www.sacw.net | March 15, 2005

Many Lives of S.A. R. Geelani !
J' Accuse !

by Subhash Gatade

It was one of the finest hours of the human rights movement in the country. The little Davids had once again won the unequal battle against Goliaths of the communal fascist variety.

The whole episode, which has been repeated umpteen times need not be recounted ab initio. But a recap would be in order.

We had a young professor of Arabic who taught in a prestigious college in the capital who was confronted with a mightly communal fascist regime, which wanted to satiate its lust for revenge when faced with a terrorist attack on the parliament. The only way open before the regime which was burning with vengeance was to 'legally' kill him or rather 'deport' him to some faraway place.

Apart from the fact that he was a born and practising Muslim the only 'crime' committed by the young professor was that he did not limit himself to his course. He joined together with people who talked of violations of civil liberties in our country and didn't hide his concern over developments in his homestate i.e. Jammu and Kashmir when cases of throttling of democratic rights made headlines.

The then government, whose own hands were soaked with the blood of the innocents and was fulminating over the exposure of its own ineptness in the attack, tried all possible ways to indict him as the mastermind of the attack. All sorts of fake stories were planted in the pliant media about the alleged sudden wealth this professor had gathered. The police were happy that to use the new antiterror law drafted by the parliament on this 'guineapig' of a different kind. He was badly tortured so that he gave a confession against himself before any police officer (which then could be admitted against him as a evidence under the new law). But the young professor did not budge.

The lower court judge, did not blink, an eye when he was told that the only 'evidence' against this Professor presented by the police was a telephonic exchange he had with his brother in Kashmiri, which has not been even properly transcribed. But the judge who according to his own admission 'had become expert in Kashmiri within a span ofÖ' did not bother to get a proper transcript. He was so overwhelmed with this ghastly attack that he conveniently forgot the basic principle of any jurisprudence that ' a hundred guilty may be acquitted but an innocent should not be punished'.

Events were going according to the written script only. A TV channel throwing all norms of decency to the winds had even beamed a programme a few days before the judgement showing the young professor as the real culprit. It even engineered an 'attack' on the producer of the programme supposedly to increase the TRP rating. And when the judge handed out death sentence to the young professor alongwith other three accused the special cell people did not hide their jubilation. Fires were cracked in the vicinity of the court also.

Onlookers felt that it was the end of the story. Some overenthusiastic bollywood people were also contemplating a film with enough mix of Paki bashing and demonising of Islam.

But the committed group of civil libertarians who had spent their prime of lives in defending the innocents brutalised and traumatised by the state and its various agencies and who had coalesced together to fight another battle of their lives by forming an All India Defence Committee for this young professor were rather sure about the many lives of this young activist-scholar. Death was at the doorsteps but they were rather sure that they would snatch life from the jaws of death.

And to the utter surprise of the nikkerdharis slowly the campaign caught up. Thousands came out from the cold to sign the petition demanding that justice be done and the life of a young promising professor should not be snatched supposedly to cover up the ineptness of the 'law and order' people. Led by one of the leading lights of the civil liberty movement Prof Rajni Kothari the 'All India Defence Committee' received support from unknown quarters. Intellectuals, activists, cultural workers and people from different walks of life unhesitatingly signed the petition.

One cannot decipher the mind of the court. But the high court must have had enough hint about the raging storm outside. And after verifying the flimsy evidence against Prof Geelani , it had no qualms in overturning the decision of its lower court.

The young professor was absolved of all the charges. He was a 'normal citizen' once again with equal rights. For all practical purposes the matter should have ended there. The arbiters of the law and order should have candidly admitted their mistakes and then opened a new chapter.

But it was not to be! They wanted to keep the spirit of vengeance alive. It was the same people who have coined a slogan for their own selfpromotion. 'Delhi Police, Aapke Liye, Aapke Saath' and in this case they wanted to demonstrate how they remain 'aapke saath' always. Despite acquittal by the courts they followed young professor alongwith his wife whereever he went. When the Geelanis with their the sweet kids went to Goa for visit there also the 'aapke liye' police was there. They rather wanted a clue so that the yound professor could be hauled up again. He complained to the authorities that he is being followed. Last year in one of his interviews to Times of India he even told them that he fears for his life if the Delhi police did not mend its ways.

And then came 8 February. There was a mysterious attack on the young professor just infront of the gates of his lawyer. If hundreds of people would not have gathered at the hospital to show their anger about the law and order machinery and their concern for the young professor it was sure that the way the whole case was handled he would have succumbed to his injuries.

Interestingly the aftermath of the attack further exposed the vengeance of the police even infront of the cameras. The victim was lying on the bed of the hospital and the police people instead of trying to figure out who could be the culprit rather unleashed its fury against the near and dear ones of the professor only. His car was taken away. His passbooks and other bank documents were seized, the computer used by his daughter was snatched away supposedly to decipher any vital information as if attacker had emailed him his plans. Many of his friends and relatives were interrogated for hours together. The police people also yelled 'Eureka' when they 'discovered' the sweater worn by the victim at the time of the attack from his house only. (Instead of firing one of their own for showing laxity in his/her work they used this 'discovery' as an added proof which necessiated this withchhunt). One fine evening when the wife of the young professor was sharing her plight with the Delhi Uni community came a message that her husband would be discharged within next twenty-four hours.

All these things happening in the capital of the largest democracy on the face of earth may sound unbelievable to any outsider. India is no Banana Republic from Latin America under the boots of some dictator where such things were usual practice. And we are also witness to the overthrowing of the communal fascist regime from the citadels of power in the intergennum. But for the police it seems there is no change at the ground level.

There is no doubt that the whole episode and the way a section of the pliant media has been used to spread all sorts of stories about the young professor shows how it is easy (in the words of Praful Bidwai) to 'revictimise the victim' while singing paens to glorious traditions of democracy.

The unfinished saga of the young professor reminds one of the historic Dreyfus case in France. It was early eighteen nineties when this young Jewish military officer was arrested supposedly for 'treason ' and was sent to St Helena. Captain Dreyfus was caught while he was playing with his young son in the house. The police people had made such a watertight case against the officer that it seemed that everything was lost.

But incidentally the legendary French writer Emile Zola came to know about his case and wrote a series of articles in the newspapers ( titled J'accuse meaning I accuse!) explaining the Jewish officers innocence and the way he was framed by the powers that be. He exposed how the people who have fabricated the case against Dreyfus 'hated jews'. Suddently the move to release Dreyfus gained such a momentum that within a short time the government was forced to release him.

As far as Prof Geelanis' case the 'never say die' activists have spoken up umpteen times but where are our 'Emile Zolas' who can roar 'J'accuse !'

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