extreme act and how they commit suicide with strange objects like shoe laces, blankets, jeans, etc are (questions) never answered,” says a report by Asian Centre for Human Rights, an NGO that activist Chakma heads. “How the victims had access to the means like poisons, drugs, electric cables, etc in custody remain(s) unknown.” Many victims, who are healthy prior to their arrest, develop medical complications once in custody. “They are subjected to torture and murdered. With the acquiescence of the medical fraternity, the police are able to describe the death as medical complications.”

Internationally, it is becoming hard for India to escape censure. As early as 1997, the UN Human Rights Committee voiced anguish over the extensive use of torture by India’s law enforcement agencies. The Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2007 and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2008 expressed serious concern over the impunity that India afforded to its men in uniform who tortured citizens in custody. In March, Henri Tiphagne, a leading global activist from the Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture, joined a public hearing against torture at Madurai city in Tamil Nadu. “Torture is inflicted not only on the accused but also on petitioners and complainants,” he told the gathering. Of course, the government has long turned a deaf ear to domestic and international voices against the culture of torture. And unless it is shaken out of its complacence, tens of thousands more will continue to be brutalised by the men in uniform.

[email protected]

With inputs from Virendra Nath Bhatt, Nupur Sonar, Imran Khan and Ratnadip Choudhury

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Gujarat -False and Forged Letter from Gulberg Society against Teesta Setalvad

PUBLIC STATEMENT

A deliberate campaign to vilify the efforts to procure justice for the Victims of the carnage of 2002 that has been sustained and supported by vested powerful interests in Gujarat and the opposition party at the national level has reached new heights over past weeks. Malafide attempts to embroil us in more false cases before the Gujarat police (that can be then manipulated to intimidate our efforts) have compelled us to issue this Communication to the Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ahmedabad, Gujarat Police. The detailed communication is self-explanatory. We urge that you circulate this among all peace-loving persons supportive of the struggle for justice against the powerful perpetrators of 2002.
Attached are also letters written by the official members of the Gulberg Society to the Media and the Police.
March 13, 2013

To
Shri A.K. Sharma,
Joint Commissioner of Police
Crime Branch,
Ahmedabad

Dear Sir,
We the undersigned Trustees and office bearers of the Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust need to bring some distressing and disturbing facts to your notice. We have been given to understand that some persons claiming to be official representatives of the Gulberg society have written to you making false and malafide allegations against our organisation that has been assisting Survivors of the Gujarat genocide of 2002 to access justice. CJP has been assisting dozens of survivors of the Gujarat 2002 carnage and have been co-petitioners in the Smt Zakia Jafri case against chief minister Narendra Modi and 61 others [protest petition to be filed by April 15, 2013].

Official representatives of the Gulberg society we are informed have already written to you today stating that the letter-head of the society has been forged by some residents and the claims being made by them are patently false since nothing has been parted from them.

The false claims that CJP has raised Rs 63 lakhs and Sabrang Trust has raised Rs 88 lakhs for the purpose of the construction of the museum, nationally and internationally is a total lie. To clarify, CJP has never sought nor received any money for this purpose. Till November 2012, Sabrang Trust had received a total donation in of Rs. 4,10,285 from donors within India and Rs 50,000 from one individual overseas for the proposed dream museum. This is a matter between our donors and the Trust which we will address when a final decision on the issue is made. All other funds, nationally and internationally raised, have been funds legitimately collected for activities that we publicly engage in. Our accounts are audited and submitted to the relevant authorities.
We would like to state clearly that at no point have any of the organisations that we are connected to claimed any amount or money or land from any person residing at or claiming to be part of Gulberg society. Survivors of the carnage and we did have dreams of a Gulberg Memorial commemorating the state sponsored carnage. This idea that emerged in 2007 had finally to be abandoned when prices for real estate spiralled and we thus informed the society of these difficulties. A formal resolution of the society was passed after this was conveyed to them, leaving the members free to sell off their properties as per law. In no way have either CJP or Sabrang in any way cheated them or let down the society.
We believe that with the date of the filing of Smt. Zakia Jafri’s ‘Protest Petition’ draws near, this charade is being orchestrated by a nexus of vested interests to create a diversion and to malign CJP and Sabrang Trust. The cases being handled by us involve the most powerful in the state and relate to public justice and it appears that some vested interests have colluded to make false allegations and distract us from the onerous and dangerous task at hand..
We would like to state that this appears to be part of a sinister campaign being unleashed against us by some persons being manipulated by a former employee Rais Khan Pathan who is using some residents of the society (not official members) and sections of the police and some persons claiming to be official members of the society.

We would like to state categorically that both CJP and Sabrang officially receive money for legitimate activities and following the legally required procedures. By unleashing this set of manipulated lies and using sections of the police towards this end, the dubious nexus of these persons with a former employee and the powerful in the state of Gujarat are trying to de-rail the proposed protest petition. Khan tried to petition the FCRA department (see attached documents) in January 2013 and this was followed by an official representative of the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) Gujarat in February 2013. Hence the nexus that we are alleging is based on developments that have been in the public domain and have been clearly aimed at derailing the Smt Zakia Jafri Protest Petition against Narendra Modi and others. (Please refer http://dailypioneer.com/nation/120144-rais-khan-alleges-fcra-violation-by-teesta-cjp.html

Rais Khan alleges FCRA violation by Teesta, CJP Friday, 04 January 2013 22:26

followed by http://www.indianexpress.com/assembly-elections/news/bjp-mp-seeks-action-against-setalvad/1068267/0 BJP MP seeks action against Setalvad.

In the eleven-long years of the battle for justice, the allegations have remained the same those who made them have changed. In 2004 it was Zahira Shaikh a star witness in the Best Bakery Case. Our organisation and its role has been repeatedly exonerated and recognised for assisting the legal struggle of poor witnesses. In 2010 it was a former employee of our organisation, Rais Khan Pathan. In 2011 Yasmeen Shaikh another witness was egged on by the former employee, Rais Khan. Each time we at CJP have sought impartial judicial exoneration. Sir, please do take a few moments to go through the sustained and malicious campaigns that is enlisted in the accompanying note “Background Facts” (Annexure I). It is clear that he is being propped up by the powerful in the state.

This illustrates how even the current spate of similar allegations sought to be made through some residents of the Gulberg society, are in actuality being manipulated by Rais Khan who is being propped up by powerful persons including influential lawyers representing the ruling party who are supporting him.The Hon’ble Supreme Court has already stayed two such malicious complaints in which even sections of the Gujarat police have played a role siding openly with Shri Khan. The matters are pending final hearing.

Sir we therefore urge that the Crime Branch of the Gujarat Police looks at the complete background and nexus when it deals with the current set of false allegations. We would like to reiterate that our organisation (s) function lawfully and urge that this malafide complaint is not made a manipulative tool by the Crime Branch. Any genuine investigations or inquiries our Trustees would gladly respond to.

Thanking You,

Yours Sincerely

 

IM Kadri                                                                               Raghunandan Maluste

(President, CJP)                                                                     (Vice President, CJP)

Teesta Setalvad                                                                      Nakul Mehta

(Secretary, CJP & Trustee Sabrang Trust)                            (Trustee Sabrang Trust)

____________________________________________________________________

Nirant, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu, Mumbai – 400 049. Ph: 2660 2288 email: [email protected],

[email protected]

 

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Ishrat Jahan fake encounter: CBI arrests first IPS officer #Justice #Gujarat

Mahesh Langa, Hindustan Times
Ahmedabad
(21/2/2013)

Shamima Kausar along with other relatives collect the body of her daughter Ishrat Jahan from Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad. CBI arrested IPS officer GL Singhal in connection with the fake encounter case. AFP/Sam Panthaky/Files

The Central Bureau of investigation on Thursday arrested Gujarat IPS officer GL Singhal in connection with the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case.

Ishrat, a 19-year-old college science student, and three others were allegedly killed by Ahmedabad Crime Branch in an encounter on June

15, 2004.Police though maintain that Ishrat, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, on a mission to kill chief minister Narendra Modi.

Over 20 policemen, including senior IPS officers, are allegedly involved in the fake encounter.

In September 2009, Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate SP Tamang called the encounter fake. He recommended lodging of cases against 22 police officials.

The Gujarat high court in August 2010 asked the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan to take up the Ishrat case.

Singhal, a promoted IPS officer, was assistant commissioner of police with Crime Branch and was allegedly part of the team which kiled Ishrat and three others.

He is one of the key accused in the case besides DG Vanjara, who is already in jail in connection with Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, and PP Pande, presently additional DGP of Gujarat Police.

The SIT named around 20 policemen including three IPS officials in the complaint lodged with the central agency as per the HC directive.

While handing over the case to the central agency, the HC benched had remarked that the case was “exceptional and had national ramification.”

The court had also held that the Gujarat Police could not be trusted to carry out impartial probe in the case.

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Framed and acquitted: My tryst with late Umarji

By Abu Zafar1/17/13

 

“Jail se aane ke baad mere ghar ke samne bahot se patrkaar the, magar maine unhe baat karne se mana kardia. Gujarat mein Sach baat kadvi lagti hai (There were several media persons present outside my house after I was released from jail, but I chose not to interact with them. Truth sounds bitter in Gujarat),” said Maulana Hussain Ibrahim Umarji when I first met him about two weeks after his acquittal.

(A memoir into the life of Moulana Umarji who spent eight years in jail in connection with the Godhra train burning incident and was later acquitted of all charges)

I remember that Umarji was not ready to talk to any media person after his release. He had spent more than 8 years of his life in jail for no offence of his.

Gujarat Police had termed him as a ‘key conspirator’, while the media preferred ‘mastermind’, of the Godhra train burning incident which led to the death of 58 Karsevaks (workers affiliated to right-wing groups) travelling in the Sabarmati Express on 28 February 2002.

Though Umarji passed away last Sunday, his tryst with destiny has raised several questions which continue to haunt a secular and democratic state like India.

After trying hard for two weeks, Umarji had finally agreed to talk to me. In an exclusive interview in March 2011, he told me that he had never seen the Sabarmati Express as it passes Godhra only at night.

He even justified his reluctance of talking with media-persons by saying that he did not see any benefit in it. He said that there were chances of him being harassed by the state machinery again.

As he continued talking, he went on uncovering how Police fabricated cases against innocents and recorded confessional statements after meting out mental and physical torture.

“Is system ko badlo warna police har jagah dastakhat lekar kahani ghad le gi (Change this system, otherwise the police will take signatures everywhere and start fabricating stories),” he said.

According to Umarji, his only crime which attracted the wrath of the state machinery was that he submitted a memorandum to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpaee, who had visited Godhra during the riots in 2002.

In the memorandum, Umarji had pointed out the sort of preparations done by the rioters before the Godhra riots itself. According to him, post-Godhra incidents were not riots but ‘mass murder’.

He had also shared his and other victims’ difficulties with Vajpaee and human rights organizations.

“They wished that none should complain against their cruelty and should tolerate whatever is being done. Our action offended them,” Umarji said in a bitter tone.

Discussing the riots, he recalled that Godhra was a target of communal forces since a long time. On 23 March 1948, Godhra was set on fire and even during Advani’s Rath Yatra 26 Muslims were killed.

In the post-Godhra riots, 258 Muslims were killed only in Panchmahal district and their bodies were not even given to us, he had said.

Umarji, who had graduated from the well-known Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband in 1967, headed relief work during and after the Gujarat riots. He also managed a relief camp which housed about 3500 refugees of the Gujarat carnage.

He had very close relations with the former Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind chief Maulana Asad Madani and had met former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao and H. D. Deve Gowda during his days of social work.

 

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When ISI became a ‘front for SIMI’ #ban

Muzamil Jaleel : New Delhi, Mon Oct 01 2012, Indian Express
 

In the circles of police’s “SIMI investigations”, the name Maulana Naseeruddin comes up often. Sometimes he has been charged, sometimes his sons, sometimes his acquaintances. In one such case against an “associate” of his son, the Hyderabad police filed an affidavit before the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal calling Pakistan’s ISI a front of SIMI.

Asked by the tribunal to explain his claim, P Devender, then inspector in Saidabad police station, reiterated that “it is correct that in my affidavit when I referred to Inter Service Intelligence, I am referring to Inter Service Intelligence of Pakistan” and that the nodal officer of Andhra Pradesh will be “filing a secret note on the basis of which this statement has been made”.

Moutasim Billa

DEVENDER’S affidavit, filed on June 11, 2010, was part of the government’s evidence to justify the continuance of the ban on SIMI. To substantiate his claim that SIMI was “functioning under various fronts like the ISI”, Devender cited a case registered in March 2008 at the Saidabad police station when he was an inspector there.

It concerned Moutasim Billa, 22, of Jevan Yar Jung Colony, Saidabad, who had been arrested on March 5, 2008, from near his residence. Devender claimed that Billa was arrested because he had been booked in an FIR (198/2007) at the Gopalapurram police station.

Devender also called him a close associate of “the son of Maulana Naseeruddin”, who is a “SIMI activist”. Naseeruddin and Billa’s father, Mohammad Aleem Islahi, are well-known clerics in Saidabad and their families used to be close then. Along with Naseeruddin’s, Islahi’s is the other address frequently at the centre of any terror investigation in Hyderabad.

At the time of Billa’s arrest, the Hyderabad police had claimed that it was in connection with two “rioting” cases registered against him, in 2004 (an incident involving the death of his brother) and in 2007 (for terror conspiracy and sedition, registered at the Gopalapurram police station). Hyderabad police had booked 21 Muslim youths including Billa for a terror conspiracy and subsequently linked them to the Mecca Masjid blasts. Billa and the other accused were acquitted on December 31, 2008. The Mecca Masjid blast case finally took a new turn after Swami Aseemanand’s confession in December 2010, which implied that these Muslim men had all been wrongly blamed. Eighty-two Muslim men had been picked up, interrogated or booked and all were subsequently acquitted.

In May this year, Billa was again named, this time in four cases of rioting and disturbance of peace, and shown as an “absconding accused”. “These recent cases were registered one after another in a single day,” said Billa, who recently earned a B Tech degree. “They have shown me as absconding, which means, ‘You can go on with your life till we want to take you away again’.”

Maulana Naseeruddin

THE 2004 rioting case against Billa, in fact, provides the context to this entire story. That October 31, Naseeruddin had gone to the DGP’s office along with his lawyer and a few other people to sign his weekly attendance, necessary because of an earlier case of communal violence. “Two months earlier, I had been arrested after police claimed I was going to plant bombs in a Ganesh temple. This absurd allegation came as a shock; I fell ill and was shifted to hospital. Our lawyer friends secured bail; this weekly attendance was a condition,” Naseeruddin said.

“That day, I reached the office late. My son-in-law Khalid, who is a lawyer, and a few others accompanied me. The CID officer who would take my signature asked me to wait, saying a senior officer wanted to talk to me.” Naseeruddin said he was taken to the IG, who told him a warrant for his arrest had come from Gujarat. A contingent of Guajarat Police led by then ACP Narendera Amin (now in jail over the murder of Sohrabuddin and Kousar Bi in a fake encounter) were waiting for Naseeruddin, “accused of a role in (former Gujarat minister) Haren Pandya’s murder”.

“People from our neighbourhood collected outside the gate,” Naseeruddin said. “They didn’t allow the Gujarat police vehicle to leave and there was a scuffle. Narendra Amin opened fire.” Mujahid Saleem, 26, Billa’s elder brother, was killed, protests followed, and the Andhra government promised a magisterial inquiry besides filing a case against Gujarat police. Police registered a case of rioting against Billa, too.

The maulana was taken to Gujarat and was initially arrested on charges of instigating Pandya’s killers, and subsequently booked in the Ahmedabad conspiracy case — an alleged conspiracy to avenge the Gujarat riots. On January 12, 2010, a designated POTA court acquitted the maulana along with others and he was released.

THE MAULANA’S SONS

“A lot had happened during those five years. My three sons had all been arrested,” Naseeruddin said. He said the two elder sons were framed but added that the youngest, without the family’s knowledge, had gone to Pakistan for arms training.

“When the Gujarat police shot Mujahid Saleem, my youngest son Raziyuddin Nasir was there. He saw Saleem die. This affected him deeply. When I was in jail in Gujarat, my wife told me he had to be taken to a psychiatrist,” Naseeruddin said. “After some time, he went for Umrah (pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia). He went missing for one-and-a-half years. During that time, he had gone to Pakistan for arms training. We had no clue,” he said. “We heard about him only when the Bangalore police arrested him (in 2008).”

He said his two elder sons, Maqeemuddin Yasir and Baleeguddin Jabir, were framed. “Yasir has three children and was the manager of our workshop while Jabir was a third year student at Deccan Engineering College. The police accused them of being involved in the Mecca Masjid and other blasts and arrested them, a year after the blasts,” he said. “They couldn’t show even a bit of evidence but didn’t release them. They were shifted to Madhya Pradesh where their names had been included in a SIMI case in Dhar. They had never been to Dhar.”

He said for the next few years, their case didn’t move. “The case was shifted to Indore where the trial concluded earlier this month; both were acquitted… This country is our home too. Why is there no justice for us?”

THE YOUNGEST SON

ON JANUARY 30, 2008, according to Satyapaa Sambha Khote, then DSP, Special Enquiry Squad, Bangalore, a youth named Mohd Asif was stopped by an inspector of Gokul Road police station, Hubli, for speeding with his motorcycle. “It was found that he did not have documents of the motorcycle. Hence the PI (inspector) seized the vehicle and filed a case,” Khote said.

Investigations allegedly revealed Asif’s “involvement” with SIMI. The police made 18 more people accused on March 20, 2008, including Raziyuddin Nasir. In the affidavit, Khote claimed that Asif, a medical student at Hubli, and two other accused had met in “Castle Rock, Haliyal Road farmhouse, and Soudatti Road Darga” in the last week of April 2008, “aimed inter-alia at Islamisation of the world by means of Jihad”. According to Khote, the three held another “conspiracy meeting” at Castle Rock in November 2007 where they decided to “damage the sovereignty of the government of India and to ignite anti-national sentiments… ultimately changing the elected sovereign government and establishing Islamic government”.

Khote went on to give a long list of their “targets” — Kaiga nuclear plant, Infosys in Bangalore, Dell, IBM etc. For this mammoth task, they were apparently armed with four country-made revolvers — three of these rusted and defunct — and homemade grenades with gelatin sticks.

Khote produced a “confessional statement” by Nasir to Karnataka police, admitting he had gone to Pakistan for arms training. In the statement, Nasir says he was disillusioned after his father’s arrest and the death of “our family friend” Mujahid Saleem during the protest. Nasir was later booked in the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts case and is currently in Sabarmati jail in Gujarat.

THE WOMEN

In his affidavit filed on June 11, 2010, inspector Devender said that after Billa’s arrest on March 5, 2008, the women of Billa’s family — whom Devender calls “SIMI support militant ladies” — led by Billa’s sister Huma Islahi and Maulana Naseeruddin’s wife Tasneem Fatima had “attacked” the police station. Thirty women and children were rounded up in March 2008, including one with her seven-year-old daughter. Seven of them were students, 15 aged 19. Nine of the women were sent by the court for age determination tests to check if they were minors.

While most of the women were from Billa’s family or his neighbours and there was nothing to link them to SIMI, the affidavit called it a “rare case in entire India where SIMI militant activists organised their lady activists and… assaulted police”. Devender admitted that investigation records do not show these women as SIMI members. “This is as per my knowledge while working in the department and as per intelligence sources,” he said.

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The Kinship Of Impunity #justice #Law

By Mukul Dube

02 October, 2012
Countercurrents.org

A Supreme Court decision of 26 September 2012 was reported in the newspapers in a manner that suggested wishful thinking. Headlines are necessarily abbreviated, and those in this instance said that the SC had sent a message to “the police” about branding people on the basis of religion. The message, in fact, was specifically to the Gujarat Police: “District Superintendent of Police and Inspector General of Police and all others entrusted with the task of operating the law must not do anything which allows its misuse and abuse and [must] ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because ‘My name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist.’”

It could be argued that the message should have been sent out explicitly to all the police forces in the country, because there is probably no part of India in which Muslims are not automatically and unthinkingly treated as terrorists. The SC bench may well have decided not to make general its specific injunction because that could have invited the accusation that it had over-stepped its bounds.

It is, however, impossible for anyone connected with the application of the laws to be unaware of the noise that has recently been made about the targeting of Muslims in India in matters related to terrorism. Report after report from citizens’ groups has spoken of the indefensible and arguably motivated phenomenon, and there have been public meetings about it in many cities across the land. It is high on the agendas of those concerned with civil rights.

The SC was dealing with appeals related to a January 2002 judgment of a Designated Court in Gujarat in TADA cases from 1994, 1995 and 1996. The matter hinged on whether or not the necessary permission had been obtained from specified officials before the accused were charged under TADA.

The SC did not accept the prosecution’s contention that A.K. Suroliya, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, had given the necessary permission. Among other things, it found the tale of lost documents too tall to swallow. However, it did not speak of penalising any of the persons involved in dishing out falsehoods to cover up the illegality of their action.

The realist will ask, of course, what good that would have done. We know that nearly all the enquiries into religious violence – I hold the expression “communal riot” to be a lie – starting with that into the Jabalpur violence of 1961, have pinned down responsibility and have spoken of officials’ dereliction of duty or worse. No punishment worth the name followed.

Recent judgments of many courts in cases related to terrorism which have exonerated the innocent individuals who were arrested and then incarcerated and tortured for long periods, in the process destroying their lives and those of their families, have also censured members of the police force and have recommended departmental action against them. Here too, no action other than the white-wash kind was taken.

Indeed, the report on the Special Cell of the Delhi Police released recently by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association gives examples of the absurdity of police functionaries actually being promoted and rewarded despite having had strictures passed against them by courts of law.

Do our country’s police forces function in circumstances of impunity? Are there means and mechanisms by which it can be ensured that the “upholders of the law” do not themselves go against the law in their actions? Or are the law-men to be always a law unto themselves?

Certainly there are rules within the police bureaucracy. The repeated recommendations by courts of departmental action call for these rules to be applied. However, there seems to be in the police bureaucracy – as in other bureaucracies which, coexisting with one another and also ranged against one another, go to make up the government – what might be called a culture of impunity or a kinship of impunity.

Every policeman, from constable to Inspector General or Commissioner, belongs to the same “family”: and while an unruly youngster may have his wrist slapped, he will not be expelled from the collectivity or have serious action taken against him. Every policeman is, after all, dependent on every other policeman. If one is harmed, all are harmed.

The courts are held to be supreme in matters to do with the law. But they are no more than another bureaucracy – the babudom of justice – and they cannot realistically be expected to apply to the police the laws which they apply to ordinary people. Thus the recommendation of departmental action, despite it being common knowledge that that is little more than a matter of going through the motions, appearing to impose discipline while merely covering up errors and crimes and warding off disgrace.

I see no reason why the courts must limit themselves to making recommendations. When they have taken independent action in many other circumstances, why should they be essentially toothless when the police are involved?

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Don’t give terror tag to innocent minority people: Supreme Court #goodnews

 

26 September 2012 , By J. Venkatesan , The Hindu
Police must ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because “my name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist,” a Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and C.K. Prasad said on Wednesday. File photo

Police must ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because “my name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist,” a Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and C.K. Prasad said on Wednesday. File photo
Ensure that no innocent has the feeling of sufferance only because ‘my name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist,’ Bench tells Police

No innocent person should be branded a terrorist and put behind bars simply because he belongs to a minority community, the Supreme Court has told the Gujarat Police.

Police must ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because “my name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist,” a Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and C.K. Prasad said on Wednesday.

It ordered the acquittal of 11 persons, arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and other laws, and convicted for allegedly planning to create communal violence during the Jagannath Puri Yatra in Ahmedabad in 1994.

“We emphasise and deem it necessary to repeat that the gravity of the evil to the community from terrorism can never furnish an adequate reason for invading personal liberty, except in accordance with the procedure established by the Constitution and the law,” the Bench said.

Being an anti-terrorist law, the TADA’s provisions could not be liberally construed, the Bench said. “The District Superintendent of Police and the Inspector-General and all others entrusted with operating the law must not do anything which allows its misuse and abuse and [must] ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because ‘My name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist’.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Prasad said: “We appreciate the anxiety of the police officers entrusted with preventing terrorism and the difficulty faced by them. Terrorism is a crime far serious in nature, graver in impact and highly dangerous in consequence. It can put the nation in shock, create fear and panic and disrupt communal peace and harmony. This task becomes more difficult when it is done by organised groups with outside support.”

‘Means more important’

But in the country of the Mahatma, the “means are more important than the end. Invoking the TADA without following the safeguards, resulting in acquittal, gives an opportunity to many and also to the enemies of the country to propagate that it has been misused and abused.”In this case, Ashraf Khan and 10 others, who were convicted under the TADA, the Arms Act and the IPC were aggrieved that no prior approval of the SP, as mandated under the provisions, was obtained before their arrest and recording of statements.

Appeal allowed

Allowing their appeals against a Gujarat TADA court order, the Bench said: “From a plain reading of the provision, it is evident that no information about the commission of an offence shall be recorded by the police without the prior approval of the District Superintendent of Police. An Act which is harsh, containing stringent provisions and prescribing a procedure substantially departing from the prevalent ordinary procedural law, cannot be construed liberally. For ensuring rule of law its strict adherence has to be ensured.”

The Bench said: “In view of our finding that their conviction is vitiated on account of non-compliance with the mandatory requirement of prior approval under Section 20-A(1) of the TADA, the confessions recorded cannot be looked into to establish the guilt under the aforesaid Acts. Hence, the conviction of the accused under Sections 7 and 25(1A) of the Arms Act and 4, 5 and 6 of the Explosive Substances Act cannot also be allowed to stand.”

 

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Down the memory Lane- #Gujarat #Kashmir

NARODA PATIA, AHMEDABAD, BY Ajay Raina

May 23, 2002. I entered the narrow lane that led me to a cluster of houses where nobody lived now.

I had often heard about this place. Constantly. Since that day on the morning of February 28, 2002 when an entire family had been roasted alive in their vehicle as they were fleeing the mobs from their home. I think there was a picture in the newspapers too. It was in Naroda, on the Ahmedabad – Mumbai Highway, that Mr. Modi’s recall of Newton’s third Law saw its macabre mechanism unfold. The news, that about 90 more Muslims had been killed in a locality adjoining this highway took a while longer to reach me, or perhaps a while longer to sink in. It took me further three months and about a couple of thousand more lost lives to decide to come here and see for myself.

And here I was now, with a video camera and a local friend in tow trying to figure what was the best way to get in past a few Gujarat police personnel who wouldn’t let us. There were not many of them, but what were they doing here? The remaining people of Naroda Patiya were now in a refugee camp at Shah Alam Dargah, unwilling to accompany me to their homes here. Some locals, who may have formed the mobs that day, were still out here watching us. Who were the police protecting here?

We hung around a bit thinking of options; burnt a few cigarettes, gulped down a few cups of tea at the roadside ‘chai tipri’ facing the burnt out, vandalized shell of the Naroda Patiya mosque and ended up being surrounded by a small mob of locals. The police gang immediately came over to free us and took us to their post. I do not remember how exactly our informal interrogation went; how it changed its course into an exchange of views about the events of that day, but it did not take us long to fathom that now we were face to face with the people who may have witnessed, have stood by or even participated in the carnage that day. I particularly remember, that when the policeman in charge described to us how a Bajrang Dal leader ‘speared a pregnant lady and drew out her foetus’; his blue eyes actually seemed to shimmer with pride he was unable to hide from us fellow Hindus.

So, finally realizing that we were just harmless ‘carnage tourists’ with a camera to convince him with, the police in charge accompanied us down the narrow entry lane of Naroda Patiya to a cluster of houses where nobody lived now. What I remember ten years later about that day is a difficult endeavor for me to put down in words; much like taking a printout of a hazy and grainy video recorded by the eye.

We walked down many narrow lanes, from the highway entry point to its dead-end common boundary wall with the family quarters of Gujarat police personnel. Here it was confirmed to us what we had been told or had read earlier. The besieged residents, especially the women and children, had pleaded with the families of police personnel across this boundary wall to let them through, but only at the end of the day when the carnage was over were the hungry, thirsty, tired and fearful survivors of Naroda Patiya let in and put in vans to be transported to Shah Alam Dargah relief camp.

We crisscrossed the lanes of Naroda Patiya many times while all the time accompanied by a running commentary from the Police men who ‘guided’ us. But the details, which they did not hesitate to divulge, were off course common knowledge to most of us already. I guess, we were mostly trying to corroborate what we had heard from the residents in the refugee camps earlier, or had read about in the newspapers or various human rights reports. When we asked to be taken to the infamous well at the other end of the locality, we were advised not to go there, the place had been sealed up. I do not remember clearly, if we were told that the well had been cemented up. It was at this well most of the bodies were speared, cut up, dumped and burnt.

But except for the constant, excited, remorseless, running commentary provided by our accompanists and for our probing questions, our walk down the empty lanes of Naroda Patiya that day was like walking the eerily silent streets of the other world, something one can only experience in dreams or in the broad day light of a living nightmare. Living nightmare it was, to see homes waiting for its people, rotting cooked food in utensils, half eaten rice and vegetables served in a plate …chapattis turned hard like a cardboard piece cut in round shape and clothes put to dry still hanging on clotheslines. While there was neat order in one lane, in the adjacent one, there were cloths, utensils and household items of every kind strewn about all across. It stood out perhaps as the only evidence that a catastrophic violence had taken place here. No, the houses had not been destroyed, or burnt or pillaged or looted; only people had been vanished here. Maybe I don’t clearly remember now if there were a few looted houses and a few burnt structures here as well. I do not remember this too well perhaps because the memory of burnt out shells of apartments (the image of melted down ceiling fans with twisted blades still vivid in my mind) in the richer parts of Ahmedabad across the river Sabarmati; a river that divides Ahmedabad neatly into haves’ and have not’s, Hindu/Muslim areas, where we stayed in a partially burnt, empty Muslim apartment block, is too powerful a memory to override all other memories of vandalism done elsewhere. The evidence of violence of that day was stark and visible however in the Muslim localities across the highway from Naroda Patiya. Here we were accompanied not by police but by a few young boys from the mob that had surrounded us earlier. Most of the houses here were totally or partially gutted, almost all were looted and vandalized and worst of all, the walls had been smeared with soot and saffron coloured slogans that betrayed my religion.

At Naroda Patiya however, in contrast to what we had seen all over Ahmedabad and in the surrounding villages, after so many months, the only other stark evidence of violence visible here was in the absence of people, absence of children playing in the streets, absence of women at a dripping tap in the corner street. An aching absence; almost too painful to bear or comprehend, of any sound of a human voice, children’s laughter or a bird’s chirp. It was as if people had just vanished into the thin air in mid-activity at the start of a just another normal day.

There was no blood anywhere, but a strange stench; not of rotten or burnt flesh but of putrefied cooked food and uncollected garbage. In some homes, it was like the smell one senses when entering a dark space infested with bats, but this place seemed unusually bright here; almost as if washed by light all over, like a film set just lit up and ready for the shooting to begin. Yes, that was how it looked, like a film set which only needed some people to come in and play their assigned roles of normal looking inhabitants performing their routine chores. It almost appeared as if things had been deliberately left untouched here from the day the carnage took place, like a scene of crime that was still in need of investigators to gather their forensic evidences.

It felt difficult to connect the empty locality with the carnage that had happened here only a few months earlier. For my sense of disbelief to break I must have strongly yearned for this brightly lit, almost undisturbed small and neat looking locality to be connected with all its dead at the moment of their pain to form a complete picture of a gross and criminal violation. When I returned to the Shah Alam Dargah relief camp that evening and told the survivors of Naroda Patiya about my visit to their empty homes, my expectation that they would besiege me with questions about the state of their empty homes was only answered with silence, the same kind of silence that Naroda Patiya had greeted me with. At that moment, I sounded to myself as if I had disbelieved their stories, as if I had accused them of exaggerating their losses to me, as if I had felt deceived or cheated by the apparent serenity of their empty homes.

It was only a year later, on March 23, 2003 when I found myself at Nadimarg in Kashmir, at the site of another massacre that I could connect the blood soaked bodies of the dead on cremation pier with the bright light of their empty homes to form a complete picture of a gross and criminal violation, a carnage. I understood then, the silence of the survivors of Naroda Patiya.

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