Some politicians are voicing their concerns that Muslims are perhaps being unfairly targeted for arrest and detention when India is attacked by terrorists.
- By Udayan Namboodiri, Khabar South AsiaA bullet is lodged in the frame of a shattered bus window outside Jama Masjid in New Delhi on September 19th, 2010. A charge sheet was issued against suspected Indian Mujahideen member Fasih Mahmood for his alleged role in the attack, but some politicians are concerned he’s being targeted because he is Muslim. [Manpreet Romana/AFP][/caption]India’s Parliament will hold a debate within the next eight weeks on the prolonged detention of suspects – the majority of them Muslim – on charges of terrorism, in what would be the Lok Sabha’s first serious deliberation on the topic.
Stirring speeches Tuesday (February 26th) by senior parliamentarians Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Basudev Acharya and Mohammad Bashir inspired Speaker Meira Kumar to propose the unprecedented debate during the ongoing budget session.
“If it is introduced, I will certainly allow a substantial discussion,” she assured the House.
Alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Fasih Mahmood – an engineer by training who was chargesheeted in mid-February after deportation from Saudi Arabia – will likely feature prominently in the discussion.
“The Fasih Mahmood case is the tip of the iceberg. We are surprised that there are 33 Muslim boys from north Bihar alone on charges of being IM operatives. The charges against them are vague and based on confessions extracted from other suspects. This is not good for national unity,” Lalu Prasad Yadav, whose Rashtriya Janata Dal party supports India’s ruling coalition, told Khabar South Asia.
“The law does not discriminate”
The Delhi Police’s Special Cell issued a charge sheet for Mahmood on February 16th for allegedly planning and executing an attack on New Delhi’s Jama Masjid in September 2010 and the April 2010 bombing of Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. In the former case, two Taiwanese nationals were injured, while 15 people were hurt in the latter.
Fourteen others were named in the charge sheet, including Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari, also known as Abu Jindal, considered one of the chief conspirators in the November 2008 attack in Mumbai.
Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar denied to Khabar that Mahmood is being held on trumped up charges. “He has given a signed confession. Apart from that, corroborative evidence will be presented in court.”
State Minister of Home R.P.N. Singh maintained in his reply to the MPs’ speeches that the country’s counterterror policy is religion-neutral. “The law does not discriminate on the basis of religion. It is extremely unfortunate if some youths were in jail without any charge sheet against them.”
Singh gave a partial accounting of the religious affiliation of arrested terror suspects, the first time a government official has ever done so.
“The National Investigation Agency (NIA), set up after the Mumbai terror attack, has investigated 52 cases and arrested 334 people since 2009,” Singh told the House. “Out of the 334, over 200 youths are Muslims. We don’t have details on members of other religions who have been arrested by the NIA on terror charges.”
Significantly, the minister added that the federal government did not have comprehensive data on the number of people awaiting trial in terrorism cases all over India. “This is for the state governments to provide,” he said.
IM is considered India’s “home grown” terrorist group and is linked to the February 21st bombing in Hyderabad that killed 16 people. It is also supposed to have organised explosions in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore.
Innocent until proven guilty
Unease over the issue of terror detainees is festering, even among some members of the ruling Congress party.
Digvijay Singh, a high-profile Congress party general secretary, told Khabar, “Our jurisprudence upholds the maxim, innocent untill proved guilty. Unfortunately, in terrorism cases, a large number of young men have been held for years without trial.”
Mulayam Singh Yadav said the government needs to fight the feeling growing within India’s Muslim community that they are being singled out in terrorism cases.
“The Fasih Mahmood case has created much bad blood,” he told Khabar. “The government should heed the sentiments of the Muslim community as the perception is growing that innocent Muslim young men are being targeted for framing whenever there is a terror strike.”
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- Politics of terrorism in India (alhittin.com)