Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Justice and Last Teesta Setalvad Published in Rashtriya Sahara Urdu, May 2015

Justice and Last

It would be easy when you read a book like the one Mufti Abdul Qayyum Husain Mansuri has penned, I am a Mufti And I Am not a Terrorist in Gyarah Saal Salokhon Ke Peechen,  a book recounting the unspeakable experience of being dubbed a terrorist for a crime he and others did not commit. Though it took close to eleven long years, on May 16 2014, the day the man who was home and chief minister of Gujarat (and indicted by the judgement dated May 16 2014) swept to power in Delhi, the Mufti was set free acquitted.

It was past 8.30 p.m. on the next day that he and the others walked out of the prison in Ahmedabad to a changed reality. That city charred and scarred by the genocidal carnage of 2002 had seen Mufti (like so many other community leaders ) set up relief camps for the shelter and succour of the maimed and the traumatised. For that he had to pay and suffer the ignominy of being dubbed a traitor to his own country. Another Mufti, Maulana Umerji underwent a similar tragic faith after he had run the Godhra Relief camp where among others, Bilquees Bano had sought shelter.

The rank unprofessionalism of sections of the Gujarat Police’s Crime Branch (evident to this day...remember Vanzara walking of jail in February 2015 saying “Acche Din Aye Hai ???...” as also their Kashmiri compatriots shows a cross state, bonding by the security agencies when it comes to ‘terror’ attacks that is a real challenge to the Constitutional bedrock of our democracy.

There are many things we could say about the book published by the Jamiat Ulama Gujarat and Maharashtra, about the quality of printing editing production etc. All that could have been better, much better. But much more than the obvious, it is the courage of conviction that shines through in the very act of publishing. Regardless of the not most presentable quality, the fact that an organisation like the Jamiat has brought this shame faced truth before us all, raw and questioning, should make all of us Indians, think. Will it?

We live in a state of de-santised emotions where the daily firing squads led by some television anchors prevents any introspections into systemic lapses. Serious injustices.
It was bad enough to read about the pathetically cruel attempts to make the Mufti write and re-write the letter that would damn him (and which was so convincingly disbelieved by the Supreme Court) with a pack of lies concocted by the sick minds of the Gujarat crime branch. One sentence that struck me deeply was towards the end of the book when the Mufti is describing the undescribable joy he feels the day of the ‘convicts’ release.  Outside the jail, his jail companion, Hjai Farooq had made a bed of flowers that looked like a carpet...it was an emotional scene as fellow convicts, relatives all hugged each other. Loud and victorious slogans rent the air. Large sections of the print and electronic media were present and detailed euphoric interviews were taken. Very little got pubished or telecast, however. As the Mufti charmingly puts it, “But perhaps it was the censorship of the media, they censored thee whole talk.” Remember it was also the day when an election result had been declared.

As Mufti Abdul Qayyum Mansuri says the judgement delivered by the Supreme Court is a symbol of true justice which, in this fearlful and depressed environment is a ray of hope and motivation for all, including Indian Muslims.The Judgemet apart from acquitting the innocent has exposed the lies of the oppressor and the incompetence of the investigation agencies. Here was a case where the Supreme Court had used its special powers and re-examined chits in Urdu, so called Fidayeen’s clothes, dissected the cynically concocted evidence.

The moment the historic judgement was delivered, one of the senior advocates for the accused Ms Kamini Jaiswal stood up and said that “As our clients have been proved innocent and stayed imprisoned for 11 years, the Court should take immediate action for their release...because even after being acquitted the formalities and legal procedures are lengthy in which the Sessions court and Jail Authorities take many days.”

A wireless fax message was sent to the Sabarmati Jail authorities by the Supreme Court thanks to which the unfairly and unjustly held accused were released the next day!!
The quiet drama that was unfolding here in the Supreme Court, a human drama that reaffirmed faith in justice and non-discrimination meant that the Court accused all accused including those sentenced to lesser sentences. The Court held that the case was totally foisted on them and they were uninvolved and innocent.

What is remarkable is that the POTA Trial court and the High Court of Gujarat had both convicted the accused and therefore the SC effectively was overturning the concurring judgments of 2 courts. The entire case rested on confessions given by the accused, which were repudiated later on (i.e. withdrawn by them). The SC pointed out that there were so many inconsistencies amongst the confession statements themselves, that they could not be believed, apart from a important point, that there was no independent evidence to lend support to the confessions. The SC pointed out poignantly that the effect of such failure to notice inconsistencies was that the accused found themselves convicted and sentenced for serious crimes.
The following quotes are poignant and tell their own story:
Para. 131: " ..... take note of the perversity in considering this case at various stages, right from investigation level to the granting of sanction by the State Government ..... We being the apex court cannot afford to sit with folded hands when such gross violation of fundamental rights and basic human Rights of the citizens of this country were presented before us.”
 Para 136: "Before parting with the judgment, we intend t express our anguish about the incompetence with which the investigating agencies conducted the investigation of the case of such a grievous nature, involving the integrity and security of the Nation. Instead of booking the real culprits responsible for taking so many precious lives, the police caught innocent people and got imposed the grievous charges against them which is resulted in their conviction and subsequent sentencing".
Such verdicts no doubt reaffirm each citizens faith in the judiciary. The tale of trauma and injustice deserves fair recompense and prosecution of the perpetrators.


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