First encounters, now terror arrests – different means, same target

By Syed Zubair Ahmad

The arrest of 18 Muslim youths aged 22-30 within two days is a matter of grave concern. Many of them are highly qualified youths including doctor, engineer, scientist and journalist. Eleven youths were arrested from Bangalore, four from Nanded and one from Hyderabad. Most of them are career-oriented professionals. If we believe the story of the police, they are scientists, doctors, journalists, engineers and students in disguise while in fact they are terrorists. Police claimed that some were working for LeT (Lashkar-e-Toiba), some were seeking career in HuJI (Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami) while some others were operatives of IM (Indian Mujahideen). Seems strange! But stranger is the sharp reaction of the police which, sensing the danger, acted swiftly and nabbed the culprits in the nick of the time. It is general knowledge that the very same police generally gropes in darkness for years to get hold of the actual offender beneath their nose. The question is: were those Muslim youths really conspiring against the country or the police and intelligence agencies are conspiring against the career-oriented Muslim professionals and students. The million dollar question is: why those youths wasted their time, money and energy in getting professional degrees if they actually wanted to become terrorists which needs no educational qualifications? One may also question how such noisy steps by police and intelligence agencies will favour the unity and integrity of the country?

It seems that after the truth behind the Indian version of "target killings", commonly known as fake encounters, was exposed, the new technique of "target arresting" is being used to demoralize and marginalize the new generation of Muslims. Hundreds of Muslim youths after spending 5-14 years in prisons are facing a dark future after being acquitted from courts after they were falsely implicated by police and intelligence agencies and this is discouraging many Muslim youths from pursuing higher education or going out of their villages and small towns. If the theory of Gujarat police and IB is to be believed, Ishart Jahan and her friends were planning to kill the CM of Gujarat and after killing Mr Modi, their plan was to descend on Delhi and kill LK Advani, and after Advni they were supposed to kill VHP leader Praveen Togadia. Strange indeed! That fake encounter was staged in the BJP-ruled Gujarat. Now the police of the BJP-ruled Karnataka has come up with a similar story. To make the arrests look genuine, Bangalore police chief Mr. Lalkhurma said that the police had recovered a pistol from the arrested youths while they were sleeping. Police also said that a computer, laptop, cell phone and a hard disk were "recovered" from them. It means the arrested youths were going to carryout their "operation" with a pistol! Moreover, the seizure of a computer, laptop, cell phone and hard disk which are used now in the day-to-day life by a common Indian is being presented as RDX and detonators by the Bangalore police. As far as the "recovery" of the pistol is concerned one can recall the gory images of Ishrat Jahan's fake encounter where the Gujarat police had neatly put weapns in the hands of its victims after killing them in cold blood. To look serious, the Karnataka police has arrested youths from different places who, according to police claim, were working on different "modules" (!).

According to a report published in the Times of India, the "state police officers privy to the progress of the probe reiterated on Tuesday that they still don't have anything to conclusively establish the suspects were into something spectacular. They asserted that the 14 terror suspects were only into target killings and had no larger plan to blast any prominent sites. "Until now, we're sure the suspects had decided to target prominent political and media personalities. Until we get to know of their other designs of spreading terror, how can we come to any conclusion?" one investigating officer said. (TOI, 5 Sep 2012)

It means still the police has no concrete proof against the arrested Muslim youths but all kinds of strange stories are being fed to the media.

 Human rights organizations like Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee believe that "the main intention of these arrests is to divert the attention of the people from the court verdict against the criminals of Gujarat genocide and the ongoing genocide of Muslims in Assam."

Earlier, media lamented that Muslims are educationally backward and therefore they are lagging behind other communities. Muslim youths who are already suffering because of state policy to marginalize them economically have become permanent targets of some sections of police force and intelligence agencies which enjoy the support of communal politicians and external players.

The doors of government jobs are almost closed on Muslim youths. Despite financial problems, after getting professional educations, they are struggling to stand on their own feet in the private sector but even this avenue is sought to be closed after the blanket terror libel. The situation is that instead of demanding reservations in government jobs and their share in the resources of country, Muslims are worried about their personal safety and security.This is what the Indian government wanted to achieve. In fact, this is the end result of the conspiracy to push Muslims back in the fields of development and education. Which private company will give them jobs after they are implicated in terror cases?

After the serial blasts in Jaipur on 13 May 2008, eleven Muslim youths were arrested. The fast track court, presided over by Sessions Judge Mr. Nepal Singh, acquitted all the 11 persons after the trial which lasted three and a half years. Apart from those 11 persons, many youths were also picked up and interrogated by Jaipur police. One of them was Rashid Hussain, a brilliant software engineer employed by Infosys, Jaipur. After nine days of illegal and unrecorded arrest and interrogation, he was released only to find days later that Infosys also sacked him permanently. One can imagine that if a fast track court takes three and a half years to decide the fate of those arrested in such cases, how much time normal courts will take. And even after acquittal which company will give them jobs, that too after 4-14 years of jail experience?

Among the recently arrested Muslim youths, one is 21-year-old Obaidur Rehman from Hyderabad. He is a final year student of computer science. His mother says that Obaid never visited Bangalore in his whole life. Obaid, who lost his father at the age of 17, is an asthma patient. His grandmother Tahera Khatoon says, "He requires medicine every two hours. We don't know if police are providing him proper medicines. He cannot survive for long if he doesn't take the medicine every two hours." Tahera Khatoon wonders, "How can a boy with such serious health problems get involved in a conspiracy to kill powerful men?" It is still not clear whether this asthma-patient 'terror suspect' was planning to kill VIPs in Hyderabad or in Bangalore. It should be also noted that after Makkah masjid blast many Muslim youths were arrested and implicated by police but later court released them honorably after a couple of years.

Violating all rules and norms set by Supreme Court for arrest, the Bangalore police came to Hyderabad and kidnapped the boy and, without informing the local police or his parents, they took him to Bangalore and produced him before a court there. Who would be accountable if Karnataka police had killed Obaid in a fake encounter somewhere in Bangalore and declared him a HuJI or LeT operative?

Four Muslim youths were picked up by Maharashtra ATS from various parts of Nanded district in south-east Maharashtra following a "tip-off" from Bangalore police about their possible involvement in terror activities. Maharashtra ATS chief Rakesh Maria has refused to divulge any further details. Probably ATS Maharashtra needs some time to script a suitable story to implicate them suitably.

This fabrication and malicious implication of innocents is all about getting credit and promotion, defame the Muslim community and ruin the careers and lives of Muslim youths.

The chargesheeted Praveen Togadia and Indresh Kumar are roaming free while innocent Muslim youths are being arrested and put behind bars for several years on the basis of suspicions and flimsy charges - which is evident from their subsequent acquittals. Imagine the horrible situation: countless youths are facing 40-50 cases each in different states and 1400-1600 witnesses are lined against them to give their statements before courts. Demoralizing and terrorizing a community of 180 million will never be in the interests of the country. It is in fact a disservice to the nation and motherland.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 October 2012 on page no. 5

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