Crafting an Image for Modi: Communalisation, Politicisation of Terror Investigations

In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections 2014, several instances of politically-motivated violence have been witnessed. The communal violence at Muzaffarnagar, intended to sharpen communal polarisation and consolidate the dominant and majority community in UP and neighbouring states in favour of the BJP, is a prominent instance. In Bihar, the murder of a young Muslim schoolteacher Akbar Khan followed by the murder of CPI(ML) Liberation leader Budhram Paswan, have also been used to serve a political purpose.

Following Comrade Budhram’s murder, feudal forces fired celebratory shots in the air, aiming to terrorise the poor supporters of CPI(ML). Following Akbar’s murder, there was a malicious attempt to spread a rumour that he was killed because he cheered for Pakistan in a cricket match. Fortunately the communal canard failed, because the young Akbar, who used to teach poor children for free and organise actions to keep the streets free of sexual harassment for schoolgirls, enjoyed the affection and respect of local people of all communities. As the elections unfold, it is disturbing to note a trend of communalisation and politicisation of terror investigations. In the month of March, there has been a concerted attempt by investigative agencies and by sections of the media, to create an image of the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi, as a leader who is the target of terrorists and to foster suspicion and hatred against the minority community as well. Following the arrest of 4 youths in Rajasthan recently, the media carried many stories claiming – supposedly based on ‘IB alerts’ that these four men were part of a terror plot against Modi. The Delhi Police Special Cell that made the arrests chose to hold a Press Conference about the arrests. What was the need for a Press Conference in an ongoing investigation, when no substantial facts are available? Such an exercise, in an election season, smacks of a political motive.

In Bihar, the conduct of the NIA in the investigation of the Bodh Gaya and Patna blasts, has reeked of shocking political bias as well as rampant torture. The supposed investigation has rested on the detention and torture of teenage boys, in an attempt to extract false ‘confessions,’ and the terrorisation and intimidation of an entire community. 19-year old Aslam Parvez from Abgila village, Arwal district, Bihar, has been held in NIA custody since March 5th. Papers report that he has been produced in a Ranchi court on March 31st. His father and other family members, who saw him in NIA custody in Delhi testify to the fact that he had been severely tortured. In a blatant display of political bias and intimidation, Aslam Parvez’s father Maksood Alam was asked by the NIA why he would not vote for Modi! Aslam Parvez’s cousin Irfan Ansari had been picked up on March 1st, and tortured in NIA custody: in Jehanabad, he was stripped naked and beaten on his legs and soles of the foot. In NIA custody in Delhi, soap was put in his mouth, and his head was held under water repeatedly. A chair was placed on his chest, and NIA personnel would sit on the arms of the chair to create unbearable pressure on his body. He put be placed in a room all night with no clothes on, with the fan on. Irfan Ansari was told by the NIA – ‘We’ll ensure that no Muslim from Arwal ever gets a government job.’ Several other young men from Abgila village were also detained and interrogated by the NIA; they were warned not to tell anyone about the torture.

The NIA Act is a draconian law under which an accused can be held in police custody for 30 days, and further detained without charges for

180 days: the case of Aslam Parvez clearly shows that such powers are a licence for extracting false confessions under torture.

The above facts emerged during a visit to Arwal by a team comprising CPI(ML) Liberation and the Rihai Manch of UP, a platform of activists and lawyers working to ensure that civil liberties are respected in terror investigations.

The BJP candidate from Ara LS, RK Singh, has been saying in speeches that as former Home Secretary, he is privy to knowledge that Modi is a prime target for terrorists. NIA during interrogations, asks the father of a detainee, why he doesn’t vote for Modi. The electoral purpose of such unsubstantiated assertions and biased line of questioning is obvious.

The political bias displayed by the NIA in Arwal further shows that terror investigations seem to following a political script. Such political bias and the use of torture, can never serve the cause of the truth or identify the true perpetrators of terror attacks.