Asad Ashraf, BeyondHeadlines
Three years ago on September 19, 2008, two young boys (Atif Amin and Mohamed Sajid) allegedly Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists, were killed in an ‘encounter’ in Batla House locality of Jamia Nagar in southeast Delhi. The shootout led to arrest of a number of local Muslim youths. Atif and some of the people arrested and detained were students of Jamia Millia Islamia.
The ‘encounter’ and subsequent arrests led to widespread allegations and protests by civil society groups, political parties, activists, including teachers and students of the university. The protesting groups refused to accept the police version with regard to shootout and termed it a ‘cold blooded murder’.
Subsequently, on the Delhi High Court’s directive on May 21, 2009, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in its July 22 report cleared the police of any violations of rights despite the fact that the police theory is full of contradictions and loopholes.
Since then, public speculations and debate continue till date. There has been a voice coming out of the secular progressive section of this country demanding an independent judicial inquiry into the whole episode but even after three years of the incident, the government remains adamant on its politically inclined stand of not responding to any such demands, which in turn creates a fear psychosis within a section of the country.
The fear is not confined to the Batla House locality only. Many states in the country is consistently living in such fear under the draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) 1958.
What we witnessed in Batla House three years ago is something that happens every day in the north-eastern states of India and Jammu and Kashmir.
We strongly condemn all the bomb blasts taking place in this country, criticism of which in the strongest possible words is not enough. Innocent people are targeted in such attacks. Those involved in these attacks should not be spared at all; they deserve no mercy but at the same time, it is also important to ensure that no innocent person becomes a victim of torture in the name of investigations and careful analysis should be done before declaring anyone as a terrorist, considering every single life of utmost importance in the process of establishment of a true secular democratic state.
Recently, addressing a meeting of the National Integration Council, our honorable Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh admitted in his speech that Muslims in this country have to live in fear after such attacks because of the fact that the first needle of the investigation turn towards them. We welcome such concerns of Dr Singh and also appeal to him that something concrete should be done about it. Special provisions should also be made to bring them to the main stream of the society and help them play an inclusive part in the development process of the country.
We appeal all of you to join a peace march from Batla House to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) along with various civil right organizations and activists to put forth all these demands intended towards justice and peace in this country.
Muslims, or citizens of the diverse nation from as far as Manipur to Kashmir should all be allowed to breathe in an air “where the mind is without fear and head is held high,” as envisioned by Rabnidranath Tagore.
(Asad is a former student of Jamia Millia Islami and currently associated with Khudai Khitmatgaar, a rights group.)