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Arrest of Journalist Kazmi: A Mere Pawn In A Sinister Game?

By Syed Zafar Mehdi

08 March, 2012

It looks like a classic case of gratuitous police witch-hunt and framing of innocents on dubious, unsubstantiated charges. The arrest of Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi, a Delhi based urdu journalist working for Iran’s state broadcaster IRNA, in connection with the recent attack on Israeli diplomat’s car in Delhi, clearly smacks of a sinister conspiracy. Kazmi was arrested by police on Wednesday, while returning to his home in Jor Bagh from India Islamic Cultural Centre, Lodhi Road. Police claims that he provided the executioner with the logistical support, but did not have knowledge about the entire plot. His family rubbishes the charges as baseless and concocted, alleging that he has been framed because he is an outspoken critic of US and Israel and appears on many TV channels regularly.

Looking at the overall picture, there seems to be more to it than meets the eye. It reminds me of the similar cases framed by Delhi Police against my own Kashmiris in Delhi, SAR Geelani (a teacher at Zakir Husain College, DU) and Iftekhar Gilani (Journalist), who were detained, interrogated and later acquitted.

The suspected bomber, who is the prime accused in the case, has already fled the country, claims police. Kazmi is accused of having been in regular touch with the main suspect, though he had no inkling about the whole 'terror' plot. Police claims that the conspiracy was hatched in January 2011, outside the country, and Kazmi was supposed to gather all the information about the diplomat’s car and pass it on to the executioners of plot. Police managed to track Kazmi via technical surveillance system.

Kazmi has been working with IRNA since 1988 and has earlier worked with DD and BBC also, having covered Iraq and more recently Syria as his major assignments. He is also a regular contributor for many prominent Urdu dailies and periodicals. He also volunteers to teach English to underprivileged children at India Islamic Cultural Centre. The journalists who have worked with Kazmi in the past have already expressed their outrage and indignation. He is a widely respected analyst and commentator on Middle East politics and minces no words in calling spade a spade. To my mind, in this case, he is merely a pawn in a rather sinister game.

This act by police is utterly vindictive, but not shocking. Delhi Police is notorious for it. However, it is sad that this time they chose to target a journalist from Urdu media. I wonder how the mainstream English media would have reacted had one of their own been arrested on such dubious charges. Some of his colleagues fear that he might have been on police radar since a week, when he appeared on a national television and blasted US and Israel for their paranoia. (link: http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/prime-time/video-story/223929)

In such a grim scenario where journalists are arrested, tortured and interrogated for expressing their views, which are not in sync with the official rhetoric, freedom of expression is bound to become a serious casualty. In this country, where dissent amounts to sedition and freedom of expression is often sacrificed at the altar of larger ‘national interest’, journalists and writers have to walk a tightrope. This is where Kazmi seems to have faltered. He has made enemies for not toeing the official line on US and Israel and hence has invited the wrath for it.

So far, only few odd voices from Urdu media have come out in his support, which is not surprising. The game has just begun. Media trail will start now. The likes of Arnab Goswamis and Praveen Swamis will go all out to manufacture charges against him. He will be attacked, interrogated, tortured, harassed, ridiculed and finally he will be set free. In the ensuing hullabaloo we may never hear the true story, because we will not be exposed to it, given India's "strategic interests". However, one thing is certain, and I can vouch for it: he is merely a pawn in a sinister game.

(Writer is a Delhi based Journalist.)



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