Asghar Ali Engineer


The police has had a strong bias against minorities right from the dawn of freedom. Our freedom came at the cost of partition and partition further increased Hindu-Muslim divide and the police could not remain unaffected by communalization of society.


Though communalism and communal violence has a changing graph in India it reached its crescendo during Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid controversy and during the decade of eighties communal discourse became almost mainstream discourse and BJP indulged in this discourse blatantly and unabashedly while the Congress, being a secular party, had to exercise caution in using it. But nevertheless Congress too displayed its communal bias in a more restrained and sophisticated way.


The police was also communalized in the same way as political rhetoric. Even when the Congress was appealing to minorities to support it in return for its secular credentials and also tried to assure minorities of protection and security, it never tried seriously to inject secularism into the minds of security agencies. The police record, as various inquiry commission reports into various major communal riots show has been extremely poor and tainted.


While the Congress Government shunned from giving proper ideological training the Sangh Parivar made constant efforts to communalize the police in various ways. Apart from the fact that it recruited those trained in RSS shakhas (branches) into the police force whenever in power in states or Central Government, its strident communal rhetoric deeply affected the police mind.


To what extent the police has been affected by the communal virus became abundantly evident during its conduct in investigating terror attacks. What happened in Delhi in Batla House on 21st September is indeed a hair raising story of police prejudice against Muslims. It is indeed a great mystery as to who is behind terror attacks in various places. When Delhi had bomb explosions on 13th September the police as usual assumed that SIMI is behind it, which has now assumed the new garb of Indian Mujahidin (IM).


It raided Batla House on the morning of 21st September where five students, all from Azamgarh district studying in Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi. Let me emphasize one thing here that Jamia Millia Islamia has been the centre of Nationalism and it was established at the height of civil disobedience movement in post 1st World War by Nationalist Muslims of great stature like Zakir Husain, Mohammad Ali Jauhar and others at the instance of Mahatma Gandhi and when number of Muslim teachers and students boycotted Aligarh Muslim University.


The Jamia has ever since has maintained its nationalist character and Zakir Saheb and others made great sacrifices to keep it running despite severe economic crunch. Later it became Central University. Even today it has strong nationalist and secular credentials. It is unimaginable that those studying there would be so badly affected by communal ideology so as to turn terrorists.


But the police suspected these students and in fact claimed that Atif (or Atiq) was the mastermind behind Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad blasts and was responsible for sending the e-mail in the name of Indian Mujahidin. The Delhi police killed Atif and Sajid in ‘encounter’ and a police inspector Sharma was also killed. The police also claimed to have found AK-47 and a country revolver in the place where these students lived. It arrested one Saif and claimed that two other escaped.


All leading human rights activists who carried out investigation on the spot found serious gaps in the police claim and raised several questions blasting the police theory of ‘encounter’. Inspector Sharma who was killed was ‘encounter specialist’ in Delhi Police Force. Not only Delhi police, but police all over India, particularly in Maharashtra, Gujarat are known to carry out false encounters in league with underworld dons and accumulate phenomenal wealth.


The police have not been able to answer these questions raised by human rights activists and there seems to be genuine concern among people about the killing of these ‘dreaded terrorists’. They might have been quite innocent. Police claimed that Sajid was 22 or 23 years old without producing any proof. His parents showed certificates to prove his age was 18 years and he had come to Delhi only three months ago to seek admission in 11th standard in Jamia Millia Islamia.


This has created strong feeling of alienation among Muslims throughout India. The police, after every blast arrests innocent young Muslim boys, mostly from lower middle class and accuses them of being involved in the conspiracy to carry out terror attacks despite total lack of any proof. After arrest it manages to obtain ‘confession’ from them and gives out story of having cracked the case. It is well known how this confession is obtained.


What is more unfortunate is that the media publishes these stories uncritically and describes these boys as ‘dreaded terrorists’ and masterminds. The police change the names of masterminds after every explosion and even then the media – both print as well as electronic – does not question the police version. Some human rights activists or the Tehelka team has done splendid work in exposing serious flaws in the police claim.


Why this police approach? One obvious reason is its natural assumption, due mainly to its communalization, that no one else but Muslim boys belonging to SIMI who have also assumed the name of IM can do it. Despite lack of any proof except self ‘confession’ they do not change their track. Many Bajrang Dal youth were caught making bombs but police downplays these explosions and completely ignores any possibility of their role.


Secondly police, apart from being infected by communal violence, is under pressure to ‘solve’ the case as any delay exposes it to not being able to do its work efficiently. Thirdly, it has found easy way out to arrest some innocent youth, obtain their confession, and claim they have ‘solved’ the case. Thus they are also able to satisfy their political bosses under pressure from public to solve the case and stop further terror attacks.


Such casual and communal approach on the part of police has serious consequences for the country. After every police claim that it has caught the mastermind further terror attacks take place as if to ridicule their claim. Thus it is resulting in continuous terror attacks. In no time after Batla House ‘encounter’ wherein police claimed that it has nabbed the masterminds of Delhi blast and even killed them another blast took place on 27th September in which one boy of 12 years was killed on the spot and another killed later in the hospital and several persons seriously injured.


Unless police sheds its communal bias and does hard work through collecting credible evidence terror attacks cannot be stopped. However, no one, much less the media, is prepared to buy the theory that police is lacking in its duty. In every blast several innocent people are killed. The Governments, state as well central, are failing to provide protection to its people. How many more will be killed in such blasts?


The BJP, on the other hand, is further communalizing the situation in the hope of getting more Hindu votes by demanding enactment of POTA or POTA like law to nab the terrorists. It was BJP that had enacted dreaded law and despite POTA several major terrorist attacks including one on Parliament took place. More terrorist attacks will give more advantage to the BJP in coming elections. Should this dimension also not be taken into account for these repeated attacks despite claim that real masterminds have been arrested?


The police approach is also creating anguish and anger among Muslims. In several meetings with important Muslim leaders and intellectuals that we held in different towns and cities, they said what is the guarantee that my son’s turn will not come tomorrow? Today they are feeling quite alienated and isolated and it is not healthy for a multi-religious country like India to alienate the largest religious minority to such an extent.


The Sangh Parivar has seriously damaged the secular character of our country. It has completely destroyed its secular character and its age-old tradition of tolerance and human values for its lust for power and for making India Hindu Rashtra. Now the Christian minority is under similar attack, Christians who have contributed so richly to modern India. Christians are also anguished today like never before. It is highly regrettable that our Prime Minister described these attacks on Christians as ‘sporadic’ during his trip abroad.


He also described these attacks as ‘shameful’, which is more honest description. Remember Mr. A.B.Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister, had said after Gujarat riots of 2002 what face will I show abroad? And now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to face embarrassing situation in France. Then why does he not act firmly against communal forces? Why is he so soft towards the Sangh Parivar. Why does he not ban Bajrang Dal and VHP for attacking Christians in Orissa (Kandhmal district) and in Karnataka? The role of police has been no different in Orissa and Karnataka. Its sympathies were obviously with Sangh Parivar when Christians were being attacked.


Is not our country inching towards fascism?


(Secular Perspective October 1-15, 2008) 

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