Terrorising Muslims in the Name of Countering Terrorism

In the face of a seemingly unending wave of fake encounters, killings and

arrests of innocent Muslims across the country falsely accused by the police of

being ‘terrorists’, a three-day Peoples’ Tribunal was recently held in

Hyderabad on ‘Atrocities Committed Against Minorities in the Name of Fighting

Terrorism’. Organised by three noted Delhi-based human rights organisations,

ANHAD, Peace and the Human Rights Law Network, it brought together eminent

journalists, retired judges and social activists who listened to the testimonies

of over 40 Muslims from different parts of India who have been victimised or

whose relatives have been brutally terrorised by the police and the state

machinery in the name of combating ‘terrorism’.

Introducing the purpose of the Public Tribunal, Apoorvanand, a Delhi-based

social activist, critiqued the so-called ‘mainstream’ media for its

obsession with what it terms as ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ terrorism while

maintaining a studied silence on the terrorism unleashed on a far more menacing

scale by the state and by right-wing Hindu organisations, in which, over the

years, tens of thousands of people, mostly Muslims, have lost their lives, with

their culprits having faced no punishment whatsoever. He remarked that now, in

addition to working-class Muslims who earlier bore the brunt of police

brutalities, Muslim professionals, such as doctors, computer scientists and

engineers, are being arbitrarily arrested by the police, tortured in jails and

branded as ‘terrorists’ for crimes for which no confirmed evidence of their

involvement has been produced. ‘Earlier, poor Muslims were arrested, branded

as ignorant lumpen elements by the police

and, hence, as terrorists. Now, they are catching well-educated Muslims and

accusing them of being terrorists, claiming that they have access to

sophisticated technology,’ he remarked. Literally hundreds of Muslims have,

in recent years, been picked up by the police or even killed on such fake

charges, he added. The mass media simply parrots the police line, thus playing a

major role in fanning anti-Muslim hatred. At the same time, he went on, the

police, the so-called ‘mainstream’ media and the state machinery turn a

completely blind eye to the terror being openly engaged in by Hindutva outfits.

On a similar note, Colin Gonsalves, Supreme Court advocate and convenor of the

Human Rights Law Network, noted what he called the ‘fear psychosis’ that had

spread throughout the Muslim community in the face of police and state terror.

Several Muslim victims from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh who wanted

to testify at the Public Tribunal were intimidated by the police not to do so,

being threatened with further trouble if they refused to comply with their

orders, he said. He bitterly castigated the state for refusing to ban Hindu

terror outfits and for not taking any action against the killers of literally

thousands of Sikhs, Muslims and Christians. He pointed out that the police was

rounding up large numbers of innocent Muslims and, through brutal torture, was

forcing them to confess to terror crimes which they did not commit. For their

part, the courts, too, were dragging their feet on a whole host of cases

involving massacres and

unwarranted arrests of religious minorities across the country.

Suresh Khairnar, an intrepid human rights activist from Nagpur, rebutted the

police’s claim about the alleged role of Muslim militants in the attack on the

RSS headquarters in Nagpur and in several other such bomb blasts in recent

years. He claimed that the Nagpur attack was a stage-managed incident, and that

the three Muslim men who were killed by the police, whom the police claimed were

behind the attack, were actually done to death in a fake encounter. Khairnar

also raised the case of the Nanded blasts, in which some Bajrang Dal activists

who were making bombs in order to attack mosques were killed. Scores of Hindutva

activists were also involved in the conspiracy, but, Khairnar said, no action

was taken against them. Nor did the media give this, as well as other proven

cases of Hindutva groups being engaged in fomenting terror, much coverage.

‘This is the last battle for survival for India’s Muslims. I cannot even

dare imagine how dreadful must be the insecurity of ordinary Muslims in this

country,’ Khairnar opined, adding that the state, rapidly hurtling towards

full-blown fascism, was hell-bent on quashing all dissent. ‘While Muslims

demanding justice are branded as Islamic terrorists, those of us, like myself,

who have Hindu names, are being targeted as Naxalites,’ he said. No political

party was seriously taking up the cause of the Muslims who are being thus

unfairly targeted, he pointed out, and in large parts of the country

pro-Hindutva lawyers have made it impossible for anyone to take up their cases.

The situation was grim not just in BJP-ruled states but also in states ruled by

the Congress and the CPI(M), he added, where the attitude of the police towards

Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis was, with a few exceptions, equally hostile.

‘They are fiercely anti-Muslim despite not

having gone to RSS shakhas and despite being paid by a so-called secular

state. They are doing the work of the Bajrang Dal’, he remarked.

Zakia Jowher of Action Aid , who has been closely involved in the struggle for

justice for Muslims in Gujarat, spoke about the continued harassment of Muslims

in the state, of police forcing innocent Muslims through torture to confess to

bomb blasts crimes that they did not commit, even going to the extent of

threatening to kill them in fake encounters if they refused. Yet, in the face of

all this, the state remains a mute spectator. Even sections of the judiciary are

complicit in this gross denial of justice and there is little or no transparency

in the investigations. ‘ We are paying the price for being Muslims. This is

a total subversion of the Indian Constitution. Gujarat was an exception’, but

now, she added, ‘it is rapidly becoming the norm’, with witch-hunts against

Muslims in the name of countering terrorism spreading to the rest of the

country. ‘There’s no difference between the Congress and the BJP on this

score,’ she


Ram Puniyani, noted Mumbai-based human rights activist, argued that there now

appear to be ‘two separate judicial systems in this country—a separate one

for oppressed communities like Dalits and Muslims and another for the elites.

There seems to be no scope for justice for oppressed groups. Investigations into

charges and atrocities against them are being dictated by oppression, deceit and

lies.’ This sentiment was echoed by the well-known scholar-activist Asghar

Ali Engineer, who remarked that ‘the governmental apparatus has become

monstrous’. He questioned the police’s claims about the banned Students

Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) as being behind a recent chain of deadly bomb

blasts in the country, on the basis of which hundreds of hapless Muslims have

been arrested and tortured in prisons. ‘SIMI has been banned for several years

now, so how can it suddenly become so powerful? SIMI activists have been

carefully watched, so how come

these attacks have happened?’ , he asked. Numerous other blasts attributed

to Muslims by the police, the state authorities and the media, he said, were

probably engineered by other elements. The media, however, only accepts the

police version of the story, and no action is ever taken against highly communal

Hindu newspapers, which spread vitriol against Muslims, he pointed out.

Former Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University Roop Rekha called these chains of

dastardly events as ‘signs of fascism, an attack not just on Muslims but also

on democracy, indicating a total collapse of the Constitutional system’. She

mentioned how Hindu fascist organisations regularly organise training camps for

instructing their volunteers in the use of arms and also carry weapons in

processions in the streets but are not stopped by the state machinery. ‘Yet,

if Muslims just raise some religious slogan like Allahu Akbar they can be

branded as terrorists ’, she said. ‘I thought the judiciary was the safest

institution for protecting the rights of minorities but this is not so.

Several unfair judgments have been delivered and if we protest against them we

run the risk of being accused of contempt of court’, she decried.

After listening to the heart-wrenching narratives of hapless Muslim victims of

police and state terror who had assembled from various parts of India, members

of the jury of the People’s Tribunal announced their ‘verdict’.

Jury-member and noted human rights activist from Hyderabad K.G.Kannabiran

accused the government of ‘an assault on Muslims and subjecting them to

tremendous repression’. ‘Such mis-governance and such blatant denial of

justice’, he said, ‘can only produce terrorism, not stop it.’ Likewise,

Justice (Retd.) Sardar Ali accused powerful elements in the police and the state

apparatus of seeking to ‘destroy the fundamental character of the Indian

Constitution’ and even claimed that ‘an undeclared emergency has been

declared against the Muslims of the country’. This, in turn, he remarked,

‘poses a grave danger to the very concept of India.’ And, voicing the same

concern, Justice (Retd.) S.N.Bhargava gave a

similar verdict, stating that Muslims in large parts of India were ‘living

in fear’ and were being effectively denied their right to live with honour and



The views and opinions of authors whose articles and comments are posted on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of IQC.