, by SYYED MANSOOR AGHA
Human Rights activists and Muslim leadership of India have been raising the issue of arrests of Muslim youths merely on suspicion of their involvement in disruptive and terror activities without any credible evidence against them. Such arrests have created havoc in the society. Attention of Central and States leadership was drawn on several occasions on the plight during delegation meetings, through memorandums and by way of resolutions passed in hugely attended public meetings and conferences but no remedy is in sight.
It is unfortunate that all democratic means have failed to move the authorities. A ray of hope had emerged during recent assembly elections in UP when almost all political parties, including Congress and SP promised to look into the issue seriously and urgently, however the electoral promises are yet to see the light of the day. When the people were assured and eagerly waiting for positive movement, the recent case of illegal detention/ abduction of two youths from a train has created fresh fears and raised many questions on the working of our “security agencies” under new State Regime and intentions of political bosses of Democratic Republic of India.
Two students, Hafiz Mohd Waseem Bhat and Mohammad Sajjad Bhat of a reputed semi modern Islamic Educational Institution, Jamiatul Falah, Bilariyaganj in Azamgarh District of UP, boarded Kafiyat Express for Delhi on May 23 to see their ailing brother in Delhi. As the train pulled in Aligarh stations, heavily armed persons entered in their compartment and dragged them out. When co-passengers objected, the armed persons merely identified themselves as security personnel belonging to Anti Terror Squad (ATS) of U.P. Police and that the boys were required in some terror case. The frightened passengers could not muster the courage to ask them to reveal their full identity properly and the armed professionals took hold of the boys and put them into a waiting Scorpio SUV and drove away. The boys were blind-folded. After a drive of some two hours they were taken in two separate rooms of some building and put to interrogation. When the boys did not reach Delhi as scheduled, their family members contacted Jamia authorities who in turn immediately brought the matter in the knowledge of local police authorities.
On May 25 local newspapers of Aligarh published the news of their “arrest” from the train. Widely circulated Hindi daily, Dainik Jagran reported: “ATS picked two Kashmiri youths suspected for anti-national activities from Kaifiyat Express on Thursday morning. They are being interrogated. ATS had got input that two suspects are going to Delhi from Azamgarh by the train. The ATS took this info seriously and took positions at Platform No. 3 and 4. As soon as the train reached platform no. 3 at 6:30 am, the ATS team armed with sophisticated weapons entered the general coach and took out two persons. They are under intensive interrogation now.”
Waseem Bhat (20) s/o Ghulam Mohammad Bhat is a student of five years Aalmiyat course since 2010. His cousin Sajjad Ahmad Bhat (20) s/o Gulam Rasool Bhat joined the same course a year later in 2011 after matriculation from a government school in Sopore. Strangely, the authorities who detained the boys neither informed their parents nor the Jamia for over five days. They were also not produced in any court and taken in illegal detention to J&K without taking them on transit remand, which is mandatory.
Jamiatul Falah is not a customary Madrasa. The institution is regarded as a modern and moderate seminary whose graduates easily become part of mainstream workforce. The Director of Jamia Maulana Tahir Madani is a reputed educationist and able administrator. The incident failed to panic him and his associates. They immediately took required legal and political steps. Local police was urgently informed of the disappearance of the boys and keeping the gravity in mind, Maulana himself saw Superintendent of Police of Azamgarh. The SP expressed his ignorance about the incident however assured the Maulana to do all at his command. The Director also faxed a memorandum to State Chief Minister urging him to take the matter seriously.
On legal front, an application was moved in CJM court followed by a habeas corpus petition in the Allahabad High Court. While hearing the petition, the division bench comprising Justice Dharnidhar Jha and Justice Ramesh Sinha took serious note of the way the boys were detained and strongly condemned the modus operandi of the police and anti-terror agencies. The court asked the agencies if they wanted to create disturbance and disharmony in the society by doing such acts going out of law, if they wanted to create havoc in a particular community. The court issued notices to the State Government and the Centre and fixed next date of hearing for 5th July, after summer vacation.
Though the missing students have been traced, the incident has raised several serious questions on the working of ATS and Police force of different states. As Advocate S Farman Ahmed Naqvi, who represented Jamia at HC, said, “It is really unfortunate. The incidents show the apathy of political masters, the police and anti-terror agencies as well. These pickings are completely illegal.”
He pointed out, “Section 57 of CrPC says within 24 hours of the detention, the police must inform the guardian of the person and produce the accused before designated court, while section 5 and 6 of DK Basu guidelines of Supreme Court gives only 10-12 hours.” Mr. Naqvi appeared in the case on behalf of the petitioners.
The ordeal of the families of the boys has not yet ended, however they heaved a sigh of relief on May 30, when they got a call from local police station in Sopore that the guardian of the boys has been called to Jammu by higher police officers. The Sopore police took him to Jammu where he met the boys. The Kashmir police have showed that that the boys were taken in the custody at Jammu Railway Station. From Jammu they were taken to Sopore where Waseem was formally arrested while Sajjad was let out on conditions. Sopore Police said, Waseem was wanted since January in some terror case. On the episode, Maulana Tahir Madani has raised, in a statement, several questions as reported by TCN:
The Maulana expressed his apprehension that some agency had picked them with intentions to defame the Jamia and implicate the boys. During the interrogation the students were asked highly objectionable questions about the Jamia as where the arms are stored, etc. Certainly, the students have been ruined by the highhandedness of agencies behind the case.
Maulana Madani said, “If timely steps were not taken and united efforts not made we can just guess what could have been the fate of the two. Secret agencies are targeting innocents in terror.
“The case of Sajjad and Waseem is now in Allahabad HC which will reveal the truth. If Waseem was wanted, his family and Jamia should have been informed. The agencies have violated rules of arrest. The persons, who picked them up from the train, did not reveal their identity which is a legal requirement. They were not produced in the designated court within stipulated time and families were not informed for six days. The agencies are trampling the rules of arrest and violating the human rights of citizens.
“There is a need to create awareness among citizens. When such an incident happens, without wasting time, court should be moved and public pressure should be built up. Only timely action can save innocents and violators of laws could be brought to justice,” he said.
The incident was widely condemned by various quarters including APCR, MPCI, FFCR and the JIH which has launched a nationwide movement of awareness on the issue. AIMMM, in an emergency meeting, expressed concern over the continued cases of harassment and detention of Muslim youth. It was resolved to prepare a comprehensive document comprising details of all such cases and approach international human rights bodies, besides memorandums were sent to UHM, and NCM and NHRC were also petitioned. It is learned that NCM and NHRC have sent notices to Centre and State authorities.
Timely action is important, but the enormous problem needs concerted multi-dimensional efforts.