Human Rights

Shahzad’s arrest and police concoctions

New Delhi: In a hush-hush manner, after the arrest of Shahzad Ahmad, both police and media, discarding ethics of professionalism, attempted to convince the public that Shahzad is a top terrorist of Indian Mujahedeen (IM) and that he was involved in 13 September 2008 Delhi blasts and was also present at the L-18 flat, where the Batla House encounter of 19 September took place. Media did not even question the veracity of Shahzad’s arrest and parrotted ad nauseam quickly evolving police theories.

It is not the first time that a Muslim youth is being arrested in so-called terror cases. And it is becoming all too transparent that stories are being planted in the media at the behest of security agencies. Shahzad’s case is a fresh example of manufacturing a scapegoat by the agencies and a colluding media. Whatever police offered to the media, it passed the same as hard news without bothering to verify it. Media reports from day one of the kidnapping of Shahzad make one believe that newspapers and TV channels’ primary job is to malign a particular community. One gets disappointed time and again over the cynical role of the so-called national/mainstream media in terror-related stories, especially when it comes to Muslims.

Following the arrest of Shahzad Ahmad by the Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Uttar Pradesh (UP)  on 1 February 2010, police claimed that he had gone for pilot training and had planned to carry out a 9/11 pattern terrorist attack in India. Police also claimed that Shazad had a reward of 5 lakh on his head. Police also claimed that Shahzad was also known as “Pappu”, and that he had been hiding at his home in Khalispur village of Azamgarh district for the last four months and his arrest was the result of strong surveillance. Police went further and claimed that a former MLA, now living in NOIDA, had helped Shahzad escapte after the encounter of 19 September 2008, and that two absconding terrorists (Shahzad and Junaid) are the persons who fired upon the police party at the encounter site resulting in the death of inspector MC Sharma.

Looking back at the police claims made after the Batla House encounter and after Shahzad’s arrest, many discrepancies show up. All claims have been contradicted either by the UP state police, Shahzad family members or by the people of Azamgarh. Once again the latest police theories are hazy as nothing concrete has been established till date.

The first claim police made on 1 February 2010, following Shahzad’s arrest, was that he had been hiding at his home for the last four months and that his arrest was the result of strong surveillance. The people of Khalispur and family members of Shahzad have exposed the police claim telling the media that Shahzad was leading a normal life at his home village, that on every Friday he used to pray at the mosque on the main road of the village only meters away from his house. A police station is just eight kms away from the village of Khalispur. Yet the police failed to catch him for months. Nazeer Ahmad, grandfather of Shahzad, astonishingly asked: “Police says that Shahzad was a dreaded terrorist and if he was so, why the police did not visit the village during the past months and how it is possible that such a big terrorist would stay at his home openly when he knows that any time police could come and nab him?”

Another claim police made was that Shahzad had earned a commercial pilot’s license (CPL) and was slated to take up a job in Australia. The police also claimed that he was planning a 9-11 type attack on India. This news was flashed on 3 February, just two days after Shahzad’s arrest. However, Brijlal, Director General of Police (Law and Order) (UP), categorically  denied  the claim and said: “Shahzad had taken some money from his family but he never underwent any pilot training.”

Another claim by the police was that Shahzad is also known as “Pappu.” Police repeatedly mentioned him after his arrest as “Shahzad alias Pappu” and this was repeated by the media. However, the mother of Shahzad countered this claim. “My son was never called ‘Pappu’. I don’t know who Pappu is?” she said adding, “My son was living in the Jamia Nagar area when the encounter took place at Batla House. He left the capital because the landlord asked him to vacate the house. His only crime seems to have been that he knew Atif and used to meet him in Delhi. But most youths of Azamgarh seek each other’s help.” She said that “I don’t remember the police ever coming to us and claiming the possibility of my son’s involvement in the case. Five months ago he went to live with his grandfather at Khalispur. On January 30, some youths of the village informed his grandmother that strangers had taken photographs of his house. If my son was indeed a terror suspect, he had enough time to escape.”

The Police also leaked the news in the press that a former MLA provided all possible help to Shahzad and other alleged terrorists. This remains a mystery. The police has refrained from naming this person and no such person to date has been arrested by the police. Was it just to create sensation and catch newspaper and TV channels attention?
The contradictions and loopholes in the police story are suggesting that Shahzad’s arrest was just to fill some gaps in the Batla House “story” dished out by the police which people by and large still believe was fake.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2010 on page no. 11

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