Will India learn a lesson from Australia?
Australian government has taken a decision in the case of the India-born Australian citizen Dr. Muhammad Haneef which is sufficient to open the eyes of India, numerically the largest democracy in the world. Dr. Haneef was working in the Gold Coast Hospital of Queensland state of Australia where he was arrested in 2007 as a suspected accomplice in the conspiracy of terrorist activities at Glasgow airport. After his arrest, Dr. Haneef had very strongly refuted the charge of terrorism and at that time Indian government also had supported him. Subsequently, after independent investigation the court exonerated him and the Australian government withdrew the charge of terrorism against him. In the wake of this verdict, Dr. Haneef knocked the door of the court for compensation. Recently the government of Australia decided to pay him a big amount as compensation which, according to some estimates, may run into crores of rupees.
While deciding the compensation, factors taken into consideration included the mental afflictions and worries that Dr. Haneef had undergone, his reputation spoilt because of the false and serious charge of terrorism, financial loss suffered by him during the period of his incarceration because of loss of service and so on. an effort was made to compensate him as far as possible, for all his physical and mental pains and suffering. The Australian government itself had described this incident as unprecedented. And this is true also under the conditions existing in that country. Such decisions are indicative of fairness and transparency of democratic values.
After 9/11, Australia has been America’s ally in its war against terrorism. If it had so desired or if its police so wanted, it was not at all difficult for them to even falsely implicate Dr. Haneef in terrorism, but there, and also in many western and other democracies, human rights and individual freedoms enjoy precedence over many political and other rights. After this decision of the Australian government, Dr. Haneef will be able to lead an unblemished and respectable life. If after passing through humiliating and painful days in jail, he says today that even now ‘I feel that Australia is a good land for living’, he is not wrong.
Now let us see the conditions prevailing in India. Numerically, it is the biggest democracy but here political expediencies enjoy precedence over all other considerations. As regards the sanctity of human rights and individual freedom, the less said the better. Human rights are violated here every now and then and on flimsiest of grounds. Recently, one Shoaib Nadeem Siddiqi of Mumbra, who had been working in Bahrain for many years, was arrested as a suspected terrorist in the Varanasi bomb blast. Subsequently, as a result of great effort and recommendations of many persons, particularly of Maharashtra MLA Jitendra Ohar, he was released.
This is nothing new and this is not the only incident. In the past there have been innumerable such arrests, particularly in Maharashtra and Hyderabad. In Hyderabad’s Makka Masjid and Gokul Chaat Bhandar bomb blasts, innocent Muslim youths were arrested in large numbers and tortured. Subsequently almost all of them were found innocent and freed but even after being freed they are so much afraid that they cannot even think of knocking the doors of courts. They are being threatened by police. Even after release from jail, youths of Hyderabad are worried and afraid. As regards police, they neither apologised nor are they ashamed or repentant of their false implication and torturing. Same is the attitude of most of the governments, central or state. But yes, Andhra Pradesh’s new Chief Minister, Karan Reddy, is an exception who did apologise and promised to rehabilitate such youths. Let us now wait and see when he fulfils his promise. It is hoped that many other Muslim youths may be absolved of the charges of terrorism and freed in the near future.
The question now arises that when such people are proved innocent and freed, why governments do not take any action against police and investigators or investigating agencies and why courts do not question them or call for their explanation? And why they or governments are not asked to give suitable compensations to such people who suffer untold mental agonies and physical tortures in jails for no fault, they lose jobs and respect in society, their family members also undergo untold miseries and worries, face scorn and suspicion from neighbours and so on. Australian government’s decision is an example for our courts and governments to follow and in the light of that government’s decision, our central and state governments should give respectable amounts as compensations to those found innocent and freed. If governments express regret and pay good compensations to such people, police and investigating agencies also will work with caution and restraint. And then Muslims also will probably not complain that in such cases police arrests innocent Muslims only. (Translated from Urdu)
The writer is the editor of daily Urdu Times, Mumbai