Notice to The Hindu for defamation, damages

By Abdul Bari Masood

New Delhi: Father of Muhammad Yasin Bhatkali, a youth of Bhatkal (Karnataka) has sent a legal notice to the English daily The Hindu’s editor N. Ram and its associate editor Pravin Swamy, the self-styled expert on Islamic terrorism, for describing his son Yasin Bhatkali alias Zarar Sidibapa the “absconding commander” of the mysterious organisation “Indian Mujahideen”. In the notice, he has asked the duo to tender an unconditional apology for falsely defaming him, failing which he will file a case of contempt against them in court and claim an amount of Rs. 5 crore as damages.

It may be stated in this connection that Pravin Swamy in his front page article in The Hindu of 1 December 2011 under the heading “Breakthrough in 2010 attacks raises fears of renewed jihadist campaign” had written that Muhammad Zarar Sidibapa is commander of Indian Mujahideen and is the mastermind of many bomb blasts since 2005 in different cities of the country and is now an absconder whereas the fact is that Sidibapa is engaged in his business. According to the English weekly Tehelka, Sidibapa is very much living in Bhatkal and has been doing his business with Dubai for the past 30 years.

In his legal notice sent to The Hindu, while claiming a reparation of Rs. 5 crores,  Sidibapa has said that because of wrong and mischievous reporting by this newspaper, he is mentally shocked and disturbed because of being  described as an absconding terrorist. He said failing to get an apology, he will file a criminal suit against them separately.

Pravin Swamy had also written in his article that Sidibapa, who is the father of Muhammad Ahmad Sidibapa, also known by the name of Yasin Bhatkali, is responsible for a number of bomb blasts in the country which started in 2005. Muhammad Zarar clarified that “Sidibapa” is his family’s name and the objective of this report is to defame him and his family. In reply to a question by Tehelka magazine, he said that he is doing business in Dubai for the past 30 years. He said this article by Pravin Swamy is full of canard and malice. It is said in this article that “I am incharge of all terrorist networks which subsequently came to be known as “Indian Mujahideen”. Hence I want to make it clear that neither myself nor my son is associated with any terrorist network.

When The Hindu editor N. Ram and Pravin Swamy were asked about the notice, both denied the receipt of any such notice. However, Associate Editor of The Hindu’s Chennai edition, S. Thyag Rajan admitted the receipt of such a notice and said that the lawyers of his office are preparing a reply.

It may be stated in this connection that before Azamgarh, Bhatkal was being projected as a centre of terrorism in some sections of Indian media. The truth is that this coastal city, where Muslims are in a majority, is a thorn in the eyes of communal elements because of its educational and economic progress as many  of its people, like those of Azamgarh, are employed in the Gulf and Arab oil countries. Editor of The Milli Gazette, Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan, describes Pravin Swamy as the “steno of intelligence agencies” who, whenever any incident of terrorism takes place, writes reports after reports in his newspaper.

In Pune’s German Bakery bomb blast case, Maharashtra ATS had implicated Yasin Bhatkali but subsequently he had to be released, though at that time Maharashtra ATS chief Raghuvanshi had pointed his accusing finger at Hindu extremist organisations, in punishment of which, he was shifted from this post. In any case, it is for the first time that a newspaper report has been challenged which may lead to reining in media witch-hunters.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 January 2012 on page no. 1

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