Witch-hunt by Investigative Agencies

Ever since the Burdwan bomb blast, there has been a new phase of witch hunt of minorities in West Bengal. Corporate media houses have been running kangaroo trails based on half baked information and misleading facts.

Two men were killed in the blast – Shakil Ahmed and Sovan Mandal. The police, and later the NIA and NSG too, zeroed in on the theory that the perpetrators were associates of Shakil Ahmad, ignoring Sovan Mandal largely.

The story of two young workers, Zulfikar Ali (35) and Haider Ali (34), victims of the witch-hunt is a harrowing one. It underlines how due process and civil liberties are blithely crushed underfoot by investigative agencies.

After three weeks of incarceration, torture and humiliation Zulfikar Ali and Haider Ali(34) were released by the Jammu and Kashmir Police on 30th October evening. Zulfikaar and Haider were picked up by Jammu and Kashmir Police from their rented home in Kanshipura Gausia of Baramula district on 6th and 8th October respectively.

After retrieving their id cards from the police, they boarded a home bound train on 2nd November and reached on 4th November. They held a press conference on 5th November at Rampurhat. Comrade Malay Tewari and Comrade Pradyot Mukherji of CPI(ML) were present at that press conference.

For several years Haider had been going to Kashmir to work as a mason. Zulfikar joined him six months back. Rabiul, Zulfikar’s elder brother has been working there for almost a decade. These three used to stay in in a rented house. On the night of 6th October on the day of Bakrid, police raided their rented house in civil dress, and picked up Rabiul and Zulfikar. They were taken to Baramulla Police Station, where they were slapped and verbally abused. They were asked whether they know how to use fire arms. Then the police released Rabiul after getting him to sign a form written in Urdu.

The next day Rabiul with the help of his colleagues Tipu and Barkat and some other friends got to know that Zulfikar was arrested because of his supposed connection with the ‘West Bengal Case’ (i.e. Burdwan blast). Next day while at work Rabiul got an emergency phone call from Haider and he came back to their rented house and finds it again being raided by police. A scared Rabiul spent that night at a friend’s place and boarded a home bound train on the very next day. After reaching home he was informed by his friends from Baramulla that police arrested Haider.

Zulfikar and Haider live in village called Nayagram of Murari-1 Block in Birbhum. When Rabiul with the help of local school teachers and other neighbours called the Baramulla Police Station, police told them that “they were merely assisting the IB”. The Murari Police denied to lodge a formal diary entry. On 21st October, Comrade Malay, Comrade Ashoke from Birbhum District Committee and comrade Bilas visited Zulfikar’s home in Nayagram. Haider’s mother told that his son Haider is introvert in nature, liked by their fellow villagers because of his sweet behaviour and masonry skills with which he constructed the arched mosque of their village.

Zulfikar told the press that he was arrested on 6th October evening on the day of Bakrid. The next day, he was sent to Cargo Joint Interrogation Centre, where he was tortured for several consecutive days. He was given electric shocks in his body parts other than being beaten by lathi and belts made of tyres by 6 IB personnel. According to Zulfikar, he was repeatedly asked why he and his friends went sightseeing instead of leaving Kashmir when most of the migrant labourers were leaving because of the flood. Based on the videos in Zulfikar’s mobile taken during their trip, police further arrested Haider.

On 16th October Zulfikar was sent to another makeshift jail within army barracks, where he met Haider. Haider too was heckled, manhandled and abused while in custody. Haider was arrested with Rs 11200, but while being released Police deducted a sum of Rs 3200 from Haider’s money as a ‘price’ of their food. They were never given any arrest memo or any such documents.

On 12th October Times of India reported the arrest of these two youths without naming them, but connecting them with the Burdwan blast and ISIS in a ‘bigger game plan’. But with the intervention of civil liberties activists and political activists, the facts began to emerge and the media could not continue with its witch-hunt.

According to story published in ‘Indian Express’ on 25th October the Jammu and Kashmir DG K Rajindra stated that NIA is conducting the entire investigation, and after thorough investigation they have concluded that the Burdwan blast has no connection with Kashmir, and nobody was arrested in this regard. He further informed that they had detained two people for interrogation, but both of them were released subsequently. Even while talking to our representatives the DG repeatedly said that they have no clue about these two people after them being released. On 28th October he finally said he will see what can be done even these two people are not found after three days. It was after all these efforts that the two men were released on 30th October.

How can the investigative agencies be allowed to abduct people (holding people without informing family of their whereabouts amounts to abduction) and torture them? Had Rabiul and various activists not pursued the case relentlessly, would it not have been all too easy for the investigators to torture the men into a ‘confession’? How can the media blithely talk of ‘ISIS’ connections and brand people as terrorists, and not even have to apologise?

Even failing to produce any substantial evidence after repeated police ‘investigation’ – i.e indiscriminate raids in the madarsas – most of the media is shamelessly spreading communal stereotypes against the minority community.