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Living and the dead


The mysterious death of Khalid Mujahid in UP is a template for all that is wrong in the war against terror.Puja Awasthi reports
PUJA AWASTHI | Issue Dated: June 9, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Khalid Mujahid | Samajwadi Party | Brij Lal | Vikram Singh | Chiranjeev Nath Sinha | Intelligence Bureau | Public Interest Litigation | BJP | |

In death, Khalid Mujahid has a voice louder than the living. A voice, spoken in many tongues, that is threatening to shout down the Samajwadi Party government which finds itself in a bind over his custodial death. In the state which tops the ignoble list of such deaths, the tragedy of Mujahid (see box), a madarsa teacher from Jaunpur, 250 kilometre from the state’s capital Lucknow, is not just another statistic but a template for all that is wrong in the war against terror.

The FIR filed by Mujahid’s uncle Zaheer Alam Falahi names two former DGPs- Brij Lal and Vikram Singh (in addition to Manoj Kumar Jha,Chiranjeev Nath Sinha and S Anand) and the Intelligence Bureau as accused in a conspiracy to kill Mujahid. Vikram Singh who was the state’s DGP in 2007, stands by the arrests. “We broke the back of the terrorists. UP has been quiet ever since. We are on a high moral and legal ground”, he says.

Yet human rights organisations believe that if the case were to be investigated impartially, a proverbial can of worms would open. By logical extension, all the arrests that happened only on ‘leads’ provided by Mujahid and Tariq Qazmi would also be under a scanner, as would police claims of successfully working out terror cases.

Rajeev Yadav, spokesperson of the Rihai Manch-a forum for the release of Muslims jailed on terror charges says,“This is not an investigation into one case. It raises policy questions- why is the Intelligence Bureau doing what it is? Under what pressures is it working?”

Outwardly the government shows no signs of being perturbed. But the overtures are telling—an offer of security to Mohd Shoaib and Randhir Singh Suman (respective lawyers for Qazmi and Mujahid) and Rajeev Yadav, and a compensation for Mujahid’s family. The security cover was refused and the compensation turned down. The latter is also being challenged by a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which argues that since Mujahid is still a terrorist in the government’s records, his family must deserve what comes its way. “These are just ploys to silence us”, says Shoaib. The government’s measures have come in fits, as it seems desperate to be seen doing something, doing anything for an important vote bank. While there is no word from the CBI on the inquiry, a committee of the Home Secretary and the ADG Power Corporation is also probing the incident as is the chief judicial magistrate of Faizabad.

Yet suspicions keep growing. “The government’s intentions were always doubtful. The half measures for Khalid's release ensured that he became a threat to the police. He would have been a prime witness in investigations into his arrest. How could they have let him live?” asks Falahi. The ‘half measures’ he speaks of, include the holding back of the Nimesh Commission report. That report is a key document in shedding light on the role of the police in the arrests. As half substantiated leaks flow out, Mujahid has acquired the tag ‘shaheed’ and a motley group of self servers are being drawn to it. Among them, Maulana Bukhari who has demanded that an independent agency, not the CBI, conduct the inquiry and an employment offer figure in the compensation package being offered to the family. Some emotion was also sought to be whipped by mentions of Mujahid’s deeply anguished widow who in fact does not exist. The BJP has piped in with a promise to side with the suspended police officials, not specifying what it would do, while another PIL has been filed to seek quashing of the suspensions as they had happened arbitrarily.

The only undisputed fact in this maze is that the fight against terror is flawed. Take the case of Walliulah Obaid Qazmi sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2009 for the Varanasi bomb blasts of 2006. Qazmi was convicted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act but let off from the more serious charges of waging war against the state, criminal conspiracy and sedition. The debate on whether he got away lightly because of sloppy investigation or paid for a crime he did not commit, has not ceased. As such debates grow so does the possibility of political manipulations and public discontent. There is an obvious need for diligent investigations, fair trials and following the due process of law in the cases of those accused of terror acts- wrongly or rightly. Till those measures are in place, the dead will continue to haunt the world of the living.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017