Dr Haneef’s case:
Lest we forget India’s hypocrisy and double standards

"While we are shouting about Haneef's rights as an undertrial in Australia, we have absolutely no respect for the rights of the undertrials languishing in Tihar" - stated Delhi High Court today i.e. 25 July 2007 as we upload this ACHR WEEKLY REVIEW while expressing dissatisfaction over the condition of undertrials lodged in Tihar jail.

Nothing else could have explained Indian schizophrenia over how Dr Mohammed Haneef, an Indian citizen and an initial suspect in the Glasgow bomb blast of 30 June 2007, is being treated by the Australian government. On 18 July 2007, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh stated, “We hope that they (Australian authorities) will extend all facilities within the law and the rights he is entitled to”. India's Ministry of External Affairs summoned Australian High Commissioner to New Delhi to convey its message. While the right-wing Hindu fundamentalists have been calling names like "Mullah Manmohan", the government has no dearth of supporters even amongst the socalled objective, impartial and independent human rights organisations. After all, Australia is also being accused of "racism".

Yet, one must admit that while there is outrage against victimisation of Dr Haneef, the government of India's hypocrisy and double standards have not gone unchallenged.

Prominent Indian journalist, Burka Dutt in her article, “Haneef: India's hypocrisyin The Hindustan Times on 21 July 2007 wrote:

Our schizophrenia as a people is astounding….. But, what if Haneef had been arrested in Bangalore instead of Brisbane? What if a suicide bomber had rammed his explosives-laden car into the airport at Srinagar, instead of Scotland? And what if our investigating agencies had then told us that Haneef was a dreaded terrorist because he had loaned his mobile sim card to one of the men involved in the attack? Would we have been as concerned then about whether an innocent man had been locked away? Would we have demanded transparency from our judicial process on the grounds that the evidence was sketchy? Or would we have simply ranted about how India is a soft State and Islam a factory for fundamentalists? We have branded the Australians as racist, but would we have called ourselves communal?”

Mr Soli J Sorabjee, former Attorney General and member of the United Nations Sub-Commission and UN Special Rapporteur in his weekly column in The Indian Express on 22 July 2007 wrote:

Mohd Haneef, a suspected terrorist, was granted consular access to the Indian High Commission in Australia, was allowed to speak to his wife, had the services of a competent Australian lawyer who successfully got him bail which is exceptional in Australia in case of a terrorism-related offence. If an Australian were detained in India on suspicion of terrorist activity it is doubtful whether he would have received these facilities and services. In these circumstances it was inappropriate for our foreign ministry to summon the Australian High Commissioner and lecture him about providing facilities for Haneef under Australian law.”

No one is suggesting or condoning illegal acts of the Australian government but India's double standards must be questioned. After all, was it not the case that Professor S.A.R. Geelani was sentenced to death in the parliament bombing case of 13 December 2001 only based on the fact that he had some telephonic contact with the prime accused in the days before the attack? It is another matter that Professor Geelani was acquitted after sustained campaigning by the NGOs and the prime accused was never taken into custody.

If Haneef were arrested in India, how he would have been dealt with is not difficult to imagine. Asian Centre for Human Rights shares some experiences.

I. Targetting of human rights defenders as “terrorists”

Since India repealed its Prevention of Terrorist Act of 2002 and incorporated the provisions the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967 as amended in 2004, many human rights defenders were arrested under the anti-terror law.

ACHR cites three different cases:

a. Illegal arrest of Mr Umakanta Meitei and Mr Langamba Meitei of Threatened Indigenous People's Society (TIPS) in August 2006

On 24 August 2006 at 9.30 am, Mr Leitangthem Umakanta Meitei, Secretary General of the Threatened Indigenous People's Society (TIPS) of Manipur was arrested by the police from his house at Porompat Thawanthaba Leikai in Imphal East district of Manipur state of India under sections 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004. He was arrested based on the alleged statement of his colleague, Mr Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei alias Thabi who was arrested on 23 August 2006.

Both the TIPS members were accused of being members of the banned armed opposition group, Kanglei Yawol Kana Lup (KYKL) and providing support to it. The police claimed that they had seized three CD cassettes of KYKL and Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) from the possession of Mr Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei.

Both the activists were tortured in custody to extract false confessions that they were members of KYKL.

The judicial magistrate of Imphal granted bail to Leitangthem Umakanta Meitei on 20 August 2006 and to Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei on 1 September 2006 as the police failed to provide sufficient evidence against them. But both of them refused to take bail until all the cases framed against them were declared as false.

On 4 October 2006, both of them were released and all charges against them were dropped as the police could not produce any evidence.

b. Arrest of Mr Hebal Abel Koloi, Chairman of Borok Peoples Human Rights Organisation, October 2006

On 26 October 2006 at 9 am, Mr Hebal Abel Koloi, Chairman of Borok Peoples Human Rights Organization was arrested from his official residence at Autonomous District Council Quarter, Khumulwng under Jirania Police Station in West Tripura district of Tripura. At the time of his arrest, Mr Koloi was preparing to go to school at Khumpui Academy, Khumulwng, where he is employed as the headmaster. The police did not issue any “Memo of Arrest” or “Inspection Memo” at the time of arrest.

He was shown arrested on the basis of a complaint No 37/2006 dated 26/10/2006 filed at the Manu Police Station at 2.15 pm on 26 October 2006 by one S.K. Mishra, Company Commander of E-Company, 8th Battalion of Tripura State Rifles (TSR) following an attack on the Tripura State Rifles personnel guarding the railway construction workers at Joyram Para at 0700 hours in the morning of 26 October 2006 by unknown extremist. The question arises as to how Mr Koloi could be arrested at 9.am on the basis of a complaint which was filed at 2.15 pm. Moreover, Khumulwng under Jirania police station in West Tripura district is at least 6-8 hours drive from Manu police station in Dhalai district where complaint was lodged by the TSR.

The arrest was cooked up as were the charges filed later before the courts.

The police of Manu Police Station charged Mr Koloi under sections 396/307/353 of Indian Penal Code and section 27 of Arms Act.  On 30 October 2006, the court rejected the bail application of Mr. Koloy and instead allowed the prayer of the police to add 120-B of IPC of waging war against the state against Mr. Koloy. The court sent him to judicial custody.

While Mr Koloi was lodged in jail custody in connection with the Manu Police Station Case No. 37/2006 (the first case), another First Information Report was lodged against “unknown extremists” belonging to the National Liberation Front of Tripura by one Bhagirath Sharma on 30 October 2006 with Ambasa Police Station (Case No. 61/2006) under sections 387 and 120-B of Indian Penal Code and sections 10 and 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

On 8 November 2006, Mr Buddha Debbarma, Officer-in-Charge of Manu Police Station, filed a suo motu complaint against Mr Koloi and his other “associates” under sections 121, 121-A, 124, 153-A, 153-B of Indian Penal Code and sections 10 and 13 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, among others for waging war against the State. Mr Koloi delivered an alleged anti-national speech at the 21st session of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva, Switzerland.

On 20 November 2006, the Agartala Bench of the Guwahati High Court in its order No. BA 99/2006 granted bail to Mr Koloi in Manu police station case no. 37/2006. In its order, the High Court stated, “In the instant case, on minutely going through the materials on record as reflected in the Case Diary, apart from making omnibus statement regarding the involvement of the accused and the offences charges against him, no definite materials, documentary or otherwise have been shown to exist against the accused”.

On 17 January 2006, the High Court in its order B.A. 123/2006 again granted bail to Mr. Koloy in Ambassa police station case no. 61 of 2006 (the second case). Finally on 11 December 2006, the High Court in its order B.A. 112/2006 also granted bail to Mr. Koloy in Ambassa police station case no. 63/2006 (the third case). 

When Mr Koloi granted bail in the cases relating to waging war against the State, Arms Act and the anti-terror laws, in order to detain him further, the police slapped a notice under the National Security Act of 1980. The High Court quashed the NSA order and he has since been released on bail.

c. Dr Binayak Sen, General Secretary of the PUCL – Chhattisgarh, May 2007skip to: page content | links on this page | site navigation | footer (site information)

On  14 May 2007, Dr. Binayak Sen, General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh State Branch of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and the Vice-President of the National PUCL was arrested by the police under the anti-terror laws, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. He was accused of having links with the Maoists which the PUCL termed as trumped up" charges.

On 23 June 2007, Dr Sen was denied bail by the Chhattisgarh High Court. As ACHR has not studied the order of the High Court so far, it wishes to refrain from making any comments at this stage.

II. India's anti-terror policy

India's anti-terror squads are infamous for fake encounter killings of the alleged terrorists. Some of the cases are cited below.

a. The killing of engineer Khwaja Yunus

Twenty-six year old young engineer Mr Khwaja Yunus working in Dubai came for a holiday to Parbhani, Maharashtra and was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 from Aurangabad by the Mumbai police in connection with the 2 December 2002 bomb blast in a BEST bus in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. Assistant inspector Sachin Vaze who along with three constables was escorting Yunus to Aurangabad claimed that Yunus escaped when their jeep met with an accident in Parner area of Ahmednagar district. [1]

Mr Younus disappeared after that. Yunus' father, Sayyed Khwaja Ayub, alleged his son was killed in police custody and filed a habeas corpus petition.  After Ayub's death, Yunus' mother Aasiya Begum filed a petition in the High Court seeking compensation for the family.

In April 2004, the case was handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department. A fresh first information report was filed based on a statement of Yunus' co-accused Dr Abdul Mateen. Dr. Matin stated before the Special POTA court that on 6 January 2003 that Yunus was assaulted by police with a belt and kicked on the chest repeatedly during interrogation due to which Yunus vomited blood. [2] The Criminal Investigation Department which was directed to inquire submitted the report, and in a landmark judgement in November 2006, the Bombay High Court held that death of Khwaja Yunus occurred while he was in police custody. [3]

Of the 14 policemen involved in the disappearances of Mr Yunus, eight, including senior inspector Praful Bhosale, assistant inspectors Hemant Desai and Ashok Khot and inspector Rajaram Vhanmane, all members of an award winning team of the Ghatkopar Crime Intelligence Unit, were arrested and released on bail. Three constables have been untraceable for several months and non-bailable warrants have been issued against them.

b. Extrajudicial killing of Soharabuddin and his wife Kausharbi

On 17 July 2007, the Gujarat Police filed a 713-page charge sheet in Ahmedabad against 13 police officials accused in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. The accused include head of the anti-terrorist squad of Gujarat, Inspector-General D.G. Vanzara, Indian Police Service (IPS) Officer, Rajkumar Pandian, M.N. Dinesh, IPS officer from State of Rajasthan, two superintendents and two deputy superintendents of the Gujarat police and three police personnel each of the Gujarat and Rajasthan cadres. The charge sheet included recorded evidence of 190 witnesses investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department (Crime).

On 26 November 2005, the police picked up Sohrabuddin, extrajudically executed him in a fake encounter and then killed his wife Kauserbi to destroy evidence since she was a witness and could have testified against them. The chargesheet reportedly described in detail how Vanzara lit Kauserbi's pyre on the ravines in Vanzara's village, Ilol, in Sabarkantha district, but did not state when this happened. It described how inspector Balkrishna Chaube and sub-inspector N V Chauhan "poured water on the pyre to douse it, collected Kauserbi's mortal remains and disposed these (of) in a river." There is no evidence of involvement of Sohrabuddin with any terrorist group.

It was only after the intervention of the Supreme Court of India following a petition filed by Sohrabuddin's brother that the investigation was put on track.

III. India's concerns on Dr Haneef: Due process or impact on the BPO industry?

India proudly claimed that despite having the largest Muslim population in the world, none of its citizens were influenced by Osama Bin Laden. That was before the failed Glasgow bomb blast in the United Kingdom on 30 June 2007.

As the United Kingdom reacted sharply, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh cautioned against dubbing anybody or any country as a terrorist, saying if any community is targeted, it would create ‘new sets of grievances'. “It is wrong to label any community or country. We have to look for solutions,” – asserted Dr Singh.

The Pakistanis in the United Kingdom uncannily expressed the happiness that they are no longer being branded as terrorists.

Stringent visa rules for Indian nationals following the failed India's Glasgow bomb blast among others affect industry and robust economy. India's response to Dr Haneef, has equally, if not more, to do its image of not being branded as “terrorist producing country” which effects its robust outsourcing industry.

As for upholding the rule of law and due process of laws, it is the relatives, civil society groups and the judiciary which have to slog it out. While Dr Haneef must be given the benefits of due process of law, the government of India must be reminded of its own treatment towards those who are accused of terrorism. The cases cited in this ACHR WEEKLY REVIEW are undoubtedly the best case studies – though some of the victims were extrajudicially executed – their relatives managed to take up the cases before the judiciary. There are hundreds of cases of arrest, detention, torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions of alleged terrorists where people are scared to file a complaint, not to mention about approaching the courts.

Those who are following the issue of the war against terror and its implications on human rights must take note of Indian schizophrenia to ensure that the government of India ensures the same guarantees in its own country that it rightly expects the government of Australia to adhere to.

[1] . http://www.milligazette.com/Archives/2004/16-31May04-Print-Edition/1605200416.htm

[2] . http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/2004/08/22/stories/2004082202071000.htm

[3] . HC certain Yunus died in custody, The Free Press Journal, 21 November 2006 

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