Like any other Class XII student across the country, Turab Kazmi ought to have been busy with his board exams this time of the year. Instead, he finds himself defending his father and trying to clear his name of the several damning charges thrown at him by the police and the media. “It really hurts to see someone who has spent over 25 years trying to report the truth and not worry about his family being accused and framed this way,” he says, seated in his father’s office-cum-residence in central Delhi.
A bag with an Air Arabia tag and an Iranian Press TV logo in the small room tell the story of senior freelance journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kazmi’s close professional engagement with West Asia. A fluent Arabic and Persian speaker, a well-known critic of Israel and a government-accredited journalist for over two decades, Kazmi had covered the 2003 attack on Iraq and was a regular freelance contributor to Iran’s Radio Tehran. But on March 6, after reading out the morning news bulletin on DD Urdu, he found himself in the news when he was arrested by the Delhi police on suspicions of having helped three Iranian nationals execute a bomb blast in the capital on February 13. The blast had injured the wife of an Israeli diplomat and her driver.
Back home, like on any other day, Turab was waiting for his father to come for mid-day prayers and lunch but he didn’t. The family panicked after his phone remained unreachable and frantic calls to colleagues and friends yielded no information. It was only at 9.30 pm, when plainclothesmen from the police walked into their house for a search that they realised he had been arrested. “They still didn’t give any information but took away a laptop and a desktop, my father’s PIB card, passport and other documents; even my mother’s mobile phone,” says Turab. His elder brother then went to the nearby Lodhi Colony police station, where he was told that Kazmi Sr was being held at the neighbouring special branch office. “I waited there till 2.30 am to see him. That’s when I learnt he had been picked up at 11.30 am the day before,” says Shauzab.
It hasn’t helped that ever since his arrest, many ‘stories’ have been floating around in the media. While a leading English daily claimed his number was on the caller list of one of the Bangkok bombers, another made a counter-claim the next day that the story was incorrect. His sons also refute allegations that the police recovered from Kazmi’s residence a photo of him with the suspected bomber.
Kazmi’s son Shauzab with family at the India Gate rally. (Photograph by Sanjay Rawat)
The slander started on day one of his arrest with many channels describing him as an “Iranian national”. “They pulled that detail only after I called and complained,” says Shauzab (the Kazmis are originally from Meerut). Reacting to the smear campaign, the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) finally had to issue an official statement, asking journalists to cross-check allegations with the Kazmi family. DUJ general secretary S.K. Pande says “Kazmi was clearly subjected to a ‘trial by media’ as happened in the Iftikhar Gilani case. The media’s responsibility should be to question events without adding to the existing tensions”.
But there was worse in store. On March 13, a Hindi paper claimed Kazmi was riding the motorcycle with the bomber on pillion during the attack. Son Turab is amazed by the duplicity, “I actually have a photograph of him outside the Congress HQ at a protest meet taking place there during the time of the attack.” The protest was against the alleged encroachment of prime land under a shrine next to Kazmi’s residence and a resultant police lathicharge in January when worshippers tried to force their way. (In fact, some have linked the arrest to the incident since Kazmi has been a vocal critic of the police action and landgrab.)
Meanwhile, Delhi police commissioner B.K. Gupta, addressing the media on Friday, reiterated that Kazmi’s arrest had helped unravel the conspiracy. “He was instrumental in getting the Israeli embassy and surrounding areas recced by the suspected persons of Iranian origin. He has been arrested as a facilitator,” said Gupta. “Investigations revealed that he has been in contact with the suspects for some time. It was also found the Kazmis have been receiving foreign remittances regularly. His wife received Rs 18,78,500 and Kazmi Rs 3,80,000. The couple have not been able to explain the source of the money.” The Enforcement Directorate and Financial Investigation Unit have now been asked to probe the money trail. Shauzab, though, refuted the allegations and claimed his mother has only around Rs 2,000 in her account and demanded that any evidence to the contrary be made public. Reacting to police claims that Kazmi was in touch with the Iranian suspects, Shauzab said his father was in regular touch with many Iranians for professional reasons. Turab also says the moped the police claimed was used for the recce “was so old it wouldn’t even start; they had to tow it away”. The police commissioner refuted this also. In a related development, the Iranian ambassador was called by the mea on Friday and briefed about the developments.
Senior journalist Saeed Naqvi, who’s worked with Kazmi and has been arguing publicly for him, says, “He was arrested to please those pressuring the government to create a link between Iran and the attack. Muslim and Urdu journalists leave a bad odour these days.” He says it’s part of a larger campaign against journalists who seek to challenge the “global information order”, especially about unfolding events in West Asia. “For example, when the Israelis killed off Iranian nuclear scientists, the debate in the US media was not about whether this was right or wrong but about whether it helped retard Iran’s nuclear programme. Clearly, there are two sets of rules working here.”
A situation which, as each day passes, seems more and more plausible. For on March 11, the police raided another senior journalist’s flat in New Delhi. John Cherian, who travelled with Kazmi to Syria in February and is also known for his strident anti-Israel views, found the police in his flat on suspicions that he had concealed smack. The police later apologised for mistaking his flat (No. 107) for flat No. 160, the excuse being that the two sound “similar in Hindi”. Unlike the pat ending in this case, Kazmi’s story is yet to unravel itself fully.
By Debarshi Dasgupta and Chandrani Banerjee
Apropos Hezbollah, Mossad and Lodhi Colony (Mar 26), it isn’t the first time that an innocent civilian has had a false case slapped on him. It is the hypocrisy of the Indian system that instead of protecting its citizens, it heaps atrocities upon them.
Ashok Kumar, Jamnagar
Kazmi might not make it. Zionists have considerable influence with most top politicians in most countries, us included. Linkages can be drawn from corrupt politicos to Zionist Swiss banks to Zionist arms producers.
E.V.R. Naiker, Chennai
Alas, who’d have thought that savant journalists, the supposed vanguards of free speech, were themselves precariously placed, working within the baton-range of a fascist state system?
Farah Hafeez, Calcutta
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.
dear dasgupta and banerjee, For u pseudosecularists,every muslim is innocent and they should be arrested by police only when they have irrefutable evidence.Should muslims be treated with kid gloves?Muslims are responsible for most of the terrorists acts in India.They create nuisance.And plz remember that we are a secular country today because Hindus are in majority.That journo should be thoroughly investigated and severly punished if found guilty.
>> “Kazmi was clearly subjected to a ‘trial by media’ as happened in the Iftikhar Gilani case. The media’s responsibility should be to question events without adding to the existing tensions”.
Now the sickulars know what it feels like to be in Modi's shoes!!
Dear Debarshi & Chandrani, you are putting yourself in danger. Do you know whom you are playing with? Be careful.
I don't think Kazmi will come out alive. So powerful is Zionism. Zionists have considerable influence among most of the top politicians in almost every country. The unholy nexus starts from corruption at home. Let me draw that link from corrupt politician to Zionist Swiss Banks to Zionist Arms Producers to Isra Hell.
Zionism is a great threat to world peace!!!
This article so biased towards the accused -Mr Kazmi- that it makes me wonders about the competence of the Outlook journalists. From the first sentence, the article tries to portray Mr Kazmi as an innocent Muslim victim. They gave elaborate word by word "defence" from his son and other supporters. But the truth is how do WE know that he is innocent till the investigation is over?? Fact is we don’t know!!! As Delhi police correctly said, "This is an ongoing investigation and no conclusions can be drawn at this time"! And that's how it should be. I can't imagine in any western countries journalists and so called public intellectuals going out of their way to prove the innocence of a man who was just arrested by a police while investigation is going on!! That's why we have courts here, if Mr Kazmi is innocent then courts will set him free, if not they will punish him! End of story. If anyone is worried about our dragging nature of our courts, that’s an entirely different story. Shame on outlook for producing such substandard, un-professional piece of journalism. You probably should send your journalists to a world class western newspaper for crime reporting training. They lack the basics; sorry!
I would agree with Anwaar.
With a fine drubbing at the polls, Congress would not dare to arrest an innocent man esp if he was a Muslim just to please Israil. There is no benefit electorally pleasing Israil and I cannot imagine a congressman willing to risk Muslim votes with lies and sham arrests. We need to be impartial and if a foreign country be it Israil or Iran, triesv to think we are a soft Country to achieve thier agenda.
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