Who Pulled The
Didn't We All?
20 February, 2005
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.
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
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.
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...