We know this much: On December 13, 2001, the Indian Parliament was in its winter session. (The NDA government was under attack for yet another corruption scandal.) At 11.30 in the morning, five armed men in a white Ambassador car fitted out with an Improvised Explosive Device drove through the gates of Parliament House. When they were challenged, they jumped out of the car and opened fire. In the gun battle that followed, all the attackers were killed. Eight security personnel and a gardener were killed too. The dead terrorists, the police said, had enough explosives to blow up the Parliament building, and enough ammunition to take on a whole battalion of soldiers. Unlike most terrorists, these five left behind a thick trail of evidence—weapons, mobile phones, phone numbers, ID cards, photographs, packets of dry fruit, and even a love letter.
Not surprisingly, PM A.B. Vajpayee seized the opportunity to compare the assault to the September 11 attacks in the US that had happened only three months previously.
"INDIA IS A VERY BAD COUNTRY AND WE HATE INDIA WE WANT TO DESTROY INDIA AND WITH THE GRACE OF GOD WE WILL DO IT GOD IS WITH US AND WE WILL TRY OUR BEST. THIS EDIET WAJPAI AND ADVANI WE WILL KILL THEM. THEY HAVE KILLED MANY INNOCENT PEOPLE AND THEY ARE VERY BAD PERSONS THERE BROTHER BUSH IS ALSO A VERY BAD PERSON HE WILL BE NEXT TARGET HE IS ALSO THE KILLER OF INNOCENT PEOPLE HE HAVE TO DIE AND WE WILL DO IT."
This subtly worded sticker-manifesto was displayed on the windscreen of the car bomb as it drove into Parliament. (Given the amount of text, it's a wonder the driver could see anything at all. Maybe that's why he collided with the Vice-President's cavalcade?)
The police chargesheet was filed in a special fast-track trial court designated for cases under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). The trial court sentenced Geelani, Shaukat and Afzal to death. Afsan Guru was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment. The high court subsequently acquitted Geelani and Afsan, but it upheld Shaukat's and Afzal's death sentence. Eventually, the Supreme Court upheld the acquittals, and reduced Shaukat's punishment to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. However it not just confirmed, but enhanced Mohammed Afzal's sentence. He has been given three life sentences and a double death sentence.
TV grab of one of the terrorists of the December 13, 2001, Parliament attack
The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal to stay the broadcast of the film on the grounds that judges are not influenced by the media. (Would the Supreme Court concede that even if judges are beyond being influenced by media reports, the 'collective conscience of the society' might not be?) December 13th was broadcast on Zee TV's national network a few days before the fast-track trial court sentenced Geelani, Afzal and Shaukat to death. Geelani eventually spent 18 months in jail, many of them in solitary confinement on death row.
He was released when the high court acquitted him and Afsan Guru. (Afsan, who was pregnant when she was arrested, had her baby in prison. Her experience broke her. She now suffers from a serious psychotic condition.) The Supreme Court upheld the acquittal. It found absolutely no evidence to link Geelani with the Parliament attack or with any terrorist organisation. Not a single newspaper or journalist or TV channel has seen fit to apologise to Geelani for their lies. But S.A.R.
Geelani's troubles didn't end there. His acquittal left the Special Cell with a plot, but no 'mastermind'. This, as we shall see, becomes something of a problem. More importantly, Geelani was a free man now—free to meet the press, talk to lawyers, clear his name. On the evening of February 8, 2005, during the course of the final hearings at the Supreme Court, Geelani was making his way to his lawyer's house. A mysterious gunman appeared from the shadows and fired five bullets into his body. Miraculously, he survived. It was an unbelievable new twist to the story. Clearly somebody was worried about what he knew, what he would say.... One would imagine that the police would give this investigation top priority, hoping it would throw up some vital new leads into the Parliament attack case. Instead, the Special Cell treated Geelani as though he was the prime suspect in his own assassination. They confiscated his computer and took away his car. Hundreds of activists gathered outside the hospital and called for an enquiry into the assassination attempt, which would include an investigation into the Special Cell itself. (Of course that never happened. More than a year has passed, nobody shows any interest in pursuing the matter. Odd.)
So here he was now, S.A.R. Geelani, having survived this terrible ordeal, standing up in public at Jantar Mantar, saying that Mohammed Afzal didn't deserve a death sentence. How much easier it would be for him to keep his head down, stay at home. I was profoundly moved, humbled, by this quiet display of courage.
Ghalib, 7, Afzal’s son, with Yasin Malik and S.A.R. Geelani in Delhi on Oct ’06
Once again the malicious lies put out by the Special Cell were obediently reproduced in the newspapers. Here are a few of the lies they told:
"Iftikhar Gilani, 35-year-old son-in-law of Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, is believed to have admitted in a city court that he was an agent of Pakistan's spy agency." -- The Hindustan Times, June, 11, 2002: Neeta Sharma
"Iftikhar Gilani was the pin-point man of Syed Salahuddin of Hizbul Mujahideen. Investigations have revealed that Iftikhar used to pass information to Salahuddin about the moves of Indian security agencies. He had camouflaged his real motives behind his journalist's facade so well that it took years to unmask him, well-placed sources said." -- The Pioneer, Pramod Kumar Singh
"Geelani ke damaad ke ghar aaykar chhaapon mein behisaab sampati wa samwaidansheil dastaweiz baramad" (Enormous wealth and sensitive documents recovered from the house of Geelani's son-in-law during income tax raids) -- Hindustan, June 10, 2002
Never mind that the police chargesheet recorded a recovery of only Rs 3,450 from his house.
Meanwhile, other media reports said that he had a three-bedroom flat, an undisclosed income of Rs 22 lakh, had evaded income tax of Rs 79 lakh, that he and his wife were absconding to evade arrest.
From left; Shaukat Guru, S.A.R. Geelani and Mohammed Afzal in Delhi, 2001
During the course of this 'media confession' a curious thing happened. In an answer to a direct question, Afzal clearly said that Geelani had nothing to do with the attack and was completely innocent. At this point, ACP Rajbir Singh shouted at him and forced him to shut up, and requested the media not to carry this part of Afzal's 'confession'. And they obeyed! The story came out only three months later when the television channel Aaj Tak re-broadcast the 'confession' in a programme called Hamle Ke Sau Din (Hundred Days of the Attack) and somehow kept this part in. Meanwhile in the eyes of the general public—who know little about the law and criminal procedure—Afzal's public 'confession' only confirmed his guilt. The verdict of the 'collective conscience of society' would not have been hard to second guess.
On October 20, 2003, the Srinagar newspaper Al-safa printed a picture of a 'Pakistani militant' who the 18 Rashtriya Rifles claimed they had killed while he was trying to storm an army camp. A baker in Kupwara, Wali Khan, saw the picture and recognised it as his son, Farooq Ahmed Khan, who had been picked up by soldiers in a Gypsy two months earlier. His body was finally exhumed more than a year later.
On April 20, 2004, the 18 Rashtriya Rifles posted in the Lolab valley claimed it had killed four foreign militants in a fierce encounter. It later turned out that all four were ordinary labourers from Jammu, hired by the army and taken to Kupwara. An anonymous letter tipped off the labourers' families who travelled to Kupwara and eventually had the bodies exhumed.
This was a crucial period of the trial, when the legal foundation of the case was being laid. It required meticulous back-breaking legal work in which evidence needed to be amassed and put on record, witnesses for the defence summoned and testimonies from prosecution witnesses cross-questioned. Even if the verdict of the trial court went against the accused (trial courts are notoriously conservative), the evidence could then be worked upon by lawyers in the higher courts. Through this absolutely critical period, Afzal went virtually undefended. It was at this stage that the bottom fell out of his case, and the noose tightened around his neck.
Even still, during the trial, the skeletons began to clatter out of the Special Cell's cupboard in an embarrassing heap. It became clear that the accumulation of lies, fabrications, forged documents and serious lapses in procedure began from the very first day of the investigation. While the high court and Supreme Court judgements have pointed these things out, they have just wagged an admonitory finger at the police, or occasionally called it a 'disturbing feature', which is a disturbing feature in itself. At no point in the trial has the police been seriously reprimanded, leave alone penalised. In fact, almost every step of the way, the Special Cell displayed an egregious disregard for procedural norms. The shoddy callousness with which the investigations were carried out demonstrate a worrying belief that they wouldn't be 'found out,' and if they were, it wouldn't matter very much. Their confidence does not seem to have been misplaced.
The only evidence the police have that 9811489429 was indeed Afzal's number is Afzal's confession, which as we have seen is no evidence at all. The SIM card has never been found. The police produced a prosecution witness, Kamal Kishore, who identified Afzal and said that he had sold him a Motorola phone and a SIM card on December 4, 2001. However, the call records the prosecution relied on show that that particular SIM card was already in use on the November 6, a whole month before Afzal is supposed to have bought it! So either the witness is lying, or the call records are false. The high court glosses over this discrepancy by saying that Kamal Kishore had only said that he sold Afzal a SIM card, not this particular SIM card. The Supreme Court judgement loftily says "The SIM card should necessarily have been sold to Afzal prior to 4.12.2001." And that, my friends, is that.
Consider the Identification of the Accused: A series of prosecution witnesses, most of them shopkeepers, identified Afzal as the man to whom they had sold various things: ammonium nitrate, aluminum powder, sulphur, a Sujata mixer-grinder, packets of dry fruit and so on. Normal procedure would require these shopkeepers to pick Afzal out from a number of people in a test identification parade. This didn't happen. Instead Afzal was identified by them when he 'led' the police to these shops while he was in police custody and introduced to the witnesses as an Accused in the Parliament Attack. (Are we allowed to speculate about whether he led the police or the police led him to the shops? After all he was still in their custody, still vulnerable to torture. If his confession under these circumstances is legally suspect, then why not all of this?)
Protests against Afzal’s hanging in Srinagar
It is Afzal's story that gives us a glimpse into what life is really like in the Kashmir Valley. It's only in the Noddy Book version we read about in our newspapers that Security Forces battle Militants and innocent Kashmiris are caught in the cross-fire. In the adult version, Kashmir is a valley awash with militants, renegades, security forces, double-crossers, informers, spooks, blackmailers, blackmailees, extortionists, spies, both Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies, human rights activists, NGOs and unimaginable amounts of unaccounted-for money and weapons.
There are not always clear lines that demarcate the boundaries between all these things and people, it's not easy to tell who is working for whom.
Truth, in Kashmir, is probably more dangerous than anything else. The deeper you dig, the worse it gets. At the bottom of the pit is the SOG and STF that Afzal talks about. These are the most ruthless, indisciplined and dreaded elements of the Indian security apparatus in Kashmir. Unlike the more formal forces, they operate in a twilight zone where policemen, surrendered militants, renegades and common criminals do business. They prey upon the local population, particularly in rural Kashmir. Their primary victims are the thousands of young Kashmiri men who rose up in revolt in the anarchic uprising of the early '90s and have since surrendered and are trying to live normal lives.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Ms Roy writes -
<<The story of Mohammed Afzal has enraged Kashmiris because his story is their story too.>>
How many Kashmiris join militancy at the age of 20? How many of them get disillusioned and leave it? On the top of it, how many of them wait for 3 years and then surrender to police? The Illogically enough explanation doesn't logically enough explain why Afzal Guroo is so illogical. If someone with half the talent of Ms Roy writes another essay with Sadhvi Pragya as a protagonist, I am pretty sure it would good read as well.
Interesting and absorbing read which raises many questions.
Now we wait for an informed and logically argued rejoinder.
Ram Jethmalani said that 'Afzal deserved to hang'.
Will he or anybody of his stature provide answers to the citizens of India on the questions raised?
Why and how did the Supreme Court come to the conclusion that Afzal deserved death which Arundhati has so cavalierly tossed into muck
We do need an answer.
If the truth ever comes out, BJP will be the casuality as they were the ones who plotted the attack on the Parliament as an excuse to start a war with Pakistan.The Intelligence and beuracracy that is infested with RSS diehards will never allow the truth to come out.
Arundadi Roy and many others know this but are helpless.When an elected Govt commits atrocities there is not much that can be done to stop.The framing and killing of Muslims in India going on since independence is gross violation of human rights.
If she does not like India Arundhati REoy is free to leave india and obtain the citizenship of Paksiatn..The UP A Government is not probing in to the activities of people like arundhati Roy..
Most of the English Media is higly SECULAR MINDED like Arundhati Roy . She is like many others Leftist INtellectuals a Raman Megasay Award Winner. Afzal Guru might have not particpated in the Parliamnet Attack.. But he was intocu with Jasih Mohamad and other terror organizations. He himself confessed that he was doing it for Money.. The Supreme Court though acquitte Syed Jilani expressed grave suspecions about him.but said that grave suspecion alone could not be the criteria for Conviction.. The Court released Jilani.. They reduced the punishment of another Lif econvict in to 10 Years Rigourous Imprisonment. That Fellow has come outcompleting his sentencve... The Cell Phones were the clear proof of Afzal guru's Involvement. The Suprme Court ha sno special Personal Hatred .towards Afzal Guru.Arundhati Roy isa Perverted Novelist who is geetting undeserving publicty.IF she does not like to live in the Largest democracy of the World who prvented her to go and settle in Paksiatn or Egypt or Iraq or Afghanistan?India will be happy to do so.
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