Press Release-Condemn the Growing Tendencies of Re-arrests of Political Activists!


COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025

 

Dated: 19.04.2013

Condemn the Growing Tendencies of Re-arrests of Political Activists!

Condemn the Brutal Torture and Illegal Detention of Zakir Hussain!!

Release Zakir Hussain and Sabyasachi Goswami

Immediately and Unconditionally!

Punish the Officers Responsible for the Torture and

Illegal Confinement of Zakir Hussain!

 

Yet again the People of West Bengal are being witness to another instance of police brutality, trampling all constitutional norms, perpetration of third degree torture in police lock-up and the submission of false statements in the court of law. In its treatment of dissident voices, the present Mamata-led government is no different from the previous Buddhadev-led government which had ruled the state of West Bengal for more than 3 decades.

On 19 April 2013, Zakir Hussain and Sabyasachi Goswami were produced in Bankshall Court, Kolkata. The police force (STF) as usual showed them to have been arrested on 18 April from Behala in Kolkata for having Maoist links. Zakir had signs of police torture in STF lock-up all over his body and was almost unable to move. Actually, Zakir was arrested on 15th from Dharmatala in Kolkata—a place other than what was stated before the court. He was produced after four days of arrest—a clear violation of Supreme Court directives which makes it binding for the police to produce an arrested person within 24 hours of arrest. Zakir’s face was covered by a mask by the police in the lock-up to escape identification. Then he was beaten black and blue to extract confession—yet another violation of court directives and UN Covenant relating to Civil and Political Rights.  Sabyasachi Goswami was picked up on 18 April from Piyali, Canning in South 24-Parganas. He was subjected to mental and physical torture and was not allowed to sleep the intervening night between 18 and 19. They, as usual, were implicated in false cases like carrying arms and indulging in seditious acts, having Maoist connections.

 Both Zakir and Sabyasachi were arrested and incarcerated earlier for years together in another case and both were acquitted and released in 2011 after spending six years in prison. Both of them had been attending courts regularly since then in cases where they were released on bail. Last year, the STF raided the house of Sabyasachi and threatened his relatives. His mother who had been suffering from various ailments had a traumatic experience and she expired recently—a clear case of death by torture, brutal police forces driving a mother to her death by intimidation. This is how ‘democracy’ works in this ‘this largest democracy’ in the world.

Re-arrests of activists who have been acquitted of previous trumped up charges that too after prolonged periods of incarceration—in this case six years—has become a regular feature of the modus operandi of the police forces whether it is in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa Bihar etc. This while undoubtedly shows the growing impunity of the police and other special forces as well as investigating agencies is further becoming a standard operating procedure vis-à-vis criminalizing all forms of political dissent in the subcontinent.     

At CRPP, we unequivocally condemn the re-arrest of Zakir Hussain and Sabyasachi Goswami, the torture perpetrated on them in police custody by the notorious Special Task Force under the Mamata Banerjee-led government, demand exemplary punishment of those police personnel guilty of committing torture as well as the immediate and unconditional release of the political prisoners.

 

In Solidarity,

 

SAR Geelani                  

President                

 

Amit Bhattacharyya             

Secretary General                    

 

Sujato Bhadro              

Vice-president           

 

MN Ravunni

Vice President

 

Rona Wilson

Secretary, Public Relations

 

LIFE and death of Ghulam Yazdani


In this opaque netherland of terrorism-counter terrorism, it is not just loyalties that change sides, but entire sides overturn and mirror each other in grotesque ways. The good guys battling the evil ones is a fantasy manufactured by think-tanks and the ‘experts’ industry 

Manisha Sethi Delhi 

There are two ways to recreate the short life of Ghulam Yazdani, or Naveed, as he was called at home. The first relies on Intelligence Bureau (IB) dossiers, interrogation reports and news reports in the media based on the first two. In this narrative, Yazdani appears as an engineering student who turned to a life of terrorism and met his ‘well-deserved’ end at the hands of the police in 2006. A native of Nalgonda, Yazdani was said to have been among the 14 men from Andhra Pradesh (AP) who were recruited to be trained by the Lashkar in Pakistan after the Gujarat killings in 2002. The alleged mastermind of Hyderabad’s Dilsukhnagar Saibaba temple blast in 2002, the Haren Pandya murder in Ahmedabad in 2003, the suicide attack on the STF headquarters in Hyderabad in 2005, and the bombing of the Delhi-Patna Shramjeevi Express at Jaunpur in 2005, Yazdani quickly rose to head the Lashkar’s South India operations and was among the most wanted men on the AP police list. He had also allegedly hatched a plan to blow up a Ganesh temple near Secunderabad railway station.(1)

And then, there is a more complex plot.

Leave, for the moment, these secret documents and look at the court records. In late 1999, Manik Prabhu Medical Stores, Hyderabad, owned by an RSS worker, witnessed a shootout, leaving the owner’s brother, Devender, dead. An FIR was lodged in the Saidabad police station.(2) The New Year brought the Task Force to Yazdani’s house. He was taken away but not produced before a magistrate. Precisely a month after Yazdani had disappeared, he was formally arrested by the Saidabad police.

The investigation was transferred to the CID in the month of May. The new agency booked a completely different set of accused; among them was Syed Maqbool, recently in the limelight for apparently revealing that Dilsukhnagar was on the hit-list of terrorists.

In the period when Yazdani was in the custody of the Task Force, two more cases were slapped against him. In the first, which was also transferred to the CID, Yazdani was charged with conspiracy and waging war against the nation; in the second, lodged just a day before he was produced in court, the police showed recovery of detonators and pistols, and booked him under the Arms Act and Explosive Substances Act.(3)

Released on bail, Yazdani was ultimately discharged from the Devender murder case and acquitted in the other two cases.

It is not clear how Yazdani came to be called the architect of the Pandya murder, but in circles whose denizens go by the label of ‘security experts’, this has become an article of faith. Yazdani, in fact, is not named an accused in the Pandya murder case.

 We do not know what he did in those intervening years. How he lived, where he lived. We will never know perhaps 

In the years closely following the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, the cult of the Hinduhridaysamrat was being crafted. The numerous conspiracies directed against Narendra Modi were crucial in fashioning the principal Hindutva icon and cementing the loyalties of his followers.

This was the period when the police and investigating agencies in Gujarat claimed to have foiled a series of potential assassination attempts on Modi by liquidating ‘terrorists’.(4) Most of them are turning out to be fake encounters, with several of Modi’s top cops currently in jail, or under scrutiny. Registration of POTA cases also surged: all those booked under POTA were Muslims accused of either plotting to kill BJP leaders or conspiring to terrorize Hindus of Gujarat.(5)

The most gargantuan of these was the Gujarat ISI Conspiracy Case, more popularly known as the ‘DCB 6’ case, registered in April 2003, a month after Pandya was killed. It had a mammoth list of over 80 accused — a list which kept swelling well after the chargesheets had been filed, and POTA had been repealed.(6)

Yazdani was at home when the news of ‘Hyderabad boys’ being herded to Gujarat in the DCB 6 case started appearing. Similar conspiracy cases were filed in Andhra against all those implicated in the DCB 6 case. Two cases in Nalgonda district were registered against Yazdani where he was declared ‘absconding accused’.(7) One evening, Yazdani did not return home. About 15 days later, his father, old Ghulam Mustafa, received a call from him. Yazdani said he had fled to escape being ensnared in another case again. He refused to divulge his location for fear that he would be arrested.

“I never saw my brother after that,” Ghulam Rabbani tells me over the phone. “We only saw his dead body.”

We do not know what he did in those intervening years. How he lived, where he lived. We will never know perhaps.

Intelligence reports say he rose to prominence in the Lashkar ranks, planning, for example, the suicide attack on the Special Task Force (STF) headquarters in Hyderabad. Did he?

A man with backpack walked into the deserted STF headquarters — Dussehra eve had kept most STF personnel away from office — and blew himself up. His severed head and torso were recovered from outside the office. How he was identified as Mohtasin Bilal, a Bangladeshi national, carrying out the HUJI-B’s first such operation,(8) is itself interesting.From the charred debris of this human bomb, investigators recovered a suicide note(9), and a rubber slipper with a tell-all price tag that read ‘Taka 100’.(10) These clues, salvaged extraordinarily from the burnt body, disclosed to the investigators his identity!

“Two and half month’s later, on December 27, 2005,” we learn that “three HuJI-B militants involved in the Hyderabad attack were arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police.”(11)Less than two weeks later, Deputy National Security Adviser (NSA) Vijay Nambiar and National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) Additional Secretary SD Pradhan met US Deputy Chief of Mission in Delhi Robert Blake to “pledge to seek the NSA’s approval for greater intelligence sharing on terrorism threats within India”. The discussion fixated on terror threats in the South.

It is not clear how Yazdani was branded the architect of Haren Pandya’s murder, but in circles of ‘security experts’, this has become an article of faith. Yazdani, in fact, is not named an accused in the Pandya murder case

Blake, in his confidential cable dispatch that day, wrote: “Pradhan also noted that the terrorists themselves are different and more adaptable. For example, ‘Arshad,’ who was arrested on December 18 in connection with the October 12 suicide attack on the Hyderabad Police Special Task Force office, ‘was a police informer who benefited from a police security escort’.”(12)

Interrogation reports made their way into expert commentary and created ‘mounting evidence’ of Yazdani’s guilt:

“Previously in August 2005, police had arrested Mohammad Ibrahim, a resident of Hyderabad, who revealed details of his travels in Bangladesh in 2004, his meetings with Ghulam Yazdani, the person involved in the Pandya murder in Gujarat on March 23, 2003, and his encounters with several HuJI terrorists from India and Pakistan. Four months before his arrest, in April 2005, Ibrahim had been sent to Karachi on a Bangladeshi passport, from where he was taken to an ISI camp in Balochistan.”(13)

Ibrahim had been arrested on charges of conspiracy and sedition.(14) In November 2005, Yazdani’s brother, then a first-year student of MCA at Osmania University PG College at Saidabad, was arrested in the case and charged with financially supporting Ibrahim in his terrorist activities.

He learnt later that he had been declared ‘absconder’ even as he was attending classes at his college.
In 2009, the First Additional Metropolitan Magistrate acquitted both Ibrahim and Yazdani’s brother of all charges
, as the prosecution could bring forth no evidence to substantiate the charges.(15) Meanwhile, however, Ghulam Rabbani’s arrest — added to the legend of the ‘dreaded absconder’ Yazdani.(16)

Yazdani’s father’s impassioned plea to his son to return home in January 2006, at the office of the then ACP, Rajiv Trivedi, was widely reported in the press. The following month, Ghulam Mustafa received a call from Trivedi. He enquired about Yazdani’s physical features and identification marks, and very specifically, if he spoke haltingly. When Mustafa confirmed this, he was advised to forget about Yazdani and focus on the other sons. Trivedi’s words, says the family, appeared ominous to them even then.

Yazdani’s brother learnt later that he had been declared ‘absconder’ even as he was attending classes at his college

On the evening of March 7, three bombs exploded in Varanasi. The next morning, news agencies flashed the encounter killing of Yazdani and another man at the hands of the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. Lashkar terrorists had been gunned down in the early hours of the morning in Bawana, the last outpost of Delhi.(17)

This is how a Delhi Police press release announcing gallantry awards for the architect of the encounter — and the hero of the current Liyaqat Ali Shah arrest(18) — described the encounter:

“Information was received that 2 Let militants namely Ghulam Yezdani and Kajol would be arriving at Alipur Narela Road, Holambi Kalan T Point on 8.3.06. Police team headed by ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav along with Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma reached Alipur Narela Road and took positions at the strategic points. When terrorists reached the spot, ACP Sanjeev Yadav and Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma disclosed the identity of the police team and asked the militants to surrender. Both the militants were later on identified as Ghulam Yazdani @ Naved … Ahsan Ullah Hasan @ Kabab Mohd @ Shahbaz Mohd @ SajidMehmood @ Shumon @ Jamil @ Ahmed @ Kajol r/o Chorangi Mor, Jheel chuli, Faridpur, Bangladesh. The militants did not pay to the heed and started firing at the approaching police party. ACP Sanjeev Yadav without caring for their life, faced hail of bullets fired by terrorist Ahsan Ullah Hasan @ Kajol and gave chase to him. The militant was constantly and indiscriminately firing towards him. Unfazed and undeterred Sh. Sanjeev Kumar Yadav in self defence and in order to apprehend the militants returned fire and shot dead Kajol. Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma on the other hand was facing indiscriminate firing from other militant Yezdani who had taken position behind a wall in the field. Inspector Sharma crawled on the road without caring for bodily injuries and took position so that the militant could not take the benefit of boundary wall.  During exchange of fire the militant was shot dead… …Recognizing the gallant act, ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav has been conferred President Police Medal for Gallantry while (Late) Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma has been awarded 1st Bar to President’s Police Medal for Gallantry.”(19)

This sparse prose is the template for almost all encounter killings in Delhi. Only the names of the victims change. 

The family says that the body bore marks of torture, there were deep holes as though he had been drilled into and the head was misshapen. In the absence of a post-mortem report, and the reluctance of the Delhi Police to hand over Yazdani’s body to the family, despite a High Court order directing them to do so, is there any reason to disbelieve them? (20)

Let’s return briefly to Syed Maqbool. A small news item, which has not rivalled the popularity of his interrogation report leaked by Delhi Police, quotes ‘sources’ to say that Maqbool had become a police informant after his acquittal in the Devender murder case, and that his arrest was a consequence of rivalry between the Delhi Police and the Maharashtra ATS.(21) Recall also Pradhan’s frank admission to the US Deputy Chief of Mission that the accused in the STF attack was a police informer.

The family says that the body bore marks of torture, there were deep holes as though he had been drilled into and the head was misshappen

Did persistent implication in terror cases push Yazdani to seek refuge with groups he was accused of being associated with? Did the police force him to turn informer for them? Was Yazdani used cynically by agencies and then disposed of when it suited them? Was he already in the custody of one agency or another when the telephone call was made to his father?

These are not answers likely to emerge from the dossiers of the IB, reproduced endlessly till they acquire the sanctity of truth.

In this opaque netherland of terrorism-counter terrorism, it is not just loyalties that change sides but entire sides overturn and mirror each other in grotesque ways. The good guys battling the evil ones is a fantasy manufactured by think-tanks and the ‘experts’ industry.

In the confidential dispatch that Blake, sent home, he quoted Nambiar’s assurance to him that the author of Behind Bangalore: The Origins of the Long Jihad(22), “obviously has been briefed, most likely by the Intelligence Bureau (IB)”.

 

References:

(1)For typical stories, see ‘Yazdani belonged to Nalagonda’ by S Ramu, March 9, 2006, The Hindu; ‘The story of LeT’s south India chief’ by SyedAminJafri in Hyderabad, March 16, 2006, Rediffnews, http://www.rediff.co.in/news/2006/mar/16let.htm and Praveen Swami (2008): The Well-Tempered Jihad: the Politics and Practice of post-2002 Islamist terrorism in India, Contemporary South Asia, 16:3, 303-322.

(2)Crime number 195/1999, Saidabad PS.

(3) Crime No. 1/2000, Saidabad PS and Crime No. 33/2000, Saidabad PS.

(4)For an exhaustive list, see Amnesty Document, India: A Pattern of Unlawful Killings by the Gujarat Police, Urgent Need for Effective Investigations, AI Index: ASA 20/011/2007 (Public).

(5) See ‘Production of Terrorists Act’ by MukulSinha for a full list of POTA cases in Gujarat. http://nsm.org.in/2008/09/29/pota-production-of-terrorist-act/

(6) ISI conspiracy case keeps draconian law alive in Gujarat, TNN, November 24, 2004.http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2004-1124/ahmedabad/27156186_1_conspiracy-case-pandya-murder-hn-jhalaTOI.

(7) One Town Police Station and NarkepalliPoilce Station. These were also cases of sedition, including sections 120 B, 121, 121 A, 124 A, 153 A, 153 B etc.

(8)Swami, ‘Well-Tempered Jihad’, p. 309.

(9) ‘Human Bomb in Andhra’, The Telegraph, Friday, October 14, 2005.http://www.telegraphindia.com/1051014/asp/nation/story_5352734.asp

(10) ‘Terror’s southern gateway’ By NeenaGopal, Gulf News, February 9, 2006. http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/terror-s-southern-gateway-1.224519

(11) HUJI: Lengthening Shadow of Terror’ by Bibhu Prasad Routray, SAIR 31/7/06

Aug 1, 2006. http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/sair/Archives/5_3.htm

(12) ‘D/nsa Supports Intel Sharing On Terrorism; Says Terror In South Not New But Tactics And Targets Are’; Jan 9, 2006, Confidential Section 01 OF 06 New Delhi 000161. Accessed at: http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/01/06NEWDELHI161.html

(13) ‘HUJI: Lengthening Shadow of Terror’ by Bibhu Prasad Routray, SAIR 31/7/06

Aug 1, 2006.

(14) Crime no. 234/ 2005, Gopalapuram PS, Secunderabad.

(15) Sessions Case no. 192 of 2006, Judgement pronounced by ShriSreeram Murthy, First Additional Metropolitan Magistrate, November 12, 2007.  See also, ‘Court lets off 3 in conspiracy case’, TNN, November 13, 2007,http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2007-11-13/hyderabad/27976059_1_conspiracy-case-delhi-police-office-bomb-blast-case. Rabbani’s experience in the interrogation room left him a
changed man.  Upon receiving bail, he quit his MCA and enrolled in a law college, and
is today a practising lawyer.
Personal conversation.

(16) See for example, ‘Yazdani belonged to Nalagonda’, The Hindu, op. cit. Also, “Nalgonda supplies ‘terrorists’ in hordes” by Koride Mahesh, TNN, March 10, 2006. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2006-03-10/hyderabad/27824815_1_nalgonda-isi-activities-terrorist-activities.

(17) ‘Two LeT Ultras shot dead in Delhi Encounter’, March 8, 2006, PTI. Accessed at:http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=368758.

(18) “‘Delhi Cops’ ‘fidayeen’ Liaqat Shah is ex militant travelling with family”, Mir Ehsan, Vijaita Singh, March 26, 2013. http://m.indianexpress.com/news/delhi-cops-fidayeen-is-exmilitant-travel…

(19) Gallantry Awards to Delhi Police Personnel (Delhi Police Press Release; 25.01.2009) accessed at: delhipolice.nic.in/home/backup/25-01-2009.doc.

(20) ‘Encounter victim’s kin stage dharna, seek CBI probe’ by Omer Farooq, The Pioneer, 08/05/2007. Reproduced at:http://www.indiarightsonline.com/Sabrang/relipolcom16.nsf/5e7647d942f529c9e5256c3100376e2e/d9fa52a5d7ec4c03652572f00044105f?OpenDocument. Also personal conversation with family.

(21) See ‘Murder accused spilled the beans on Indian Mujahideenrecce’, TNN, 23
February 2013, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-02-23/hyderabad/3725665….

(22) Praveen Swami, 9 January 2006,http://www.hindu.com/2006/01/09/stories/2006010904441000.htm

 

From the print issue of Hardnews :

APRIL 2013

 

A Collaborator in Kashmir #Afzalguru #mustread


  • By: Amitava Kumar
  • PUBLISHED ON MARCH 23, 2010,

“A Collaborator in Kashmir” appears in PEN America 10: Fear Itself.

After flights from Delhi to Jammu and then on to Srinagar, I rode north in a taxi to Sopore, closer to the Pakistan border. I’d come to Kashmir to meet Tabassum Guru, whose husband is on death row in Delhi. But when I stood before her, Tabassum waved me away. She had no desire to meet with journalists.

For his role in the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, Mohammad Afzal Guru was sentenced to death by hanging. Another defendant was condemned to ten years in prison; two others were acquitted. Afzal Guru’s hanging, scheduled for October 20, 2006, was stayed after a mercy petition was filed with the President. In its judgment on his appeal, the Supreme Court had recognized that the evidence against Afzal was circumstantial and that the police had not followed legal procedures. Nevertheless, the judgment stated, the attack on the Indian Parliament had “shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.”

In response, a group of Kashmiri leaders passed a resolution that read, in part, “We the people of Kashmir ask why the collective conscience of the Indians is not shaken by the fact that a Kashmiri has been sentenced to death without a fair trial, without a chance to represent himself?”

Afzal’s family could not afford a lawyer, and the court-appointed lawyer never appeared. A second lawyer was appointed, but she wouldn’t take instructions from her client and agreed to the admission of documents without proof. Afzal then gave the court four names of senior advocates, but they refused to represent him. The court chose another lawyer; this one said he did not want to appear for Afzal, and Afzal expressed a lack of confidence in him. But the court insisted—which is why the Kashmiri leaders asked whether it was Afzal’s fault that Indian lawyers thought it “more patriotic” to allow a Kashmiri to die than to ensure that he received a fair trial.

Only the naïve assume that the conflict in Kashmir is between fanatical militants and valiant soldiers. The real picture is darker and more complicated. In a system where the conventional economic nodes no longer function, and all resource lines intersect at some level with the security-state, there is a sense of enormous, often inescapable, dependency on those who are clearly seen as oppressors. This has bred complex schizophrenia. The writer Arundhati Roy has written, “Kashmir is a valley awash with militants, renegades, security forces, double-crossers, informers, spooks, blackmailers, blackmailees, extortionists, spies, both Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies, human rights activists, NGOs, and unimaginable amounts of unaccounted-for money and weapons….It’s not easy to tell who is working for whom.”

Tabassum Guru illuminated this murky landscape in the night-flare of a statement she wrote for The Kashmir Times in 1994. “A Wife’s Appeal for Justice” is anguished and unafraid. It tells the story of how the police and the armed forces have turned Kashmiris into collaborators; although the statement is no more than fifteen hundred words long, it starkly demonstrates the costs of military occupation. She begins with her husband’s story.

In 1990, like thousands of other Kashmiri youths, Afzal Guru joined the movement for liberation. He had been studying to be a doctor, but instead went to Pakistan for training. He returned three months later, disillusioned. The Border Security Force gave him a certificate stating that he was a surrendered militant. His dream of becoming a doctor was now lost; instead, he started a small business dealing in medical supplies and surgical instruments. The following year, in 1997, he got married. Afzal was twenty-eight, and Tabassum eighteen.

After his surrender, Afzal was often harassed and asked to spy on other Kashmiris suspected of being militants. (Sartre, writing more than fifty years ago: “The purpose of torture is not only to make a person talk, but to make him betray others. The victim must turn himself by his screams and by his submission into a lower animal, in the eyes of all and in his own eyes.”) One night, members of a counterinsurgency unit, the Special Task Force, took Afzal away. He was tortured at an STF camp.

Dravinder Singh, one of the officers mentioned in Tabassum’s appeal, has been frank about the necessity of torture in his line of work. He has stated that torture is the only deterrent to terrorism. Singh spoke to a journalist about Afzal Guru in a recorded interview: “I did interrogate and torture him at my camp. And we never recorded his arrest in the books anywhere. His description of torture at my camp is true. That was the procedure those days and we did pour petrol in his arse and gave him electric shocks. But I could not break him. He did not reveal anything to me despite our hardest possible interrogation.” Azfal’s torturers demanded that he pay one lakh rupees, and Tabassum sold everything she had, including the little gold she had received when she married.

In the statement she wrote in 2004, Tabassum Guru sees her suffering in the light of what other Kashmiris have experienced: “You will think that Afzal must be involved in some militant activities that is why the security forces were torturing him to extract information. But you must understand the situation in Kashmir, every man, woman and child has some information on the movement even if they are not involved. By making people into informers they turn brother against brother, wife against husband and children against parents.”

After his release from the camp, where his interrogators had attached electrodes to his penis, Afzal needed medical treatment. Six months later, he moved to Delhi. He had decided that he would soon bring Tabassum and their little son, Ghalib, to a place he had rented. But while in Delhi, Afzal received a call from STF’s Dravinder Singh, his former torturer. Singh said that he needed Afzal to do a small job for him. He was to take a man named Mohammad from Kashmir to Delhi, which he did, and he also accompanied the same Mohammad to a shop where he bought a car. The car was used in the attack on the Parliament, and Mohammad was identified as one of the attackers.

As Afzal waited in Srinagar for a bus to Sopore, he was arrested and brought to the STF headquarters and then to Delhi. There he identified the slain terrorist Mohammad as someone whom he knew. This part of his statement was accepted by the court, but not the part where he said he was acting under the direction of the STF. Tabassum wrote, “In the High Court one human rights lawyer offered to represent Afzal and my husband accepted. But instead of defending Afzal the lawyer began by asking the court not to hang Afzal but to kill him by a lethal injection. My husband never expressed any desire to die. He has maintained that he has been entrapped by the STF.”

When I arrived in Sopore in my hired car, I noticed soldiers on the streets and on rooftops. There had been soldiers in Srinagar, too, but it was different here. We had left behind the painted roadside signs put up by the army and paramilitary units with messages like “Kashmir to Kanyakumari India is One.” In this town, there were only small, often half-finished houses and grimy stores. I got out of the car to ask about the hospital where Tabassum Guru worked.

She was at the cashier’s desk in the Inpatient Block, a tall woman in green shalwar-kameez, her head covered with a dupatta. She said she didn’t want to talk to me. I went outside to call friends in Srinagar, and learned that a week or two earlier two journalists from Delhi had done a sting. Afzal’s brothers had been collecting money for his defense but using the cash to buy property instead. The journalists had brought a spy camera and asked Tabassum if she felt that she had been betrayed by the Kashmiri leadership.

I decided to wait. I had come too far. Patients kept walking up to the entrance of the hospital, and a pony cart dropped off a sick woman. My driver, Shafi, having learned that I was visiting from New York, wanted to know where in America were the World Wrestling Federation’s matches held. We talked for a while, and then went inside the hospital again. A large crowd waited in the area marked Outpatient Block. Most people stood in the corridor, jostling against each other with a feverish energy that required good health. The few chairs were occupied and those who were sitting had adopted postures that suggested they’d been waiting for days. A sign on the wall said: UTILIZE YOUR WAITING TIME EFFECTIVELY—PLAN THINGS TO DO—MEDITATE—DO BREATHING EXERCISES—CHANT A HOLY NAME—READ BOOKS. I studied that sign for a while but felt agitated and decided to tell Tabassum that I was leaving. She nodded and half-smiled, then said goodbye.

From the road outside the hospital, lined with walnut and willow trees, I could see the snow-covered mountains. Shafi was full of ideas about how I might have persuaded Tabassum to talk to me. He said I should have told her that what I wrote would help her husband. But I had seen pictures of mobs in Delhi and elsewhere burning effigies of Mohammad Afzal; activists for the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party had exploded firecrackers on the streets outside the courthouse when he was first condemned to death; the print and television media had repeatedly described him as a terrorist mastermind. How could I have assured Tabassum that what I wrote would help?

When the journalists had interviewed her about Afzal’s brothers, Tabassum had said that she had never asked anyone for money to help in her husband’s legal case. She had said, “Mera zamir nahin kehta” (“My conscience doesn’t allow it”). I thought of that statement again when, in Delhi a week later, I watched Sanjay Kak’s filmJashn-e-Azadi (How We Celebrate Freedom), which documents the cost of violence in Kashmir. An indigent woman in a hamlet is asked whether she has received the promised financial compensation from the armed forces for the wrongful death in her family. The woman, her hands beating her breast, replies, “They have snatched my child from my bosom. I’ll eat pig’s meat but not accept compensation from the army.”

Soon after my return from Kashmir to upstate New York, where I work, I read Orhan Pamuk’s memoir, Istanbul. In his youth, Pamuk wanted to be a painter, and he still saw his city with the eyes of an artist. “To see the city in black and white,” Pamuk writes, “to see the haze that sits over it and breathe in the melancholy its inhabitants have embraced as their common fate, you need only to fly in from a rich western city and head straight to the crowded streets; if it’s winter, every man on the Galata bridge will be wearing the same pale, drab, shadowy clothes.”

Reading those words, I thought again of Srinagar. I had flown in from “a rich Western city,” and everything there looked drab to me, draped in a dirty military green. Every house that was new looked gaudy and vulgar or curiously incomplete. Many structures were shuttered, or burnt black, or simply falling down due to disrepair. Pamuk writes that those who live in Istanbul shun color because they are grieving for a city whose past aura has been tarnished by more than a hundred and fifty years of decline. I believe Pamuk was also describing plain poverty.

Jashn-e-Azadi had shown me another Srinagar. The film’s richness lay in the space it created, in the viewer’s mind, despite the violence, for thought and for color. The filmmaker had discovered again and again in the drabness of the melancholy the gleam of memory: the memory of blood on the ground, of the beauty of the hills and red poppies, of the keening voices of mothers and painted faces of village performers. Also the memory of the dead, of falling snow, of new graves everywhere, and the shining faces crying for freedom.

In a travelogue written more than four decades ago, V.S. Naipaul described how out of the “cramped yards, glimpsed through filth-runnelled alleyways, came bright colors in glorious patterns on rugs and carpets and soft shawls, patterns and colors derived from Persia, in Kashmir grown automatic, even in all their rightness and variety…” In Kak’s film, riotous color is glimpsed only when we see tourists donning traditional Kashmiri costumes for photographs, holding pots filled with plastic flowers.

When I think of the melancholy of Afzal and Tabassum Guru, it isn’t color that I seek, but a narrative to give sustenance to their lives. That is what was powerful about the story that Tabassum told: She gave coherence to what had been their experience and the ways it resonated with the experiences of other young Kashmiri couples.

As with Pamuk’s Istanbul, I found traces of Srinagar in a film about another distant place. Paradise Now, directed by Hany Abu-Assad, tells the story of two friends on the West Bank, Said and Khaled, who are recruited to carry out a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. The two young men are disguised as settlers going to a wedding. The would-be bombers get separated at the border, and the plan is called off, instigating some reflection and doubt on Khaled’s part. But Said is determined. We learn about his motivation when, in the company of Suha, a young woman who has just returned to Palestine, he goes into a watch shop, and Suha notices that videos are also available at the shop. These videos show the execution of collaborators, and Suha is shocked. She asks, “Do you think it’s normal that those videos are for sale?” Said replies, “What is normal around here?” Then he tells Suha, quietly, that his father was a collaborator. He was executed.

In Nablus, cars keep breaking down. Nothing works. The houses look either bombed or unfinished. In all of this, Nablus resembles Srinagar. Nablus is also like Srinagar in the ways in which its children are scarred by violence. I’m thinking of Ghalib, Afzal and Tabassum’s son, as well as thousands of other Kashmiris. It is horrifying but not difficult to imagine that many of them will find words to offer as testimony which are similar to those Said, sitting in an empty room, speaks to the camera just before he leaves on his suicide mission:

The crimes of occupation are endless. The worst crime of all is to exploit the people’s weaknesses and turn them into collaborators. By doing that, they not only kill the resistance, they also ruin their families, ruin their dignity and ruin an entire people. When my father was executed, I was ten years old. He was a good person. But he grew weak. For that, I hold the occupation responsible. They must understand that if they recruit collaborators they must pay the price for it. A life without dignity is worthless. Especially when it reminds you day after day of humiliation and weakness. And the world watches, cowardly and indifferent.

 

#India-Journalists report the police version of crime: Seema Azad


|October 21, 2012

Do journalists question enough, asks Seema Azad, ‘Dastak’ editor who was charged under the UAPA in this interview with SHOBHA S V [Courtesy: THE HOOT]

Seema Azad

37-year old Seema Azad’s calm demeanour belies the trauma that she’s had to undergo. Azad, editor of ‘Dastak’ magazine and organising secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) was arrested in February 2010 in Allahabad along with her husband Vishwa Vijayon charges of sedition and UAPA. Vishwavijay has been a student union leader and activist of Inquilabi Chhaatra Morcha.

The duo were arrested shortly after Seema wrote against Ganga Expressway Plan, a project that would have displaced many farmers and also highlighted arbitrary arrests of Muslim youth by the Special Task Force in Azamgarh.

After a prolonged fight that stretched for two and a half years, the Allahabad High Court finally granted bail to the duo on 5thAugust, 2012. They have appealed against the conviction. Azad and her husband were in Mumbai recently to speak in a public meeting demanding for release of social activist SudhirDhawale, who has been in jail on charges of sedition.

Seema spoke out strongly against sedition and laws that curbed dissent and deplored the failure of mainstream media to question police charges against fellow journalists and activists. She also said the publication of ‘Dastak’ was suspended when she and her husband were in jail, but it will come out again from January, 2013.

Can you tell us what happened when you were picked up in February 2010?

I was coming back from Delhi after attending the National Book fair and a group of plainclothesmen literally grabbed my husband and me and put us in a vehicle. I wouldn’t say we were arrested. We were kidnapped. There was no warrant issued at all.

Why do you think you were arrested?

During questioning, the police kept asking us about my articles in my magazine ‘Dastak’ including Operation Green Hunt, Ganga Expressway Plan that would have affected many farmers’ livelihood and about my article on Muslim youth in Azamgarh who were being harassed by the police. I was branded a Maoist because I wrote against the Government on these issues.

Can you describe your experience in the jail?

It was very depressing initially. For the first day or two, I couldn’t talk to anyone. I slowly started opening up. Resistance builds up only gradually. My experience in prison made me open my eyes to a reality that I would never have had an opportunity to experience otherwise. Prisoners also have rights, which are consistently violated all the time. I remember wanting to read a newspaper every day. It seems like a simple thing except that it was not. I had to fight for it with the superintendent, jailor, warden and may others. Finally, when the Chief Judicial Magistrate had come for a programme in the prison, I insisted very strongly that I need a newspaper. It was only after his intervention that they started giving newspapers to read. My family really helped me during this time. Whenever they would come to meet me, they would bring along with them, a big set of newspapers, magazines and some books for me to catch up with my reading. I also found that the jail library is in a very bad shape. I could hardly use it. In my prison, I was the first woman who was accused of being a Maoist.

Since I was an under-trial, physical work was not mandatory for me. However, they kept asking me for bribes. I resolutely refused to pay them anything. I received feelers that I should either pay up or I should work. I clearly told them that I wouldn’t mind working but refused to pay bribes. However, they did not bother me after that. I think it was because I was educated, that things were relatively better for me than someone who is non literate.

The jail officials would ask for money in order to facilitate meeting with my family members. I ended up spending lot of time with the children of the female prisoners. I also taught two women how to read.

What kind of support did you receive from the journalist community?

Mainstream media kept writing from the point of view of the police. When I was arrested, I did not get any support from mainstream media and journalists at all. I have been working as a journalist for the past eight years now. Apart from bringing out a bi-monthly magazine, I have also written for a mainstream publication, Sahara Samay for three years now. Yet, when I was arrested, there was not a single word from any mainstream media journalist. It was very disappointing.

What do you think ails journalism today?

Journalists only end up writing the police version of any crime. The accused person’s version is seldom published. Rarely is any attempt made to contact the accused person’s lawyer or family for their statement. This is a very sorry state of affairs. The level of ignorance amongst journalists about laws is appalling. When I finally got bail two months ago, we had arranged for a press conference about black laws. So many journalists did not know about Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) or Unlawful Activities Prevention Act(UAPA). I had to explain what AFSPA is all about. However, just as corporate media in India is spreading everywhere, I also see many instances of independent media. There are many small publications which are doing good work. I also see hope in online media. When I was arrested, I remember my brother pointing out to many websites, blogs writing about me and the black laws that exist in our country.

Now that you are out on bail, what how do you plan to continue your fight?
I am very happy going around different parts of the country talking about black laws like sedition and UAPA. I am also working on bringing out my magazine ‘Dastak’ once again. It was stopped when I was in jail. The next edition will come out in January 2013.

I express my solidarity with the people of Koodankulam. 7000 people have been slapped with sedition! Section 124 (sedition) has become a joke. The prevailing atmosphere is such that the state wants to intimidate everyone who wants to critique and challenge government policies of development. If the government thinks that they will frighten people in this way, I can tell you from my experience that they are sorely mistaken. I have become even more rebellious after my arrest and subsequent stay in jail. I am going to continue my fight for what I believe in.

 

Torture in judicial custody: Terror accused seeks permission for suicide



By Abu Zafar 10/3/12,http://www.newzfirst.com

NEW DELHI – Accusing jail authorities of committing gross violation of human rights, a terror accused jailed in a Uttar Pradesh prison has written a letter to his counsel saying that he has no option other than committing suicide.

A Unani Doctor Tarique Qasmi, who has been jailed in Lucknow prison for his alleged involvement in court blasts at Lucknow and Faizabad, in a letter written to his counsel expounded that how terror accused are being subjected to torture and humiliations.

“There are much of humiliations, cruelty and biasness against us; and we don’t find any other option than committing suicide.” the letter reads.

“The inmates are suffering from various diseases like sightlessness, due to prolonged lock-up inside the cell.” he continues.

“Not a single magistrate or senior officer has visited us since last six months. They (jail officials) have fear that we would complain against them. Even our application not being transferred to senior officials.” he said.

“Many of us are extremely frustrated by officials’ non- adherence to jail manuals. Some of us are even asking permission to commit suicide as we are deprived of basic human rights.” Qasmi writes.

Petition filed:

Qasmi’s lawyer Mohamad Shoeb told Newzfirst that he has approached the political leadership and Muslim clerics over the issue; a petition also has been filed in the District Court of Lucknow on 28 September in this regard.

Abdul Hameed Nomani, secretary, Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind said that his organization is looking for more details on the issue. However he discouraged the idea of committing suicide as it goes against basic tenets of Islam.

“They can protest through democratic means like hunger strike; Islam doesn’t allow suicide at any cost.” Nomani told Newzfirst.

Controversial arrests:

Though the Special Task Force (STF) of Uttar Pradesh arrested Tarique Qasmi on 12 December 2007 from Azamgarh, his arrest was shown after 10 days from the Barabanki Railway Station.

Later the Police had claimed that it arrested the suspects -Tarique Qasmi and Khalid Mujahid – for their alleged involvement in the blasts at Faizabad and Lucknow courts on 23 November 2007 wherein several people had lost the lives. Police also alleged them of being members of a terror organization HUJI.

Inquiry Commission:

Following the massive protests by the people of Uttar Pradesh against the duo, the then Mayawati government had formed a Commission to probe the arrests.

Though the Commission has submitted its report to the Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on 3 September 2012, the Government has not yet made the findings public.

Allahabad HC grants bail to Seema Azad, Vishvijay convicted for #sedition #goodnews


, TNN | Aug 6, 2012, 01.45PM IST

LUCKNOW: The Allahabad High Court has granted bail to journalist and civil right activistSeema Azad and her husband Vishvijay. The couple were convicted by a lower court on June 8, 2012, on charges of sedition. They were accused of having links with banned Maoist outfit and were held guilty for ‘waging war against the nation’.

The bail was granted by a division bench comprising Justice Dharnidhar Jha and Justice Akhok Pal Singh. Counsel for the couple Ravi Kiran Jain argued before the court that there was no concrete evidence with the police which can prove that the couple were engaged in naxal activity. He also said that having Naxal literature to study for the purpose of journalist does not amount to any connection with Naxals. Jain also said that Azad and her husband had exposed illegal mining being carried out in Allahabad and adjoining areas by the mafia in connivance with the government officers and police. The couple was implicated in a false case for writing about illegal mining.

Seema Azad’s case is similar to that of Dr Vinayak Sen, who was also implicated by the Chhatisgarh police, for alleged naxal connections. The Uttar Pradesh (UP) chapters of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) have welcomed the court’s decision.

“We had full confidence in the judician system,” said Vandana Mishra, secretary PUCL, UP. At the time of arrest Seema was also state secretary of the PUCL and publishing a magazine ‘Dastak’ in which she had written several articles on illegal mining. The couple were also involved in sensitising people on violation of their rights and raised human rights issues.

The Special Task Force (STF) of UP had arrested the couple in February 2010 and had claimed to have recover Maoist literature and large amount of cash from their possession. They were charged with having association with a banned organization, the Communist Party of India(Maoist). After arrest, the STF handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of UP making it a case involving ‘terrorist activity’. In its charge sheet submitted in the court, the ATS claimed that the couple were involved in inciting people through CD, laptops and books. The court held the couple guilty and awarded them life term.

After detaining the couple, the police had then said that two activists were arrested at the Allahabad railway station. However, in the FIR lodged later at the Khuldabad police station, police showed that the couple were arrested by the STF from Khuldabad in Allahabad.

The police had then also claimed that it found incriminating material which included a detailed programme of Krantikari Jan Committee, pamphlets carrying message of CPI (Maoist), a pamphlet related to the arrest of Kobad Gandhi, a pamphlet on arrest of Naxal and Maoist functionaries and members in BiharJharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

PUCL on conviction of Seema Azad and her husband by an Allahabad Court


PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES

Founder: Jayaprakash Narayan

270-A Patparganj, Opposite Anandlok Apartments, Mayur Vihar– Phase I, Delhi 110091


12th  June, 2012
Press Release

          On the Conviction of Seema Azad and her husband by an Allahabad Court

The news of the sentencing of Seema Azad, along with her husband Vishwavijay Kamal, charged under Sections 121, 121A and 120B of IPC and also under the relevant provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for possessing objectionable literature, to life imprisonment by a court at Allahabad on 8 June 2012 has come as a shock to the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) and thousands of human rights workers all over the country.

Seema Azad, a grassroots journalist and a well known civil liberties activist belonging to the UP State Branch of the PUCL, was returning after attending a book fair in New Delhi along with her husband when they were arrested by the Special Task Force on February 6, 2010 from the Allahabad station, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for their alleged links with Maoist organizations. The only evidence provided was a book carried by Seema Azad containing information on Maoist politics. From then on, they have been detained in custody, and have been refused bail.

It is clear to human rights activists that Seema Azad and her husband were charged under the draconian laws for political reasons. She has relentlessly raised her voice against local scams and injustices, denouncing the working condition of mining workers, exposing the practices of the local mafia and its nexus with the police force. She also edited a bi-monthly magazine – Dastak – and used it as a platform to publicize all the wrongs around her.

“On a number of occasions, she (Seema Azad) had taken up the cudgels on behalf of poor labourers and exposed the nexus between the police and the illegal contractors, who used to deploy labourers for unauthorised mining of stone or sand in various regions of Uttar Pradesh, particularly the Sonbhadra district,” PUCL UP Vice-President Ram Kumar said in a statement.

It has become a trend for the governments to book those, who criticize their anti-people policies and expose the misdeeds of politicians-police-bureaucrats and mafia nexus or give voice to the exploited, suffering, disinherited masses, under the most stringent laws, brand them as anti-national or Maoists and keep their voices muzzled by incarcerating them. What is even more miserable is that the judiciary, which is supposed to be the protector of the freedom and liberties of the people, also fails to do so. And the worst is that those who book innocent people on false and concocted charges always go unpunished even when higher courts reverse the judgment and set them free, of course, when they have already spent several years of their prime life in prisons. Seema Azad and her husband’s case has again brought these questions into focus and for all freedom loving people and human rights workers to take up the cause.

The PUCL plans to hold a convention shortly and also carry out a campaign for the release and justice of Seema Azad with other organisations.

Mahi Pal Singh

National Secretary, PUCL

PUCL to appeal against Seema Azad’s conviction


LUCKNOW, June 12, 2012, the Hindu

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) will explore legal options in the wake of the life term awarded to its Uttar Pradesh unit organising secretary Seema Azad by an Allahabad court.
Ms. Azad, a post graduate in psychology from Allahabad University, and her husband Vishwavijay Kamal were arrested in Allahabad on February 6, 2010 on charges of being members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and involved in unlawful activities. They were convicted and awarded life term on June 8 after about two-and-a-half years in jail.
General secretary of the PUCL Vandana Misra said that an appeal would be made in a higher court. “We have the highest regard for the judiciary and are confident that justice will be delivered,” she said.
Ms. Azad and Vishwavijay were supposedly arrested at the Allahabad railway station on February 6, 2010 when they returned after attending a book fair in New Delhi. This was the version given to reporters by senior police officers in Lucknow two days after the arrests were made. (According to the police, Ms. Azad was among the 11 alleged Maoists arrested from Gorakhpur, Kanpur and Allahabad).
However, the First Information Report related to Seema Azad and her husband’s arrest (a copy of which is with The-Hindu) lodged at the Khuldabad police station states that they were arrested by the Allahabad field unit of the Special Task Force from Khuldabad in Lukerganj area of Allahabad at 9.30 pm on February 6, 2010.
The police claimed to have found the following material from their cloth bags: Detailed programme of Krantikari Jan Committee from 1 to 26 (month not mentioned); a pamphlet carrying the message of CPI (Maoist); a ‘PLGA‘ pamphlet related to the arrest of Kobad Gandhi; agenda of ninth NPB meeting on 30 and 31 January; pamphlet calling for the fifth anniversary of the party; pamphlet pertaining to the arrest of central committee members and five activists of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh; pamphlet related to the oath on PLGA day; and about Rs. 50,000 in cash.
While the PUCL alleged that Seema Azad was framed by the police for raising her voice against the alleged fake encounters and atrocities on mining workers, the police claimed that they were planning to expand base in North Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The couple were sentenced to life imprisonment and fined Rs. 20,000 for waging a war against the State and criminal conspiracy. They were charged under Sections 121, 121A and 120B of IPC. They were also charged under the relevant provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for possessing objectionable literature.

Seema Azad Verdict: Another Attempt to Silence the Critical Democratic Voice


PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

Press Statement

10th June 2012

Seema Azad Verdict: Another Attempt to Silence the Critical Democratic Voice

PUDR strongly condemns the verdict of a lower Court in Allahabad awarding life sentence to Civil Rights activist Seema Azad and her spouse Vishvvijay on charges of sedition, waging war and under several provisions of the draconian law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Additional District Judge Sunil Kumar Singh, while pronouncing the order, also slapped a fine of approximately Rs 70,000 on the couple.  The couple were arrested from Lukerganj locality in Allahabad on February 6, 2010 by the Special Task Force (STF) of Uttar Pradesh, which claimed that Maoist literature was recovered from their possession and that they were associated with a banned organization, the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Their arrests were made by the Special Task Force, but the case was later handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Squad of UP making it a case involving terrorist activity.

Seema Azad’s incarceration and sentence is a clear case of silencing dissident voices. Her arrest followed Seema’s active chronicle of people’s movement. She was actively associated with women’s liberation front till 2001 and with the revolutionary students’ movement till 2004.  Seema is also an active member of PUCL, Uttar Pradesh. Furthering her concern towards violation of people’s rights she brought out a new magazine, Dastak, which carried out a thorough investigation of the Ganga Expressway plan which threatened to displace thousands of farmers. She published the findings of her survey in form of a booklet and distributed copies. Dastak also published a long report on the arbitrary arrests and torture of Muslim youth in Azamgarh. Seema’s arrest came in the wake of the growing efforts to sensitize people of violation of their rights and other concerns relating to human rights. Seema and Vishvvijay’s arrests were a move to crush such efforts on the pretext of containing efforts of incitement against the government. Following the detention, bail petitions were presented in court many a times. Each time the petition was rejected for Seema’s ‘dangerousness’ to the status quo constructing a civil rights activist into a naxal. Seema’s conviction is one of the many cases where proscription under UAPA shows its true colours. By banning an organisation as “terrorist” and thereby banning even its literature, it becomes possible for authorities to target anyone by accusing that person of having links with a banned organisation. Thus legitimate activities become unlawful and therefore offensive.

PUDR staunchly denounces the judgement as being representative of the efforts of the government to squash critical voices and extends support to the cause taken up by activists such as Seema Azad.

Paramjeet Singh

Preeti Chauhan

(Secretaries)

Seema Azad Yearns For Freedom


Human rights activist Seema Azad and her husband are in jail on dubious charges. On 8th February 2010, Seema Azad and her husband were arrested by the Allahabad Special Task Force, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for their alleged links with Maoist organizations. The only evidence provided was a book carried by Seema Azad containing information on Maoist politics. From then, they have been detained in custody, and have been refused bail.

Seema Azad is a grassroots journalist and civil liberty activist. She has relentlessly raised her voice against local scams and injustices, denouncing the working condition of mining workers, exposing the practices of the local mafia and its nexus with the police force. She created a bi-monthly magazine — Dastak — as a platform to publicize all the wrongs around her. It is clear to human rights activists that Seema Azad and her husband have been jailed for political reasons. Campaigns have been launched to support her and to put an end to her unfair detention.

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), of which she is an active member, has petitioned the National Human Rights Commission to plead for her release and to expose the iniquity of her treatment. Till date, Seema Azad has seen no improvement in her situation. Ajeet Bahadur hopes that his video will mobilize people all over the country to support Seema Azad, and other activists, jailed because of their fight for political and social justice.

Uttar Pradesh: Court Says No Proof to Detain Seema Azad

The Uttar Pradesh Police received a setback on Saturday when they failed to submit any evidence in court against Seema Azad, the state secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberty (PUCL) and her husband Vishwavijay Azad.

The Special Task Force had arrested Seema and Vishwavijay on February 8 in Allahabad. They were booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their alleged links with a banned Maoist organisation.

Judicial Magistrate Vikas Kumar rejected the application of the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) seeking a week’s remand for Seema and Vishwavijay. Dismissing the application, the judged observed that the police have not come up with any concrete evidence against them. “There was no need to accept the request for police remand of the accused and the police did not mention any concrete ground for the remand,” the court observed.

Lalji Kaithwas, Seema’s advocate, argued that the ATS did not even record the statement of the accused before seeking their remand. “The police cannot seek remand without recording the statement of the accused. Remand is taken only after the police are convinced during the recording of statement that they can get evidence or make recovery in support of their claim against the accused,” he added.

Citing a Supreme Court judgment, the judge observed: “How could the ATS know that they could get some more information without recording the statement of the accused? The permission for police remand for mere interrogation of the accused cannot be granted as the police can interrogate the accused even in jail. When there is no claim of any recovery by the police, there is no need for granting police remand.”

On Monday, a local court will hear Seema and her husband’s bail application. On February 8, the STF had arrested three alleged Naxalites from Allahabad and Gorakhpur. While Seema and Vishwavijay were arrested from Allahabad, Asha alias Heerman Munda was arrested from Gorkhapur.

(Indian Express, 22nd February, 201o)

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