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COMMENTARY

Framed by the State


Jyoti Punwani

The Jamia Teachers Solidarity Associations report on the framing of innocent Muslim youths by the Delhi Police Special Cell shows how the latter conducts its investigations. The Kashmiri and Manipuri Muslim youths under scrutiny, victims of police high-handedness, wanted an opportunity to do their higher studies in the capital. It is clear that vested interests are bent on ensuring that they do not aspire to a better life outside their states. More disturbingly, the report shows that the home ministry is among these vested interests.

fter going through the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Associations (JTSA) expose (Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers of a Very Special Cell A Report by Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association, published by JTSA) of the manner in which innocents are framed by the Delhi Police Special Cell (hereafter, the Special Cell), one thought haunts you. What are we doing to the Kashmiri Muslim youth? The Indian state and the majority of Indians doubt the loyalty of the Kashmiris to India. They treat the Kashmir Valley as if it were occupied territory. So when Kashmiri youth step out of the Valley and start living in other Indian cities, it should be welcomed as a step towards integration with the rest of India, by both those who are sympathetic towards Kashmiris and those who suspect them of disloyalty. Here is a chance for young Kashmiris to discover the rest of India and who knows, this big leap could change their mindsets forever. Transformed into Terrorists Some lives do change forever, as the JTSA report reveals. Of the 42 youth framed by the Special Cell in the 16 cases documented in the report, 36 were Kashmiri Muslims. They were in Delhi for a number of reasons for higher studies, transit, business opportunities all legitimate purposes. What made the Special Cell thrust them in front of a salivating media as terrorists? Some had an Achilles heel that could be exploited by the Special Cell a brother in jail, a background of working with the army in Kashmir to get militants to surrender. One of them was a fugitive on the run. But none of them were in Delhi to plant bombs. Yet, everyone believed the stories put out by the Special Cell. Stories that said these young men, acting under the instructions of their Pakistani masters, planted
OctoBER 13, 2012

Jyoti Punwani ( jyoti.punwani@gmail.com) is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist and human rights activist.

bombs in crowded markets and buses, planned to blow up the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, or even execute another 9/11 style attack in India. The rest of India responded with a What else do you expect from Kashmiri Muslims?. What must have gone through these young mens minds when they were presented in front of the cameras by respected ofcers who attributed the worst crimes to them? After spending anything from one to 14 years in jail on false charges of waging war against the state or being involved in terror plots targeting random innocents, would you blame these young men if, when they nally emerged from jail, they decided to live up to the label given to them? It is to their credit that most of them returned home to pick up the remains of their lives, without any help from the state that had wrecked them. No help, no apology, not even punishment for the policemen who had framed them despite such punishment being ordered by the courts and recommended by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Instead, one of the policemen involved in framing them, Ravinder Tyagi, even won the Presidents Gallantry Award in 2008, though the CBI had by then cast doubts on his conduct. Just like superintendent of police (SP) Ankit Garg, the ofcer who won the same award this year despite being accused by a tribal woman (Soni Sori) of having tortured her. And we wonder why Kashmiris hate India or why Naxalism continues to exist! The JTSA has done us a favour by analysing the judgments in the 16 cases that ended in acquittal (except for four persons convicted on terror charges, in a case where 10 were charged). These judgments show that the accused were not merely given the benet of the doubt. The prosecution simply could not support their allegations. Not because there were no witnesses. That was understandable after all, who would want to get involved in a case involving a terrorist? The prosecution story could not stand up in court because of the way the Special Cell functioned. A cloak-and-dagger
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method where only a few ofcers do everything based on information from secret sources, can be understood when dealing with terrorists. But this was a case of inability to prove anything at all. Manufacturing Testimonies The testimonies of the Special Cells ofcers in court are worth a look to understand just how they busted these terror cases. Incidentally, while claiming to have prevented major terrorist strikes, the Special Cell did not once share this vital information with any other government agency. These are some of the testimonies: One of the accused was allegedly apprehended while on his way to his hideout. Yet, the police admitted that he could not lead them to his hideout. The items allegedly recovered from one terrorist were sealed in the presence of a public witness. But that witness died by the time the case came to trial. The seal ended up in the possession of the Special Cell. How was it recovered from the dead man? No explanation was given. No attempt was made to trace the suppliers of the arms and ammunition allegedly recovered from two of the accused. It turned out in court that the addresses of the suppliers cited by the Special Cell were false ones. Documents supposedly written before the rst information report (FIR) was led, had the FIR number on them. The Special Cell claimed to have kept a watch on one of the accused, yet he disappeared. And when he resurfaced, they needed the help of an informer to identify him! Nineteen cases of causing bomb blasts in Delhi and neighbouring states were foisted on one man, Amir Khan. He was acquitted in 17 of them. The only evidence of his involvement in at least eight of these cases was his own disclosure statement! The disclosure statement made on the ofcial date of arrest, and the confession of the accused recorded later in front of a deputy commissioner of police (DCP) turned out to be identical down to the last comma. Supposedly incriminating computer les showed a date much after the computer was seized.
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Two of the accused were allegedly


arrested as they got off a bus. That particular bus, it emerged in court, did not make that particular trip on the day named. Did the Special Cell really think they would get convictions based on such investigations? Either they had a very low opinion of the judiciary, or, they were utterly clueless about how investigations should be carried out. Why then are they so highly regarded, winning police awards and accolades in the press? On the other hand, if the Special Cell has ofcers who know the ABC of investigation, they must have known that the accused would not get convictions. Why then cook up these stories? The answer to this question comes from the judges who acquitted the accused. It lies in the lure of undue honours or awards, or to settle petty personal scores. One case investigated by the CBI deserves special mention. Both the Kashmiri accused were, at the time of arrest, working as informers for the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Delhi police. The mobile phone records of one of them, Irshad Ali, revealed more than 50 calls made to the IB in the six months preceding his arrest. Ali wrote a long letter to the prime minister from Tihar Jail in 2007, a year after his arrest, detailing how the IB traps Muslim youth by planting jehadi maulvis among them. Ali claimed that his arrest was because he refused to carry on working for the IB. The CBI, in its report that recommended closure of the case against Ali, conrmed that he was an IB informer who fell out and was therefore trapped. The CBI also recommended severe punishment for the three sub-inspectors involved in forging and fabricating evidence against him. Signicantly, two months later, one of the CBI investigators led an appeal for protection in court, against alleged threats made to him by one of the three indicted sub-inspectors. Deliberate Inaction All these shocking developments were reported in the press at that time. Yet, no action was taken. The sessions court refused to accept the CBIs closure report, and the Special Cell came up with further investigation to implicate Irshad Ali. Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled
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out any further handling of the case by the Special Cell once the CBI had taken over the matter. Ali and his co-accused are still in jail. Two other cases cited in the JTSA report deserve mention. One involved a Manipuri, framed by the Special Cell at the behest of the Manipuri police. He had already incurred the wrath of the (Manipuri) state authoritiesthe police got him targeted... said the judge, acquitting him. The second case involved a Kashmiri who had earned the displeasure of an army major posted in Kashmir. The accused are totally innocent and have been framed by the four ofcers at the behest of Major Sharma, said the judge, describing the ofcers as persecutors and tormentors. The judge ordered the Delhi police commissioner to hold an inquiry against them and also ordered an FIR to be registered against them for fabricating evidence. What kind of Kafkaesque world do sections of our society live in? Imagine being a Kashmiri Muslim or a Manipuri. In your own state, you live under a law which places you at risk of being picked up or even shot at any moment. In fact, the Manipuri, referred to above, had taken part in agitations against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), and became a target of the Manipuri police ever since. But many of the Kashmiri youths implicated had done nothing at all to annoy their rulers. All they wanted was an opportunity to better their future through higher education in Delhi and abroad. But being in possession of, or remitting large amounts of cash for fees, business, or to buy a house, becomes a risky act if you are a Kashmiri Muslim. So does studying in the vicinity of the Indian Military Academy. The Special Cell went so far as to frame three Manipuri Muslims by alleging that they were members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, trying to show that the terrorist outt had inltrated Manipur. It thereby tried to paint a picture of Muslims across India working at the behest of this Pakistani outt to destroy the country. Home Ministry Machinations The Kashmiri and the Manipuri militancy can be traced in a large part to the
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centres policies. Even today, the centres refusal to revoke the AFSPA is a major reason why the disaffection of the citizens of these two states refuses to go away. Now it seems that at the highest level, there exists a systematic strategy to project the youth of these two states who dare to move out to the capital, as terrorists. With the IB involved, as demonstrated by the JTSA report, the home minister could not be unaware of this strategy. During the militancy phase in Punjab in the 1980s and early 1990s, it became obvious that vested interests in Delhi and Punjab would not allow measures to be taken, that would have won over the Sikhs and forced the militants to stop their violence. Finally, under a ruthless police chief, and the deaths of many

innocents, the militancy was crushed. It seems vested interests are now working to ensure that Kashmir and Manipur remain disturbed areas. Young men from these states, who think they can escape to a better life outside, are shown that they do not belong anywhere else, at least not in the capital. Who are these vested interests? In Punjab, it was the army, the Punjab police and sections of the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The JTSA report makes it clear that in Kashmir and Manipur, these vested interests include the home ministry. Little wonder then that indictments by judges, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and even their own professional colleagues from the CBI have made no

difference to the Special Cells functioning. So this report by some teachers working in a Muslim university is hardly likely to cause more than a ripple. The experience of Mumbai, especially after the 1992-93 riots, has made it difcult for Muslims of the city to feel that this system holds anything for them. They have seen those who murdered innocent members of their community and this includes policemen go scotfree, and leaders who directed such murders get lionised by the establishment, including the media. As a counter to their deep cynicism, this writer has often asserted that while the state is communal, the judiciary keeps proving its secular credentials. The JTSA report vindicates this assertion. But, that is cold comfort.

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