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|Interview: Abu Asim Azmi
Muslims not taking their issues seriously
One man who stood like a rock against Shiv Sainik shahi in Mumbai is Abu Asim Azmi, a social activist who is now president of the Mumbai branch of Samajwadi Party. He earned the ire of the Sainiks for his relentless service to the riot victims in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition which was claimed by Bal Thakray to be a handiwork of his Sainiks. The Milli Gazette’s TANVEER SAIYED spoke to Azmi in Mumbai. Excerpts:
TADA has been repealed since long but people arrested under this draconian law continue to suffer endlessly in various parts of the country, particularly in Mumbai. What do you think about TADA and its detainees?
This draconian law is being misused against the minorities. Most of the TADA detainees are innocent and poor people. They have been implicated in TADA for sins they never committed. It is an open atrocity and injustice to them. These people must be released at the earliest and provided reasonable compensation and jobs for their unlawful implication in these cases. But unfortunately there is no justice for these people.
The majority of these detainees are Muslims. There are also a few people of majority community among the detainees who are obviously facing similar trauma.
We Muslims are divided. This is why we are not being treated fairly. We want all secular people to be united and do something concrete for the release of the TADA detainees.
We want to convey this message to all secular and justice-loving people irrespective of their caste, creed and religion, that they must come forward to protest against the injustice being perpetrated to the innocent people imprisoned under TADA. We must unitedly pressurize the government to take some positive decisions in this regard.
The majority of TADA detainees around the country belongs to Muslim community. What will you say about it?
Of course, the majority belongs to Muslims. The so-called secular government of Maharashtra has never been fair with Muslims. Discrimination against Muslims is visible everywhere in Mumbai. For instance, some two months back, a mosque was demolished at Maloni in Malad area by Khairnar. When some Muslims peacefully tried to protest, the police recklessly fired directly into their chests, killing a young man instantly at a place two km away from the mosque site. In sharp contrast, firing was done in the air when same sort of demonstration was organized same day by Hindus at Kandivali. Two years ago, when a Hindu girl called Jaibala was paralyzed by some pick-pockets, she was provided a job in the railways. Nothing has so far been done for the widow of Malad victim.
What has been the role of the police and governments towards TADA detainees?
Very heinous and inhuman. They behave like Changez Khan. The role of Police and government towards TADA detainees is unprecedented. The Haspatal family was beaten black and blue and was forced to eat pork in Raigarh near Mumbai. When a non-Muslim magistrate of Srivardhan filed a petition with the Human Rights Commission against this inhuman act, the victims were awarded Rs. 5 lakh (0.5 million) as interim relief.
Most of the TADA undertrials are very poor and unable to engage lawyers of their choice. Their cases are being fought by government-appointed lawyers. Do you think they can get justice this way?
It is next to impossible to get justice without availing the services of an expert lawyer of TADA. Those who proclaim to be sympathizers of Muslims and the needy must take serious account of the pitiable condition of the TADA-stricken people and extend all possible help to save them from the clutches of this draconian law.
How do you foresee the future of TADA detainees?
Their future is very bleak in deed. Nobody is coming forward to support them by heart despite their dire need for collective cooperation.
Muslims generally say that there is no political party in the country which is taking their issues seriously. What is your perception?
Why Muslims themselves are not taking their own issues seriously? Samajwadi Party (SP) has always taken Muslims’ issues very seriously. Muslims are not united. Whenever we take any democratic step against government’s apathy against Muslims, they do not join hands with us. It was SP which raised the TADA issue in Parliament. That is why the said law was not renewed. Deve Gowda had promised in a huge public rally organized by the SP in Etawa to do something as prime minister within two weeks. But he did nothing regarding TADA. The SP also has the credit of securing the release of 11 TADA life detainees. I personally knew that all of them were innocent since they were with me in jail. The SP appealed in the Supreme Court and fought the case successfully. Mr. Aman Watcher had been very helpful in Delhi in making our legal battle a success.