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Hundreds march to demand Judicial Enquiry into the Batla House ’Encounter’

Memorandum to Prime Minister of India

by Jamia Teachers Solidarity Group, 24 October 2008

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Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group

Press Release

24th October 2008.

Teachers, students from Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi University, JNU and IGNOU, social and political activists, journalists and writers joined the Citizen’s March for Justice and Truth organised by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group today from Jantar Mantar to the Parliament.

The ongoing communal tension in the country and the politics of State terror unleashed in the name of investigation/inquiry, etc. has created an atmosphere of unease, anxiety and fear among the minority communities of the country. The Batla House ’encounter’ cannot be seen as an isolated event but as part of a larger process of fascization that has taken stereotyping of communities as a conscious agenda to counter the socio-economic turmoil across the country that threatens to spill over into a wider crisis. The fragmentation of the country on communal lines threatens the collective fabric of the nation and the liberal, democratic intelligentsia present questioned not only the incident of the Batla House ’encounter’ in particular but the very process of communal witch hunt that survives on hate campaigns and inflicting violence on innocents.

The gathering was addressed by Shabnam Hashmi (Anhad), Dipankar Bhattacharya (General Secretary, CPIML Liberation), Anjali Deshpande (Delhi Union of Journalists), Amit Sengupta (Senior Journalist), Manisha Sethi (Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group), Pranay Krishna (University of Allahabad, Gen. Sec. Jan Sanskriti Manch), Dr. G. Ajay (JNU), Prof. Kamal Mitra Chinoy (Sec. JNU Teachers’ Association), Sandeep Singh (President, JNUSU), Santosh Roy (National Secretary, AICCTU), and others. Prominent members of civil society like Javed Naqvi, Prof. Mary John, Prof. Nivedita Menon, Prof. Shohini Ghosh, Prof. Janaki Rajan, Prof. Ramakrishnan, Ms. Kamla Bhasin, Prof. Nirmalangshu Mukherji, Prof. Badri Raina, Amresh Mishra, Swapan Mukherji, and others were present. Several members of organisations like Saheli, Amnesty International, Communist Ghadar Party, DTC Workers’ Unity Centre, AICCTU, SIO, AISA were also present. Awam Theatre Group of Jamia Millia Islamia presented a street play called ’MASTERMIND’ critiquing the role of the media and the institutions of the State in constructing the narratives of terror and the ’ways’ in which it is being ’countered’. Saheli too presented a song on the theme of communalism. The programme was conducted by Tanweer Fazal, member, JTSG.

A memorandum signed by more than 200 members of the intelligentsia was submitted to the Prime Minister’s office (see below) and an appointment at the earliest is being sought so that a delegation can meet him at the earliest.

The following demands were made:

* A Judicial Enquiry under a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court be instituted at the earliest.

* The investigations be handed over to the CBI since the Delhi Police and the Special Cell are already implicated parties which could prejudice the course of justice.

* Immediate disciplinary action be taken against police personnel of the Special Cell involved in procedural irregularities both pre and post encounter at L-18 in Batla House.

Released by:

Anuradha Ghosh, Adil Mehdi , Sreerekha (JTSG)

Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group

Memorandum

to

The Prime Minister of India
- Shri Manmohan Singh,
- Prime Minister of India.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

As you are aware, the Special Cell of the Delhi Police carried out an operation in Batla House (New Delhi) in which two students, Atif Ameen and Md. Sajid, and an officer of the Special Cell, Inspector M.C. Sharma, lost their lives. While the Delhi Police and your Government has claimed that this operation was a genuine ’encounter’ in which the Special Cell was ambushed by ’terrorists’ of a shady organization called Indian Mujahideen, the facts presented by the Delhi Police are contradictory and raise serious doubts about the veracity of the Police claim. The photographs of the slain students which show the skin of Atif sloughed off and the bullet injuries on Sajid’s head pose strong questions over the genuineness of the ’encounter’.

Further, the arbitrary arrests and detentions of young Muslim men by the Special Cell have fuelled a widespread feeling of hurt, alienation and fear that this encounter is part of a larger witch hunt of minorities. This apprehension is also shared by a large section of the democratic and secular citizenry, which sees a pattern in the way young educated Muslim youth are being targeted and stereotyped as the new-age "tech-savvy Islamic terrorists".

The routine response of police and governments to all bomb blasts is to promptly identify ’Islamic terrorism’ as the guilty party. This despite mounting evidence to the contrary – of the involvement of Hindu extremist organisations in manufacturing and planting bombs in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Further, the spiralling violence against minorities – from Dhule, Adilabad, Malegaon, Kanpur to Udalguri in Assam — and the utterly soft approach of the State to reign in Hindutva violence has created an impression that the Indian State is engaging in a duplicity.

We have come here to demonstrate at the Parliament today to convey our deep sense of anguish and anger, particularly at the police action in Batla House, which reeks of a blatant communal witch hunt.

The inconsistencies in the Police version and the secrecy surrounding the autopsy reports of the deceased demand that an impartial enquiry be instituted at the earliest to investigate into the entire episode.

We demand, therefore, that

• A Judicial Enquiry under a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court be instituted at the earliest.

• The investigations be handed over to the CBI since the Delhi Police and the Special Cell are already implicated parties which could prejudice the course of justice.

• Immediate disciplinary action be taken against police personnel of the Special Cell involved in procedural irregularities both pre and post encounter at L-18 in Batla House.

We would like to bring to your notice that even school children were picked up for identification on the day of the ’encounter’ and the fact that Mohd. Sajid was a minor (17 year old) in complete violation of all constitutional provisions for the protection of the rights of minors.

We hope sincerely that you willrespond positively to the democratic and secular opinion in the country.

Sincerely,

Signed by over two hundred people.