Human Rights

UP govt move to release Tariq Qasmi

Lucknow: Strange are the ways of Indian politics. Here political parties promise the moon to the voters in the form of manifestoes at the time of elections but forget them  soon after. Once in power, the leaders become so engrossed in serving their own agendas of self-interest that the voters who voted them to power or the promises made to the voters seldom cross their minds till another approaching election reminds them of their forgotten promises — that too if it serves their electoral interests at the time.

True to this tradition, the ruling Samajwadi Party in the state has woken up to fulfill some promises it made to the Muslim community which whole-heartedly voted it to power in last year’s Assembly elections. Taking a belated initiative to release Muslim youths languishing in jails on false charges, the UP government has directed the district magistrate of Gorakhpur to file an affidavit in the court to withdraw charges against Tariq Qasmi in the Gorakhpur blast case. The Government has also sought the opinion of the law department on withdrawing cases against some others, including Khalid Mujahid of Jaunpur who have been falsely implicated in the serial blasts in Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi courts.

Though the Samajwadi government through the move has tried to convey the message that it is sincere in its promise to Muslims and therefore deserves its vote again, some sections see the move with suspicion. Rihai Manch, a human rights organization based in Lucknow, has called it a “political stunt” and “communal gimmick” of the SP. In a statement spokespersons of Rihai Manch Shahnawaz Alam and Rajiv Yadav said withdrawal of cases against Tariq Qasmi will not lead to immediate release of him or other innocents accused in various terror charges. “Government seems more concerned about protecting police officials and IB than getting innocents released,” said the statement. Tariq and Khalid, hailing from Azamgarh and Jaunpur districts respectively, were arrested by STF. The STF claimed that they arrested the duo on 22 December 2007 from Barabanki railway station. But the family members of Tariq claimed that he was arrested on 12 December 2007 by STF people from Azamgarh. His missing report was also registered on 14 December at the Rani Ki Sarai police station and the news was published in the local newspapers. Uncle of Khalid claimed that he was arrested from Madiyahu on 16 December 2007 and not from Barabanki as claimed by STF.

Following furore over the issue, the then Mayawati government appointed Nimesh commission to probe the case. The commission submitted its report in August 2012 when the SP government was firmly in saddle in the state.

The report, now leaked, has not only exonerated the Muslim youths from the charges levelled against them but also has recommended action against the STF personnel involved in the case, as such it provided a good base for the state government to release Tariq and Khalid. But, for reasons best known to the state government, the document was not officially released despite persistent demands by Muslims and human rights activists to table it in the state Assembly.

If the state government was really serious to fulfill its promise to Muslims, the right course for it was to accept the report and table it alongwith an action taken report in the Assembly as the first step to  release the innocents. But by not doing so and instead following the way it did, it has opened the door for its decision to be challenged in courts. This despite knowing the Allahabad high court stand in a similar case where it observed “Today you want to withdraw cases against these terrorists; tomorrow you will recommend Bharat Ratna for them.” Although the observation is disputable, the government should have taken precautions to avoid any dispute over the issue when another more convenient option was available to it.

These omissions and commissions on the part of the government cast aspersions on its intentions and give credence to the charge that it is trying to shield the STF at the cost of Muslim youths. It is the duty of a government to impart justice to its citizens irrespective of their caste, creed or status. In this case, even if the innocent youths are released, justice would be incomplete unless they are rehabilitated for the precious time of their life lost in jail and the guilty are punished and the real culprits behind the blasts are brought to book.

Organisations like “Indian Mujahideen” whose existence is yet to be proved and other alleged Muslim organizations are not always responsible for blasts in the country. There are other organizations that triggered blasts in Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Dargah and the Samjahauta Express, whose hand might have been behind these UP explosions too. But no agency pointed a finger to them and Muslim youths had to pay for sins of others.

If the case is probed afresh and impartially many skeletons will fall from the cupboards of the government, police and security agencies. But the vote politics, not sense of justice, weighs heavy on the minds of politicians in a democracy. The SP government is trying to kill two birds with an arrow. On the one hand, it is giving a message to Muslims that it was sincere in getting the Muslim youths released, on the other it is shielding the STF personnel indicted by the Nimesh Commission. Even if its move to release the youths is caught in legal wrangles, it would be able to claim that on its part the government tried to fulfill its promise but was helpless before the courts. In this endeavour, is not the SP government following in the footsteps of the Congress which announced four per cent reservation for minorities with much fanfare only to be stayed by courts?

If such a situation develops, the Samajwadi Party should know that it may win over a few Muslim leaders by allurements but Muslim masses would never forgive the party.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 May 2013 on page no. 9

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