Terror in Darbhanga:Outlook


 

Tribhuvan Tiwari
“I’ve knocked at the doors of every agency, ministry… MHA, MEA, NIA, CBI, ATS asking about Fasih’s whereabouts. None of them have an answer.” Nikhat Parween, Fasih’s wifeFasih Mehmood, 29

 

  • A mechanical engineer working in Saudi Arabia, passed BTech from Bhatkal Engineering College in 2006.
  • Currently in Saudi police custody, wife alleges he was picked up from his house in Al Jubail on May 13 by Saudi and Indian officials.
  • Wanted for the 2010 Chinnaswamy stadium blast in Bangalore and shootout and blast at Delhi’s Jama Masjid.
terror in darbhanga
Only A Bad Name Lives In Barh Samaila
A village in Darbhanga, Bihar, is haunted by the ‘terror’ tag
Panini Anand

It’s the village no one speaks of. When asked the way to Barh Samaila, the old lady doesn’t utter a word, simply points to the north, a clear discomfort in her face at the mere mention of the place. The workers toiling in the neighbouring fields too refuse to talk about the place to strangers.

So what is the curse of Barh Samaila village in Darbhanga, north Bihar? Well, it’s the latest “terror village” in India. As happened with Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, Bhatkal in Karnataka and Malwa in Madhya Pradesh, the terror tag has come to drag down the name of the village and its residents.


Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari

“When we got his body, his fingers and nails were crushed and his forehead bore marks of electric shock.” Zafeer Siddiqui, Qateel’s father

Qateel Siddiqui, 27

  • Studied at the ITI in Darbhanga, worked as an engineer in Aligarh.
  • Arrested in Delhi on November 19, 2011, by Special Cell of Delhi Police. Died in custody in Pune’s Yerwada jail on June 8 this year.
  • Was accused of being involved in the Chinnaswamy blast and the Jama Masjid attack in 2010.

Barh Samaila has acquired the label as five Muslim men have been arrested from here over the past year on charges of being involved in terror plots. Kafeel Akhtar, 26, was arrested by the Karnataka-Andhra police on May 6 last year; Qateel Siddiqui, 27, on November 19 last year (he died in custody in Pune’s Yerwada jail on June 8); Gauhar Aziz Khomaini, 31, picked up by the Delhi police on November 23, 2011; Fasih Mehmood, 29, arrested in Saudi Arabia by Saudi and Indian sleuths on May 13 last; and Abu Muskat Akhfal, 23, who was detained on June 2 by the Mumbai ATS. The most famous “Darbhanga terrorist” is of course Fasih, on the verge of being delivered to Indian agencies by the Saudis. Union home minister P. Chidambaram has already declared so, and presumably he’s been fully briefed about this new terror zone in the nation.

In Barh Samaila, though, there is only fear and anger. None of the five men had criminal records in the local thana, so one can’t blame the residents if they believe that their boys are innocent and that their village is just the latest hunting ground for our anti-terror agencies.

They might have a case. For these men from a tiny village in Darbhanga are being linked to even minor blasts from 2010 in places as far away as Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium and Delhi’s Jama Masjid. If the police narrative is to be believed, this nondescript village is where a number of sinister plots were hatched. A four-hour drive from Patna and 15 km from town, Barh Samaila is now a preferred destination of police, ATS and intelligence agencies from across the country. The fear is such that today the village barely has any young men left. They have all mostly fled fearing for their lives. The only people left are the children, women and the old. The streets of the Muslim quarters are empty and there are no jokes to be cracked at the chai shops. Every outsider is looked at with suspicion, questioned about their visit and motives. The few young men remaining refuse to divulge their names or talk openly.

“Welcome to the home of the Indian Mujahideen”—that’s how Zafeer Siddiqui, the dead Qateel’s father greets us, pointing to the inside of his house with its unplastered brick walls, mud floors and windows without grills. “My son was our family’s only hope out of poverty. After seven months of continuous torture, they got nothing, So they killed him,” he says. Qateel was arrested on suspicions of being an IM member and of involvement in the Chinnaswamy stadium and Jama Masjid attacks in 2010. He died in custody, even before his case came up in court. Strangely, on June 6, father Zafeer had got a call that his son would be released in 2-3 days. Two days later, the family got to know through TV that their son had died in custody. No one from the administration, the ATS, the local police, or the Maharashtra and Bihar governments cared to inform them. His mother Gulshan Ara, half-hidden and weeping behind the door, asks, “Can you bring back my son? Please bring him back.” Father Zafeer can’t hold back his anger, “Look at our starving family, the girls waiting to be married, Qateel’s pregnant wife. Do we look like terrorists? It’s as if we are lepers now, condemned to live in fear.”


Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari

“They say he was involved in some blasts in south India; my son has never been out of Darbhanga.” Abdussalaam, Kafeel’s father

Kafeel Akhtar, 26

  • Was studying for an MA in Urdu in Darbhanga.
  • Picked up by Karnataka and Andhra police on May 6, 2011 from his home, currently lodged in Bangalore’s Central Jail.
  • Arrested for alleged role in the Chinnaswamy stadium blast in 2010.

Of the 2,000-odd families in Barh Samaila, around 600 are Muslim. Farming is the mainstay here and the village is well-known for its mango orchards. But many of the young have begun migrating outside for jobs, contributing to the village’s modest prosperity in pockets. In fact, before the terror taint, the village was known for its share of engineers and government officials. There is an interesting similarity here with Sanjarpur, the village in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh district that was also labelled a “terror village” after the Batla House encounter in 2008 (the boys killed in the Delhi encounter were from there). Both in Sanjarpur and Barh Samaila, the level of education among the Muslims is high.

Firoz Ahmad, Fasih Mehmood’s father, is a doctor. He has a heart problem and has been pacing the floors since he heard about his son’s arrest in Saudi Arabia. “My father was a freedom fighter and a member of the Congress party but we are being treated like orphans now. Not one political party is willing to take on the tyranny of the anti-terror squads (ATS). They want to make Darbhanga into another Azamgarh and the media too is helping them along. Please stop it,” he pleads. Fasih’s wife Nikhat Parween, currently in Patna busy fighting a long-drawn battle for his release, adds, “I always believed the media stories earlier of terrorists…but after my husband’s case, I have been studying many past ones. In most of them, the case was found baseless, the accused acquitted.”

Not far from Fasih’s place is Kafeel Akhtar’s house. He was arrested on May 6 last year by a joint operation by the Karnataka and Andhra police and is currently lodged in Bangalore Central Jail. Abdussalaam, Kafeel’s father, says, “After picking him up, they allowed us to speak to him on phone often. My son asked us not to protest or demonstrate against the arrest because he was going to be released soon as they had not found anything against him. Even a police official told me that he was going to be released soon but we are still waiting.”

The few youth Outlook talked to in the village admitted that police from different states had questioned them. One of them, on condition of anonymity, says, “There are many more like us who have been questioned but we are scared to admit it publicly. Akhfal’s case is only the latest to come out in the open.” Abu Muskat Akhfal was taken in for questioning by the Maharashtra ATS and then tortured to force a ‘confession’. He was finally released when he refused to give in. His father, Abul Warqaat, a 68-year-old retired teacher, can’t hold back his tears: “During the interrogation, he was given electric shocks in his private parts and forehead. He didn’t want to tell us but we saw the torture marks on his body.”


Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari

“He was picked up for questioning in the day and sent home at night. He got electric shocks on his forehead and genitals.” Abul Warqaat, Abu’s father

Abu Muskat Akhfal, 23

  • Third year engineering student at Gulbarga University.
  • Picked up by Mumbai ATS on June 2 this year from his village home and subjected to questioning, torture.
  • Family does not want to disclose his location to avoid further torture.

So what are the interrogators looking for? Some admit they are asked questions about neighbours, about those who have been arrested, about Yasin Bhatkal whom the agencies describe as the Indian Mujahideen mastermind and some “faltu” questions. Some of the boys still can’t get over the humiliation. One of the youngsters even blamed the media for their fate: “The media has made our condition worse and the ATS does not leave us in peace. They have spoiled our lives, our careers. We are isolated in our own society.” Mohammed Bariq, an old man from the village, asks, “Who will marry our girls now? What have you done to our reputation and tradition? This land once belonged to the writer Mazhar Imam, Sahitya Academy award winner from Darbhanga, and the progressive poet Baba Nagarjuna.”

Munidhar Jha, a retired government official from nearby village Vijay is a bit more circumspect. He says one can’t rule out terror group activities in the otherwise peaceful region of Mithilanchal because it is a border region and could have been used as a hideout. But as he puts it, “The victimisation of an entire area or community is wrong and unfair. Terrorist yahaan paida nahi ho rahe hein, ho sakta hai ki panaah le rahe hon (Terrorists are not born here, though some may have sought refuge in this region)”. The stereotyping has even impacted Muslim youngsters in Darbhanga town. One of them who has never even been to Barh Samaila says, “If we go to Bangalore or Delhi today for studies or jobs, we are going to be left out. Darbhanga has become a curse for us.”

The recent arrests in Darbhanga may also have wider repercussions in Bihar politics as Muslims begin questioning the ‘secular’ credentials of CM Nitish Kumar. The problem has become acute with recent incidents in Araria district in northern Bihar. Two Muslim women were raped in Batraha there by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel in November 2010. When locals went to complain at the local SSB office, they were fired upon and two men died. In another incident, four people were killed when the local police fired upon protesters of an industrial unit that had blocked the main entry into their village in Forbesganj in Araria. Patna-based political analyst Arshad Ajmal says, “Not only is the Bihar police targeting their own people, they are unable to stop or intervene when the ATS or police of other states come to pick up people here.” Nitish has written a letter to the Karnataka government expressing his “displeasure” that their state police made arrests in Bihar without informing them. But Nikhat Parween, a burqa-clad woman who is putting up a spirited fight for her husband, says these are mere crocodile tears. “The first time the CM said he was unhappy, the next time he was sad. Now it seems we are soon going to see some tears in his eyes.”

Immediate Release- Kashmiri Student WAQAR released after 227 days of illegal detention


FREE WAQAR CAMPAIGN (OFFICIAL)

Worldwide campaign for  jailed Kashmiri student


PRESS RELEASE

Srinagar – 08-07-2012

This is for the general information that Waqar Ahmad Moharkan has been released after 277 days of illegal detention from Indian Jail.
We would like to thank everyone involved for their efforts in the campaign to Free Waqar.
Special thanks to Amnesty International, International Committee of the Red Cross, Social activists Sanaa Sultan, Kamyani Bali Mahal and Tara Dorabji, Journalists who reported his case in the Local and International media, Twitter and Facebook activists and People who signed the petition for his release. We are indebted and grateful for their unconditional support to the cause.
Waqar’s case is representative of the youth who are detained under the garb of PSA to suppress the genuine voice of the people of Kashmir.
His release does not signify an end to the campaign but is a part of the continuum of the long and relentless struggle against the Indian Occupation.
We express our solidarity with the Prisoners of the Free Kashmir Movement and call upon the people of Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere to speak and campaign on behalf of them as well.

We would also request Human Right Organisations, Activists and Governments across the Globe to intervene in the Kashmir issue and pressurise the Indian State to stop the Human right abuses perpetuated by them and resolve the Kashmir issue in accordance to the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
We once again thank everyone of you.
Free Kashmir,

Regards,

The Free Waqar Campaign Team.


 

Pad.ma Update: Call For Fellowships


PAD.MA – is an online archive of densely text-annotated video material, primarily footage and not films. The entire collection is searchable and viewable online, and is free to download for non- commercial use. We see PAD.MAas a way of opening up a set of images, intentions and effects present in video footage, that conventions of video- making, editing and spectatorship  have tended to suppress.

This is our first call for fellowships and we would like to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and interests, who like to work creatively on video, film, digital and offline archives or collections.  We are offering two types of fellowships.
The first is a call to work with online video, writing about video and film, and creative combinations of the two. The second is a call for those interested in research and writing on early film histories in India.
________
1. Pad.ma Fellowship for Experiments with Video Archives  
Over the last 4 years, through many contributions from groups and individuals, Pad.ma has built a growing collection of documentary footage, contemporary art video, cinema, performing and classical arts, lectures, long interviews and so on. We now want to open the archive up to collaborations, video contributions from surprising and disparate sources, experiments in writing about, displaying and sharing video.
We invite proposals for fellowships with Pad.ma, especially those interested in working with video and archives in the following ways
–        Writing on existing footage in the archive: Many essays on Pad.ma are a commentary on a set of videos, or link disparate videos in collections.  See examples at http://essays.pad.ma
–        Contribution of an existing collection of videos to Pad.ma: The contribution can be of a specific set of videos that are linked thematically, or sourced from a project such as documentary films or existing archives. An example of this is Kolar Gold Fields footage sourced from the film ‘After the Gold'(J.Nair). See https://pad.ma/grid/title/project==Kolar%20Gold%20Fields%20and%20Mines The project proposal must include transcription and annotation of videos, where possible extended to a written essay.
–        Software development: Pad.ma is always looking for programmers – amateurs or professionals – who are interested in extending the software behind Pad.ma (http://pan.do/ra), or who might want to use the Pad.ma API (http:/pad.ma/api) to build interesting applications.
–        Pad.ma also invites general scholarship on material from early film archives, the Internet Archive’s moving image library, and other offline sources. We also encourage research and exploratory writing on popular and mass cultures online, that culls from Youtube and other online video platforms. These materials can be drawn together from diverse sources – an example in Pad.ma is the collection of the Radia tapes that are recordings of conversations between power brokers and media houses that were leaked to the public. The collection can be used for analysis, investigative journalism, but also as a script for a play or film. See https://pad.ma/grid/title/list==zi:The%20Radia%20Tap%28e%29s
Duration of Fellowship: 6 Months
Remuneration
: 15,000 per month over 6 months, to be disbursed in 3 installments
The fellowship will commence in September, 2012 and will culminate in a seminar-workshop in February, 2012 for the Pad.ma fellows. Maximum number of fellows chosen will be 8.
Please apply with a statement of your research interest (1 page or 500 word outline) and plan for the fellowship and a copy of your CV. You can also send a writing sample and additional links to videos, images and other files, using host services such as http://hostb.org. We may require a meeting in Mumbai or Bengaluru before final decision on the proposals.
The fellowship is open for non-Indian participants, but funding for travel to workshop and other travel, if required, has to be raised separately. Applicants can be of any educational or disciplinary background.
Last date of submission of proposals: 1st August, 2012
Date for deciding proposals: 24th August, 2012
Write to Namita A. Malhotra: n@pad.ma
2. Pad.ma Research Fellowship in Film Histories
While the focus of Pad.ma thus far has primarily been on footage, we would like to open Pad.ma out to an exploration of film studies, history and technology. Technology does not merely change the way films are made or seen, but also the way that it is studied, and film studies has travelled a long way from the time that one had to make notes in the dark to the control over the temporal flow of the film brought by video. Through this fellowship  we are interested in exploring the possible futures of film studies when it meets new technologies and the internet which allows for different ways in which we can categorize, retrieve and write about the moving image.
Celebrating forty years of copyright-free cinema in (1952 being the current threshold) amidst the hundred years of Indian cinema this year, we intend to upload pre-1952 films on to Pad.ma  and open them out to future collaborations with film historians and scholars. Fellows are encouraged to apply with a statement of their research interests, the films that they would like to work with on pad.ma and the kind of materials around the film that they would bring into conversation with the film.
Duration of Fellowship: 6 Months (with a possible extension to a year subject to future funding)
Remuneration
: 15,000 per month over 6 months, to be disbursed in 3 installments
Maximum number of fellows chosen will be 4. There will be additional fellowships administered via Jadavpur University Media Lab, and the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
There will be a board of mentors including leading film scholars who will guide the independent fellows. There will also be a workshop at the beginning and the end of the fellowship period.
Please apply with a statement of your research interest and plan for the fellowship, a copy of your CV and one sample piece of writing. You can also send a writing sample and additional links to videos, images and other files, using host services such as http://hostb.org. We may require a meeting in Mumbai or Bengaluru before a final decision on the proposals.
Last date of submission of proposals: 1st August, 2012
Date for deciding proposals: 24th August, 2012
Write to Lawrence Liang: lawrence@altlawforum.org

Its Official-Gujarat- puts business before Enviornment


Mr. A. K. Joti, Chief Secretary of Government of Gujarat made a surprising and shocking statement at the seminar on ‘Technology Solution for Environment Upgradation’ organized by Government of Gujarat on 7 July 2012 at Gandhinagar. The statement exposes the real intention and attitude of Government of Gujarat towards the protection of environment.

Boldly addressing himself to the audience at large and Dr. Tishyarakshit Chatterjee, the Secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Delhi in particular, Mr. A. K. Joti, argued that if China and Bangladesh are violating with impunity the “Basel Convention” (Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal) then why are we expected to implement the same in our ship breaking yard at Alang of Gujarat. From this statement we can clearly see the Chief Secretary’s reference to the recent direction given by the Supreme Court to implement the ‘Basel Convention’.

This argument made by Mr. A. K. Joti clearly shows that his main concern is business and not the protection of environment of Gujarat State. Mr. A. K. Joti’s main worry is that Alang Ship-breaking Yard will lose business if the ship-breaking industries of Gujarat are not provided with the ‘level playing field’ of violating the “Basel Convention”. It also suggests that Mr. A. K. Joti is demanding that Indian players should also be allowed to violate the ‘Basel Convention’. Actually if Mr. A. K. Joti was concerned about the contamination of sea, he would have made a case that we as a country should pressurise other countries to implement the international conventions rather than pressing for its violation. His single focus was only on business and his main worry was that ship-breaking business of Alang should not be diverted at any cost to Bangladesh, China and the new ship-breaking yard coming up in Karachi.

For Mr. A. K. Joti, business and profit is more important than any cost to the environment. He is less concerned with long term damage to the environment than immediate short term monetary gains. This attitude has been noticed several times­whenever we raise the question of the violation of environment laws in Gujarat the standard response of Government of Gujarat is that other states also have a bad track record of violating environment laws. Instead of upholding these laws they always talk about the “Level Playing Field” for business. One can ‘understand’ such an attitude on the part of the industries whose main concern is profit but to find the same attitude in representatives of the State is not just shocking but illegal and intolerable. They are doing nothing but playing with the lives and livelihood of millions of Gujaratis for the sake of profits that reach the hand of just a few.

This self serving attitude was also visible when I raised the question in the seminar that “It is time now to review the concept of Common Effluent Treatment Plant and methods use for the treatment of effluents as the past records clearly reveal that sizable number of CETPs in countries are not able to meet the norms and in many cases inlet effluents parameter instead of going down go up.” This crucial question was cleverly sidelined and no discussion was allowed on such a critical issue.

Rohit Prajapati

Environment Activist participated in the Seminar organized by the Government of Gujarat.

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