Guilty until Proved Innocent

Citing Dr. Mohammad Haneef’s illegal detention in Australia on one hand and award of capital punishment for six in the ’93 Mumbai serial blasts case in contrast with indefensible delay in bringing to book the demolishers of Babri Masjid and

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Citing Dr. Mohammad Haneef’s illegal detention in Australia on one hand and award of capital punishment for six in the ’93 Mumbai serial blasts case in contrast with indefensible delay in bringing to book the demolishers of Babri Masjid and

Before dealing in detail with the recent Tada court verdict in the Mumbai serial blasts case, which sent six to the gallows, let us register our outrage over the Australian government’s basis and prejudice against Dr. Mohammad Haneef, who without any credible basis, is being treated as “a terror prisoner.” Now he is in solitary confinement.

His faux pas appears to be his accidental association without his cousins, Dr. Kafeel Ahmed and Dr. Shakeel Ahmed, arrested in connection with the failed London bombing and the Glasgow airport attack.
Mountains are being made of a molehill called the mobile telephone SIM card that Haneef, while leaving London a year ago, left for the use of his brothers. This card had not and never been used in any subversive activity. What goes without saying is that it is common practice among the NRIs to give their SIM cards to their friends or relatives.
It looks as if the Canberra dispensation has no substantial proof against Dr. Haneef. Had it been in possession of some “lethal” material, it would have definitely presented it before the Magistrate, hearing his bail peal. The uncalled for, nay motivated, use rather misuse of the immigration law appears to be a lame excuse or just a ruse to harass an accredited physician, who, incidentally, has no past.
A careful reading of the relevant parts of the Australian law does not support the Canberra administration on the issue: Under Section 102.7(2) of the Australian Criminal Code Act, 1995, a person commits an offence if, first, he “intentionally provides to an organization support or resources” that would help it in its activity; second, the organization is a terrorist organization; and, third, the person “is reckless as to whether the organization is a terrorist organization.”
On recklessness, Section 5.4(1) says, “A person is reckless with respect to a circumstance if (a) he or she is aware of a substantial risk that the circumstances exit and (b) having regard to the circumstances known to him or her, it is unjustifiable to take the risk.”
The point is: Did Dr. Haneef intentionally provide support or resources to any terrorist organization? Secondly, which organization has been supported by him? Thirdly, can giving away a half used SIM card to a cousin, who did not use it in any criminal activity, be referred to or called recklessness?
Without a positive “yes” to these pointed questions, Dr. Haneef’s arrest remains in grey area. It amounts to pronouncing “Guilty until Proven Innocent”.
No level-headed society uses executive power to override or undo judicial orders. We feel Dr. Haneef is a victim of an insensate state’s paranoia and Muslim profiling. There is no moral or legal justification of cancelling his visa. There is no doubt about it; it is a colourable exercise of power, being protested against by the Australians themselves.
In this harsh censure of the Australian government, we are in the good company of the Queensland Premier, Mr. Peter Beattic, the Australian Lawyer’s Alliance President, Mr. Ian Brown and the Amnesty International.
“I’m prepared to be as tough and ugly on terrorists as everyone else, but…I think there is a growing disquiet about this matter in terms of how the Federal Government has handled it. I don’t intend to be critical of them other than to say, for God’s sake explain to Australians why you have taken this course of action.” ­­– Queensland Premier
“The decision to cancel his (Dr. Haneef’s) visa is a grave departure from the standards of justice you would expect to see in any civilized society and we are appalled that this is happening in Australia … Australia would be outraged if one of its citizens was treated the same way as Haneef overseas.” – Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA)
“It’s very dangerous business when politicians start interfering with judiciary.” – Greens leader Senator
“We are extremely concerned. It is unprecedented use of powers under Australia’s migration laws in the context of a terror trial. The cancellation of visa will impact Haneef’s hopes of a fair trial.” – Amnesty International
As far as the Mumbai serial blasts verdict is concerned an average Indian finds himself puzzled. The reason behind his dilemma is that those who violently reacted to the calculated outrage on December 6, 1992 are facing justice. But those who planned and executed the outrage meticulously described as “national shame” also, are roaming scot-free.
This is not the feeling of sitting or retired judges, constitutional experts, executives, university professors and other varieties of intellectuals. This is the feeling of aam aadmi to borrow the cliché, the common man, man-on-the-street, who does not understand political expediencies, legal niceties, ands immoral dilemmas. This proverbial “Daridranarain” of the traditional victims, the Muslims, asks himself: Shall the authors of the pre-Babri Masjid dilapidation riots, mostly in rural Bharat; shall the architects of post-Babri Masjid demolition disturbances that rocked several states of the country, be ever brought to justice?
Besides the authors and architects of the shrine destruction, there were co-conspirators like the late P.V. Narasimha Rao also. When 6,000 kar sevaks were bringing down the over 500-year old mosque, the then Primer Minister was, on his own admission, musing over the state-centre relations.
The “decent haste” that was shown in prosecuting those involved in the March 1993 Mumbai serial blasts is commendable. But why no, not even formal concern is being expressed against the indefensible delay in the progress of the Babri Masjid demolition case in the Allahabad High Court? This inexplicable delay postponing justice to Mr. L.K. Advani, Ms Sadhvi Rithambhara, Ms Uma Bharti, Mr. Bal Thackeray, Mr. Parveen Togadia, Dr. Murlimanohar Joshi and a hoard of others.
The serial blasts had killed 257 people, besides causing injuries to 700. Mr. P.D. Kode has till now awarded death sentence to six of the 13 planters of bombs, who unjustifiably spilled innocent blood. But so had done the “cardholders” of the RSS, BJP, Shiv Sena, VHP, and Bajrang Dal during the post-Babri Masjid demolition riots that had broken out in Surat, Ahmedabad, Bhopal and Mumbai.
In the post-Babri riots, according to Srikrishsna Commission findings, in Mumbai alone 872 people were killed, 1,829 injured, while 443 reported missing. Around 1,50,000 had to flee their homes, and 10 houses had been burnt down. In the entire country, according to semi-official sources, the figure of casualties stood at 1,193. Property worth Rs 4000 crore was reduced to ashes, and two lakh persons had to leave their hearths and homes.
The Tada judge has vaxed eloquent on many an issue: “A criminal has no religion; criminality is the only religion. It was a heinous terrorist act to kill totally innocent Mumbaikers, who had no role to play in the Babri Masjid demolition and who had not hurt the accused in the riots that followed. They have unnecessarily brought disgrace to the Muslim community, which has, among other communities, played a pioneer role in nation building.”
Before proceeding further, let us note that the Tada court sentences are subject to confirmation by Supreme Court and the said Court has to make a reference to the apex court within 30 days.
May be he Defence Counsel failed to establish link between the Mumbai blast and the wilful destruction of the House of God. But there does exist an important link between mosque and Muslim. There is little extraordinary in it. Does a link not exist between a Hindu and his temple; between a Sikh and his Gurudwara; between a Christian and his Church? And this link is not limited by the parameters of the vicinity or village or town or city. Was there no furore in our country when the Taliban regime had destroyed Buddhist relics over there? Or do our majority community brethren here not react when a temple is damaged or destroyed in Pakistan?
Secondly, the criminals too have their religion. Apex Court rulings as well as the Jail manuals admit this fact. The fundamental rights given by the Constitution do not get obliterated by a criminal act.
We are inclined to feel what turns one into a criminal is double-deal and double-talk, lack or absence of fair play, injustice and high-handedness. At national and international levels, Muslims experience an ambience of unjustified disaffection, un-warranted fear and indefensible hiatus between “us” and “them”. Let this evil go lock, stock and barrel.