An Indian police officer stands guard at a barricade during a curfew in Srinagar October 5, 2008. Indian authorities imposed an indefinite curfew in Kashmir on Sunday ahead of a pro-independence rally by separatists, the latest in a string of anti-India protests in the disputed Himalayan region.
NEW DELHI: If India has of late been rocked by blasts, with certain politicians bent on creating a polarization within the country along religious lines, to use communal cards during forthcoming elections, they have obviously exercised the wrong strategies. This is marked by people, cutting across religious lines, refusing to be convinced that Batla House encounter (September 19) was genuine. Besides, ever since the encounter, the capital city has been witness to several demonstrations and protest marches demanding a probe into the encounter, in which two young Muslims were killed, two arrested and a policeman injured who later succumbed to his injuries.
A group of people residing in the Batla House area staged a demonstration at Jantar Mantar demanding a judicial probe in the incident (October 5). â€œWe demand a judicial probe into September 19 shooting incident and release of two students arrested then as they have nothing to with Delhi blasts (September 13),â€ Kamran Siddiqui of a non-government organization (NGO) said. â€œWe will meet the suspects in jail and provide them legal aid. Already a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court in this regard. Also public awareness programs will be held till the truth is revealed,â€ Siddiqui said.
The protestors, including Hindu and Muslim students from Jamia Millia Islamia University, carried placards, which read: â€œStop arrests of innocent Muslims in the name of terrorism;â€ â€œArrest real culprits of terrorâ€ and â€œStop terror of police.â€
â€œWe have already lodged a complaint with the NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) which asked the Delhi Police Commissioner to give a report into the incident in 14 days. We will also submit a memorandum to President and Prime Minister,â€ Siddiqui said.
The preceding day, Sadbhav Mission and Nishant Natya Mission jointly organized a peace march. It started from Red Fort at 10 30 AM (IST), moving through the capital city (Pragati Maidan, Mathura Road, Nizamuddin, Ashram and New Friends Colony to finish at Okhla at around 3 PM (IST). â€œThe purpose of this rally was to condemn all acts of terror. We also want to express our solidarity with the Muslim community among whom there is wide spread fear of getting victimized. We demand judicial inquiry in the recent encounter at Jamia Nagar. In fact, all encounter incidents should have a judicial inquiry,â€ V.K. Tripathi of Sadbhav Mission said.
While addressing a small gathering of people near a mosque in Batla House, Samajwadi Party (SP) general secretary Amar Singh strongly criticized Home Minister Shivraj Patil for â€œkilling of innocentsâ€ in the September 19 encounter. â€œPatil kaatil haiâ€ (Patil is a killer), the people gathered there shouted. â€œOur children have been shot dead here. Allah, destroy them who killed innocent children here,â€ Singh said. As the crowd raised its demand for a probe into the so-called encounter, Singh expressed his willingness to finance the defense of the accused in connection with multiple blasts which rocked the capital city on September 13. In addition to voicing his demand for a judicial enquiry, Singh said that his party would raise the issue in the coming Parliament session. When the people asked him to withdraw support from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Singh replied: â€œWe extended support to UPA under pressure from minority to stop L.K. Advani (Bharatiya Janata Party leader) from becoming the prime minister.â€
Undeniably, questions being raised with increasing force practically daily from sections feeling concerned about the manner in which Muslims are being targeted as suspect terrorists has made the Congress leaders feel anxious about losing trust of the Muslim community. Accepting that it is the â€œforemost dutyâ€ of the government to develop an â€œamicable atmosphereâ€ in Jamia Nagar, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said: â€œYes, we have been receiving many representations especially from residents of Jamia Nagar who have grave doubts about the shootout (Batla House encounter). Party leaders have conveyed the need for a judicial probe to Congress president Sonia Gandhi as well. No decision has been taken yet but we hope something will happen.â€
Several Congress leaders, including Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid recently visited Jamia Nagar to gauge an idea of dissatisfaction sensed by Muslims in the area about the whole incident. Later, Sibal said: â€œOn visiting Jamia Nagar I found that people had many doubts and questions were raised by residents which need to be addressed.â€
Questions are also being raised on practically a dead silence being maintained by the government on the ease with which police seems to be targeting only Muslims as suspect terrorists. The government, however, is beginning to sense the need of putting a check on police actions. On this, Minister of State for Steel Jitin Prasad said: â€œI feel police officers have to do their duty. But if there is any discontent regarding the whole issue then that should be addressed and there should be complete transparency in the matter.â€
At the same time, by raising a demand for judicial probe regarding the Batla House encounter, Congress party does not want to give Hindu extremists a chance of blaming it for being extra-soft towards Muslims. Not surprisingly, rejecting SPâ€™s demand for a judicial probe into the Batla House encounter, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said: â€œOur stand is clear on this. It is extremely inappropriate for a political party to take a stand on any police action, either in support or in opposition.â€ Referring to judiciary and NHRC, Tewari said: â€œThese mechanisms in the Constitution are specifically created to redress such aberrations and excesses.â€
The frequency with which various leaders and organizations are holding demonstrations and handing memorandums to the government demanding â€œprobeâ€ into the encounter and questioning arrest of only Muslims as suspect terrorists suggests that they not going to keep quiet till the government takes constructive steps regarding their demands. With assembly polls due in six states this December and parliamentary elections less than a year away, political parties keen to win the Muslim vote bank are only going to add momentum to demands raised by Muslims. If the Batla House encounter and blasts were stage-managed for political gains, that is create communal frenzy for polarization of vote banks along religious line, peopleâ€™s reaction suggests that the masterminds of this political move have failed. For rather than take to rioting and charge accusations against each other, cutting across religious lines, secular-minded Indians have joined hands raising demand for a probe into â€œanti-terrorist movesâ€ targeting only Muslims!