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Mainstream, VOL L, No 45, October 27, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Syed Kazmi Case

Wednesday 31 October 2012, by Mukul Dube


Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi, an Indian journalist who lived in Delhi and had worked with the Iranian news agency IRNA since 1988, was picked up by the police in the forenoon of March 6, 2012. The time of arrest was, however, recorded as 8.30 pm. Functionaries of the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, in whose custody he had been, went to his house that night and seized his computer, car and other objects and documents; and his son Shauzab claimed that he was made to sign the arrest memo at 2.30 am.

The reason offered for the arrest was that Kazmi was connected with the attaching of a bomb three weeks earlier to a vehicle which belonged to an Israeli diplomat, in whose exploding the diplomat and his Indian chauffeur were injured.

A report of March 9, 2012 has “Senior journalist Syed Naqvi” (actually Saeed Naqvi) saying: “Kazmi has been an honourable and honest journalist who has been reporting for the Iranian News Agency IRNA as he knows Urdu, Persian and Arabic. He has been arrested because he has sided with Iran on various issues including the latest Israel-Iran stand-off. He has also reported on Syria in recent times where he has debunked western position on protests in that country.”
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This report began with: “After speaking to the family and friends of the arrested journalist and analysing the court documents, Tehelka has found that the police have so far not revealed any substantive evidence against Kazmi.” Later it said: “Although there is no official word, it is believed that Israeli agencies had passed on certain inputs to their Indian counterparts that was further provided to Delhi Police. In muted voices officials admit that information on suspects has been coming from central agencies.”

Kazmi applied for bail but did not get it. From a report of April 3, 2012: “Chief Metropo-litan Magistrate (CMM) Vinod Yadav dismissed Kazmi’s bail plea saying there was no substance in his bail plea.” [] In the same report: “[Kazmi] had earlier alleged that...‘foreign agencies like Mossad were also interrogating him’” and “The court had then asked the Special Cell not to permit other investigating agencies to interrogate him...”.

Kazmi was in custody for seven months. The police, as we saw above, did not offer any sub-stantive evidence to link him with the bomb. All they did was say, without substantiation, that he had been in touch with the bomber, that he knew the plans of the “terrorists”, and so on: and every such dribble of “news” was dutifully relayed by an acquiescent and uncritical media.

People who wanted justice for the man were vocal, both on the streets and on the Internet. They formed organisations and did what they could, such as holding demonstrations and candle-light vigils. Many of Kazmi’s journalist colleagues were among these.

ON October 19, 2012, the Supreme Court of India granted bail to Kazmi while ordering him to deposit his passport and not leave the country. In an early reaction: “The [Kazmi Solidarity Committee] deplores the obstructive attitude of the prosecution and the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, which have been perversely attempting to keep Mr. Kazmi in prison despite their inability to file a chargesheet within the extended time granted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.” []

The UAPA spoken of here has far more stringent provisions than the ordinary laws of India with regard to detention and bail. The police exploited to the hilt the freedoms given to them, and even attempted to go beyond those. In the end, though, their stand and their actions were determined to be not justified.
Thus it is that the granting of bail by the Supreme Court is being hailed as a victory by those who have spoken up for Kazmi. Others are thinking more carefully, however, and say that this “victory” is no more than Kazmi’s getting what is his right under the law. Some go beyond this and argue that the real victory will be to demand and ultimately force action against the policemen who arrested and detained a man without adequate reason or for no valid reason. Only the punishment of the guilty can go some way towards preventing further unlawful arrests and detentions.

This is significant inasmuch as the argument is gaining strength among those who are con-cerned with civil liberties that almost every-where in India, innocent individuals have been arrested and locked up for long periods only to be acquitted by the courts when at length they are brought to trial. Only recently the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association released a report which documented in detail the arbitrary actions of the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. [See links to press coverage at]

Any Indian can be a victim of the high-handedness of the “forces of law and order”: but it has become clear, from the fact that people from minority groups such as Muslims and tribals are singled out and form the overwhelming bulk of those detained under the anti-terror laws, that a systemic bias exists.

There are those who say that this is part of a calculated strategy of cowing down and wearing down the minorities. One young man locked up is not just the destruction of one life and one career: it severely affects the man’s family also and, often, the community to which he belongs.

There are those who see this as a form of active racism.

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