शनिवार, 28 अगस्त 2010

Encounter menace

Fake encounter killings and illegal detention of innocent people are more common in some States than in others for a variety of reasons.

Social activists Dr Binayak Sen and his wife, Ilina Sen, addressing a press conference in Kolkata on May 29, four days after his two-year ordeal in jail in Chhattisgarh ended. He had been arrested under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act on the charge of having links with naxalites.


By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan

UTTAR PRADESH, says Varanasi-based human rights activist Lenin Raghuvanshi, could well be called the encounter killings capital of India. “Whether it is statistics or the way the law and order machinery functions or the overall policing climate, all point towards wanton misuse of power, leading to the torture and killing of hundreds of innocents,” he said.

Raghuvanshi's observations are corroborated by statistics compiled by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on fake encounter killings in different parts of the country over the past 16 years (1993-2009). Uttar Pradesh tops this list with 716 such incidents.

The NHRC list, accessed by human rights activist Afroz Alam Sahil through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, has the following statistics for the past four years. Of the 122 fake encounters in the country in 2006, Uttar Pradesh accounted for 82. In 2007, 95 such incidents took place across India, of which the State recorded 48, the highest. In 2008, 103 fake encounters were reported across India, with Uttar Pradesh accounting for 41. In 2009, the State had 83 such cases.

A case-study-oriented report prepared by Human Rights Watch (HRW), titled “Broken System: Dysfunction, Abuse and Impunity in the Indian Police”, records several instances of how police officers in Uttar Pradesh resorted to torture and other extrajudicial practices. These include abduction, rape, custodial violence and killing, fake encounters and unlawful detention. The HRW report highlights how the corrupt practices in political and administrative systems promote this high-handed style of policing. “In this climate, underprivileged innocents are naturally at the receiving end of injustice and many of them pay with their lives,” said Raghuvanshi.

An encounter killing of an “innocent Army personnel” in May attracted considerable attention in the State. The police in the western Uttar Pradesh district of Bulandshahr had killed Kuldeep Singh branding him a car thief. But the facts given by Kuldeep Singh's family revealed that the killed person was from Aligarh and belonged to 12 Rajputana Rifles in the Army. Kuldeep Singh was apparently on vacation from his unit.

According to Indra Bhushan Singh, senior lawyer of the Lucknow and Allahabad High Court, the families of many victims in Uttar Pradesh do not report fake encounter killings, fearing police harassment. “I would estimate that the number of unreported killings is at the least more than double the number of reported fake encounters,” he said. As a lawyer, said Indra Bhushan Singh, he had come across several families of victims who dared not raise the issue of fake encounter killings owing to open threats of sustained harassment from police officers.

He said an analysis of the so-called encounters the Lucknow police or the Lucknow unit of the Special Task Force (STF) designated for anti-mafia operations has had with anti-social, mafia or extremist elements over the past five years would bring out an amazing fact. “Time and again, one finds that the police unit or the STF group gets into an encounter with the anti-social, mafia or extremist elements at the same spots. Two such favourite spots are the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) road and the road behind Hathi Park, at a distance of less than 10 kilometres from Lucknow city. Both these areas are deserted. A probe of these favourite encounter spots itself will establish how the police and the STF go about their encounter business,” he told Frontline.

Indra Bhushan Singh and many other observers of the law and order machinery in Uttar Pradesh do perceive a “business angle” to encounter killings in the State. According to them, there are two dimensions to this business. One relates to the benefits a police officer gets from within the system in the form of cash rewards and out-of-turn promotions. The other involves largesse from interested parties, who provide police officials a tidy sum or other allurements for bumping off a business, political or family rival.

According to Indra Bhushan Singh, three sub-inspectors, two constables, one constable in the Armed Police and six commando constables were given out-of-turn promotion in 2009, and all of them had allegedly been involved in fake encounters.

The second dimension has much to do with the overall criminalisation of politics in the State. It is no secret that the majority of police officers who are touted as “encounter specialists” get protection and patronage from one major political party or other. The ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has its set of favourite police officers and the opposition Samajwadi Party (S.P.) has its set who were powerful when the party was in government.

Even smaller parties in the State, such as the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have their own committed officers who are always willing to carry out tasks assigned to them. The net result of all this is that watchdog institutions such as the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) are largely rendered ineffective. They are not able to intervene effectively to improve the overall climate of policing.

Organisations such as the Varanasi-based People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), led by Lenin Raghuvanshi, highlight police atrocities on a regular basis and seek redress, but this, too, has not resulted in any improvement in the situation. As Raghuvanshi points out, the country's most populous State is badly in need of comprehensive police reforms but it seems impossible given the political, administrative and policing set-up.


By Purnima S. Tripathi

IN the strife-torn, naxalite-dominated areas of Chhattisgarh human rights have been the biggest casualty. Illegal detentions, abductions and killings that do not find any mention in police records are common, going by a list prepared by a fact-finding team of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and others in 2009.

On October 1, 2009, Muchaki Handa of Bhandarpadar village was returning from Andhra Pradesh with his earnings of Rs.30,000 when he was hacked to death by the police and special police officers (SPOs). Six others were also killed. The same day, the security forces killed Tomra Mutta of Chintagupha village. In the same village, on September 17, 2009, Madvi Deva was picked up and killed by the police and SPOs, and his mother, Dudhi Muye, was stabbed and killed. The same day, at Gachchanpalli village, they killed a 70-year-old man who could not even walk on his own. The fact-finding team's list mentions these and many more such incidents of poor people falling victim to police excesses.

“Because the police forces are not able to register any major victory in their war against naxalites, they are terrorising the people. Illegal detentions and killings are almost an everyday occurrence in the forested areas,” said M.K. Nandy, State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA), in place since 2005, is often used as a cover for such killings.

According to figures provided by the State unit of the PUCL, a total of 147 people have been booked under the CSPSA. “Most of them are innocent people arrested on the flimsy grounds that they provided rations to the Maoists or gave them information or that they attended their meetings or had with them Maoist pamphlets,” said Rajendra K. Sail, former president of the State PUCL and now a member of its executive council.

According to him, in the forested areas of the State almost anyone can be arrested on these grounds because in these areas the Maoists' writ runs and nobody can refuse them anything. The police apparently use this as a pretext to harass people under the CSPSA.

According to PUCL figures, a total of 52 persons, including traders, farmers, cultural activists and social workers, have been arrested under the CSPSA and 67 persons have been declared “absconders”.

In the majority of the cases, the charges as described in the police records are as follows: “Collaborated with the CPI (Maoist) organisation and provided food, water, etc., to its members and on their behalf illegally collected funds.” These figures were procured by the State unit of the PUCL from the police itself with the help of the RTI Act.

The CSPSA gives the police unbridled power to arrest anyone without specific charges. According to PUCL leaders, it violates the principle of certainty in criminal law with its vague definition of membership of and support to a terrorist or unlawful organisation and the absence of pretrial safeguards including safeguards on arrest. It creates obstacles to confidential communication with counsel and makes it virtually impossible to obtain bail as there is no provision of appeal or review of detention.

Human rights organisations have demanded the repeal of this law, with the result that the police have come down even more heavily on them. In fact, the PUCL has filed a petition in the Chhattisgarh High Court challenging the validity of the CSPSA.

Some of the most glaring abuses of this law have been the arrests of Dr Binayak Sen and the mediaperson and film-maker T.G. Ajay. Binayak Sen, a renowned paediatrician, has devoted his life to the service of the poor and disadvantaged tribal people in Chhattisgarh, where he has set up the state-of-the-art Shaheed Hospital in a tribal area. He was arrested on May 14, 2007, under the CSPSA on the charge of having links with naxalites. He was later charged with sedition, waging war against the country and creating disharmony and disaffection in society.

The immediate provocation for his arrest was the recovery of a letter from one Piyush Guha, who allegedly had naxalite links. According to the police, the letter, which was written by a jailed naxalite, Narayan Sanyal, was passed on to Guha by Binayak Sen. Sen had met Sanyal in the presence of the jail authorities a few days earlier.

Sen languished in jail for two years. In the course of his detention, his life turned topsy-turvy: his laptop was seized, his house in Raipur was sealed, and his wife, Ilina Sen, a noted academic, who is a cancer patient, was kept under constant surveillance. Sen was released on the orders of the Supreme Court on May 25, 2009. He is now president of the Chhattisgarh unit of the PUCL.

Ajay, a member of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, was arrested in May 2008 under the CSPSA following the recovery of a letter apparently written by him from the house of Malti Rao and Meena, two Maoists who had been arrested in Raipur in connection with an arms-dropping case. The letter was on the letterhead of the Campaign Against Child Labour, of which Ajay is the State convener, and addressed to one K.R.C. Rao (alias Gudsa Usendi), spokesperson of the CPI(Maoist) in Chhattisgarh. It was about the return of Ajay's camera, which some Maoists had seized when he was filming in the forests during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections as part of a team that assessed the impact of the Maoists' call to boycott the elections. This letter was used by the police as evidence of “his association with the naxalites”.

According to Rajendra Sail, the contents of the letter had no bearing on the Raipur arms-dropping case, in which he was made an accused. “Obviously, it was his politics that invited the ire of the state. He was targeted because he was a member of the PUCL, which was campaigning actively against the CSPSA and fighting for the rights of and improving the lives of the underprivileged in Chhattisgarh,” says Sail.

Ajay, like Sen, was also charged with sedition under Section 124 A of the IPC, which penalises the spreading of disaffection towards the government through any form of visual representation including words and signs. By this definition anybody who expresses dissent against the government, namely, film-makers, artists, journalists, academics and social activists, can be targeted. Though Ajay is out on bail because there was no charge sheet against him even after the mandatory 90 days, he has to report to a police station every 15 days.

What is disturbing is the fact that the state machinery sees nothing wrong in the use of such draconian laws or in the use of unwarranted force against innocent people. In May 2007, at Ajabnagar in Sarguja district, the police brutally lathi-charged villagers protesting against police inaction in a youth's murder. They did not spare even women and aged men and dragged people out of their houses and beat them up. A magisterial inquiry was ordered and the SHO was suspended.

The State police chief, Vishwaranjan, while talking to Frontline recently, commented that in the state of war that Chhattisgarh was in, it was difficult to ascertain immediately who was innocent and who was not, and at times mistakes could happen. “But that is collateral damage though we try and minimise such damage,” he said.

Many incidents of fake encounters, which the government denies happened, have been brought to light by the PUCL in recent times.

For the first time the government was forced to the back foot when 12 people were killed allegedly by the police and SPOs in a fake encounter during an anti-naxalite search operation at Ponjer and Santoshpur villages in Bijapur district on March 31, 2007. Under media pressure, the government ordered that bodies of six alleged naxalites be exhumed and another post-mortem be done. The post-mortem report confirmed that two had been shot dead at close range and the four others had been hacked to death. The other bodies were not recovered.

Charges of illegal detention and fake encounters were also investigated by a team of the NHRC that visited the State on the directive of the Supreme Court, which is hearing two writ petitions, one civil ( Nandini Sundar vs State of Chhattisgarh) and the other criminal ( Kartam Joga vs the State of Chhattisgarh), relating to fake encounters, killings and illegal detention by police/SPOs/activists of Salwa Judum, the vigilante groups formed to fight the Maoists.

In the NHRC report submitted to the apex court, there is clear admission of the fake encounters and illegal detentions by the security forces. The report says: “[W]hile the naxalites have been involved in the violations of human rights, there have been instances where the Salwa Judum activists, SPOs and the security forces have also been involved in the violation of human rights. The violation on the part of the latter being more serious as the state must act within the four corners of the law even in the face of grave provocation.”

While the NHRC team did dismiss many charges as “mere hearsay” and described some as killings of naxalites, it admitted that there were cases that needed to be investigated by an independent agency. Meanwhile, the PUCL petition on the validity of the CSPSA is coming up for its first hearing in the High Court on August 20.


By N. Rahul

ANDHRA Pradesh holds the dubious distinction of recording the largest number of encounter deaths in the country, with 2,980 persons being killed in its four-decade-old naxalite history.

Irrespective of the political party in power, the governments of the day have used encounter killing as a powerful tool to curb Marxist-Leninist activists from the time they surfaced in the wake of the Naxalbari movements in West Bengal and Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh. The first encounter killings in the State took place on May 27, 1967, when K. Brahmananda Reddy headed a Congress government. Six youth were killed on their return to Srikakulam after participating in the declaration programme of the CPI(ML) in Calcutta (Kolkata). The police picked them up at Sompeta Railway Station and are said to have completed the “formalities” on receiving the green signal from the government.

Ever since this fake encounter, civil rights activists have demanded that judicial inquiries rather than the routine magisterial inquiries be conducted into each such death by treating it as culpable homicide and issuing an FIR. The campaign was intensified in 1973 by the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) led by the noted lawyer K.G. Kannabiran.

The APCLC's efforts bore fruit when the Janata Party government at the Centre (1977-79) deputed a fact-finding committee led by Justice V.M. Tarkunde to inquire into the encounter killings during the Emergency. The findings of the committee that 75 fake encounters had occurred during the period jolted the Centre. It immediately asked the J. Vengala Rao government to order a judicial inquiry into the cases, leading to the constitution of the Justice Bhargava Commission.

The bodies of naxalite leader Nomula Ramana Reddy of the People's War and another naxalite at the site of the alleged exchange of fire with the police near Ramoji Rao Film City in Ranga Reddy district in April 2003.

The Bhargava Commission was a non-starter as the government insisted on in camera proceedings in three cases where the panel was convinced that these were cold-blooded murders committed by the police. On the other hand, the APCLC wanted a public inquiry.

There were some more judicial interventions in a bid to check fake encounters and the inclination of the police to pick up youth with Marxist-Leninist leanings after the formal launch of the People's War Group (PWG) in 1980, by when 196 persons had been killed in encounters. The rights activists submitted evidence to the Justice T.L.N. Reddy Commission in the late 1980s about 43 youth whose whereabouts were not known.

The NHRC under the chairmanship of Justice Ranganath Mishra received complaints about 44 fake encounter deaths when it toured the State in 1994. The commission found reliable evidence in five cases and asked the State government to investigate. But nothing was done.

The president of the Human Rights Forum, S. Jeevan Kumar, says that not a single case has been taken to its logical end despite a strong human rights movement in the State. On a writ petition filed by Kannabiran following the killing of CPI(ML) (Phanibagchi group) leader S. Madhusudhan Raj in Hyderabad in 1995, the Andhra Pradesh High Court directed the government to register cases of encounter deaths as murder cases and put the burden on the police officers to prove that they fired in self-defence. Thereafter, the issue was a subject matter of litigation until the Supreme Court stayed the order on an application by the Andhra Pradesh Police Officers Association.

The encounters were most frequent in the State between 1991 and 2006 when, except in three years, no fewer than 100 persons were killed each year. The year 1998 saw the highest casualty as 275 alleged extremists and 198 civilians were killed. The naxal violence has also resulted in the death of 3,064 civilians and 593 policemen so far.

Jeevan Kumar also says the police exercised restraint whenever the government gave a commitment not to resort to encounters. This was evident in 1978 and 1979 (M. Channa Reddy was the Chief Minister) and 1984 (N.T. Rama Rao was the Chief Minister) when not a single encounter death took place. In different contexts, both of them had promised there would not be encounters. But the police went into overdrive during the terms of their successors, N. Janardhan Reddy and N. Chandrababu Naidu, in the absence of such assurances.

The government adopted a scheme to give acceleratory promotions and cash awards to police officers who excelled in anti-naxalite operations. A secret fund, which was not subjected to audit, was placed at the disposal of the police to meet the challenge of extremism. A part of the amount was paid to people who provided information to the police.

The former CPI(Maoist) emissary and noted revolutionary writer Varavara Rao says there can be no parallel to awards being given to three top police officers following the killing of central committee members A. Santosh Reddy, Seelam Naresh and Nalla Adi Reddy in a fake encounter near Koyyur in Karimnagar in December 1999. The leaders were picked up in Bangalore.

Encounters apart, the police have illegally detained a large number of youth linked to Maoist activity. The case of Padma alias Sitakka, wife of Maoist spokesman and politburo member Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad, is the latest example of activists who suddenly disappeared. She has been missing since Azad's encounter killing in Adilabad district on July 1.

N. Venugopal, a rights activist who was acquitted by a sessions court in Nizamabad in a conspiracy case on August 2, said the police resorted to cruel methods against Maoist sympathisers. He said he and five others had been blindfolded for 72 hours in May 2005 after their arrest by the Andhra Pradesh Police at Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Going by the conversations and the number of hours they travelled blindfolded, he could make out that they had been detained at the Andhra Pradesh Special Police battalion at Dichpally in Nizamabad. They were charged with trying to overthrow the government by procuring arms and money.

On the other hand, Varavara Rao also faced the ordeal of attending court in Secunderabad and Ramnagar for 14 and 18 years respectively in connection with conspiracy cases. A tribal woman has been lodged in Visakhapatnam Central Jail for the past two years in 72 cases. She could not get bail as she could not find the sureties and the money.


By S. Dorairaj

ON the evening of July 21, 2006, Haroon Basha, 26, and his family and friends were celebrating the first birthday of his son Mohammed Shameel at his single-bedroom house at Nanjundapuram Itteri on the outskirts of Coimbatore. A few hours later, the young screen printer was taken by surprise when the police raided his house and implicated him in a case involving the seizure of explosives, which added to the communal tension the city was experiencing.

The police arrested four others, including his elder brother Malik Basha, a mentally ill person, in the case under Section 120(B) of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 5 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908. Before they got bail, each of them had spent a minimum of 68 days in jail.

The timing of the so-called seizure of explosives and arrest of “suspected fundamentalists”, coming as they did a few days before the court verdict in the 1997-98 Coimbatore serial blasts case, led to questions being asked about the “rise of fundamentalism” in the city.

The police claim about a “pre-dawn swoop, arrests and seizure of incriminating evidence such as maps and sketches and components meant for assembling improvised explosive devices” from the accused set off rumours that the gang had hatched a plot to “plant bombs at the Coimbatore Government Medical College Hospital and trigger serial blasts in key towns [in the State], besides targeting leaders of Hindu outfits”.

Even as the police took credit for the “meticulously planned successful operation”, a section of the media put out sensational stories until the report of the special investigation team (SIT), submitted to a local court on October 31, 2007, dubbed the case false.

The State government handed over the investigation to the Crime Branch- Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) on August 1, 2006, following apprehensions expressed by Muslim organisations and human rights groups about the genuineness of the case. The CB-CID constituted the SIT, headed by Additional Superintendent of Police (CB-CID), Chennai, R. Balan.

In the report the SIT chief said in conclusion: “To put in a nutshell, investigation discloses that the first information report in B.13 Pothanur police station Crime.No.1067/2006 under Section 120 (B) IPC read with Section 5 of Explosive Substances Act, 1908 and seizure of mahazars [inspection notes] relating to the so-called recovery of bombs are fabricated and false. The statement of witnesses recorded by me conclusively confirms the above said facts and hence, I am treating this case as ‘false'.”

The FIR traces the history of the case as follows: S. Balraj, who was the then Inspector of Police of Pothanur in Coimbatore, registered a case under Sections 120 (B) IPC (criminal conspiracy) read with Section 5 of the Explosives Substances Act, 1908 (punishment for making or possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances) against five persons – A. Haroon Basha (first accused), A. Malik Basha (second accused), R. Bolo Shankar alias Athikur Rahman (third accused), A. Ravi alias Thippu Sulthan (fourth accused) and A. Samsudeen (fifth accused) on July 22, 2006.

Haroon Basha, who runs a printing business from his house in Coimbatore. He was arrested from his house in the wee hours of July 22, 2006, and charged with criminal conspiracy and possession of explosives in what was later proved by the special investigation team of the CB-CID to be a false case.

The FIR further said that the search at Haroon Basha's house by the inspector in the presence of two witnesses at 4-15 a.m. on that day resulted in the seizure of several “incriminating documents”. Haroon Basha was arrested at 5-15 a.m. The entire operation, involving the arrest of the accused and the so-called seizures, lasted nearly nine hours, up to 12-45 p.m. On the basis of Basha's “confessional statement”, the other accused were nabbed, the FIR said.

According to it, he confessed that all the five persons were members of the Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP) and “since they wanted to take revenge for the atrocities committed against Muslims, they decided to create terror and a sense of fear among the public of Coimbatore....” To achieve that “he made a bomb using two pipes and a battery and another hand-throw type bomb”, which was “kept safely” at the residence of Athikur Rahman.

The FIR stated that having decided to plant the bombs at the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital on July 22 afternoon, they brought the fourth accused (Thippu Sulthan) from Dindigul for this purpose. It added that the accused had held discussions and “conspired at his house”.

Balraj brought all the “accused” and the “seized properties” to the Pothanur police station at 2-15 p.m. and registered the case. The next morning they were produced before the Judicial Magistrate VII, Coimbatore, and remanded and lodged at the Central Prison in Salem. On July 24, 2006, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Prohibition and Enforcement Wing), Coimbatore city, S. Nizamuddin, took up further investigation in the case. However, the SIT took over the original case diary on August 4, 2006.

In its 27-page final report, also called “referred [that is, closed] charge sheet”, the SIT pointed to several gaps, inadequacies and discrepancies in the police investigation. Was any radio message sent to the DGP, ADGP (Intelligence) and ADGP (Law and Order) as per the Police Standing Order 579, as the case related to seizure of bombs? it asked.

Inspector Balraj's case diary stated that no higher police officer visited the scene of arrests or seizures and that he alone handled the entire operation from the early hours of July 22, 2006, to 2-15 p.m. on the same day, the SIT report said. “It is not known on whose instructions the inspector had summoned so many police personnel from other police stations… and acted on his own accord. But someone is behind the situation,” it said.

The SIT visited the scenes of crime at Nanjundapuram Itteri, Ganapathy and Gnanasundari Nagar and made sketches and observation mahazars at the places from where the accused were arrested and the explosives were allegedly recovered. The team also questioned people in the neighbourhood. “Though these witnesses have spoken about the visit of local police officers and the arrest of the accused… and securing of two other persons, Abdulla Basha and Fizal, none has spoken about the recovery of the explosives from the house of A.3 [Athikur Rahman] and A.4 [Thippu Sulthan],” the report said.

The SIT officials also interrogated the five accused at the Central Prison in Salem from August 9 to 11, 2006, and recorded their statements in the presence of the jailor.

According to the SIT report, its investigation showed that the then Assistant Commissioner of Police (Intelligence) V. Rathinasabapathy [who is now Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (Prohibition and Enforcement), Coimbatore] had formed three teams of police officials on July 21, 2006. Each team was headed by an assistant commissioner of police.

The SIT report states that contrary to the claim made by Inspector Balraj that he had raided all the scenes of crime, secured the five accused and recovered the pipe bomb and the hand-throw bomb from the third and fourth accused pursuant to their confessions, the arrests were made by the three teams and the accused were brought to the office of the then assistant commissioner of police (intelligence) between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on July 22, 2006.

Though the assistant commissioners of police who secured the accused actually denied having arrested them, other members of the raiding teams, including constables, both men and women, and head constables had admitted this, the report said.

“The other witnesses collected during the investigation exclusive of the police officials lend assurance to the fact that absolutely a false case has been registered and a false recovery of explosives were effected,” it added.

Though the FIR claimed that the explosive materials had been recovered in the presence of Vijayakumar, Village Administrative Officer of Kurichi, and A. Kumarasivam, Revenue Inspector of Perur, and the bombs were allegedly defused and dismantled by Sub-Inspector in the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) R. Mahendran, the SIT report said all the three had denied their presence at the scene of crime when the seizure mahazar was prepared. Under the instructions of the higher-ups, they visited the Pothanur police station later and signed the relevant documents.

“Further my investigation discloses that the recovery of explosives (pipe bomb and hand-throw bomb) would not have been true…,” the SIT chief said and added that the “available records such as seizure mahazar, FIR, etc., have been fabricated….” General diary entries at the police stations concerned were among the official documents that the SIT relied on in the process of investigation and in writing its report.

The court of the Judicial Magistrate VII accepted the SIT report on December 20, 2007, and closed the case, rejecting a “protest petition” filed by a police officer. The court order has not been challenged in any other proceeding.

Speaking to Frontline, Haroon Basha recalled the dark days when he was subjected to a virtual social boycott. The jewellery units and showrooms that used to give him orders for printing bill books and advertising materials abruptly stopped placing fresh orders. Some of them bluntly asked him not to approach them for orders.

Even some of his relatives and friends shunned him. “I had to struggle for months to convince some of my relatives that I am guiltless. I am pained that some of my close friends have severed links with me,” he lamented. As he could not get job orders, Basha worked in a fruit juice stall for some time washing glasses. “Now life is limping back to normal, as some of my erstwhile clients have started placing orders for bill books and advertising materials.”

With great difficulty, Malik Basha was able to resume his motor coil winding job. When he was in police custody, a psychiatrist of the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital, after examining him, certified that “stressful situations could precipitate an episode of bipolar disorder” in him. Even today he is under medication.

In the case of Samsudeen and Thippu Sulthan, they could not continue in the private company where they were working before their arrest. “Even when we managed to get some job in business firms, we were asked to quit once the managements came to know of the case. We are living in a condition of perpetual instability,” Samsudeen said.

Human rights organisations and some Muslim outfits have welcomed the SIT's final report and demanded action against police officers who investigated the case. However, Rathinasabapathy was promoted as Additional Deputy Commissioner (Prohibition and Enforcement). The then Director General of Police, K.P. Jain, said that the findings of the SIT report “implicating” V. Rathinasabapathy and S. Balraj were “without any basis”. He also denied that the case was “falsely put up… to get departmental promotions”.

K.P. Jain's response came in a counter-affidavit filed before the Madras High Court in November 2008 on the MNP's writ petition seeking action against the police personnel involved in the Coimbatore conspiracy case, besides providing compensation to the arrested persons.

In the counter-affidavit, K.P. Jain stated: “[The accused were arrested] only on valid grounds for having committed cognisable offences of manufacturing and possessing of bombs for the purpose of exploding them at various places in Coimbatore city on important days like Independence Day and Vinayagar Chaturthi Day. There is no unconstitutional deprivation of any fundamental right, and the petitioner is not entitled to claim for compensation.”

Flaying the Coimbatore police for foisting cases on innocent persons belonging to the minority community, local Member of Parliament and CPI(M) leader P.R. Natarajan urged the State government to initiate follow-up measures.

“Since the CB-CID probe was ordered by the government, it is duty- bound to take steps on the basis of the SIT's findings. Action should be taken against the police officers who booked the youth under false charges and the victims should be assisted to return to normal life. It is unfortunate that the police, who have to maintain law and order, fabricated this case to generate tension in a communally sensitive city,” he said.

The State unit of the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations asked the government to provide compensation to the victims of the false case from the provident fund of the erring police personnel. It also demanded action against the police personnel involved in the case under Sections 191-195 of the IPC for giving and fabricating false evidence. Without any further delay they should be placed under suspension and after due enquiry they should be dismissed from service, it said.

Expressing similar views on the issue, A. Marx, organiser of the Tamil Nadu chapter of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, called for action against the police for filing a false case, fabricating evidence and sowing seeds of hatred and enmity among different communities.

“The government cannot afford to be insensitive to the issue and it should initiate measures, particularly against the backdrop of the Chief Minister declaring at the ruling party rally in Coimbatore on August 2 that his government stood for safeguarding the welfare of the minority communities,” he said.


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