On September 30th, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde wrote to all Chief Ministers asking them to ensure that “no innocent Muslims is detained in terror cases.” This recognition of an enormous issue of human rights violations is itself a vindication and victory for the many ongoing struggles against Islamophobic witch-hunt. Representatives of some of those struggles participated in a national convention hosted by the CPI(ML) in Delhi on September 25th.
But Shinde’s letter also smacks of hypocrisy and doublespeak. Because he and his Ministry have a poor record of intervening to secure justice in the blatant and rampant cases of minority witch-hunt. The Batla House case if of course themost obvious one, where the Special Cell of Delhi Police, directly under the Home Ministry, is suspected of a fake encounter and false case against innocents, but the Home Ministry has blocked any impartial judicial enquiry. Shinde has refused to intervene in the Pune German Bakery blast case in which Himayat Baig is one of the accused even after Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal claimed Baig was not involved in the terror strike. There are many Congress-ruled Governments including his native Maharashtra, as well as Andhra Pradesh, which are among the worst offenders in this regard, but he has not lifted a finger to intervene and correct the course in those states.
Islamophobia, inherited from the US ‘war on terror’ discourse, has meshed smoothly with India’s own deeply entrenched communalism, as well as the widespread tolerance of and dependence on torture in Indian policing, to become an integral part of the Indian State’s policy of dealing with terror cases. Thanks to its widespread use by Governments of all hues, and the unquestioning way in which it is reproduced by the media, it has also, naturally, become the element in the communal fascists’ campaign of sowing fear and branding Muslims as ‘anti-national’ that commands the greatest acceptance.
Today, therefore, Islamophobia is one of the most burning issues of our democracy – and one on which many self-styled ‘secular’ and ‘democratic’ political forces trip up. Congress is most notorious for having leaders who shed crocodile tears for innocent Muslims while their party and Governments pursue the fake cases with utmost malice. Governments headed by SP, BSP, JD(U), AIADMK, have all been party to such witch-hunts – and yet these parties will be counted by some Left parties as being part of the struggle for ‘secularism’! With the Delhi election campaign underway now, the new aspirant to power, AAP, has shown visible discomfort in its dealing with the question of Islamophobia. It issued a leaflet addressed to Muslims, referring to the Batla House encounter as fake, and called for a judicial probe. But after the Batla House verdict condemning Shehzad came out, the AAP welcomed it without a word of criticism, in spite of the glaring evidence of a miscarriage of justice (see first cover, Liberation September 2013). And in spite of their statements on the Ishrat Jehan fake encounter, their prominent leader Kumar Vishwas has consistently jeered at those seeking justice for her. Shinde’s statement too was greeted by Vishwas with cries of ‘Muslim appeasement’.
In this backdrop, we bring to you reports of two Conventions, one in Delhi and one in Darbhanga, challenging the politics of communalism and minority witch-hunt, and a review of a rare mainstream Hindi film, Shahid, that pays tribute to the advocate Shahid Azmi, killed for fighting cases of Muslims falsely accused of terrorism.
Convention against Politics of Communalism and Minority Witch-hunt
A convention against the politics of communalism and minority witch-hunt was held in New Delhi on 25 September. This was addressed by CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, many relatives of victims of minority witch-hunt, senior journalist Syed Muhammad Kazmi, Akhlaq from the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), CPI(ML) CC member Mohd. Salim, and representatives of the JNU Students’ Union.
Comrade Dipankar said that at a time when Muslims are being framed in the name of fighting terror, when we are seeing a witch-hunt of people’s movements in the name of fighting Maoism, there has to be a concerted struggle against the US scripted neo-liberal policies, against communal witch-hunting and orchestrated communal violence, and against the pro-corporate policies that both the UPA and NDA are deeply committed to. He also said that in Bihar, where Narendra Modi’s ‘Hunkar’ rally has been announced by the BJP with much fanfare, CPI(ML) and the poor and deprived sections of the state would be organising a ‘Khabardar’ rally in defence of democracy and secularism.
Addressing the convention, CPI(ML) Central Committee member Mohd. Salim talked of the US’s carefully scripted global campaign of Islamophobia which is playing itself out in India in the form of framed cases, custodial torture and killings, and fake encounters that have become common in many states. In the few landmark cases where court proceedings have exonerated the falsely accused youth, there has been no acknowledgement of wrongdoing on part of the police and anti-terror squads, no apology, and no compensation or rehabilitation for those who suffered jail and torture on the strength of baseless charges. “With the Congress, SP, and UPA desperate to obediently follow the US path of Islamophobia, such cases have increased alarmingly,” he added.
Akhlaq from the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) talked of the roots of communalism in India, of the policies to divide and rule and the manner in which minorities are being denied their basic rights. “Our fight is not only to free innocent Muslims who have been framed, tortured and thrown in jails. Our fight is also to ensure that those really responsible for the bomb blasts and terror attacks, those who receive training for terror attacks even in military schools, are actually prosecuted,” he said. Niaz Ahmed from Darbhanga talked of how the innocents in Samastipur and Darbhanga are being framed, “So-called secular forces such as JD(U) and Congress remain silent and never ensure justice for victims of communalism and witch-hunt.” Anwar from Kunda in Pratapgarh and Sher Ali from Rampur shared their experiences of how their relatives were falsely framed. JNUSU Joint Secretary Sarfaraz Hamid and Vice President Anubhuti who had been part of fact-finding teams to Malegaon and Muzaffarnagar respectively addressed the convention and spoke of how innocent Muslims were framed in Malegaon and jailed for years together and how the Muzaffarnagar riots were cynically orchestrated, drawing on communal images of Muslims as ‘jehadis’ and lustful aggressors on Hindu women.
Journalist Ajoy Ashirwad, who has reported extensively on the Muzaffarnagar violence pointed out the use of patriarchal protection in orchestrating communal violence: “In Mangalore (Karnataka), in Gujarat, and now in Muzaffarnagar, we have seen how false stories of Muslims trapping Hindu women, of the alleged ‘love jihaad’ are an integral part of the communal programme”. He also talked of the demographic transformation of villages in the wake of communal violence, where there are deliberate attempts to destroy the homes and livelihoods of Muslims, to destroy mosques and spread hatred.
Noted journalist Syed Mohammad Kazmi, who is himself battling a protracted legal struggle after being falsely framed in a terror case, said “after the communal violence during partition, during the razing of the Babri Masjid on 6th December, communal fascist forces are now trying to ride to power by literally walking over the dead bodies of Muslims”. At the end of the convention, several resolutions against minority witch-hunting, orchestrated communal violence, and demanding justice for victims of communal violence were passed.
Aslam Khan from the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) pointed out that the convention was being held in the backdrop of a deliberate communal offensive spearheaded by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, and unfortunately condoned by various governments of all hues.
The Convention passed resolutions demanding enactment of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparation) Bill, 2011; a firm deterrent policy to end Muslim witch-hunt, with stern punishment for policemen and politicians who indulge in it, rehabilitation and compensation for the victims and their families, timely trials, special courts where the same person is accused in multiple cases, and timely bail. The resolutions also demanded the implementation of the Nimesh Commission report in Uttar Pradesh; action against the officials responsible for custodial deaths Khalid Mohammed in Uttar Pradesh and Qateel Siddiqui in Yerwada jail in Maharashtra; a National tribunal to enquire into all cases of witch hunting and harassment of minorities; independent probe into the Muzaffarnagar riots and stern punishment for the guilty, and full compensation and rehabilitation for the victims; MPs and MLAs accused of communal and casteist violence to be banned from contesting; immediate release of all persons arrested in Kashmir without a trial or charge sheet under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (wherein a person can be put in jail without any proof, merely on the basis of suspicion), and repeal of draconian laws in various States of the country such as Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Convention at Darbhanga
A People’s Convention Against Minority Witch-hunt and Communal Politics was organised by the CPI(ML) and Revolutionary Muslim Conference at Kamla Nehru Library, Laheriyasarai. This Convention was addressed by CPI(ML) GS Comrade Dipankar who called for a powerful assertion by democratic forces against fake encounters and terror cases falsely foisted on Muslims. Questioning the Nitish Kumar Government’s secular credentials, he askedwhy the CM was doing nothing to defend the Muslim youth from Darbhanga being falsely framed as terrorists?
Addressing the gathering, JNUSU President Akbar Choudhury said that the Sachar Committee report and the Rangnath Mishra Commision report give ample proof of the injustice and discrimination against minorities. Advocate of Lucknow High Court and Rihayi Manch, Uttar Pradesh Mohd. Shoaib said that such anti-minority campaigns are also being carried out in Azamgarh and other places in U.P. which are making a mockery of the Constitution of India and its legal provisions.
CPI(ML) Politburo member and in-charge, Mithilanchal, Dhirendra Jha called for Left forces to unite in a struggle for justice for innocent Muslim youth and to expose the way in which the Governments of Bihar and the Centre, and communal forces had launched an offensive against minorities and democracy.
The family members of the youth arrested on false charges also related their experiences. The gathering was addressed by Patna High Court advocate Mohd. Javed, IMC leader Mohd. Anwar Hussain, Javed Baig from Siwan, Khurshid Khair from Samastipur, CPI(ML) District secretary Baidyanath Yadav, Mohd. Tabrez from JNU, Mohd. Narullah from Araria, journalists Akhlaq, Rizwan, Jamaluddin, Mohd. Imtiyaz, Ali Imam Faridi from Mahua and others. The meeting was presided over by Neyaz Ahmed, Sadiq Bharati and Shafi Alam. In the concluding Presidential address Neyaz Ahmed said that a “Release Campaign” (Rihai Abhiyan) on the lines of the ongoing campaign in Uttar Pradesh would be started in Bihar. A 10-point Resolution was passed in the meeting.
A concerted drive was organized in the run up to the people’s meeting during which over 100 Muslim bastis were visited where large scale terror and anger against the wrongful arrest of youth without any proof was clearly visible. Disillusioned by the deafening silence of the so-called secular Parties, the campaign of the CPI(ML) was welcomed by these victims of injustice and the stigmatised community, many of whom attended the public meeting in large numbers.