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India: Shocking case of illegal confinement by police of senior journalist - all round condemnation by media bodies

11 February 2013

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The Hindu, February 12, 2013

Editorial: Lawlessness and disorder

In the name of preserving law and order in the hours following the hanging of Afzal Guru, the Delhi police detained a senior and well-respected Delhi journalist, Iftikhar Gilani, for no reason other than that he was the son-in-law of the Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. While Mr. Gilani was illegally confined for five hours, his children were locked up in a room in his house. When he was finally freed, he was not offered any explanation either for his detention or for his being let off without charge. The actions of the police officers involved in this fiasco need to be seriously probed, and those found guilty should be, as Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju has suggested in a letter to Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh, placed under suspension and criminal proceedings instituted against them in quick time. Enforcing security measures is serious business, and should not be left in the hands of officers who see no contradiction in abusing their authority. What makes the confinement of Mr. Gilani even worse is that the Delhi Police appears not to have learnt any lesson from the time it threw him in jail on trumped up charges. The unfortunate journalist spent nine months in Tihar Jail charged with violating the Indian Official Secrets Act for possessing an article published by a Pakistani think-tank on its website!

None of the errant officers involved in the foisting of this bogus case were taken to task then, nor was he compensated for the malicious prosecution he was subjected to. If those involved in harassing him this time around are allowed to get away with their illegal behaviour, what is the guarantee that Mr. Gilani — or any other innocent Kashmiri — is not subjected to the ‘midnight knock’ again? While curfew and preventive arrests are not uncommon in situations where the police anticipate a law and order problem, the ham-handed harassment of Mr. Gilani and the manner in which Kashmir has been virtually shut down since Saturday suggests the Union Home Ministry went through a seizure of panic right after the Afzal Guru hanging. Cable television services were suspended and restrictions placed on the dissemination of news. Mobile internet services were deactivated, and newspapers forcibly kept off the stands, according to some reports. All of these are symptoms of an undeclared state of Emergency. Political and executive mismanagement of situations like these could have very harmful long-term consequences. The government will urgently need to restore the people’s confidence, not in its ability to maintain law and order, but in its ability to uphold the principle of equality before the law, in the equal treatment under the law for all citizens.

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Greater Kashmir - 11 February 2013

DUJ condemns Iftikhar Gilani’s detention

New Delhi, Feb 10: The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) has condemned the police action of detaining the renowned journalist and well known writer, Iftikhar Gilani and the harassment to his family on Saturday.
In a statement a spokesman of DUJ said that this is not the first time that Gilani has been subjected to this sort of agony and trauma.
”On receiving information of Gilani’s illegal detention, the DUJ General Secretary, S K Pande tried to get in touch with the Delhi Police Commissioner and other concerned authorities, in vain. The Commissioner’s office informed that the Commissioner was unavailable, while other officers played hide and seek,” he said. “The Delhi Union of Journalists will be organizing a protest meeting in consultation with other journalists and press bodies in Delhi.”
The spokesman asked the government to take action against the police officials responsible for this “manifestly illegal act” of detaining Gilani.

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Media Commission-India condemns Iftikhar Gilani’s detention

Expressing serious concern over the detention of a senior journalist ftikhar Gilani, the Media Commission-India backs the demand of the Press Council of India chairman, Justice Markandey Katju, for action against the concerned officials of the Delhi police
Expressing serious concern over the detention of a senior journalist ftikhar Gilani, the Media Commission-India backs the demand of the Press Council of India chairman, Justice Markandey Katju, for action against the concerned officials of the Delhi police. Justice Katju had called for suspension and charge-sheeting of those responsible for the action.

Mr. Gilani, assistant editor of a national English daily DNA, is known for his professional proficiency. As a respected member of the Media Commission, and its parent body, South Asian Free Media Association, SAFMA, he has played an active role in highlighting threats and pressures experienced by journalists in the discharge of their professional duties. For him — his wife and school-going children — to be subjected to this obnoxious treatment is highly ironic indeed. If police could indulge in such “shameful and odious acts”, to use Justice Katju’s words, in the country’s capital under the very nose of the central authorities it is not hard to imagine the gravity of excesses, perpetrated elsewhere. Two days after he was detained by police along with his family following the execution of Afzal Guru, senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani Monday said his children were still scared.

Gilani and his family were detained Saturday by the special cell of Delhi Police. Gilani’s 16-year-old daughter is a student of Class 9, while his 14-year-old son is a student of Class 7.

"Police locked my children in their rooms and about 10 officers were there. Whatever happened to me is not an issue; but the way they behaved with my children, that was totally outrageous," Gilani told IANS.

"The treatment of my children by the police haunts me. They are scared, they are so young, this is the age when events leave a deep impact," he said.

Iftikhar Gilani was taken to the residence of his father-in-law S.A.S. Geelani, leader of the Jamaat e Islami. Gilani’s wife too moved to be with her father, leaving the two teenaged children alone at home and locked in their bedrooms.

Gilani was let off after some media persons assembled at the spot and protested his detention.

"I had SMSed my office, so I was not worried about my self. While talking to a senior journalist, my phone kept shutting down, they had blocked it," he recounted.

The journalist was accused of being a terrorist by the officials.

Talking of his treatment by Delhi Police, Gilani said: "They asked my neighbours if they felt no shame in living so close to a terrorist. My children’s tuition teacher was there in the house Sunday, and they interrogated her for an hour. ’What is the point of educating them?’, they asked, as they would ultimately become terrorists."

Gilani added that going by the talk of the police officials, it appeared like they represented a right-wing group, not the police force of a secular country.

"Police have changed their versions so many times. First, they said I was never detained. Then, they said I was already there at S.A.S. Geelani’s home when they came, insisting there was a miscommunication. I say I will still give them the benefit of doubt. But why were the children detained? I was also arrested in 2002. Whatever may have happened in jail after that, at least I was arrested in a dignified manner that time," Gilani said.

Iftikhar Gilani was earlier arrested on charge of spying in June 2002 under the Official Secrets Act. He was accused of working with Pakistan’s ISI, but later acquitted.

The journalist added that the problem was the lack of accountability of the police force.

"The problem is that there is no accountability. Had those officials had the fear that they would have to answer someone, they would have behaved differently. I was pleading to them for my children," he said.

The journalist’s detention has been criticised by Editor’s Guild of India, which demanded an apology from the police.

Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju has, meanwhile, written to the home ministry asking it to charge sheet and suspend police officials who had kept Gilani under alleged illegal detention.

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Hindustan Times

Media body concerned over scribe’s detention
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 11, 2013

Expressing concern over the detention of senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani, the South Asia Media Commission (India) has backed the demand of Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju for action against the officials concerned of Delhi Police. Justice Katju had called for suspension
and chargesheets against those responsible.

Gilani was placed under house arrest on Saturday after the execution of Parliament attack accused, Afzal Guru, at Tihar Jail.

"If the police could indulge in such shameful acts - to use Justice Katju’s words -in the Capital under the nose of the central authorities, it is not hard to imagine the gravity of excesses, elsewhere," KK Katyal, president, South Asia Media Commission (India) said.

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Journalists’ body condemns ’detention’ of Gilani


Hyderabad, Feb 10 (PTI) The Indian Journalists Union today condemned the alleged detention of journalist Iftikhar Gilani by Delhi police for ten hours following the hanging of Afzal Guru yesterday.

In a statement, IJU Secretary-General Devulapalli Amar said it seemed to be a knee jerk reaction of Delhi Police and just because Gilani, a working journalist for the last two and half decades, happened to be the son-in-law of Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

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Rising Kashmir

Iftikhar narrates ordeal of continuous harassment by Delhi police
Sunday, 10 Feb 2013 at 11:02

Rising Kashmir News
Srinagar, Feb 10: A day after he and his family was detained following the hanging of Muhammad Afzal Guru, senior New Delhi-based Kashmiri journalist, Iftikhar Gilani Sunday lodged a complaint with

Press Council of India for being continuously hounded and harassed.
In the hours after Guru’s execution, officers from the Special Cell of the Delhi Police detained Iftikhar, who works for DNA, and locked his young children into the bedroom of his flat before finally releasing him.
In his letter to Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman Press Council of India, Iftikhar narrates the turn of events on Saturday.
“I am continuously harassed by the Income Tax Department with recovery notices from time to time despite I moving the Delhi High Court to end my harassment as it keeps on adding penalty and fine for not paying dues that now total up to over Rs 60 lakhs that I just cannot afford to pay with my present salary,” the letter reads.
“I am bringing this fact to your knowledge, just to draw your attention to various ways I am continuously hounded and harassed,” Iftikhar adds.
Stating that he feels totally distraught with the behaviour of security agencies, particularly special cell of Delhi police, he said, “I feel so scared. I try my best to raise my children in an atmosphere of peace and compassion. I have no idea, what should I do to prove myself to be a peace loving and a law abiding citizen.”
“I have no issue with what government wanted to do to maintain law and order in Delhi or elsewhere. Repeatedly in public domains, I have affirmed that I have nothing to do with the politics of my father-in-law Syed Ali Geelani. I owe my living to journalism for over past two decades in Delhi.”
Iftikhar has narrated the sequence of events of February 9 (Saturday) when he was detained along with his family members. The letter reads:
“At 10:30 AM on February 9 (Saturday) I was just putting my bag in my car to leave for office, I saw two persons in the compound who enquired about the house of Geelani saab. I asked them which Geelani saab are you searching for, making out they could be from some courier agency to deliver some mail for me? They replied that they are searching for a Kashmiri leader, who lives somewhere in the colony. I told them he lives in the opposite block and tried to give them directions. One of them requested, if I can accompany them.
So I did. On the way, they told me they are from Delhi Special Cell. When we reached at JD18 E block of Khirki Ext. I saw a crowd of plain clothesmen in the gulley. I just pointed out to first floor and told them their lives Geelani saab, you are searching for. As I started to withdraw, they grabbed my hand and said they need few minutes to talk to me. And virtually dragged me to first floor flat, taking away my purse, identity card, keys etc. They could not trace my phone till then, though they were insisting to hand over phone to them. Upon reaching the flat, I saw many more people inside. As they got busy with conversation to some other person, I managed to go to bathroom and sent SMS to my office and some friends. When I was back, they noticed the phone and took it away.
“After 15 minutes, I saw my wife also arriving at this house, escorted by two male plain cloth police wala.. My children were alone at my house. I repeatedly asked them to explain reasons behind my detention. All the time, they were very rude, threatening and warning me of dire consequences. I also pleaded with them, even if they want to detain me, why at the house of Syed Ali Geelani and not at my own home or a police station? And why had they kept children away from us?
After five hours, I heard many voices from outside. One officer type person came and shouted that I am free and can leave this house. In the by-lane I saw my office people including bureau chief Saikat Dutta and some other friends including, Aurangzeb Naqashbadni of Hindustan Times. They had used every available contact in home ministry and Delhi police to make them see reason. When I reached my home, some 7-8 strangers were occupying drawing room and living room and they had locked up my children in a bed room that does not have even bathroom facility.
When I reached there with friend, the strangers started leaving one by one. Saying that my children were terrified would be an understatement. They recalled how these people in our absence banged the door and asked them to confine themselves in bed room. They were also shouting at neighbours why they allow person like me to live there.”
Quoting Frederick Douglass, Iftikhar says the life of the nation is secure only when the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.
“I may add, the subjugation, harassment, and trampling on rights only makes the nation weak and insecure in the long run, though it may address to the rhetorical class and accrue short term gains.”
Recalling his bad experience of Special Cell of Delhi Police putting him in Tihar Jail in 2002 on false charges and forging documents of the Defence Ministry to convince the court that he was a Pakistani agent supplying sensitive information to its High Commission, Iftikhar said the officials who then raided his house even cooked up his bank accounts to claim he was sending Hawala money to Kashmiri militants.
“Many fictitious stories were also planted by them in media tarnishing my reputation. The cooked-up charges under the Official Secrets Act were withdrawn and I was honourably acquitted by the court, but only after eight months of harrowing custody. At the time of my then arrest in 2002, the Intelligence Bureau also made the Income Tax Department fabricate tax charges against me.”

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The Times of India

Suspend, book cops who ’detained’ Gilani: Katju

PTI | Feb 11, 2013, 10.19 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Slamming the police for "detaining" journalist Iftikhar Gilani on Sunday, Press Council of India chairman Markanday Katju on Monday asked Union home secretary to charge and suspend the cops if the allegations of "high-handedness" against them were correct.

In a letter to the home secretary RK Singh , Justice Katju also sought immediate institution of criminal proceedings against such officers under relevant provisions of IPC and grant of compensation and apology to Gilani for his alleged harassment.

He said the action against the cops should be initiated by the government within 48 hours.

The letter came after Gilani in an email to Katju complained that security agencies had illegally detained him on Sunday at the house of his father-in-law Syed Ali Geelani following the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and harassed him for many hours.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani is a Kashmiri separatist leader who heads the hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference.

Katju used the opportunity to ask police personnel to not carry out such "illegal" orders of their superiors, "otherwise they will be charged for serious crimes, and if found guilty, severely punished".

On Gilani’s charges of harassment, Katju said, "They reveal great high-handedness and outrageous behaviour by the Delhi policemen concerned in harassing and tormenting Mr Gilani and his family, including his small children. These were the undemocratic and abhorrent methods of the Gestapo during Nazi rule.

The PCI chairman said, "If these allegations are correct, the concerned police officers ... as well as those higher ups who were instrumental in ordering these shameful and odious acts are prime facie guilty of serious crimes."

Katju said the incident was a "clear violation" of the Supreme Court directions.