Mainstream, VOL LIV No 49 New Delhi November 26, 2016
Bhopal Encounter a mechanism to terrorise Muslims and Secular Forces
Monday 28 November 2016
by Arun Srivastava
It would be purely an act of naiveté to view the killing of eight SIMI cadres through the narrow prism of encounter. An insight into the incident would reveal it is a part of the RSS’ design to eliminate dissenters, silence the voice of dissent and pave the path for implementing its policy of Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra.
The police and government narratives of the incident give the impression that the so-called “terrorists” were out to commit hara-kiri and that was why they preferred to “run away” in a very relaxed and leisurely fashion. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s police had been straining hard to justify the killing by projecting them as hard-core criminals who had in the past also fled from the jail. The MP Police is in fact trying to project them as experienced criminals who had expertise in jail-break.
But it is the BJP chief, Amit Shah, who has unwittingly unravelled the truth behind the encounter. At a rally in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh he disclosed that the BJP had chalked out the agenda of “Attack Muslims” to humiliate and terrorise them. After the secular elements the BJP views the Muslims as the potential force to check its design to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra.
Surprisingly, he described all the non-BJP Muslim leaders as goondas. He used goonda as an euphemism for Muslims. Shah also said that the BJP will ensure the protection of UP’s Hindus. Citing the alleged exodus of Hindus from Kairana, he said: “If the BJP comes to power, no one will leave their villages. Only those who are forcing you to leave will be made to leave.” Shah’s speech revealed the BJP’s design to create a sense of insecurity among Muslims.
It is absolutely clear that Shah as the chief of the ruling party would not have dared to use such language without the tacit approval of the RSS bosses. The fact is that Shivraj Chouhan has turned the State into the RSS laboratory to experiment its Hindu policies and programmes.
A series of communal incidents have taken place in MP in the recent past. These raised the question about the security of Muslims. In all these incidents Muslims were at the target of the saffron brigade. A fact-finding report by a team of the All India Secular Forum revealed that more than 40 houses and the same number of shops owned by Muslims were set on fire in these incidents. According to the report submitted to the Director General of Police, the scene in the burnt houses and shops was such as if it was the handiwork of the army of an enemy country. On October 12 two villages of Dhar district—Gandhwani and Pipalya—wit-nessed arson and loot.
Incidentally, a report prepared by the Petla-wad Police on the October communal tension in the town accuses RSS leaders of trying to “polarise Hindu voters” to win the upcoming Petlawad nagar panchayat elections. They had forced a tazia procession during Muharram to change its route twice. Ironically the police officer who tried to control the situation was punished.
There is no denying the fact a vicious situation has been created by the Sangh and the Shivraj Chouhan Government. Obviously it would be wrong to believe that the police in such a back-drop would dare to take a rational approach. For them, the dissenters are the anti-nationals. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat share a common vision and perception on this issue, the ‘hate Muslim‘ campaign enjoys the portentous endorsement from the government officials. Bhagwat has deployed in key organisational posts people who would toe the Sangh line and, at the same time, be non-confrontationist.
The chorus of the government officials and policemen in denying that it was a fake encounter simply underlined the indoctrination of bureau-cracy by the saffron rulers. Their audacity could be gauged from the simple fact that they told the people: “No questions, we are patriots.” It is a national shame that behind the veneer of patriotism the RSS and Modi Government have been trying to polarise the society and spread communal hatred.
The communalisation of the society and societal relations has attained such an ugly character that the villagers present at the encounter site preferred to pelt stone on the SIMI cadres as the police described them as Muslim terrorists. The reports point out that the villagers even raised nationalist slogans and cheered the police.
The police claimed that all the eight had been killed in an ‘encounter’. Was it true or fake? Only the political elites and rulers of Madhya Pradesh along with their police know the real fact and the true reasons for carrying out the criminal act. The people of India have the habit to exercise tolerance to such encounters. Nusrat Jahan was encountered but the culprits have not been framed. Nusrat was declared a terrorist. What was interesting was that the people, especially the urban middle-class guys, endorsed the government version..
In the case of the Bhopal encounter the police have been simply misleading the country at the behest of the RSS and Modi Government. The modus operandi of the encounter makes its explicit that it was planned by some powerful people close to the Sangh and MP Government. Else, how could they scale the wall of the jail? The police is trying to present a foolproof case. But a crime cannot be foolproof. It has got its own lacunae and holes.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the SIMI cadres were whisked out of the jail under a design. Ironically, the smart and competent MP Police has yet not been able to solve the quiz as to how and who killed the jail police constable. Apprehensions are being expressed that the constable might have been killed by some person acting at the behest of the vested interests.
What has been the most interesting aspect of the story is that the fugitives were caught within eight kms of the precincts of the jail. The police did not try to trace out the support-hand, from the outside as well as from the inside. This is not for the first time that prisoners fleeing the jail were encountered and murdered. There are more examples. A closer analysis of the incidents makes it implicit that in all the cases the authorities had provided the help and resources through their moles. The same process has been repeated in Bhopal too. The explanation of the Bhopal Police shows that they had used such notes here as well.
A new social and political order is in the making; under it the common people or even the political system is denied the right to question the actions of the ruling elite and the govern-ment: Don’t ask questions. Asking question is abhorrent, is in bad taste. No doubt this is basic ethos of the democracy and democratic functioning, but the Sangh—and precisely Modi—does not savour it. It was the basic tenet of transparency and openness of a functional democracy that Right to Information was enacted. But this is repugnant for Modi. Basically this is why he refused this year to inaugurate and participate at the annual convention of the RTI. This he did despite the fact that the RTI has made a world of difference to the process of decision-making, reduced arbitrariness and exposed corruption. It has become a great weapon in fighting injustice.
Democratic culture and the tradition of asking questions are under threat. First, the people have no right to ask questions, If at all someone musters courage to seek clarifications and asks questions he is invariably dubbed as anti- national. Only an anti-national could dare to ask questions from the patriots and nationalists!
Recall the remark that MP Chief Minister Chouhan made while briefing the media about the encounter; “Shame on those who are shedding tears for terrorists. These people are liars.” The most audacious has been obser-vations of the two precious ratnas (jewels) of Modi. While Kiren Rijiju ridiculed the democratic process itself: “Asking questions is not good culture”, his senior colleague, Venkaiah Naidu, sermoned: “Asking questions is cheap politics.”
Asking questions in NDA rule has become a taboo. The Modi Government has till date not answered who gave the mob the right to kill Akhlaq. It also did not answer: “Did Akhlaq’s family keep beef in their house?” There are a number of questions waiting for an answer from the Sangh and Modi. They know that once they start replying to questions, they would lose the initiative and their fascist attacks would get blunted. They have to be ruthless. This is best manifest in the style of public address by Modi. He always uses an aggressive tone to silence the people and his critics alike.
This political culture and tendency will undoubtedly have an adverse impact on the polity and political ethos of the country. Anyone coming to power—it is not that BJP will continue to rule India till the country exists—will resort to this tactics. India would cease to be a democratic republic. It cannot be ruled out that the bedroom relations of the husband and wife would be dictated by the political elites and rulers.
The worst victim of this intolerant behaviour has been democracy and the rule of law of the country. These people are trying to give a legal character to the fake encounters and obliterate the difference between a convict and an under-trial. The accused in cases of terrorism are being christened as ‘terrorists’ and an undertrial has become a convicted prisoner.
There is an imperative need to tell the young police officers that there is no gallantry involved in shooting at people who cannot shoot back. They have come to serve the force, the country. But they are being used as pawns to further the ideological commitment of a political party. This is more dangerous than carrying out one or two simple orders of a politician. What happened in Bhopal was breaking the rules and laws to communally polarise the society and terrorise the Muslims. Doubts are being expressed on the basis of some video recordings that are making the rounds. In recent years we have seen how the young and intelligent police officers have become victims of the lust of power, position and material gains. There are many young officers who have had their careers cut short in recent years on account of their misplaced priorities. Most of them eventually have to cool their heels outside the corridors of power as they were caught on the wrong side of the law.
The former Chief of the Madhya Pradesh Prisons Department is on record saying that clear standard operating procedures (SOP) had been laid down in the Bhopal Central Prison for the operation of the CCTV system, for keeping the barracks of the SIMI undertrial prisoners under surveillance. Obviously, these SOPs were not followed scrupulously. It is also intriguing why the CCTV was not functioning on the day the encounter took place. The shutdown of the CCTV makes one suspect the credentials of the police officers, it also points to some serious nature of conspiracy.
The video makes it clear that all the fugitive SIMI cadres could have been arrested by the police on the hill-top as they had raised their hands to surrender. But the police killed them. Undoubtedly it was a cold-blooded murder. Nevertheless, had they been captured alive the entire conspiracy or story would have been exposed. At present the reason for their escape is wrapped in mystery. Their arrest could have exposed whether they were acting on the script of foreign forces, which had provided them with the necessary input.
Their killing in fact gives rise to the suspicion that it was conspired at some high level to carry out the encounter with ominous intentions to create panic among the Muslims and also bury some mysterious information. The suspicion becomes acute in view the following revelation: One of the most telling clips has someone issuing directions that all of the men must be killed “Sabko nipta do.” (Finish everyone.) “Bilkul peeche nahi hatna hai. Gher ke pura kar do kaam tamaam.” (Don’t hesitate at all. Surround them and finish them off.) In one of the clips, people applaud after a man declares that all the eight are dead. “Sir, badhai ho, aathon maare gaye.” (Congratulations, sir, all eight are dead). “Very good, very good. We are reaching there,” the commanding officer is heard saying. Sanjeev Shami, Inspector General of the Anti-Terror Squad who led the operation, was emphatic in his assertion that the fugitives were unarmed and no cop was injured in the encounter. He reiterated that the eight SIMI activists shot dead in Bhopal on that day were not armed when they were killed. However, some police officers tried to justify the encounter arguing that they carried arms. The video clips suggest that all the bullets fired at the eight men hit them above their waists, indicating that the Supreme Court and National Human Rights Commission’s guidelines, which state that in an encounter the police must fire below the waist, were violated.
Meanwhile, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) team, while interrogating the prison authorities, posed certain important questions. How could the prisoners escape by jumping the 28 feet boundary wall? How did the undertrials, who were lodged in two different cells, succeed in breaking the locks? Even some NIA officials hold that the terrorists did not react. A video clip purportedly showing policeman shooting at an apparently injured fugitive lying on a flat-topped rock raised doubts about the authenticity of the encounter. According to reports, the encounter took place with the help of local villagers, who first sighted the SIMI men. According to eyewitnesses, the terrorists hurled stones on the villagers and police before being gunned down in the encounter. The differing stands taken by administration officials on the sequence of events that led to the encounter further raised eyebrows.
Ever since the Modi Government came to occupy the Delhi throne, the RSS and BJP have been trying to terrorise the Muslims. Though on some occasion Modi assured full protection, the Sangh cadres continue with their modus operandi. A couple of days back the Chairman of Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), Shabir Ahmad Shah, alleged that the RSS was taking out rallies in the Valley to create a sense of fear and terror among the Muslims of the region. Shah said: “It is extremely unfortunate that on one hand, the organisers of such rallies are the getting support of the government, forces, and police, while on the other, pellets are being showered upon the people holding peaceful protests. This is a sheer hypocrisy on the part of the so-called govern-ment.”
Nothing could explain this RSS’ design with more clarity and insight than the eulogy of the Army’s ‘surgical strikes’ in PoK. No doubt it deserved appreciation. But the manner in which the BJP was projecting it simply reinforced the feeling that it was out to exploit it for achieving its political objective. The BJP is exploiting the military’s success in the ongoing electoral cam-paigns in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. The BJP’s election posters in UP have military images in the background, with an armed soldier and a reference to the ‘surgical strikes’. In the foreground stands Modi, clenched fist upraised, threatening Pakistan.
Eulogising the Army and its action is one thing and using the Army’s operational success for political gains is quite a different thing. The BJP has been resorting to this tactics to bolster the Hindu psyche and at the same time terrorise the Muslim. Instead it should have used the occasion to assimilate the Muslim society with the mainstream. In 1999 too after the Kargil victory, the BJP had tried to piggyback on the military’s success. The then Army chief, General V.P. Malik, had however complained to the former Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, about the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s election posters that featured the three military chiefs. Vajpayee ensured it did not happen again. Malik recounts: “The armed forces were anguished because they were getting sucked into electoral politics as a result of the blatant effort to politicise the war for immediate electoral advantage. At one stage, in desperation, I had to send across a strong message through the media: ‘Leave us alone; we are apolitical’.”
It is an irony that the BJP is not content with the spotlight focused on the Army. The party as well as the government wants the lion’s share of the credit for having shown Pakistan its place. Obviously it intends to send a message to both the Hindus and Muslims. The BJP leadership does not realise that it is demeaning the morale of India’s Army and the Indian Army is not a political army. It has stood upright in difficult circumstances. Modi and the BJP should not have used the surgical strike for narrow, parochial, Right-wing gains.
Since Narendra Modi came to power last year, the country’s Muslims have expressed growing concerns about a spate of inflammatory statements and actions undertaken by the Hindu nationalist leaders and activists. The most agonising has been the role of the secular and Communist forces and parties. So far they have not made any serious attempt to probe the real intentions and nature of the moves of the RSS, BJP and Modi Government. Their approach to the Bhopal encounter gives the impression that they are in a state of trance.
The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org