Edit/Op-Ed

Batla House ‘Encounter’: Alarm Bells for Nation and Community

Navaid Hamid

Much has been said and written, in the past few days, about unearthing of the network of the terrorists killed and captured in and aftermath of the ‘encounter’ at L-18, Batla House, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi. In coming days and weeks, the nation would hear and read new details of briefing from security agencies regarding the plot to destabilise the country and that of new arrests in the conspiracy to terrorise the nation.

Nearly all captured and killed suspects belong to the lower middle strata of the Muslim community who have a highly brilliant educational profile and seem to be living a normal life with high dreams like any other young Indians would have.

The combing operation has come as a shock for the nation and the Muslim community. Till the black Friday of 9/19, the day on which the network of the ‘terrorists’ was brought to light, Indian Muslims have got words of praise even from the adversaries of Islam and Muslims, from Evangelist US President Bush to Hindutva mascot Advani in India, for keeping themselves aloof from the groups of the militants confronting the aggressions in Iraq, US-led operations in Afghanistan and armed struggle of the separatists from Jammu and Kashmir in India.

As news spread like a wild fire of the operation at Jamia Nagar, people across the nation watched TV sets in disbelief and confusion. By evening, the country got brief of claims from the security agencies about the combing operation and unearthing of the ‘terrorists’ group in the capital, responsible for the bomb attacks in Delhi and other parts of the country. From the claims of the security agencies and the live electronic media trial, the nation got first hand information of the indigenous Muslim terrorist network.

While the combing was still in process, the residents of the locality, civil rights groups and the Muslim organisations started raising serious reservations about the operations because of the history of the fake encounters along with the role of security agencies to demonise the Muslim community and the haste of the electronic media to sensationalise the news to raise their viewer ship rate.

Incidentally, the confusion, disbelief and shock remain even after so many days of the encounter. A substantial segment of the Indian society, even after 60 years of democratic journey of the nation, thinks that it is obligatory for Muslims to believe with blind eyes whatever the security agencies wishes to brief and if they dares to do analysis of the events and reports, the dangers of bracketing them with anti-national activities looms large over their heads.

In the Batla House shootout, with the death of a brilliant police officer, an encounter specialist and leader of the combing operation, who died due to excess bleeding and heart attack after gun injuries in the operation, the security agencies version got weightage and wide acceptability. But still more steps and transparency are needed to convenience the nation.

The shoot out has deeply divided the society and urgent steps are required to control the damage.

The incident has nearly polarised all sections of the Muslim society not only in the area around Jamia Millia Islamia and other Muslim concentrated localities in Delhi but also in the targeted villages and lanes around and in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.

The official electronic channel and radio of the country felt it in national interest to give wide publicity to the news of transaction of Rs 30 million in one of the account of the suspect of the Delhi Bomb blast and the combing operation at Batla House, but the transaction of few thousands was discovered after cross check from the Bank in Azamgarh. Such conflicting versions strengthen the suspicion of the civil society and the Muslim community about ‘encounters’.

There should be no problem for initiating a judicial probe into the infamous Batla House ‘encounter’ if the slate of the security agencies is clean and they have ample evidences against the arrested and killed suspects.

It was nothing but to demonise the entire Muslim community when the Delhi Police paraded the arrested youths with heads covered with Arabian scarf with a desire to substantiate the theory of Islamic terrorists, which is unacceptable to every single Muslim in the country. The over zealots in the security agencies fails to understand that such acts are counter productive and harmful even in fight against terrorism.

The sense of ‘perceived injustice’ and demonisation acts is strengthening the anger and frustration, and it would be counter productive in the fight against terror and violence.

Now when the unbelievable has happened and confronting versions are coming with every passing hour, the country and the community should seriously ponder over the fall out of the incident. If we sincerely desire that Indian Muslims must accept the version of the security agencies about the Batla House operation, it is in the national interest to go in depth about the reasons behind the emergence of involvement of educated young Muslims in acts of violence and terrorism.

We have seen how madrasas have been targeted in the past for their alleged role in propagation of Jihad and anti-national activities. The Muslim community has expected that National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Deputy Prime Minister Mr Lal Krishan Advani would keep his promise and bring a white paper on the anti national activities of madrasas and their role in propagation of Jihad, but his government lost power without any progress on that front.

Now when the biggest Islamic institution in India, Darul Uloom Deoband, has categorically denounced the acts of terrorism, issued a fatwa against the misuse of Islam and had term the acts of violence against tenets of Islam and as we find not a single name from madrasas in India involved in any kind of violent or terrorist activity in any part of the country, new phenomenon has emerged in the recent past.

Wherever there have been arrests of Muslim youths for any kind of violent activity in recent past, majority of the arrested youths have highly modern educational profile with brilliant academic career. These youths have not even seen the gates of madrasa in their life.

As per the version of the security agencies, the arrested youths from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad and from Delhi to Mumbai and Karnataka in connection with different incidents in the past have claimed to be part of the terror network with one commonality, and the commonality is to take revenge of the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 and the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 in which more than 2,000 innocent Muslim youths, women and children were brutally killed and property worth billions were vandalised and torched.

If we accept the theory of the security agencies in black and white, every nationalist have a right to know about the measures taken to address the grievances.

We have silently witnessed that nothing seriously was done to give justice to the victims of the Mumbai riots of 1992 and the Modiete pogrom of Gujarat. Who can deny that few victims of Gujarat have got some kind of reprieve and justice due to the intervention of the Supreme Court only.

Home Minister Mr P. Chidambaram gave a courageous statement while delivering Filed Marshal Carriapa’s Lecture recently by admitting that alienation of the Muslim community in the country is taking educated Muslims on the “path of violence.”

It is well-known that more and more educated Muslim youths are loosing hope in the democratic system of the nation as in democracy, numbers are important. These youths feel that the political leadership of the nation is doing great harm to them by turning their faces away from them as they do not have numbers. They wish an inclusive policy for them but get cold response from the polity. Unfortunately, a majority of Muslim politicians are shy to advocate their case. They are busy in safeguarding their interests for their own survival.

It is high time that instead of jerk reactions, the Muslim leadership and community’s organisations should sit together to plan joint strategies to fight the onslaught and do urgent home work to consul the agitated young minds of the community before it is too late. The leadership has to convey a strong message in the community that the path of violence would lead us to nowhere and would do more harm to us beside strengthening the hands of community’s adversaries.

It is in the national interest that the political leadership of the country must find consensus for having an inclusive policy for all, including Muslims.

To convince the Muslim community and the civil society about the fair and impartial role of the security agencies, some kind of mechanism needs to be developed and the easiest ways seems to be constitution of the Judicial Commission to probe every terrorist activity in the country. This is necessary because the nation has witnessed that majority of the arrested Muslim youths in the past has got reprieve from courts during the trials as Anti-Terrorism Squad fails to convince the courts about its charges against the arrested youths.

It is a sad story that more and more Bar Councils in the country are passing resolutions, asking its members not to take cases of the arrested Muslim suspects. Hyderabad has witnessed violent assault on Muslim advocates when they decided to defend the arrested Muslim youths. Who can deny that a good majority from more than 180 Muslim youths arrested for terrorist activities were acquitted in the trial court in Andhra Pradesh and just two suspects are facing charges in the Hyderabad blasts.

In Delhi, an advocate withdrew himself from defending an arrested suspect. It would be great injustice if the nation expects that Muslims must also crucify the arrested suspects without fair trials.

Knives are out against Prof Mushirul Hasan, the then vice chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, the institution which was at the forefront of the freedom struggle and was established to strengthen the composite fabric and plural structure of the Indian society, for daring to take a courageous step to provide legal aid to two of its students who are suspects in the 2008 Delhi serial blasts. The purpose seems not to defend them but to give them a chance to prove their innocence in the court. For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is an anti-national act.

Leave alone the perpetrators of the mass crimes against hapless Muslims in Mumbai riots and the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, even the killers of Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi, Former Prime Ministers Indra Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi have a right to get them defended, but the arrested Muslim suspects deserves to be hanged without fair trial.

In an ideal state, it is paramount duty of the establishment to convince every group and race, by actions, about the impartiality of the state apparatus.

The nation has witnessed the casual behavior of state apparatus when it comes to take even notice of the activities of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Bombs were not only recovered from activists of Bajrang Dal from the state of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa but its activists were killed while making bombs at Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh. Camps of arms training were organized for its cadres, but we see no action from the security agencies against the militant Hindutva outfit.

In last two months, Bajrang Dal and VHP activists have killed and attacked Christians, vandalised and torched Churches from Uttarakhand to Orissa and Karnataka, but hapless nation waits for more attacks from them on minorities.

The acts of demonising the Muslim community would do more harm instead of solving problems and further alienate Muslims besides posing great dangers for the nation. The politicisation of terrorism and the victimization of the Muslim community would undoubtedly further breed real terrorists in the Muslim community.

The nation should rise above petty politics, and politicisation of terrorism must stop at once.

(Naved Hamid is a member of the National Integration Council. He can be reached at navaidhamid@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are writer’s own, and it does not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy)

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