Rogue officials in intelligence agencies created “Islamic Terrorism” narrative: Advocate Pracha

Terrorism is a worldwide menace. Many people believe that secret agencies were responsible for creating the narrative of Muslims being “terrorists.” This also suited the weapon manufacturing mafia whose political fathers want to control the natural resources of the target countries. It helps the satanic forces to dominate the social and political affairs of such countries. 

A similar narrative has been developed in India by rogue elements in investigative and intelligence agencies. Senior lawyer Mehmood Pracha has successfully proved his mettle in the courts of law in several terrorism cases, including that of journalist Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi falsely implicated in the Israel embassy case, and Himayat Baig in German bakery case. He believes that rogue elements in secret agencies have, for long, been involved in this sinister conspiracy. He also believes that Muslim organisations, civil society and lawyers, who claim to be helping in getting the terror-accused acquitted, knowingly or unknowingly contributed to the false narrative and conspiracy. For him, they are helping the rogue elements in the secret agencies by their naivety or complicity.

Milli Gazette recently interviewed Advocate Mehmood Pracha. Following are excerpts:

What is the status of the alleged terror cases against Muslims throughout the country?

In one word: pathetic. Since I started taking up these cases, we have succeeded in achieving one big difference. The biggest shift in strategy in handling the cases we brought is that we are not defending terrorists but as defense counsel we are working to find out the truth in these cases. I was given power of attorney by my clients not to get them acquitted but to find the truth. I understand that is a key factor if anybody is serious to get the innocents acquitted. We don’t think that anybody who indulged in terror activity should be provided help by social organizations. May be some people or some human rights activists have got this as their motive. But this is not our motive or strategy. Our motive is to catch the real terrorists and that is possible if we contest these cases from a perspective that we have to find out the real terrorists who have been saved by the police by arresting innocent persons.

Starting from my first case of journalist Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi, who was falsely implicated in the Israel embassy car explosion in February 2012, our stand has been very clear. My client told me not to fight for his acquittal but for finding out the truth. Naturally, in this process, the innocent will automatically get acquitted. Mr. Kazmi asked me to go one step ahead, which is more important, to get justice for the victims and their families of terror activities. That is possible by finding the real terrorists only. But, unfortunately, the advantage we gained from our initiatives has been lost to a large extent now. This happened not because our opponents proved better than us, but because we have been back-stabbed by people who are supposed to be on our side, people who are visibly leading the cause of Muslims implicated in terror cases.

What is the response from judiciary and government to your strategy? Do judiciary, government and executive also want to find out the real terrorists? Or do they want to continue this vicious circle of catching innocents leaving the real terrorists scot free?

Initially, it was most difficult because the environment in the country and the world was such that innocent people were presumed guilty from the very beginning and then laws were also made accordingly, from TADA to POTA and UAPA and other such acts. Over the years, the laws have been suitably modified to bring in the factor of presumption of guilt against anybody who is caught in these cases. The effect of the phenomenon of presumption of guilt, in-built in the above biased laws, is enhanced multi-folds by the procedure which is followed day to day by the courts in these cases, both on record and off record. It is a big challenge to break this mindset. Judges too are human beings and the overall atmosphere all around does impact their minds as well. Overcoming this mindset is, of course, a herculean task. But I was able to make a dent and the resultant examples are many: getting bail for Mr. Kazmi from the Supreme Court, bail of Maulana Qawi from Gujarat High Court and German Bakery blast case in Bombay High Court where five death sentences and five life sentences hovering on Himayat Beig’s head were struck down in one stroke of pen by the hon’ble High Court. So, yes we were making a very big paradigm shift in the entire narrative. But, then, I could always feel from the very beginning that more than people on the other side, people from our own side, claiming to be working to save the innocent victims languishing in jails, were more responsible for the entire narrative of presumption of Muslims being guilty.

Even today, despite my concerted efforts, this narrative is not being taken up properly. Various organisations are still working to “protect” the human rights of terrorists. On the contrary, our stand should be that we are not champions of human rights. Instead, we are undertaking a limited exercise of saving innocents and bringing the real terrorists to book. The task of championing the cause of human rights is already been looked after by a galaxy of eminent personalities and organisations. We want to approach the entire issue from a different perspective which is relevant to a limited area in the overall narrative of protection of human rights of innocents and guilty alike. In my view, this situation diluted the strength of our fight against the false implication of innocents which is the real grievance of Muslim community and not the issue of human rights. Muslims are already overburdened with problems and sharing the burden of the larger issue of human rights only dilutes our struggle against false implication of innocents. 

How innocent victims of fabricated cases can fight against the social stigma even after being released on bail or acquittal? How can they regain a respectable space in society?

They are innocent people. I have been consistently saying that they are not arrested for committing a crime. In fact, they fit in the larger conspiracy of projecting the Muslim community as terrorist under the slogan of “Islamic Terrorism”. Their arrests and acquittals are part of a conspiracy. Getting innocents acquitted is not the solution. The false narrative can be changed only by finding the real terrorists and registering counter cases against rogue police and intelligence officers responsible for arresting innocent people. Unless terror-accused persons come out with flying colours and thereafter file counter cases against rogue officials, get adequately compensated by the government and are projected as heroes by civil society, there is no end to their agony. In fact, in the present narrative they are readymade fodder for the rogue officials who can freely go on to arrest the acquitted persons in fresh cases. In my opinion getting them acquitted is of little consequences if our goal is to defeat the larger conspiracy. I do not see any sincere and concerted effort from the so-called savior organisations for breaking this false narrative and conspiracy.

You have pointed to some Muslim organisations taking up these cases. How they are committing mistakes? What is the difference between your strategy and theirs?

I would repeat what I said earlier: if somebody is working to only get individuals acquitted, knowingly or unknowingly he is part of the system implementing the larger conspiracy. In the present situation, police claims that the acquittal was due to lack of evidence or because these terror activities are done under the cover of darkness which can’t be unearthed. So as long as an organisation is working just to get such individuals acquitted, it is fitting in the rogue officers’ narrative. If somebody is really serious to get rid of this vicious circle, he should follow the path I have just explained. The only right approach is to find the real terrorists. A more important thing, according to my mind, is that we have to get justice for the victims and families of terror crimes as well. The families which lost their dear ones in the terror attacks never get justice in the present system because the real criminals are not caught and punished. Unless the rogue elements in the investigation and intelligence agencies are booked and punished,the whole society will remain vulnerable for further attacks by the real terrorists, as they remain in large. And the vicious circle of calling Muslims “terrorists” will also continue. In my opinion, the fight against this injustice has not begun yet.

You had questioned a magistrate’s jurisdiction in UAPA cases while contesting Mr. Kazmi’s case. You had also questioned the designation of “special courts” in these cases. But other advocates do not raise these vital questions. Could you please elaborate on this?

Firstly, I would like to clarify that these were not just technical issues that government agencies or the courts were making innocent mistakes due to oversight or incompetence. To my eyes, the accused are innocent and benefit of the technical glitches should also go to them and that is the settled position of law in this regard. However, these questions, which we raised, go to the root of the guilt or the naivety of these people. The stringent laws against terrorism have certain inbuilt mechanism to prevent the false implication of innocents. The points raised in Mr. Kazmi’s case were inherent to the innocence or guilt of the accused persons. For example, over a period of time our Parliament and government had learnt that TADA and POTA laws were grossly misused to settle personal scores, extortion by corrupt officers or political people who are working to weaken the country. Therefore, power to register a case under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) was deliberately reserved for Government of India. Compared to terror cases, getting bail is not difficult in cases registered under ordinary Indian Penal Code (IPC) laws, while bail is impossible under the terror laws. So the questions of magistrate’s jurisdiction and establishing special courts were not just technical questions. Raising these issues was actually part of the effort for separating the chaff from the grain.  Similarly, UAPA has another safeguard that a superior, well-trained judicial mind has to take charge of the proceedings from day one to stop the misuse of the law by police. Till Kazmi was implicated in the Israel embassy case, scrutiny by a person holding higher judicial post was not being followed across the country. If this kind of oversight is the norm, I am very shocked and sorry that we have handed over serious issues like terrorism to incompetent people incapable of understanding basic laws.  However, the reality is that these were deliberately undertaken to facilitate deliberate attempts by the forces involved in the larger conspiracy of creating a false narrative against Muslims, Dalits and tribals who are victims of these laws. These forces were part of a conspiracy to weaken the country as well. In fact, if we are somehow able to stop his menace of false implication and thereby ensure the arrest of the real terrorists, a major portion of the problem of terrorism will be solved in India.

Thus, to my mind, what we are doing is the real and effective battle against terrorism in India. I would like to remind you that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had clearly denied the presence of indigenous terrorists while meeting US President George Bush. But within a short span of time, “Indian Mujahedeen” emerged. The bogey of “Indian Mujahideen” was busted by me and my team. Now the rogue elements in secret agencies are busy trying to establish an artificial connection between Indian Mujahedeen and IS. How is this possible when the very existence of “Indian Mujahideen” is a farce and IS is being decimated in Iraq and Syria? However, it is most interesting that the establishment in our country comes down heavily against a mass campaign led by Muslim community against IS because that will demolish the false narrative of Islamic terrorism in India. The campaign of Anjuman-e-Haideri, a large Shia Muslim body, against IS, which generated widespread massive public and media response world over, is a glaring example of this. It is in public knowledge that rogue elements in high places in our establishment went out of their way to sabotage and suffocate this massive campaign by the Muslim community against the IS.

Do you think UAPA is also being misused like TADA and POTA?

Absolutely yes, in the same way.

Then, in your opinion what is the one point solution to  get justice for the innocents facing fabricated terror cases and regain social harmony in the country?

The only one point solution which I can think of is that Muslim organisations, which are apparently trying to get individuals acquitted in these cases, and the civil society, should consider my point of view. In my opinion, protecting human rights is not the real issue. Our only goal should be to find the truth behind such cases. This is where our civil society activists, Muslim organisations and lawyers are failing. The battle is yet to begin. Though only few initial steps were taken by me and my team yet rogue elements in the government are working overtime and using all their might to scuttle our efforts. In an ideal situation, nobody should have problem in finding the real terrorists. But for them, I and my team have emerged as the biggest problem. Agencies made elaborate efforts to plant junior lawyers in my office to scuttle my work. Many a time they succeeded but they have been unable to finish us and our mission till now. We are fighting the battle with least resources with our backs to the wall. Many of these subversion activities of rogue elements and few Muslim organizations have already come in the public domain. Our major victories in courts could have brought public awareness on how innocent youth are falsely implicated. The very same people, who apparently were “shoulder to shoulder” with us, unfortunately stabbed us in our back. That pushed our campaign several steps backward. But this is not something new. It happens with all genuine voices against oppression. We are continuing the struggle because the cause is too precious and more important than our own safety. In fact, it the question of our country’s safety and security.

Some Muslim scholars are willing to campaign against terrorism and there are voices to give legal support to the accused till they are proven guilty. But it seems the rogue elements don’t like to promote sane voices. How do you see this phenomenon?

I think leaders of almost of all major countries have said that the real solution to terrorism is to stop the indoctrination of vulnerable Muslim youth who tend to be  exploited to join terrorist ranks. Muslims should be in the forefront for launching such a campaign.

In principle, the government desires to stop the indoctrination of Muslim youth but practically if some Muslim individual or body wants to contribute they are not allowed to do so. Rogue elements in agencies feel that anti-terrorism campaign by Muslims will extinguish the deliberately created fake narrative. It has been very visible and apparent that the few provocative voices sympathetic to terrorist organisations are not being silenced. Police action was taken against Anjuman-e-Haideri. Their leaders were prevented from going to Iraq to oppose IS by issuing Look Out Circulars (LoCs). By doing so, the government agencies were in fact helping terrorists.

The campaign against terrorism is the best way to expose rogue elements in the government in the shortest possible time. The government should have walked an extra mile to support the organizations creating awareness among the vulnerable youth. The funniest part is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh called Maulana Kalbe Jawad requesting him for education of vulnerable youth in 2016 and 2017. In fact, he was leading Anjuman-e-Haideri’s campaign against terrorism in 2014 when IS had not even got any footprint in India. He was suffocated and stopped. I don’t think anybody is serious in containing and fighting terrorism in India.

There are some voices opposing non-government organizations or individuals giving legal aid to the terror accused. What is your opinion on this?

It is the latest version of their narrative and I and my team are partly responsible for that. Earlier there was no problem. Various organisations were providing legal aid for protecting the human rights of the terror-accused. They were not fighting to find out the real terrorists and truth in these matters. But since the narrative of finding truth behind the whole myth was brought in public domain, rogue elements in the government started feeling insecure for fear of being exposed. To prevent the exposure of the truth, the rogue elements started arguing that the defense should be left to the legal aid counsels or the counsels appointed by the government. This narrative gained currency only after we intervened with a commitment not to contest for acquittal of terrorists but to fight for the innocents and catch the real terrorists.

What is your suggestion to the larger community, especially Muslims, about how to wriggle out of this artificially created atmosphere?

The only way forward for the Muslim community is: they should devote their maximum time and efforts to find out their real leaders. The Present leadership, unfortunately, either by design, ignorance or innocence, is not able to lead the community in the right direction. They have in fact led the community in a direction which is harmful. Muslims should choose their real leaders and stand by them firm. Today’s leaders are leading the community to destruction. Muslims have got the strength to come out with flying colours and help India emerge as one of the greatest countries in the world. But, unfortunately, various forces, which are working against the country’s interests, do not want the Muslim talent to be properly developed and utilized. Hence they are suffocating them and our leadership is only helping these elements by its naivety or complicity.

Are you available to help other advocates to take the battle of finding the truth behind this false terror narrative forward?  Can you offer consultancy or training to advocates for helping the victims?

Well, I have been trying desperately to do just that. I have, in fact, travelled thousands of miles every month which has adversely affected my health. But I will never stop doing that. It is an honour if I could help and train lawyers to the best of my ability and capacity. I will travel the extra mile till my death to support this cause and help anyone desiring guidance from me.