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Who Pulled The Trigger...
Didn't We All?

By Arundhati Roy

20 February, 2005
Outlook Magazine

Several media reports, including the Outlook story about the February 8 attempted assassination of S.A.R. Geelani, suggest that I am among those who have accused the Delhi Police of carrying out the attack. Not true. While several people have made this accusation, I'm not one of them. I'm not in the business of making unsubstantiated allegations. What I said was that since the Special Cell of the Delhi Police has shadowed Geelani and kept him under close surveillance, they ought to know who was involved. Of course Geelani himself, both before and after this attack, has placed on record the fact that he feared for his life and that the source of his fear was the Special Cell.

Given the seriousness of the issue, and as a member of the All India Defence Committee for S.A.R. Geelani, I would like to put the event back into a context that is being rapidly forgotten.

There can be no doubt that the investigation into the December 13, 2001, attack on Parliament has been shabbily handled by the Delhi Police, indeed sinisterly so. We still do not know who planned the attack, or even the names and the real identities of the five militants who were killed outside the Parliament building on that day. At the time, the Delhi Police were obviously under pressure to produce results. And produce results they did. Riding the popular wave of hypernationalism, they disregarded procedure, legality and, of course, even basic integrity. The evidence against the accused, in particular S.A.R. Geelani, was full of loopholes, some of it was manufactured. On the basis of this faulty evidence, he was arrested and brutally tortured.

He spent a nightmarish year in prison, most of it under a death sentence. He was released after being acquitted by the Delhi High Court. (In the din about Geelani, it is easy and convenient to forget that thousands of people in Kashmir and the Northeastern states are being similarly treated by the police and security forces.)

I have no idea who pumped those bullets into S.A.R. Geelani. However, in deference to the general public unease with the Special Cell, the investigation ought to be conducted by an agency other than the Delhi Police. While it may be unfair to accuse them without evidence, they certainly cannot be considered above suspicion, and must be investigated. Their bullying, ridiculous accusations against Geelani's lawyer, Nandita Haksar, the red herring they have floated about Geelani's sweater and 'missing' coat, their harassment of his family and their bizarre treatment of him as a suspect in the attempted assassination of himself-all this is doing very little to bolster their declarations of innocence.Unfortunately, it is not the Delhi Police alone who behaved in underhand, sordid ways. During the
trial of the Parliament attack case, several major national dailies and mainstream TV channels published and broadcast a plethora of lies about Geelani and his co-accused, without ever checking their facts. And now once again, the stage seems to be set for a repeat performance in which
people make speculative accusations, the police issue baseless statements and the media conducts meaningless opinion polls by sms. Motives are being attributed and rumours spread bycommentators, columnists, fledgling reporters and ignorant talk show hosts (and guests) busy trying to sound cool and knowledgeable, with no concern for how their idle and often malevolent boy-talk might affect real people's lives. Or am I being naive? Perhaps it's actually deliberate? Take, for example, the suggestion that the killer's motive was revenge-that Mohammed Afzal and Shaukat Hussain Guru (co-accused in the case) somehow masterminded the attack from their high-security cells in Tihar Jail's death row. Is it a strategy designed to sow divisiveness and discord in some notional "terrorist camp"? Is it designed to ensure that S.

A.R. Geelani will never be safe? Revenge for what? For the fact that despite being tortured Geelani refused to sign a confession or implicate anybody else in order to save himself?On an ndtv chat show, two guests-the director of a jingoistic Bollywood film about Kashmir and an MP from Jammu - discussed the Geelani case. The film director said that most Kashmiri militants who do time in prison become police informers when they're released, and are routinely targeted by militants. The MP went on to add that he knew for a fact that militants made it a point to assassinate surrendered militants-not a single surrendered militant is allowed to survive, he said knowledgeably. Now neither observation is a gem of wisdom in and of itself-but bandied about in this context, it all becomes pretty wicked.

Not surprisingly, the third guest on the show, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, spokesman for the BJP, seized on this thesis with discernible pleasure.So now, is it no longer enough for the media to continue to portray Geelani as a wily terrorist who somehow escaped the long hand of the law because of 'insufficient evidence'? Must he also be portrayed as a surrendered militant and a police informer? Is it not enough that he has been tortured, imprisoned and mistreated by the police and various other institutions of our vibrant democracy? Must he now be turned into fish bait, and made vulnerable to some suggestible, easily persuaded militant as well?Regardless of who pulled the trigger on the evening of February 8, the fact is that a number of people are responsible for what happens to
S.A.R. Geelani and his young family: those who (with no evidence) accused him of masterminding the Parliament attack; those who published falsehoods about him (and continue to do so); those who harass him and his family (and continue to do so) even after he was acquitted by the high
court; those who made, broadcast (Zee TV) and endorsed (A.B. Vajpayee, L.K. Advani) a film about the attack on Parliament which claimed to be the truth but was based entirely on the Delhi Police version of the event. (The film was broadcast a few days before the sessions court sentenced Geelani, Afzal and Shaukat Guru to death).

Geelani and his family have suffered enough. Can we stop using them to fuel our crude patriotic fantasies and simple-minded cloak-and-dagger theses?

That's it from me folks. 'Bye now. Let the insults roll. Oh look! Here's one already...











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