“I Was Made A Scapegoat Because Of My Background “Syed Kazmi


Outlook Magazine | Dec 03, 2012

 

Sanjay Rawat
interview
‘I Was Made A Scapegoat Because Of My Background’
The journalist accused of being part of an Iranian plot to attack Israeli diplomats in India speaks up

The arrest of 
Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi on March 6 this year had left many stunned. A well-established journalist, accredited with the government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB), and someone who regularly interacted with top politicians, he suddenly came to be described as a player in an Iranian plot to attack Israeli diplomats in India. Convinced he was being framed because of his harsh and vocal views on American and Israeli policy, many had rallied around Kazmi to campaign for his release. He was finally granted bail by the Supreme Court on October 19 and stepped out of Tihar after spending seven months in jail. His first interview since his release, questions related directly to the case were answered by his lawyer (see accompanying story), but Kazmi himself told Debarshi Dasgupta that he was threatened in order to make him confess. He also spoke of his social isolation since his release and claims he was targeted for his critical views on India’s foreign policy. Excerpts:

How were you treated in jail?

Torture is not just physical. For me, it was more mental trauma, almost unbearable levels. There was always the uncertainty every morning of when I would be freed, if at all. I used to see the government’s version and could not believe it was actually me they were discussing. There were threats—from top officers—of having my children kidnapped, of having explosives recovered from my home or car. They told me I’d languish in jail if I didn’t tell them all, that my beard would grow so long in custody that even my children would not recognise me. On the whole, I have lost the social status that I once enjoyed. I was made a scapegoat just for my professional background.

Do you think you were picked up for your harsh political views on India’s close links with US/Israel and their role in global affairs?

You can judge it yourself from my television appearances. In this changing scenario, people do not like the truth. Probably, this was one of the reasons….

“There were threats—from top officers—of having my children kidnapped, of having explosives recovered from my home or car.”

Would you still argue that India needs to correct its present course of foreign policy?We need to have a foreign policy based on national interests, and not for short-term interests but long-term ones. A gas pipeline from Iran, Pakistan to India is not feasible but a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan to India is feasible. Does it make sense?

What would your comments be on the current crisis in West Asia and India’s role in the region?

The MEA issued a balanced statement on the ongoing crisis between Israel and Palestine but we need to make tactical diplomatic moves, independent of western perceptions and objectives, if we have to emerge as an effective force in the region. We should, for instance, take into confidence the elected government of Hamas in Gaza and have diplomatic contacts with them and not just the Al Fatah faction. Powers on the ground need to be engaged more. For instance, Hezbollah, described as a terrorist entity by westerners, is a crucial player in Lebanon. You cannot form a government there without their support. We made mistakes in Iraq too. Post-Saddam, we could have furthered our business interests more had we nurtured close contacts with the guiding leaders in Najaf. And in Egypt, with the Muslim Brotherhood in power, the Americans and Israelis have done much more than India to establish close links with the new government. We are left behind since we are overcautious. I would argue we are an emerged power in this region, not an emerging one. America, on the other hand, is a weakening force in this region and we must further our independent role.

“We need to make tactical diplomatic moves, free of western perceptions and objectives, if we’re to be effective in West Asia.”

You are viewed as a very harsh critic of Israel…What do you mean by a critic? If you read just 60 years of Israel’s history, you’ll become a harsh critic of the country…just read it and analyse it. People do not want to question the way the state of Israel was created and ignore the way it’s being expanded illegally into Palestine every day. How much time do you need to undserstand the history and geography?

Has it been difficult to voice political opinions that match yours?

Prominent journalists who worked earlier for several years are off the screen for many years now for this reason. You name important journalists who worked around a decade earlier and are alive. All of them are sitting in their apartments when they should be editors. A prominent journalist who used to author leads for India Today is now leading a small-time Urdu paper. This is the changing situation of this country. This is part of a conspiracy.

Will you go back to doing what you did before your arrest?

I will resume writing my weekly column in Urdu on international affairs soon. My readers probably are waiting for my experiences in jail too. Besides, there is already the offer to go back to working for Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s Tehran Radio, to which I was contributing political reports every day for its Hindi service. I would also appear frequently on their Urdu channel, Seher TV.

“Just read 60 years of Israeli history and you’ll turn a harsh critic. People don’t want to question how the Israeli state was created.”

Do you feel socially isolated post-bail?While in jail, I wondered if people would come to see me or suspect me after my release. I decided not to initiate any meetings or make phone calls once out. Let me see who contacts me, I decided. This is still the position. A huge number of people came to receive me at Tihar Jail but there is one set who feel meeting me is something wrong. As far as my professional career is concerned, I do not know if I can go back to work with Doordarshan, maybe when I’m discharged.

Have you lost your PIB accreditation?

I just checked the website yesterday. It says my card is not ready. I had the card last year. This year’s was delayed for procedural reasons. Perhaps it was ready when I was arrested, maybe I could not collect it. But yesterday when I checked, it said the request is still under process. I feel they have suspended it and held it for the next season.

You got a lot of support from the public because you are a journalist. But there are many others behind bars, waiting for a free and fair trial. Are you going to undertake any work to help them?

I have full sympathy with those who are innocent and behind bars. I plan to work with anyone who fights for them in whatever way. I will work for justice.

 

Press Note: Supreme Court order granting bail to Syed Kazmi


 

The Kazmi Solidarity Committee welcomes the Supreme Court order granting bail to Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi after seven months in custody on charges of involvement in the bomb attack on an Israeli diplomatic vehicle.

The committee deplores the obstructive attitude of the prosecution and the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, which have been perversely attempting to keep Mr. Kazmi in prison despite their inability to file a chargesheet within the extended time granted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Not only did the prosecution seek an extension of 90 days after the mandated period of judicial custody was over, it also used its inefficiency as an alibi, pleading that it needed more time to send out letters rogatory seeking international judicial assistance. While Mr. Kazmi was in custody, the Special Cell left no stone unturned in orchestrating a media trial to establish his guilt, planting malicious stories of his “confession” (while disavowing responsibility for these in court hearings).
The committee would like to underline once again, that despite this campaign by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, independent media reports have suggested that the evidence against Mr Kazmi is feeble and the case against him, unlikely to stand any form of scrutiny.
Sukumar Muralidharan, Saeed Naqvi, Seema Mustafa, John Cherian, Jawed Naqvi,Sanjay Kapoor, Iftikhar Geelani, Ajit Sahi, Iqbal Ahmad (journalists)
Shabnam Hashmi, Mahtab Alam, Manisha Sethi, Mansi Sharma and many other activists and journalists for Syed Kazmi Solidarity Committee

Citizens’ Statement on the arrest of Journalist Kazmi


March 10th, 2012, New Delhi

The undersigned condemn the arrest of senior journalist Syed Mohammad Kazmi by the Delhi Police Special Cell in connection with the attack on Israeli diplomat last month. Mr. Kazmi’s arrest is reminiscent of the arrest and false allegations against another veteran journalist, Iftikhar Gilani, several years ago. We fear that Mr. Kazmi may be made a scapegoat in order to please an international lobby. It is no secret that Israel held Iran culpable within minutes of the attack, and there has been immense pressure on India to sever its ties with Iran—both from Israel and US (to the extent that US displayed its obvious unhappiness to foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai over the fact that India was not heeding the unilateral sanctions imposed by the US on Iran.)

Israel also pressured India to support a resolution condemning “Iranian terrorism” in the UN Security Council. While the Indian government has so far held out against the pressure, even refusing to implicate Iran in the attack, a recent report in Jerusalem Post stated that, “Israel provided the Indian authorities with information on two suspects in the attack connected with Iran” (Article.aspx?id=257830). Has Mr. Kazmi been picked up upon tips provided by Israeli agencies? How credible can these inputs be, given Israel’s clear intent to condemn and implicate Iran as the source of the attack? We are anxious that the Persian-knowing Mr. Kazmi, a journalist with the Iranian News agency, IRNA, who would obviously be in regular touch with his sources and employers in Iran and the Iranian embassy, is being targeted precisely because of these reasons.

Mr. Kazmi is well respected and known to the journalist fraternity for his professional integrity.

We demand that he be immediately released on bail and the due process of law followed.Aamir Idrisi, President, Association of Muslim Professionals
Abdul Daiyan, social activist, Bihar
Abu Zafar Adil Azmi, Special Correspondent, Afkar-e-Milli
Afroz Alam Sahil, Editor, Beyondheadlines
Ajit Sahi, Senior Journalist, Delhi
Anuradha Bhasin, Editor, Kashmir Times
Arundhati Roy, Writer and Activist
Asad Zaidi
Azam Khan, social activist, Hyderabad
Bhavna Sharma, social activists, Anhad
Bobby Kunhu
Dilip Khan, Journalist
Dr Anand Pradhan
Dr. Hilal Ahmed, Associate Fellow, CSDS
Dr. Saroj Giri, University of Delhi
Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Editor, the Milli Gazette
Farah Naqvi, Writer & Activist, Delhi
Fr Cedric Prakash, Human Rights Activist
Gauhar Iqbal, Palestine Foundation
Hanif Lakdawala, social activist, Gujarat
Harsh Kapoor, SACW.net
Hilal Ahmed
Imran Khan, social activist, Anhad
Jawed Naqvi, Senior Journalist
John Dayal, Member, National Integration Council

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human rights Activist, Mumbai
Khadeeja Arif, BBC News
Khurshid Anwar
KN Panikkar, Historian
Kundan Pandey, Journalist
Madhuresh Kumar
Mahesh Bhatt, Filmmaker
Mahtab Alam, Civil Rights Activist and Freelance Journalist
Manisha Sethi, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association
Mansi Sharma, Social Activist
Md. Ali, Twocircles.Net
Mukul Dube
Mukul Kesavan, writer and historian
Mumtaz Alam Falahi, Editor, Twocircles.Net
Nandita Das, film actress
Navaid Hamid, Member, National Integration Council
Neshat Quaiser, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
Panini Anand, Editor, Pratirodh
Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, JNU
Prof. Anwar Alam, Center for West Asian Studies, Jamia
Prof. Apoorvanand, Delhi University
Prof. Jairus Banaji, Historian
Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, JNU
Prof. Nirmalangshu Mukherjee, University of Delhi
Prof. Shohini Ghosh, MCRC, Jamia
Ram Puniyani, social activist, writer
Sadiq Naqvi, Journalist
Sanjay Kak, Filmmaker
Sanjay Sharma, social activist, Anhad
Satya Sivaraman, journalist
Seema Mustafa, Senior Journalist
Shabnam Hashmi, Social Activist, ANHAD
Shafi Mahajir ,advocate Hyderabad
Sharmila Tagore, Actor
Shivam Vij
Sohail Hashmi, filmmaker, writer
Soheb Niazi
Sucheta Dey, President, JNU Student Union
Sukumar Muralidharan, journalist
Tanveer Hussain, activist, Kashmir
Vijayan MJ
Vivan Sundaram, artist
Waliullah Laskar, Activist
Zaheeruddin Ali Khan, editor, SiasatZoobi Amir, Film Maker Delhi

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