Delhi University Teachers in Defence of S. A. R. Gilani
[Last updated on 9 February 2005]
Open Letter to India's Prime Minister Re: The Dec 13, 2001 attack on Parliament and its implications
Upcoming events: S. A. R. Geelani was grievously attacked late last night [8 February 2005]. This is not just an attack on his person, but also a serious assault on democracy in India.
A dharna has been organized for 9 Feb 2005.
Time: 2 pm
Venue: Outside Police Headquarters, ITO [New Delhi]
o o o Past events o o o
The Delhi University Forum for Democracy has convened a public meeting
THE TERROR OF POTA
At Room no.22, Arts Faculty, Delhi University campus, on 25 September  at 2.00 P.M.
The speakers are:
ARUNDHATI ROY, GAUTAM NAVLAKHA, NANDITA HAKSAR, PRABHAT PATNAIK and UJWAL K. SINGH
A range of issues from the trial of Geelani, the use of POTA in Gujrat, to the nature of democracy, and use of terror in the current world order will be discussed.
A statement from Prof. Noam Chomsky in support of the current campaign by Delhi University Teachers in Defence of S. A. R. Gilani will also be read out at the meeting.
[19 September 2003]
Many teachers of Delhi University, and the numbers are growing, have now formed a forum called Delhi University Teachers in Defence of S. A. R. Gilani to draw the attention of the nation to the palpable miscarriage of justice and denial of fair trial to S. A. R. Gilani, one of the accused in the case concerning the attack on the Parliament on December 13, 2001. The forum launched a public campaign seeking fair trial and unprejudiced media coverage with a press conference held on 18 September at the Press club of India in New Delhi. A large number of teachers attended this conference in solidarity. The following statement was released. The forum also announced the beginning of a poster campaign to inform the general public of some of the basic features of the case. Several other programmes are currently being planned, including a signature campaign and a public meeting next week in the Delhi University campus. Several distinguished speakers who are well-versed with the case, the ramifications of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), and the general atmosphere of fear and prejudice, are expected to speak in the meeting. The forum appeals to all citizens of India to form similar platforms to deliberate on the grave issues currently facing the judicial and democratic institutions.
STATEMENT FOR THE PRESS
The Delhi University Teachers in Defence of S. A. R. Gilani has been deeply concerned about the denial of justice to a fellow teacher, S. A. R. Gilani, an accused in the case concerning the attack on the Parliament on December 13, 2001. Shockingly, Gilani was convicted by the Special Court, designated under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), and given the death penalty only on the basis of a telephonic conversation in Kashmiri with his brother, lasting two minutes and sixteen seconds. However, the defence argued that both the procedure and the content of the translation from Kashmiri to English were seriously flawed.
No link between Gilani and the five persons who attacked the Parliament, or with any banned organization, was established or even alleged by any of the 80 prosecution witnesses. No arms or ammunition or incriminating document of any kind were recovered from his person or his house.
His only crime appears to have been a casual acquaintance with the co-accused, a fact that Gilani has never denied. Significantly, these individuals happened to be from the same district, Baramullah, in Kashmir; they were also students of Delhi University where Gilani met them. Thus, it was only natural that Gilani would be acquainted with them. The reasoning that a person is guilty just because he is acquainted with persons subsequently accused of a crime is both absurd and tragic.
Our apprehensions about this travesty of justice is further compounded by the fact that, in the High Court, the prosecution has now shifted emphasis from the said call to his brother to some unrecorded calls with the co-accused. It is to be noted that Gilani made a written application to the Court asking for an opportunity to explain these calls, but this basic legal right was denied to him.
We also feel that the lack of evidence and irregularity of procedures is sought to be substituted by a virulent campaign of disinformation about the facts of the case. We note with concern that the media, largely, has buckled under pressure, and has contributed to prejudicing public opinion against Gilani by condemning him even before the trial had begun.
In an amazing violation of journalistic ethics, one TV channel repeatedly telecast a "recreation" of the attack on the Parliament based only on the version of the prosecution in an attempt to prejudice public opinion. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court allowed the telecasting of a film that pronounced Gilani guilty even before judgement was delivered. It is a matter of great concern for us that the same film is being telecast again now when the judgement of the High Court is due.
To add to the trial by the media, several fundamentalist organizations have openly threatened violence against lawyers who have dared to defend Gilani. Not even a lawyer as eminent as Mr. Ram Jethmalani was spared when he decided to defend Gilani in the High Court. Jethmalaniís office was vandalized in Mumbai by the Shiv Sena.
S. A. R. Gilani is personally known to many of us. He is a popular teacher and a serious scholar. Many of us remember his engaging discussions with students and friends. We also remember him as a person always willing to give time to help others.
Gilaniís secular credentials are impeccable, and he has always condemned violence. Even when convicted by the Special Court and sentenced to death, he said,
I have always considered terrorism, be it unleashed by the state or by parties outside the state, as condemnable and have clearly criticised it. The killing of innocents, the rape of women, the murder of justice, these are all the worst forms of terrorism. Every effort needs to be made to end this terror.
As citizens, we condemn the attack on the Parliament in unequivocal terms. We demand that the perpetrators of this atrocious crime be identified and brought to justice. But the cardinal principal of natural justice that every accused is deemed to be innocent until found guilty must not only prevail, it should be seen as prevailing.
In this sense, we believe that S. A. R. Gilaniís case raises disturbing questions even larger than the fate of an individual citizen. It is a test case for the Indian legal system and its ability to deliver justice. In fact, Indian democracy itself is on trial.
Delhi University Teachers in Defence of S. A. R. Gilani
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Relevant links :
All India Defence Committee for Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani
Related Reports & Documentation :
Victims of December 13 by Basharat Peer (The Guardian, July 5, 2003)
Trial of Errors: A critique of the POTA court judgement on the 13 December case by Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, (PUDR), Delhi February 2003