COUNTER’ Fact-finding Team Brings out Working Method of Investigation Agencies

Following the so-called Jamia Nagar encounter, a witch hunt of Muslim youth from Azamgarh by various security agencies and its media projection as the ‘nursery of terrorism’,

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Following the so-called Jamia Nagar encounter, a witch hunt of Muslim youth from Azamgarh by various security agencies and its media projection as the ‘nursery of terrorism’, the Janhastakshep and  People’s Union for Democratic Rights subsequently undertook a fact finding investigation to Azamgarh last month. The Janhastakshep and PUDR are two Delhi-based human rights organisations that sought to enquire into the myth and reality of the relationships between terrorism, place and religion and also into the fear and anguish pervading in the area – Azamgarh.

Its report is based on on-the-spot study of the place and people, through interaction with common people selected at random, testimonies of the members of the affected families and neighbours and interviews with SP and DM of the district. The report also includes the follow-up in Delhi and Azamgarh of subsequent developments related to the ‘encounter’.

The report was released at Press Club of India in the Capital. It reveals the working methods of the investigating agencies – the Special Cell, ATS and the state police in handling terrorism in the country.

The team found that boys belonging to the district are being hunted as scapegoats. A 17-year old Sajid killed in the so-called encounter and two others living in L-18 are said to have come to Delhi around two months before the incident.

During the preparation of the report Vinod Yadav, an advocate from Azamgarh, was arrested on superfluous charges under Section 419 and 420 of IPC, and the people were warned not to question the police action.

 

Observations of the teams are:

There have been several violations related to custody:

  1. Custodial confessions appear to be the primary basis of the police investigation. These are not admissible in court as evidence owing to the possibility of them being extracted under torture. The prolonged police custody, allegedly to investigate the cases increases the possibility of torture and pressure on the accused. As is emerging today, in various past cases torture and coercion are not uncommon among the practices of counter terror cells. Those who demand the return of POTA seek to make these admissible as ‘evidence.’
  2. Special Cell has been responsible for grave abuse of custody of the accused. Police custody has been sought by them repeatedly to ‘investigate’ the charges. During this time the police denied access to parents and lawyers of arrestees to them, and instead made them confess under duress to their families on telephone. At the same time the Special Cell compounded the gravity of their violation by giving access to media (for example Indian Today) to publicise so-called custodial confessions by accused.
  3. The Special Cell has violated almost all Supreme Court guidelines on arrest – they did not inform families of the arrests, did not let them meet the arrestees, did not inform of their place of their detention, carried out raids in Azamgarh and seized objects without seizure memos. They did not let even lawyers of the accused meet them until they went to court.
  4. The Special Cell and the UP and Maharashtra anti-terror squads have consistently attempted to intimidate and pressurise families of all arrested and missing from Jamia Nagar and Azamgarh. The telephone calls and narration of forced ‘confessions’ by the youths to their families were aimed at striking fear into and silencing them. Similarly during raids in Azamgarh the photographing of all family members and threats to arrest them were calculated to terrorise them.
  5. Finally, the counter terror squads sought to intimidate those raising their voices against these violations by them. They arrested PUDR activists on spurious charges simply for this purpose.

II. Communal Bias: In their operation these investigations carried out by the counter terror agencies are highly biased.

  1. They bypass procedures, norms and methods of proper investigation in their hurry to get results; they rely on shortcuts, depending on prejudices and stereotypes to pick up people, interrogate and detain them, instead of looking for those who may have actually done the act. Thus, because they are only looking for Muslims and in this case particularly young educated Muslim men from Azamgarh. They only find young Muslim men of that description – regardless of their connection with the crime. This is then sought to be contrived through ‘confessions’ and those really guilty of the crimes roam free.
  2. The biggest fear is of course that they do this because they feel that people are so scared of terrorism that anything done in the name of fight against terrorism is becoming acceptable. The stigma of the label of ‘terrorist’ on anyone seems to be enough for civil society to deny them all basic rights. The state forces this act with impunity because of this tacit acceptance among people to surrender democratic rights in the name of counter terror. This has to be combated.  The terror created by the state apparatuses in the name of countering terror has to be stopped by all those who support democracy.

III. The impact of all has been singularly terrifying for the Muslims of Azamgarh. Parents and relatives of arrested boys were so scared that they were hesitant even to appoint lawyers and meeting them despite high court order permitting the meeting. The atmosphere is that out of fears parents are calling back their children studying outside. Many students studying outside had disconnected themselves from the family and the relatives. In the villages in and around Sanjarpur, residents afraid of sudden police raid were keeping night vigil.

IV. A section of media is acting as police media in attempt to increase TRPs by making news sensational instead of being objective. By doing so advertently-inadvertently, it is being part of a dangerous campaign to divide people on artificially created communal lines that have far reaching, dangerous consequences for the humanity and the country in particular. Knowing well the non-admissibility of interrogational confessions in the courts, a section of media publishes details of confessional statements without a word about how they are being treated.

The fact-finding team demands:

  1. There should be a judicial enquiry into the Jamia Nagar encounter by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.
  2. The state should stop targeting innocent people of Azamgarh and demonising the district.
  3. The violations of the established procedures cited above are all defined as offences in law. It is required that police personnel responsible for such violations be brought to book.
  4. Those illegally detained should be immediately released and the responsibility must be fixed for compliance of the various rules and provision of law relating to the conduct of the state apparatus.