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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 13 New Delhi March 17, 2018

Who is Terrorising Whom? Who is a Terrorist?

Sunday 18 March 2018, by Humra Quraishi


As encounters and encounter killings in Uttar Pradesh are ongoing—as many as 1142 encounters were recorded between March 2017 and January 2018, and 38 alleged criminals were killed—I have been wondering how many of the killed or wounded or hounded out could be innocents. And now ask these innocents (those still alive and in a position to speak the truth, without fear of the aftermath): who is a terrorist? Quite obviously their answer will be—the state!

It’s time we ask: who is a terrorist? In a layman’s language, a terrorist is that someone who is terrorising the hapless, through action or words or deed. In this context, isn’t it time that several of the political and bureaucratic who’s who be booked or questioned? On the contrary, they are moving about with the top political brass, who in turn are raising and training their own private goon-brigades.

With the increase of state terrorism and encounters in the country, one cannot go by the state-set definition of a terrorist. For me, the masterminds behind the Babri Masjid demo-lition and also those behind the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 are terrorists, as they not just terrorised me but are also responsible for destroying the very togetherness of this country, for sowing seeds of hatred, and unending and ongoing divisions.

Shouldn’t an independent apolitical body look into the details of encounter killings? A strong watchdog group to monitor killings by the state force? Why should we go just by the police version? Why don’t we counter the fabricated charges thrown on an innocent before he is shot dead by the police force!

Also, is there no other option with the state other than indulging in encounter killings? Can’t the so labelled “rogue elements” be tamed by the police machinery through non-violent ways ...perhaps,giving a second or third chance to the angry rebellious young. I recall whilst travelling in North Kashmir I’d met a young Kashmiri who told me that he took to violence after his relatives were gunned down by the security forces in encounters. I suggested to him that instead of indulging in counter or reactionary violence he adopts the Gandhian philosophy of expressing anger through non- violent ways and means. With a really sad look on his face, he’d uttered, “Its too late now to follow the Gandhian philosophy. We were never told about it in school or college. Didn’t know of it. Wish we were told.”

Today, distractions are getting fitted in by this government to bring about an air of utter chaos-cum-confusion. Desperation to such an extent that even the utterances of double or triple agent David Headley are taken as truth in the context of the encounter killing of Ishrat Jahan by the state force! When the US-based terrorist David Headley was made to speak on the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, from the confines of his US prison cell, it came across as the last nail on the farce that’s on in the name of terrorism!

To quote the first whistle-blower cop of the Gujarat cadre, R.B. Sreekumar, on this: ”By merely reiterating his earlier statement that Ishrat Jehan, killed by the Gujarat Police, in collaboration with the Central IB, David Coleman Headley did not provide any fruitful and significant inputs facilitating further probes by the Indian security agencies. Earlier also Headley stated that Ishrat Jehan was an LeT operative, without related information about her network and hierarchy in LeT and specific operations carried out by she and her friends in India and other places. Of course, his statement has been music to the ears of BJP leaders and organisers of fake encounters like DIG Vanzara of the Gujarat Police, who in his resignation letter in 2013 had confirmed that encounters were carried out in pursuance of a well-conceived strategic policy of Modi Government... Perhaps, there is a tie-up between the USA and India about Headley who must have been assured of immunity from legal action in India and the USA for his culpable role as an operative of the LeT...Utilising each point of Headley’s revela-tions, no purposeful investigation is possible because he religiously avoided data about the present whereabouts, resources, associates and future plans of the LeT and its terrorists and sister organisations. Information on terrorists who were killed in police action is of not much use. But those planers and perpetrators of fake encounters can build up further on their defence and their political friends can boast about the feasibility and effectiveness of their counter-terrorist propaganda... Justification of the killing of Ishrat Jehan, on the ground of her role as an LeT activist has sinister portents. An impression will go around among the general public that fake encounters and extra-judicial elimination of persons, deemed to be terrorists by police and their political godfathers can be legitimised as preventive actions like detention of persons without trial under anti-terrorist laws, extern-ment from an area etc. Fake encounters are premeditated murders, an offence under Section 302 IPC. Magisterial enquiry by the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate and Special Investi-gation Team appointed by the High Court of Gujarat had confirmed that Ishrat was killed in a fake encounter. The law says that even a convicted person awarded with death sentence should not be killed by police and security agencies as this action is not as per the procedure established by law... The CBI could not trace out the source of the AK-47 rifle recovered from Ishrat. Did Ishrat have the skill and expertise to operate an AK-47 weapon? Who were her supporters and their pointwise game plan? No collateral, corroborative and circumstantial evidence supporting the crimes of Headley has come out so far. The spree of fake encounters started in October 2002 by the Gujarat Police strangely stopped with the arrest of D.G. Vanzara and other police officers in April 2007. Significantly, no terrorist was killed or arrested since then. How did Islamic Jihadists become inactive after the arrest of police officers for their culpable complicity in fake encounters?”

And one of the most chilling descriptions of an encounter taking place is detailed in the book written by the victim himself—Mufti Abdul Qayyum Ahmed Husain Mansuri, who was implicated in the Akshardham case, imprisoned for 11 years, before being acquitted by the Supreme Court of India.

Quoting his encounter details from his book ‘I Am A Mufti and I AmNot A Terrorist—11 Years Behind the Bars’ (Published by Jamat Ulama Ahmedabad and Maharashtra), “It was the cold night of Thursday, 18 September, 2003. I was sleeping in Vanaar’s office in such position/ condition that one of my hands was cliffed and locked with the table. I was asleep with great difficulty when one of the officers awakened me by kicking me on my back with his shoes. Singhal was standing in front of me and the best kind of Oudh’s fragrance was witting from his clothes.Behind Singhal one face was seen. He was V.D. Vanaar. On Singhal’s order, the hand cliff was unlocked from my hand. V.D. Vanaar took me along and said, ‘Come on, its Sahab’s order today your encounter has to be done. I was told you offer namaaz/salah for dead persons, today offer namaaz for yourself. I was pushed to sit in a Tata Sumo ... After misfiring on me on one or two places, Vanaar asked for the revolver from P.S.I., R.I. Patel, and after directing the vehicle (Tata Sumo) on two, three roads, told the driver to take it near the canal. On the way Vanaar also narrated the legend of his mastery in encounters and the allotment of medals from the government. He said: ‘See, I have killed Hameed Lala. I have killed Ranapwala here on the stairs of the Crime Branch’, and he counted some more names and said: ‘Even after so many encounters what harm has the government and the court done to me? On the contrary I was given bravery medal of Puraskar and Rs 51,000—as an award. Today this encounter of yours is the sixth one. Tomorrow we will give this story to the media and newspapers that going for investigation in the case, on getting chance he ran away, somehow he got a revolver from somewhere and fired on us and on back firing (from us) he was shot...’ The vehicle was stopped at one place in the dark night. As per my assumption it was some place behind the airport, because the lights of the airport were seen from there, on both sides of the road there was the canal....Then they led the vehicle deep inside on the other side of the canal, on the left side and all the bravos got down from the vehicle after stopping it at a vast open space and they also got me down by pulling my beard and abusing me ...Vanaar took out the revolver and told his companions to move aside a bit after he aimed the revolver on my head ...I was standing alive dumb with amazement and astonished, because the bullet did not strike my head but had passed by my head. After that a total of five fires were shot on my right and left head and on the left and right of my legs ....Until now, Mr A.A. Chauhan, being a silent audience in this blood-shedding drama, took entry on the scene. He came forward and said, Vanaar sahab, don’t kill him. I want to give him a last chance, after talking to superior officer. Then asked me, turning towards me—‘if you confess all that the superior officer says then I can save your life...’”

This Potent Philosophy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez!

As I’m filing this column on March 6, 2018, which happens to be the 91st birth anniversary of the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez, so must end with his this rather potent, one-liner—”Sex is the consolation one has for not finding enough love.”

What great philosophy is tucked in these words of Marquez!

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