Preliminary Jury Findings and Recommendations of the People’s Tribunal on ‘State Action in the Name of Countering Terrorism & Conversions’

The two-day public hearing organised by more than two dozens human rights and social organisations at Rajasthan Samagra Sewa Sangh, Jaipur concluded on November 8. It had the participation of over two hundred women, men and children.

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The two-day public hearing organised by more than two dozens human rights and social organisations at Rajasthan Samagra Sewa Sangh, Jaipur concluded on November 8. It had the participation of over two hundred women, men and children.

The Jury of the Tribunal was chaired by Justice S. N. Bhargava, former Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court and former Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission, Prashant Bhushan, Senior Counsel, Supreme Court of India, Dr. Ram Punyani, former Professor IIT, Mumbai, Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Magasaysay Award winner and Convenor of the NAPM, Neelabh Mishra, Editor Outlook Masik and Dr. Yoginder Sikand, Writer on Indian Muslim issues.

More than 40 persons deposed before the jury. They included survivors (the seriously injured of the May 13th Jaipur serial bomb blast), innocent Muslims who were kept for several days in illegal custody in the name of investigation of the bomb blast, survivors of the ethnic cleansing of the Bengali speaking migrants in the name of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, Fathers and Pastors who had bore the brunt of State supported Hindu Right wing violence. Several lawyers, journalists, activists, teachers and children also deposed adding evidence of the violations on the minorities.

The Jury, after listening to the survivors, their advocates and social workers for over two days, arrived at the following preliminary findings:

Setting up Committee for the Monitoring of the Injured of May 13 Serial Bomb Blast: According to us, the members of the jury, there are widespread complaints about the distribution of compensation to the blast victims. There were also complaints about the nature of relief received and the quantum of compensation given to those who were injured.

It is recommended that those who have been injured must not only be compensated for injury but also for loss of livelihood during their period of injury and disablement. A monitoring committee should be created to monitor the health condition of these injured along with the distribution of compensation which should include the fund for education for children, livelihood, social security of the old and medical fund.

A white paper should be issued by the government about receipt and expenditure of all money received and spent by the government with respect to the blasts.

Setting up a High Powered Inquiry Commission to Examine the Investigation into Bomb Blast Cases: The police authorities investigating the terror offences appear to be violating all the laws of the land and directions of the Supreme Court during the conduct of the investigations. In particular, many persons have been detained for days or weeks, without showing them to be arrested and without producing them before any Magistrate. They have been sometimes tortured and humiliated by the police officers. They have not been allowed to meet their relatives and lawyers, who have often not even been informed of their detention.

The investigation of the blasts by the police also appears to be communally motivated and only persons belonging to the Muslim community have been the target of the investigations. The names of HUJI and SIMI have been bandied about by the police as the perpetrators of the blasts without any evidence. A number of former members of SIMI have been arrested and detained without any basis or evidence against them. The media has also been uncritically repeating and amplifying the baseless allegations and innuendoes of the police mentioning persons and organisations belonging to the Muslim community, thus resulting in ethnic profiling and feeding into the Islamophobia being sought to be created and reinforced in the minds of the Hindu community by the Hindutva organisations.

In Jaipur this has resulted in the vilification of the entire Bengali Muslim community who have been victimised by the Hindutva organisations in complicity with the police. Thousands of them have after the blasts been picked up and forcibly transported to New Jalpaiguri and then Bangladesh without any due process of law and without giving them an opportunity to show their Indian citizenship. This has resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Jaipur.

We feel that in the light of similar evidence that has been coming from other parts of the country about the targeting of innocent persons, particularly from the Muslim community by the police for various blasts taking place in the country, it has become necessary for the government to set up a high powered Inquiry Commission of at least 3 retired Judges of the Supreme Court to examine whether the police investigations into the various serial blasts which have taken place across the country this year are being done honestly and whether members of a particular community are being victimised in the investigations. This has become necessary because of a strong and widespread feeling of victimisation among the Muslim community of the country which is leading to a strong sense of alienation, despair and anger. Unless this is addressed and redressed, it may have disastrous consequences for the country.

Setting up of a Police Complaints Authority: It has become particularly urgent to set up police complaints authorities at the district and State levels as directed by the Supreme Court in the police reforms judgement.

Strengthening of Human Rights Commissions: The National and State Human Rights Commissions need to be strengthened by giving them adequate powers, providing them with their own dedicated police machinery and also by broadbasing and making transparent, the  selection of their  members.

Adequate Representation of Minorities in State Police Services: The time has also come to ensure by law that every State police service have adequate representation from the Minority communities in State.

Biased Media Reportage of Blast Investigation: The role of the media in the reportage of the blast investigations has by and large been extremely biased. They have been uncritically purveying and amplifying unsubstantiated and motivated leaks and plants by the police, which has led to the destruction of the lives and reputations of many innocent persons. It also seriously prejudices their fair trial. It has also led to communal profiling and vilification of the Muslim community as terrorists. The Press Council should lay down clear guidelines regarding such reportage and should be given powers to enforce those guidelines.

Judiciary Ought to Proactively Prevent the Violation of the Law by the Police: The judiciary has also not been taking steps to ensure that the police during these investigations act within the law and do not indulge in extra-judicial detention, torture and victimisation of innocent persons. They need to be proactive in ensuring this and taking action against errant police officers. In particular, all proceedings related to such offences need to be taken up and disposed with utmost expedition.

State Support to Hindutva Right Wing Forces to Indulge in Violence and Hate of Minorities: We find that various Hindutva organisations which have been indulging in violent crimes of mob violence and of provoking enmity and hatred among communities are being allowed to do this with impunity and have not been brought to book. This is resulting in the strengthening of their hold over the establishment of the country and their clout in civil society. It has become imperative for the authorities, particularly the police and the judiciary to take strong action against them and their members for their illegal activities.

The Communal Actions of Corporate Houses: It is unfortunate that Corporate leaders like Infosys have resorted to firing innocent persons who were detained by the police despite the fact that no charges were finally brought against them. This practice is totally unfair and illegal and must be stopped immediately.

Bar Associations Acting against the Principles of Natural Justice: We find that Bar Associations have been passing resolutions directing lawyers not to represent those accused of terror offences. This is not only against the principles of Natural Justice, but is also contempt of Court. Strong action needs to be taken against the office bearers of such Bar Associations by the Courts.

The human rights and social organisations which organised the Jury include People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan (PUCL), Rajasthan Smagra Sewa Sangh, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Rajasthan, Samta Sainik Dal, Centre for Dalit Rights, All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation (Rajasthan), Jaipur Christian Fellowship & Rajasthan Christian Association, National Muslim Women’s Welfare Society, Jaipur, Sohard Resource Centre for Peace and Harmony through the Arts, Academy for Socio Legal Studies, Sadbhav Manch, IRADA, Bhai Chara Foundation, Rajasthan, National Federation of Indian Women, Human Development Society and Milli Council.