After a meeting at the Jamaat e Islami Hind in New Delhi, held in the wake of the Jamia Nagar encounter in which two youth were shot dead and a police inspector was killed, they formed a five-member panel to counter the campaign against the community.
Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, head of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, who is a member of this five-member committee, tells Special Correspondent Vicky Nanjappa that anger among the Muslim, especially among the youth, is building up over the continuing demonisation of the community.
All the organisations with you seem to completely disagree with the Delhi police on the Jamia Nagar encounter.
There are many question marks about this "encounter". Three fact-finding reports to date have raised questions about the incident and the police narrative. All pointers indicate that it was a fake encounter. The police team did not go there to kill but to investigate and arrest. They bungled the operation; their officer was killed by his own men. As a result, in a fit of rage they killed two so-called "terrorists" and injured a third. To justify the killing, they invented this whole story making them "masterminds" and extending the conspiracy to their home district Azamgarh where dozens of youths have been picked up both from Azamgarh and Delhi on mere suspicion.
Outlandish stories are being churned out by the police and lapped up by a stenographic media like the claim that the slain youths had received crores of rupees in their accounts while bank managers in Azamgarh said on camera that these youths had paltry sums in their accounts; or the fantastic claim that these same youths had planted bombs in Varanasi, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad etc. This logically means that since all the masterminds have been now killed or arrested, India from now on will not witness a single terrorist attack.
Why do you think that those youth in particular were targeted?
According to the Mumbai police, they had passed on some information about these youths to the Gujarat police and asked them to observe them. The Gujarat police, highly discredited as it is for its communal bias and criminal role in the riots, jumped the gun and informed the Delhi police that these people were planning to carry out explosions. These youths must be one of many under observation in the country. It was their bad luck that a police officer was killed while trying to arrest them and they paid the price for this.
Subsequently, the entire Muslim community is made to pay the price of this khaki crime which is not new to Delhi. We have already experienced fake encounters at Ansal Plaza and Connaught Place in the past.
If the encounter was fake then what do you have to say about the death of M C Sharma?
It is pretty clear that Sharma was killed by his own men at very close range from behind. It was the mistake of the police to rush 2500 policemen into the narrow lanes of Batla House. They were deployed on various floors and rooftops of the same building as well as on the adjoining buildings. Such a mishap was bound to happen in such a situation.
Invariably, after every terror attack, Muslim youth are being accused of involvement. What does the community have to say about this?
It is true the finger is pointed at Muslims after each act of terror, but without proof in every single case. The same security and intelligence agencies which did not know anything about an impending attack a minute before it took place, suddenly and within minutes know every detail of the persons, organisations, funders etc behind the incident. They want to cover up their abject failure, and as the Muslims are the weakest section at this moment, the blame is safely pinned on them.
There are umpteen terrorist organisations in various parts of our country working for a variety of secessionist and political aims. It is possible that there may be a few Muslims too who are taking to terrorism, but till today we do not have tangible proof of this. There is no proof that the Students Islamic Movement of India, despite its extremist views, ever had any armed wing or imparted any armed training to its members. All we have is tall claims by various people and agencies which were trashed by their own hand-picked judge of the tribunal formed by the Union home ministry. Moreover, close to 50 SIMI activists have been acquitted to date by courts across the country.
It is natural that anger is building up among our youth for two reasons: justice is not done in cases of blatant pogroms, riots and demolition of Babri mosque, while Muslim youths are routinely killed in encounters or arrested on baseless charges which are not proved in a court of law.
Do you suspect the role of right-wing Hindu outfits in some of the blasts that have occurred in the country?
We do not only suspect. Rather, we firmly believe that many acts of terrorism blamed on Muslims are in fact the handiwork of Hindutva terrorist outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Shri Ram Sena, Hindu Munnani, Hindu Jagran Manch, Yuva Hindu Vahini, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Durga Vahini etc. Members of these outfits have been caught red-handed in many places like Nanded, Tenkasi, Thane and more recently at Kanpur but these terrorist acts/explosions are hushed up. So much so that the government has conceded that the Hindu outfits are not under its scanner.
How do you think the community should handle such a situation?
There is a high sense of both anger and insecurity in the community in all parts of India. Our message is always that we should not take the law in our hands and that we must use all the legal and constitutional channels to get justice, but I am afraid that this continued victimisation and denial of justice will push many of our youths to the path they are unjustly blamed of today. Perhaps this is the gameplan of the Hindutva organisations in the first place.
What about the ban on SIMI for terrorist activities?
The Muslim community believes that though these people were extremists, they were not terrorists and did not actually commit terrorist crimes, though it an unproven possibility that a few former members of SIMI may have indulged in acts of terrorism, but for this the whole organisation or the whole Muslim community cannot be blamed just as for crimes of the BJP and Congress, all members of the party cannot be blamed.
What you think about the government's handling of the SIMI issue?
The Bharatiya Janata Party government which clamped the first ban on SIMI in September 2001 did so because it found SIMI to be the weakest point in the chain of a weak community. At the time SIMI was a marginalised group which had little sympathy or following in the community. Now it has sympathy in the community because it is perceived as a victim of State terrorism.
The United Progressive Alliance government had a good opportunity to get rid of this problem by accepting the Geeta Mittal tribunal's verdict which threw out the home ministry case as it was based not on facts and evidence but on mere claims. But the government chose to appeal to the Supreme Court which acted fast to continue the ban. The same Supreme Court is sitting on three appeals by SIMI since 2002 against judgments by three earlier tribunals and did not find a few minutes to look into them.
With SIMI in the dock, which youth outfit do the Muslim youth look up to?
The Students Islamic Organisation is very strong. The Muslim youth can always join this organisation.
Will SIO too go the same road as SIMI?
What happened with SIMI will never happen with SIO. SIMI never had the supervision and guidance of elders. However, with SIO that is not the case and elders in the community are constantly monitoring and guiding it.
SIMI prior to being banned used to act on its own and somewhere things went haywire. SIMI never had the sympathy of the community prior to being banned, but now we do sympathise since we feel the outfit is being (falsely) implicated.
The nation's focus has now shifted to the Indian Mujahideen. What are your views on this outfit?
No one knows what this Indian Mujahideen is. All we have is three emails sent to some media organisations. Curiously the first email was sent from the computer of an American evangelist based in Mumbai who was later allowed to flee the country. Under some bargain he was allowed to come back later perhaps to clear his name and that of the security agencies too that allowed him to flee. Before he fled he had claimed that the police were asking him a bribe in order to close his case. It is anybody's guess why this American was never arrested and why no charges were levelled against him. Is there is an international dimension to what is happening in India?
You say several innocent youth are being targeted by the police in the name of terror. What role are you going to play in securing the release of these persons?
We are highlighting cases where we have reason to believe that injustice is being done. We issue statements, we write to the highest officials, we hold dharnas and conferences and we approach the courts. All these are within the laws and liberties granted to Indian citizens.
Lastly, your views on Saturday's Mehrauli blast.
I condemn it and my heartfelt condolences to those victims and their families. But I would like to ask the following question. According the Delhi police following the Jamia Nagar incident, all the dreaded masterminds had either been killed or arrested. If this was the case no blast should have taken place. But the fact remains that such attacks continue to take place in the very capital. What happened to the claims by the Delhi police?