Karnataka Police imitating Gujarat

By Saquib Ahmed, Adv

With the recent arrest of 18-odd youth in the so-called cases of conspiracy to kill prominent BJP leaders and attack buildings of importance, the Karnataka Police has imitated the method and style used by the Gujarat police since the Gujarat riots. It seems that to appease their political masters and to further their own careers, Karnataka police is now copying their counterparts in Gujarat and are indiscriminately arresting Muslim youths.

 After the Gujarat riots, to further rub salt into the injuries of the Muslim community and to harass them and to encumber them in their fight for justice against the perpetrators of riots, the Gujarat Police started arresting Muslim youth on various flimsy and fabricated grounds so as to put the whole community on the defensive and in self-apathy and to deter them from seeking justice in the riot-related cases.

 The Gujarat police and especially the ATS rounded up several youths and framed numerous cases against them under various sections of POTA and IPC (Indian Penal Code) for hatching conspiracy. In almost all the cases, the police came up with an identical list of political persons who were supposed to be targeted by these so-called “terrorists”.  The list would include the name of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, BJP MLA Mayaben Kodnani, Bajrangdal leader Babu Bajrangi, VHP leaders Jaydeep Patel and Pravin Togadia etcetera.  The revenge theory was used to the hilt as all these political persons allegedly played a major role in the Gujarat riots.  Further accusations were made against these arrested persons that they received training in Pakistan, that they went there through various circuitous routes and that they are members of terrorist organizations like SIMI, HuJI, LeT, ISI, etcetera.  It is pertinent to note that in most of these cases no evidence is provided even to base these allegations.

The Gujarat ATS went one step ahead in fabricating cases and used fake encounters as a means to give credence to these cooked up conspiracies.  After the encounters, the Police would report fabulous stories to the media that the accused were on a mission to kill Modi.  This exemplified the deceased as a monster and vitiated the communal atmosphere to such an extent that even questioning the encounter was considered a crime.  The Gujarat government later accepted in court that the encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauserbi and friend Tulsi Prajapati, and of Ishrat Jahan and three others were not encounters but they were murdered in cold blood by the police.  After the recent Supreme Court judgment, all the encounters since 2002 are under investigation.

Now let us look into cases where accusations have been made against Muslim youth for conspiracy, getting arms training in Pakistan, being members of banned terrorist associations as offences against them were registered under various sections of POTA,  UAPA, Arms Act and sections of IPC and how all these conspiracies share identical themes and how they received identical judgments from courts of law.

Sameer Khan Pathan: As per the F.I.R. registered on September 30, 2002, the then police chief K R Kaushik claimed to have received intelligence information that a JeM terrorist, who was an accused in the killing of a constable, was coming from Mumbai to Gujarat, and that he had received terrorist training with the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Pakistan and was out to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and other BJP and VHP leaders like LK Advani and Pravin Togadia..  He then passed the information to the then JCP P P Pandey who directed Vanzara to probe whether Sameer Khan was part of the Akshardham terror attack. 

Khan was said to be arrested in the afternoon of September 27, 2002. The police were granted a 14-day remand, thereafter he was transferred to judicial custody. He was again arrested on a transfer warrant in the Constable Vishnu murder case. In the night of October 21, 2002, at 1 am, Sameer Khan was taken to the spot where Vishnu was killed. As per the police claim, Sameer Khan snatched PSI K M Vaghela’s revolver and tried to run away, but was shot dead by the police.

In the court, the police presented 12 co-accused in the case alleging that they had helped him procure fake documents, including a passport and driving licence under the false name of Nawab Khan. According to the police, Sameer had gone to Pakistan on January 13, 1998. However, the passport officer testified in the lower court that a passport under the name of Nawab Khan was delivered only on March 27, 1998. The lower court refused to frame charges and dismissed it.

The state government then filed an appeal in Gujarat High Court, which too observed that there was no evidence to prove that Sameer Khan went to Pakistan on the date mentioned by the police and so “an adverse inference is required to be drawn against the investigating agency”. The court also held that no weapons were recovered from Sameer.

Conspiracy for Planting of bombs in six buildings at Ahmedabad after Godhara Carnage (FIR No. I-CR No. 01/2006 ATS Police Station, Sessions Case No. 71/2006).

In this case, the police had arrested six persons, again, on the charges of conspiracy.  As per the FIR., in 2002, after Godhra train incident, communal riots had flared up in Gujarat in which Muslims incurred loss of life and property, and to avenge that, Islamic terrorist organizations from Pakistan like Jaishe Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Toiba etc. started instigating Muslim youth to join and accomplish the malicious intentions of targeting top leaders of VHP and BJP and to destroy places of economic interest in Gujarat and to cause bomb blasts at religious places. As a part of such Jehadi terrorist activities, Akshardham was attacked and former home minister Haren Pandya was killed. The FIR further mentions that these persons as part of conspiracy to take revenge of the 2002 riots against Muslims had planned to plant bombs and blow up several buildings.  Ironically, this complaint also starts from 2002 and it has been stated that one of the accused went to a mosque on 27 May 2002 on his birthday and in the mosque he was crying thinking about all the deaths and destruction that the Muslims suffered during 2002 riots.  It is further alleged  in the complaint that the accused met there with a person named Zahid alias Abu Talha from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who instigated him to take revenge and for that he would supply money and weapons.  The complaint also alleges that this Zahid alias Abu Talha was a member of Jaish-e Muhammad and I.S.I. of Pakistan.

Offences were registered u/s 120B, 121, 121A, 122, 123 of IPC and Sec. 25(1)A, 27, 29 of Arms Act and Sec. 4 of Explosive Substance Act and 17, 18, 19, 20. 23(1), 38, 39 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004.  

In the judgment, the Hon’ble Judge observed that the investigating officer accepted that he had made no inquiries about that person Zahid alias Abu Talha and also made no efforts to search him. The Hon’ble Judge further observed that there is no recovery from these persons and that all the facts of the complaint about conspiracy are nothing but hearsay.  The Sessions Court acquitted all the accused persons..

Here, I want to point out that this Zahid alias Abu Talha is just a fictitious character who is said to be based in Saudi Arabia and his name is reported in a few other cases also but in all the cases, no direct or indirect inquiry is made against him as is evident from the excerpt of the judgment above.

Blast at Nehru Nagar Cross Road Tea Stall (FIR No. I-CR No. 894/2003 Satelite Police Station Sessions Case No. 279/2006): In this case, the police had arrested four persons, again on the charges of conspiracy and carrying out a bomb blast.  The accused are same as in the previous case except for two persons who were accused in that case but are not accused in this case.  Like the previous case, here also the ATS alleged that these persons are part of a conspiracy to avenge for the 2002 riots against Muslims and as part of their plan to plant bombs and blow up several buildings, they carried out s blast at Nehru Nagar Cross Road.  Offences were registered u/s 120B, 307, 121, 122, 123 of IPC and Sec. 3 & 4 of The Explosive Substance Act and 17, 18, 19, 20. 23(1), 38 and 39  of The UAPA,.

The Sessions Court observed in its judgment that there are no recoveries from these persons and that the important witnesses in the case, that is, the investigating officers, who were serving as P.I. and Dy. S.P. of ATS, made contradictory statements and made statements against what is on record and made false statements about the proceedings they carried out in the investigation.  The Sessions Court acquitted all the accused persons in the case.

Conspiracy to create terror in Gujarat by planting bomb at various important places of Gujarat (FIR No. I - CR No. 02/2006 Registered with Anti Terrorist Squad Police Station Sessions Case No. 96/2007)

In this case, six accused persons were arrested for conspiracy.  It is alleged in the FIR that in the year 2002, the Muslim community suffered death and destruction in Gujarat pogrom and these persons came into contact with banned Islamic terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e Toiyba and Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami (HuJI) and that they are working under the instructions of ISI of Pakistan, and that they got the terrorist training through Azam Chima alias Baba of Pakistan and got the weapons, explosives and financial help of rupees one lakh through hawala, to send some more Muslim youth from Gujarat to Pakistan for taking Jehadi training.  They were sent to Tehran by flight to go to Pakistan for training on 9 December 2005 by preparing their visas and other documents.  They had planned to target the offices of the RSS and Bajrang Dal and planned the conspiracy to blast Gujarat Kandla pipeline, Somnath Temple, Ahmedabad Sabarmati Railway over-bridge by bomb blasts and to fulfill this objective and to spread terrorism and anarchy, local Muslim youths were instigated.

Offences were registered against the accused under sections 120B, 121, 121A, 122, 123 of IPC and Sec. 4 & 5 of Explosive Substance Act and 17, 18, 19, 20. 23, 38, 39 and 40 of UAPA.

The Sessions court in ist order found that no evidence has been proved to support the case that a conspiracy was hatched to attack places like the offices of the RSS and Bajrang Dal and to blast Gujarat Kandla pipeline, Somnath Temple in Gujarat as is stated in the complaint.  The court observed that some of the accused were already arrested in New Delhi and that a separate case in New Delhi is going on against them.  The Sessions court also said in its judgment that the fact mentioned in the complaint that these persons were thinking about taking vengeance of the 2002 riots are totally based on fictitious and imaginatory ideas of the police.  All the persons who were arrested in the case were acquitted.
Haren Pandya Murder Case (FIR No. RC 2 (S) SIC/I New Delhi 2003 - POTA Case No. 10/03): Fifteen persons were arrested for the murder of Mr Haren Pandya who was shot dead at Ahmedabad in 2003.  The Gujarat High Court in its order while acquitting the accused of the offence and quashing the order of the Sessions Court mentioned that the careful and meticulous mentioning of only five gunshots throughout the relevant evidence for the prosecution makes the whole prosecution case a possibly well-orchestrated concoction of a story away from the whole truth of the matter. The discussion of ocular, ballistic and medical evidence and the ham-handed rejection of the expert’s opinion, only strengthened the argument for the appellants that the conclusions drawn by the trial Court were perverse and illogical.

Also Malegaon in 2006 and 2008, the Samjhauta Express in 2007, Ajmer Sharif in 2007 and Mecca Masjid in 2007

In all the above cases, more than 30 Muslim youths were arrested under various sections of MCOCA and UAPA for terrorist activities and for bomb blast.  The police initially rounded up 300 Muslim youths for the blast in Mecca Masjid.  The Sessions court acquitted them all and the case is now filed against persons belonging to a right-wing Hindu organization for these offences.  In the Mecca Masjid blast case, the court not only acquitted them but  the government went on to grant compensation ranging from 3 Lakhs to rupees 20,000 to more than 100 people for wrongful arrest and detention.

CODA:  In all the above cases, the very first reaction of the media is that the police arrested youths who were on the verge of doing catastrophic and dastardly activities against the nation.  The media leaves no stone unturned in projecting these persons as savage beasts who can kill people even from their own community to create hatred for people of other communities as was in the case of Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and Ajmer Sharif blasts cases.  The media stigmatized them and their families.  They laud police every time such so-called conspiracy is “unravelled” by them or when any encounters of such “conspirators” are carried out.  The media seldom asks questions about the veracity and antecedents of these facts and blatantly disseminates them to the common people further creating a stereotype wherein people of minority community are made to look like enemies of the nation.  They rarely give any other version than the one provided to them by the police, let alone conducting their own independent inquiry about the accused persons.  The families or the lawyers of the accused are never given a chance to put across their case before the people.

When the case falls flat in the court and this happens most of the time, the defence generally taken by the Police is that they had evidence against the alleged conspirators but they were not substantial, while the fact is that a closer look at the remarks made by the  sessions court and the high courts busts this myth created by the Police of their genuineness in arresting people.  In all of the above cases, it is specifically mentioned that the police fabricated and concocted the alleged conspiracy.  In most of the cases, the accused were released not on the grounds of benefit of doubt but due to sheer lack of evidence.  In the Haren Pandya case, the High Court observed that the case of the prosecution is possibly a well-orchestrated concoction of a story away from the whole truth of the matter and in another case, the sessions court observed that the investigating officers of the case made contradictory statements and made statements against what is on record and made false statements about the proceedings they carried out in the investigation and such kind of observations are made throughout in the orders of the above-mentioned cases.

Pertinent to note here is that in Mecca Masjid blast case, out of the 32 persons who were arrested, many were pursuing professional courses like engineering and medicine.  The mala fide action of the police destroyed their careers and ruined their hopes of leading a life of dignity in society.  It is an irony that a student who was in the final year of MBBS is given a rickshaw as compensation for the time he spent in prison. Like Gujarat, where the innocents were arrested and booked for conspiracy and other offences by the police to serve their political masters, it seems that the same game is now being played in Karnataka with the arrest of 18-odd youth on vague charges.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 October 2012 on page no. 8

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