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Lajpat Nagar Blast Case: another test case


From the narrow window of my small cell,
...I see trees that are smiling at me
and rooftops crowded with my family.
And windows weeping and praying for me.
From the narrow window of my small cell -
I can see your big cell!

-- Samih al-Qasim


Lajpat Nagar Blast Case: another test case of the observation that "being a Kashmiri itself is a crime to be punished in India!

Abolish Capital Punishment!

Public memory is too short. And the media which prunes our interests and intuitions also didn't find this particular case enticing enough as it had when the incident happened 16 years before. That blasts took place at Lajpat Nagar, Delhi in 1996 itself was sensational news. Following this the arrests of 10 Kashmiri youth and their sensationalised media trial also ensured that the public gaze remain glued to the news channels. What happened after that, that too after 14 years for the Kashmiris who got tried was of little news value though the death sentence conferred on many of them made the media trial before the real trial more 'credible' and 'authentic' before the public.

All that followed after that, the latest being the acquittal by the High Court of two more Kashmiris who were given death penalty and the conversion of the death penalty of another one into life was not sensational enough. No questions were asked about the incriminating media trials. A few words of scolding for the inefficient, erring police which has now become the usual script in all sensational 'blast cases'. At least that is the way the law comes to terms with the lawlessness of the protectors of law!

Two years before, a Delhi Court had conferred death sentence to three Kashmiris-Mohd Naushad, Mohd Ali Bhatt and Mirza Nissar Hussain-in the 1996 Lajpat Nagar blast. This judgement was given after 14 long years. The judgement further sentenced Javed Ahmed Khan for rigorous life imprisonment while two others-Farooq Ahmed Khan and Farida Dar-were released as the court observed that the 14 years that they had spent in the prison would be considered as their punishment. But behind this sensational sentence the court was criminally silent about 4 other Kashmiris who had been acquitted by the same court in the same case a week before. For it had found them innocent, that too after 14 long years!

The forked tongue of the judgement is evident for any discerning mind when the same court has released two Kashmiris stating that the 14 year incarceration is being taken as their punishment while silent about the other four who has been found innocent after 14 years!

Another two years have passed. And now the High Court of Delhi, after sixteen years, i.e. on 22 November 2012 has acquitted two more Kashmiris in the same case! This time Mirza Nissar Hussain and Mohd Ali Bhat alias Kille who were given death penalty by the lower court. The same court has converted the death penalty of Mohammad Naushad into life while upholding the life term of Javed Ahmad Khan alias Chotta Javed.

In 2010 the Court had rapped the police for shoddy evidence and irresponsible conduct which it has termed as lack of seriousness. In 2012 the High Court have rebuked the Delhi Police for its failure to adduce even "the minimum standard of proof" and pointing out that "it has shown casual approach in the case".

As mentioned before this "casual approach" and "lack of seriousness" in framing up charges against people without even the "Daily Diary entry" as well as "statement of vital witnesses", to cite a few among other glaring lapses, are a set pattern of the modus operandi of lawlessness in the investigating agencies. To add to this is the growing communal prejudice against Kashmiri Muslims that one of the Kashmiris who were on trial in the case couldn't betray his emotions as he observed that "being a Kashmiri itself is a crime to be punished in India". But for the dogged legal battle, 16 years of incarceration in Tihar has become a usual story, a grim reminder, a tragic replay of the gross injustice meted out to many a Kashmiri Muslim by the Indian judiciary.

It won't be an exaggeration to say that the Kashmiris are being specifically targeted for their political convictions. And to suspect a Kashmiri as a potential threat to India's national security has become a story that a considerable section of the media and vested interests would solicit to. It is for the democratic and freedom loving people of the Indian subcontinent to once again stand up against this impunity, prejudice and specific targeting of a people by highly communalised investigating agencies, prejudiced and corrupt judiciary and the jingoist media that sells all kinds of insinuating and incriminating stories about the alleged Kashmiri involvement. Will they ever stand for trial? Or raising a question against them would affect the morale of the investigating agencies?

Despite shoddy evidence and irresponsible conduct from the side of the police, it did not stop the lower court to give death sentence to 3 Kashmiris. And they had to live two years in the shadow of noose hanging over their head to finally get acquitted by the High Court (2 got acquitted and one got death penalty converted to life) which lamented about the same shoddy evidence and total apathy of the police. To live in the shadow of imminent death for two years is itself torturous, dehumanising. Especially at a time when the Supreme Court itself has observed that many of the capital punishments that have been executed have later turned out to be made on the basis inadequate evidence and sloppy judgements. Death penalty is a punishment that has long been given up by many civilised countries. India is yet to sign this International treaty to which many of the democracies in the world are signatory against a worst form of barbaric punishment that can only further criminalise the people and the system. It becomes important to demand unequivocally to abolish Capital Punishment and demand the Indian Government to immediately sign the International Treaty abandoning death penalty as a form of punishment which was again ratified last week by the UN.

Illegal detentions, trumped up cases and imprisonment have become a way of life for the average Kashmiri. Along with this is the growing prejudice and impunity of the police and investigating agencies. Kashmiris have become easy fodder for the state to bolster its campaign against the so-called war against 'terror' which has only resulted in further criminalising dissent. The struggle for the recognition of the status of political prisoner and the demand for the unconditional release for all political prisoners wouldn't be complete without bringing to the fore the telltale stories of incarceration of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. And they find resonance in the growing menace of illegal detention of Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims and alleged Maoists in the larger parts of Indian subcontinent as the criminalisation and terror profiling of political dissent and dissidents are taking precedence in India day in and out with more and more draconian laws being enacted and implemented giving the police and the investigating agencies the veil of impunity.

In Solidarity,

SAR Geelani, Working President
Amit Bhattacharyya, Secretary General
Rona Wilson,
Secretary Public Relations


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