People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 24

June 16, 2013




SP Regime Fails to Redress Muslims’ Grievances


Subhashini Ali


IMMEDIATELY after winning the state assembly elections in 2012, leader of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Mulayam Singh Yadav, lost no time in thanking the Muslim voters of the state for having contributed the most towards his party’s electoral victory. He has repeated his sense of gratitude on several occasions since then and has vowed that the government led by his son, Akhilesh Yadav, would go the extra mile to redress the Muslims’ grievances and see that their demands for justice in all spheres are met. 




Today, 15 months since the SP government took office, however, Muslims in UP are disillusioned and angry.  Pratapgarh, Mathura, Gonda and most seriously, Faizabad, have all witnessed attacks on the minority community, and everywhere the state police has played abettor to those indulging in arson, loot and violence.  Everywhere it is the Muslims who have suffered the loss of property and lives. There has been little effort made by the state government to punish either rioters or the officials responsible. It was only in response to the Faizabad incidents that the government acted.


One may note that the incidents of rioting and arson took place in Faizabad on October 12, 2012, and continued unabated for three hours. They then started spreading to the nearby areas. Two persons were killed and more than 100 shops burnt along with a newspaper press and a mosque. Senior officers rushed to Faizabad from Lucknow and reported that the police and administrative officers had switched off their mobiles and refused to obey orders.  As a result, one superintendent of police (SP), one inspector and two magistrates were suspended. On this May 26, however, all of them were reinstated without any explanation whatsoever.


However, it is the way in which the SP government has been responding to the issue of ‘terror suspects’ that is creating the maximum amount of anger and resentment among the Muslims on the one hand. On the other hand, it has been giving the BJP a handle to accentuate the communal polarisation in the state.


In its election manifesto, the SP had promised to release all the innocent Muslims under arrest in jails. This was a strange and controversial assurance but it did create hope among a large numbers of people who were concerned and agitated by the wholesale arrests of young Muslim men from Uttar Pradesh, especially from Azamgarh, whenever a bomb blast occurred --- not only in the state but also outside. For several months after assuming office, the government did nothing to redeem this promise and then, when it did act, it approached the High Court in November 2012, in a most ineffective manner that was bound to fail. The court responded with very sarcastic comments saying, “Should terrorists be given the Padma Shri?” etc, which were widely publicised and even more widely utilised by the BJP. Instead of learning a lesson from this, the state government filed an unsustainable affidavit in the district court of Bara Banki in April, appealing for the release of Tariq Qasmi (accused in a number of ‘terror’ cases). Later, the state government approached the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on June 6, 2013 in a similar manner, requesting the withdrawal of several cases in “the public interest and maintenance of communal harmony.” But, not surprisingly, this was rejected by the court on June 7 and has been referred to a larger bench.




There is good reason to believe that the attempts by the UP government to live up to its poll promise, are not meeting with any success by design. They are meant to satisfy the Muslim sentiments without outraging others. It is another thing that they are failing on both counts. What contributes to this questioning of the government’s motives is the fact that if it were sincere, there were two instances in which the government could have acted in order to undo the past injustices without subverting the rule of law.


In the first place, there are at least nine young men, all belonging to Kanpur, who have been acquitted by the High Court of charges of rioting, murder and terrorist activities, after having spent between eight and ten years in jail in the state. In February 2013, Prakash Karat and Subhashini Ali met the UP chief minister and gave him a memorandum demanding compensation and rehabilitation for them and also action against all officers and personnel responsible for framing them, torturing them and obtaining forced confessions from them. The government has not responded so far, which is incomprehensible. Here is a government that has been promising to release from jails the innocent youth accused in terror cases but is not rendering justice to those who have been acquitted in the cases involving acts of terror.


In the second instance, the government could and should have accepted the recommendations of the Nimesh commission of enquiry that had been set up by the previous state government and whose report the present government received in August 2012, but has chosen to keep it under wraps till today.


The commission, headed by a High Court judge, R D Nimesh, was constituted in 2008 by the BSP government in response to huge protests against the perceived injustice done to two ‘terror’ accused, Khalid Mujahid and Tariq Qasmi. Both these young men were arrested, allegedly by the Special Task Force (STF), from near their homes in Jaunpur and Azamgarh districts on December 16 and 12, 2007, respectively. Their arrests were witnessed by hundreds of people and the first information reports (FIRs) were launched in police stations in both cases on that date. When there was no information available as to their whereabouts, some people belonging to the Lok Shahi Party started a dharna in Lucknow and its leader threatened to commit suicide on December 23. On December 22, the state police announced that they had arrested both the men along with a large amount of explosives etc from outside Bara Banki station early that morning. They were accused of bomb blasts in Gorakhpur etc and sent to jail.


The protests, however, continued and the BSP government responded by announcing the Nimesh commission of enquiry. The commission interviewed hundreds of people --- eye witnesses from Jaunpur and Azamgarh, family members of the accused, the accused themselves, the police and administrative personnel involved in their arrests and framing of charges, and members of the judiciary and jail administration. Its report ran into more than 200 pages and was submitted to the state government in August 2012.


It was then that the SP government could have immediately made the report public; it could have placed it before the state assembly where it could have been debated and then accepted; and it could have used it as the basis to secure the release of the two young accused. After all, when the case of young Kashmiri who had been wrongfully confined in jail in Delhi on charges of terrorist activity was raised in the Rajya Sabha by Brinda Karat, leaders of all parties, including the BJP, demanded justice, compensation and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the SP government  did nothing at all with the report.




Some months ago, the Nimesh commission report was leaked and is now widely available. The report, in its findings, accepts that both Tariq and Khalid were arrested from Azamgarh and Jaunpur on December 12 and 16, respectively, and that they were beaten and tortured. Justice Nimesh says while it is clear that those who apprehended, beat and tortured the two men belonged to the state police, it is not possible to name them. But they could certainly be punished after an enquiry had been conducted by the state government. Justice Nimesh goes on to say that it seems highly unlikely that Tariq and Khalid could have been apprehended from Bara Banki railway station on December 22 while they were in possession of explosive material, as has been alleged by the police.  He then gives several suggestions such as setting up of special courts to try cases involving terrorist acts which should complete the trial within two years; videography of the interrogation process; etc. 


Why should the state government have kept the report out of the public domain when its conclusions and recommendations were very cautious and logical? The only reason can be that the government wanted to protect the police, administrative and judicial personnel involved, even at the cost of unforgivable denial of justice that has assumed a horrible dimension of late.


On May 18, when Tariq and Khalid were being brought back to Lucknow from the Faizabad court under police escort, Khalid felt unwell in Bara Banki. He was taken to the district hospital and was shortly declared dead. His death in custody has aroused a storm of protest and raised several questions. The post mortem report has not answered any of these questions, since it gives the cause of death as being uncertain, but states that his face was swollen and dark, there were blood stains near his nose and his finger nails were blackish. Also surprising is the fact that while he was wearing kurta pyjama that day in the court, his dead body was dressed in a vest and a track pant. Soon after his death, his uncle lodged an FIR in the Bara Banki Kotwali, accusing all the officers involved in his arrest --- including a former DGP, ADG and several senior officers --- as being part of a conspiracy to kill him. The following day, the Rihai Manch, an organisation of human rights activists, started an indefinite dharna in Lucknow demanding the arrests of the police personnel named in the FIR and also government acceptance of the Nimesh commission report. The dharna was addressed by various leaders of Left parties, mass organisations, human rights groups and also Muslim organisations.


The chief minister made a statement the next day saying that Khalid had died a natural death. But, mysteriously, after another day passed, the nine police personnel escorting Khalid and Tariq were suspended and a compensation of six lakhs was announced for his family. This was turned down by his mother and uncle.  These actions of the state government, while they have done nothing to assuage the anger have, once again, become part of the BJP campaign. 


Most unfortunately, on May 19, some lawyers of Faizabad, who claimed to speak on behalf of the entire legal fraternity, attacked the lawyers who were defending Tariq Qasmi and one of them was badly injured while the offices of all of them were destroyed. The district administration took no action at all in spite of its assurances, and the affected lawyers were carrying on with their work while sitting on the ground. This shameful incident has not been condemned by any political party other than the CPI(M). 


Ten days after Khalid’s death, the state cabinet discussed the Nimesh commission report, ‘accepted’ its recommendations and announced that it would place the report in the next assembly session with an action taken report (ATR).


Interestingly, it was during this period that the ‘hate speech’ case against Varun Gandhi was withdrawn after all the witnesses, including senior government officials, turned hostile. Open allegations of the Samajwadi Party’s complicity have been made and a minister, Riaz Ahmed, whose constituency falls under Varun Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency, is alleged to have struck a deal with him --- that the case would be withdrawn in return for support in the assembly election. As it has been!


In the run-up to the Lok Sabha election which is round the corner, the state has, once again, been converted into a communal tinder-box. This will benefit no party other than the BJP. What is even more unfortunate is the fact that the terrible miscarriage of justice that has blighted so many young lives and ruined the future of so many women and children, is not being addressed at all. While a doctor of Indian origin in Australia is compensated by a government that tenders an unqualified, public apology for having confined him wrongfully for 12 days, Indian citizens wait for justice from their own governments in despair and rage. This is a situation in which secular and Left forces must intervene, otherwise communal organisations of all hues will have a field day. The CPI(M) in Faizabad took the initiative and organised a well-attended hall meeting which was addressed by Professor Prabhat Patnaik and Subhashini Ali. Such programmes must be organised throughout the state.