Are the counter-terrorism measures being used as an excuse by the government to arbitrarily detain large numbers of Muslims in the country?
A 528-word story, spread over five columns, headlined “Muslims targeted using terror as excuse” has been published by a premier English language daily in its Delhi edition of July 2.
But misuse of the counter-terrorism measures is not the news. The news is: No action, to quote the report, is being taken against officials, who sanction such detentions, even when they are proved illegal by courts of law.
The South Asia chapter of the 2010 State of the World Minorities and Indigenous People, brought out by the London-based Minority Rights Group (MRG) International, was released in New Delhi on July 1.
Farah Mihlar, author of the South Asia chapter, said the perpetrators of acts of violence against religious minorities in India are allowed to act with impunity and noted the poor rate of arrest and conviction, especially of political leaders, orchestrating violence.
The report, covering 2009, carried out by The Times of India, while dealing with the militant and extremist groups, named the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
In some South Asian states, national or regional governments are actively supporting extremist groups, while in the other cases, states are turning a blind eye to their increasing influence, said Shobha Das, MRG’s head of programme.
The report criticises the government’s continued opposition to the recognition of caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation.
The report also criticises the Indian army for committing human rights violation against civilians, including extra-judicial killings, abductions, arbitrary arrests and detentions in the guise of counter-terrorism.
Irfan Engineer, Director of the Mumbai-based Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism, noted the rise in racial profiling of Muslims in India, citing the recent deplaning and detention of a Muslim man, based on a co-passenger’s imagined fears.
He also added: The proposed Communal Violence Bill strengthens the hands of the police who have been reportedly proved to be biased against minorities times and again, rather than making them more accountable.
The gravamen of the frank report, as enunciated by its spokespersons, consists of seven points. After their perusal, the questions that arise are:
1) Have some Saffron-inclined elements in the government used as a pretext the counter-terrorism measures to detain unwarrantedly the Muslim youth and despite the court’s clearance, are they being forced to remain in detention?
2) If the charge is true, has the government initiated or proposes to initiate action against the black sheep?
3) Does the administration take, or does not take penal action against those who inflict pain on the minorities without rhyme or reason?
4) Do some of our state governments support the extremist elements and instead of punishing them for their acts of violence, are they allowing them to expand their area of influence?
5) Is the government prepared to take the caste bull by the horns, which is and has for centuries, been responsible for the digital divide of the Indian society?
6) The gravest possible charges have been levelled against the army. Are they true? One feels inclined to hang one’s head in shame at these allegations. As a principled party the Congress must either affirm or deny the allegations.
7) Does the oncoming Communal Violence Bill, instead of making the police accountable, further empower them?
The depressing truth is the Minority Rights Group International is not much off the mark. There may be some exaggeration here and some there. But the ground-zero reality is nearer the truth.
So far the report has neither been responded by the government nor trashed. But we fear it would be trashed sooner or later simply because the entire leadership of the country suffers from the draught of moral courage.
How many budding Muslim youth have been “encountered” just for the sake of money that in such cases is granted to the killers by the government? How many families have thus been destroyed does not cause pain rather anguish to the concerned.
On some encounters and blasts the government case is too weak to stand scrutiny. The so-called encounter of Ishrat Jehan along with three others that was stage-managed in 2004 happens to be one of the classic cases. The verdict of a Magisterial Enquiry was: Four were gunned down in cold blood by police officers, eager to get promotions and appreciations of Mr Narendra Modi.
Another case: How unintelligent are some Intelligence Officers can be gauged from the fact that in bomb attacks on Muslim mosques and Mausoleums, Muslims were arrested and were allegedly forced to confess a crime they had not committed. The post-Hemant Karkare investigations revealed that it was the nephew of the RSS who had committed these crimes. Now the CBI has confirmed that the bomb attacks at Makkah Masjid, the mosque in Malegaon and the Ajmer Dargah were carried out by the same group, the Abhinav Bharat.
The worst part of the tragedy is that the Muslim youth, whose torture compelled them to own the guilts that were not theirs, are not being freed by the government.
That Mr Shivraj Patil was one of the most callous Home Ministers Bharat has ever seen is not denied by any informed person. His only qualification was loyalty to the Congress, right or wrong. But now Mr. P. Chidambaram, an otherwise sensitive person, is in the saddle in the Union Home Ministry. His acumen and efficiency is not denied even by his arch critics. What has fettered his hands to write to the erring state governments in this regard and see to it that the innocent are freed from the blemish of terrorism? Do the-powers-that-be know that their obtuse behaviour lengthens the shadows between the major minority and the government?
One really does not know how to reconcile with a rouge called Pramod Muthalik, who allegedly organises anti-Muslim and anti-Christian disturbances on payment. The founder of Sri Ram Sene specialises in attacks on Churches, pubs and Valentine Days. If crooks like him cause shame to India, what is illogical about it?
Are you listening, Mr Prime Minister?