Delhi police have so far not revealed any substantive evidence. All they have is a theory
- By Abhishek Bhalla
The arrest of journalist Syed Mohammad Ahmed Kazmi on the charges of aiding and abetting the bombing of the car carrying Israeli Defense Attache’s wife last month has raised serious questions about the authenticity of the probe. After speaking to the family and friends of the arrested journalist and analysing the court documents, Tehelka has found that the police have so far not revealed any substantive evidence against Kazmi. All they have is a theory.
The police have claimed that the two-wheeler found at his residence (it has a Haryana registration number) was used by the bombers (whose identity the police have not revealed) to carry out a recce of the Israeli embassy. However, Kazmi’s family claims that the scooty that is being called a break-through recovery has been parked at their residence for the last 2 years. “We have never used this scooty. It belongs to my uncle who purchased it when he visited Delhi two years back for his treatment at AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences),” said Shauzab Kazmi (23), son of the arrested journalist. Breaking down, Shauzab also denied that an Iranian or a citizen of any other nationality had ever visited or stayed with the family. The police claim that Kazmi had sheltered the bomber at his house.
According to the remand application filed by the Delhi police in court Kazmi was in touch with the bombers prior to the attack and his questioning is significant to unearth the larger conspiracy since he was ‘an integral part of it’. The police stated in court that the bombers were from another country and in all probability had fled the country but Kazmi could be vital in providing further leads about the local connections. Although the police have not officially named any country, on the condition of anonymity a police officer told Tehelka that the bombers were from Iran. “Inputs indicate that the attack was carried out by an Iranian group. Since they knew Kazmi they used him to get local assistance. He was promised money for this. He was already paid some money in dollars and he was promised more,” said an officer part of the investigations.
But where is the money which Kazmi got? What was the sum promised? All that the police have recovered from his house is 1254 dollars. Certainly, we are not expected to believe that Kazmi agreed to be part of a terror plot for mere 1254 dollars?
According to sources he was asked to provide recruits and was also aware of the future plans of the group. Investigators say based on inputs provided by Kazmi more arrests are likely and that they have already zeroed in on a few suspects.
Kazmi, a senior Urdu journalist, had been reporting on Iran over the last few years and had been working with the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) of Iran since 1988. Originally from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, he took up journalism in 1983 and had been living in Delhi since almost 20 years. Kazmi’s family of seven that includes his wife and two kids apart from his brother’s family owns a house in the BK Dutt Colony near the Jor Bagh locality of South Delhi. Fellow Urdu journalists talk about Kazmi’s “excellent” reportage on US occupation of Iraq in 2003, where Kazmi was amongst the very few Indian journalists who reported from the ground. On the day of the blast, Kazmi was sitting on a protest dharna in front of 24, Akbar Road (Congress headquarters) along with the prominent leader Maulana Kalbe Jawad of Lucknow. For a journalist who has reported on conflicts in West Asia for over 15 years, having all kinds of contacts is inevitable. Delhi police sources, however, claim this had got him in touch with radical groups in Iran.
Although there is no official word it is believed that Israeli agencies had passed on certain inputs to their Indian counterparts that was further provided to Delhi police. In muted voices officials admit that information on suspects has been coming from central agencies. “There was a phone number of a suspect given by central agencies to us. It was immediately put on surveillance. It was not Kazmi’s. He was in constant touch with the suspect but we were unable to zero down on it,” said a source. Senior journalist Syed Naqvi came out supporting his old colleague on Friday and suggested that Kazmi’s arrest is a fallout of a foreign policy matters. “Kazmi has been an honorable and honest journalist who has been reporting for Iranian News Agency IRNA as he knows Urdu, Persian and Arabic. He has been arrested because he has sided with Iran on various issues including the latest Israel-Iran stand-off. He has also reported on Syria in recent times where he has debunked western position on protests in that country,” he said.
Talking to IRNA on 26 January Kazmi had said that illegal sanctions against Iran have lost their objective. He was quoted as saying that the US needs to correct its behavior and stop making false propaganda. He also suggested that countries importing oil from Iran safeguard their national interests by rejecting new unilateral US sanctions. He also criticized possession of nuclear weapons by the US, Israel and their allies. “In his writings he was anti-Zionist, anti-Israel but never anti-Jewish… He had has biases and strong opinions as a journalist but he hardly showed any signs of jingoism,” added Naqvi.
The sequence of events leading to Kazmi’s arrest is also murky. Kazmi was picked up from the India Islamic Cultural Centre at about 11.30 am on 6 March – two hours after he had appeared on national television; DD Urdu. Post-arrest, he was taken to the office of the Special Cell of the Delhi police, where he was interrogated till late in the evening. His official arrest has been shown in the records as 8.30 pm. Later in the night officers of the Special Cell went to Kazmi’s house and seized his laptop, Press Information Bureau card, passport, driving license and some other documents. The police has also seized his Alto car that and the two-wheeler that they claim was used for the recce. “I was forced to sign on the arrest memo at 2.30 am. We asked them to wait till morning but they threatened us,” said Kazmi’s son Shauzab.
The Delhi Union of Journalists has also written to the Delhi Police commissioner BK Gupta urging him to step in. “Investigations can continue but he should be released on bail since he is cooperating with the investigations. We do not want the police to indulge in a media trial. If there is any need for information to be given it should only be through an official press note,” said SK Pandey, general secretary of the body.
Meanwhile, Turab Ali Kazmi (18), in the middle of his Class XII Board Exams, is facing a bigger test. Instead of preparing for his exams he has had to tender explanations to journalists that his father is a much-respected journalist who would never indulge in anti-national activities.
(With inputs from Arpit Parashar and G Vishnu)
Abhishek Bhalla is a Senior Special Correspondent with Tehelka.