Newsletter Sep – Dec 2008

On September 19th, just a few days after the Delhi bomb blasts, the Delhi police announced that they had killed or arrested the 'masterminds' of the Delhi blasts as well as those in Ahmedabad and other cities. According to police, two youth had been killed in an "encounter" in their home in Batla House in the Jamia Nagar area of Delhi, in which a police officer who was regarded as an "encounter specialist" was also killed in the counterattacks by 'terrorists'. This encounter was followed by a series arrests and illegal custody of young men from the area, picked up by the Special CeLl and pronounced "dreaded terrorists".

The events of 19th September and subsequent days have left the Jamía Nagar community shocked, aggrieved and fearful. In particular the manner and the suspicious circumstances in which young boys, many of them students of Jamia Millia Islamia, were picked up. An utterly sensationalist and prejudiced media added fuel to an atmosphere of fear and suspicion. The police versions reported in the media had lots of inconsistencies and discrepancies there were different police versions from Gujarat police, the UP police, Rajasthan police etc.

In a few days time, various sections of society responded to the encounter. Fact-findings on the 'encounter' were done by sections of people including democratic groups, human rights group, Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group etc. The Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group also organised a people's tribunal and a protest and March to Parliament, demanding an independent judicial inquiry under a sitting Supreme Court judge. What happened in Batla House is a reflection of what is happening in many other parts of the country wherever series of bomb blasts have taken place. Young educated Muslim men are picked up and labeled as 'terrorists' without any evidence and legal procedure. In support of the Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group, Saheli issued a public statement (given below):

Statement of Support to Jamia Millia Islamia University Teacher's Solidarity Group

The developments since the bomb blasts in Delhi on September 2008 are a grim challenge to the social fabric and democratic practices of the country. While we all feel concerned about increasing terrorist attacks and deaths of innocents and strongly condemn them, we also feel that terror cannot be fought with mass hysteria and high pitched politics. The actions of the police, various sections of media and Hindu right wing forces have resulted in branding a particular community as anti-national, have given legitimacy to indiscriminate and illegal detention of members of that community and led to deep communal divide. The alleged encounter at Batla House on September 19, 2008, following bomb blasts in Delhi, where two alleged terrorists were killed, two escaped, two captured and a police inspector died of injuries inflicted during encounter is full of many loopholes. The majority of the alleged terrorists were students in Jamia Millia Islamia. Since then a large number of students and inhabitants of Jamia Nagar have been picked up by police. National Human Rights Commission has issued notice to Delhi Police to give a report of the Batla House encounter at Jamia Nagar in view of the discrepancies in police versions and loopholes.

The unanimous decision of the Academic and Executive council of Jamia Millia Islamia University to request the government initiate a separate judicial inquiry into Batla House encounter on September 19, 2008 is well within the democratic practice of due process of law. Further the legal support being extended to arrested students of the University is also well within the purview of the right to defend oneself. Any attempts to stop this need to be strongly condemned. In a democracy with different faiths, languages and culture the need is for reason and rational approach and dialogue. We support the efforts of the Vice Chancellor, teaching faculties and students of the Jamia University for extending legal and other support to those who will be unable to defend their rights otherwise.