India amends law to declare every Kashmiri a `terrorist’

India has framed several Kashmiri leaders in terror-abetting and financing cases. Kashmiri leaders are being humiliated for explaining donations from a dubious businessman. India’s slew of laws are enough to hang any Kashmiri, Naxalbari, or any other person. Take SAR Geelani, a professor of Delhi University. He was framed for being an accomplice of Afzal Guri, accused of attack on Delhi parliament. His only offence was that he commented upon Guru’s hanging in a television interview.

Then, why the Modi2.0 government hastily amended laws (July 24, 2019) to declare anyone a `terrorist’. Modi 2.0 did it as under amended laws due process of law need not be observed.

Evidentiary value of phone conversation

Professor SAR Geelani’s case reminds how a one-minute phone conversation, mere three words mis-translated, could get you hanged? Professor Geelani was awarded death penalty by the ‘fast-track’ court on the basis of wrong translation of the three words ‘Delhi kya korua’, ‘what has happened in New Delhi’, picked up from his one-minute conversation with his brother. The police translated the three words as ‘what have you done’. The Kashmiri equivalent for the police translation is ‘yeh kya korua’ which the lecturer did not use in his conversation.

By the time, the court acquitted the innocent professor; he had already suffered two years of solitary confinement in death cell. Interestingly, the prosecution’s misinterpreted transcript lasted for two minutes while the conversation tape took only one-minute’s duration.

The conversation between S A R Geelani and his brother Shah Faisal was in Kashmiri. Not to speak of linguistic mastery, the person intercepting the conversation did not know a single word of Kashmiri language. Next day, the Special Cell brought in an ‘expert’ to translate the conversation.

But the Special cell’s expert was a person, who knew only tidbits of the Kashmiri language, not intonations or linguistic nuances. He was educated only up to the sixth grade. He could only read and speak Hindi, not write it. As such, his spoken translation of the conversation was converted into a written text by another person.

It is this translation that was used as key evidence to charge Geelani’… ‘It appears unreasonable even for the most fertile imagination to stretch the meaning of the words “what have you done in Delhi” as a reference to participation in the December 13 attack on Indian parliament.

Delhi high Court, upon appeal, honourably acquitted the main accused, Professor SAR Geelani, a lecturer of Arabic in Delhi College and his cousin Shaukat Guru. Nexus with Pakistan remained unproved. The speedy-trial court had earlier convicted the accused persons to death (and life imprisonment) on various counts including ‘conspiracy to wage war. After his acquittal, Geelani suffered an attempt on his life by ‘unknown armed assailants’.

Afzal Guru’s hanging

The Hindu dated June 15, 2016 raised many questions about Afzal Gurus’s conviction, not beyond reasonable doubt. These questions are unanswered until today.

On December 16, barely three days after the attack, the police presented Mohammed Afzal, his cousin Shaukat Hussain, and S.A.R. Geelani to the media along with a prosecution’s case.Within six months, Mohammed Afzal and the others, including Shaukat’s pregnant wife Afsan, went on trial on charges of conspiracy to commit acts of terror and waging war against the state. Mohammed Afzal was denied due legal representation. The lawyer first appointed to represent him admitted as evidence, without consulting him, incriminatory documents. She `withdrew from the case prior to the trial to represent another accused’. While the three others were represented by good lawyers, Mohammed Afzal’s case was mediated by amicus curiae that were hostile to him. This left Afzal, a man with no knowledge of the law, to make interventions and cross-examine witnesses himself. At the end of this process, he was sentenced to death. In the High Court, the lawyer who claimed to represent Afzal entered a plea for death by lethal injection should the death sentence be confirmed, something that Afzal, expecting to live, had never discussed. Despite all this, the Supreme Court, reaffirming the death sentence in 2004, asserted that he was adequately represented.

Of the three accused of conspiring with Afzal, Afsan Guru and S.A.R. Geelani were acquitted by the High Court within a year, and Shaukat Hussain was sentenced to 10 years on the lesser charge of concealing knowledge of a conspiracy. He was released early for good behaviour.

The Hindu reports `But Mohammed Afzal was killed. And those who decided to kill him failed to ask questions that needed to be asked, questions that still need answers. The trial court knew on record from Mohammed Afzal that he had been a member of the JKLF and surrendered in the early 1990s. As a surrendered militant, he marked regular attendance at a camp maintained by the shadowy Special Task Force in Kashmir. He had been detained at the camp on more than one occasion. In short, he was a man that the security forces in Kashmir knew intimately. He also said that two key persons connected to the case — Mohammed (who was killed in the Parliament attack) and Tariq (whom the state claims has vanished) — were first introduced to him at the STF camp. A question that was never asked, and therefore never answered, was how it that the security forces did not know of Afzal’s was movements, associations and plans, given that they kept close tabs on him, picking him and holding him in illegal custody whenever they chose’.

The Hindu adds `During the trial, the police presented contradictory versions of the arrests. Documents produced as evidence in court showed that the Srinagar police had recorded the time of Afzal’s arrest as several hours in advance of when the Delhi police say they had information about his whereabouts and had messaged Kashmir. The Public Prosecutor claimed, outside court, that the Srinagar police also had independent information from India’s central intelligence agencies. Why this was never raised in court is another question that should be answered. Was the Public Prosecutor Lying? or was there information about the attack that the state withheld, while pursuing its case against Mohammed Afzal?’

Afzal was convicted though there was no witness against him. The principle of natural justice is that no-one would be called upon to give evidence against himself. Those said to be his co-conspirators were acquitted (Geelani, Shaukat and Afsan), died (Mohammed) or vanished (Tariq). The only evidence against him are telephone instruments and SIM cards that the police claim to have recovered from him at the time of his arrest, different depending on which police jurisdiction was involved. `Besides, one SIM card had been in use before it was sold to him. How different courts interpreted this makes fascinating reading and raises questions about why the case for Afzal Guru’s death was pursued with so much zeal’.

Mohammed Afzal died without his case ever being heard properly. His hanging proved that there is no rule of law, and due process and justice.

What lies ahead?

Afzal Guru’s hanging and SAR Geelani’s trial fettered |Indian courts to conduct Kangroo court trial. But, with amended laws, the prosecution will be no longer encumbered to show veneer of trial. Modi’s plan is to declare as many Kashmiris `terrorists’ as convenient. Deprived of security, afraid of talking to one another, Kashmiris would be imprisoned ducks for Indian police and security forces. The human rights organisations should look into dark recesses of India’s evil mind.