JTSA compilation exposes tales of framed innocent Kashmiris

SRINAGAR, Sep 18: A compilation of 16 “terror” cases released by a group of teachers at Jamia Milia Islamia University has exposed the sordid stories of framing innocent Kashmiris in false cases of militancy not withstanding legal scrutiny.

The compilation titled “Framed, Damned and Acquitted: Dossiers of a Very Special Cell” is based on court judgments and media reports arranged by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA).

JTSA took 16 such cases between 1992 and 2008 wherein the accused have been booked by Delhi Police under false and fabricated cases of terror. However, due to lack of evidence, the court acquitted all of them but only after they had passed a considerable period of their life in miserable conditions of jails.

Out of 16, eleven cases are based on Kashmiri youths.

First out of 11 cases is about Delhi Police’s claim of arresting seven Kashmiri “terrorists”— Abdul Rauf, Tanveer Ahmad, Shakil Ahmad, Ishtiaq Akhtar Dar, Mohammad Akhtar Dar, Mohammad Yusuf Lone, and Ghulam Mohammad on April 29, 1992.

According to police these seven youth had made base in a house in Delhi and were planning to use the owner’s vehicles for attacks. Police claimed to have recovered photographs of prominent places targeted, arms and explosives.
But during their trial the dates of their arrest announced by Delhi police didn’t match as Rauf’s wife had on April 26 moved the Meerut chief judicial magistrate about his arrest from Meerut.

Ghulam Haider, owner of the Delhi house also testified that on April 25, he filed an application with Lajpat Nagar police and a habeas corpus petition about the arrest of Akhtar, Yusuf and Ghulam Mohammad.

The court asked how applications could have been filed against the arrests in advance and rejected the “rest of the prosecution story” thus acquitting all of the seven

Second case is about Farooq Ahmed and 16 others who were arrested in May and June 1996, in connection with a May 21 blast in a car in Lajpat Nagar. Four were later acquitted: Mirza Iftiqar Hussain, Latif Ahmed Waza, Syed Maqbool Shah and Abdul Gani

The police had booked these youth for recovery of Rs 2 note from Waza. It was supposedly meant to be handed over to Hussain as a code for delivery of Rs 1 lakh (seized separately and allegedly identified by Waza). From Maqbool’s house, Farooq’s clothes and stepney of car in the blast were allegedly recovered.

The prosecution could not produce any evidence of involvement of Hussain or Waza (who claimed he had been picked up in Nepal). And regarding the delivery of Rs 1 lakh, the court noted, took place on June 16, after the blast conspiracy had ended. The prosecution could not also produce evidence that the recoveries from Maqbool’s home belonged to Farooq. Gani had been named by another accused, but his role was not mentioned.

In 2010, Farooq and Farida Dar were found guilty of making calls claiming responsibility for the blast and other offences. They were released since they had already served the maximum term for these charges.
The third case involves arrest of Irshad Ahmed Malik of Doda from Rajdhani Guest House in Bhogal on March 27, 2004.

The police charged Malik will allegedly frequenting Delhi to collect funds through hawala transactions. Arms and Rs 2.75 lakh recovered from him and, based on his disclosures, an AK-56 and two magazines were recovered elsewhere.
When the case reached court, it held that enlisting independent witnesses was “omitted by the police deliberately”. The seizures were sent for forensic tests a month later; court suspected tampering. In disclosure report; first statement mentioned an AK-47, second an AK-rifle and final recovery memo an AK-56.

Fourth case is about Ayaz Ahmed Shah alias Iqbal who was arrested from Welcome Metro station on January 22, 2004.
This was following “information” to Delhi Police Special Cell that a youth would come to deliver explosives and hawala money.

The police said a raid party “recovered” explosives and Rs 3 lakh from Shah who reportedly confessed that he is affiliated with a militant outfit Hizb-e-Islami.

No public witness was produced in the court and the police witnesses’ statements were found contradictory. The raid vehicles were privately owned and there were no log entries. Police could not prove that Shah belonged to the said militant outfit, so he was acquitted.

The fifth case is about Hamid Hussain, Mohammad Shariq, Iftekhar Ahsan Malik, Maulana Dilawar Khan, Masood Ahmed and Haroon Rashid who were arrested from Delhi and Dehradun on March 5 to 13, 2005.

Special Cell had “information” that Hamid was an LeT operative who visited Kashmir to procure arms. The first two arrested “confessed” they were planning to attack Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun, said Delhi police. RDX was “seized” from Hamid who had to “deliver it to three militants hiding in Uttam Nagar”, reads the police story.

The “hideout” was raided and the three were killed in an “encounter”. Among “recoveries” was a diary with “entries” about Malik, who allegedly got three passes to the IMA parade. This was followed by the other arrests, including Malik’s. Police also said that Rashid sent funds through Western Union and this was allegedly revealed by his emails.
The Court refused to admit memos and statements linking Hussain and Shariq to those killed. No evidence was produced that Rashid sent the money to the slain militants. It was found that IMA passes were for a parade, already held. As for Rashid’s emails, the printouts of alleged conversations were dated after Rashid had revealed his password to police. The court suspected manipulation and acquitted them.

The sixth case is about Saqib Rehman, Bashir Ahmad Shah, Nazir Ahmad Sofi, Moinuddin Dar, Abdul Majid Bhat, Abdul Qayoom Khan and Birender Kumar Singh who were arrested on July 2, 2005.

Charge: They were arrested after “a chase following firing and hurling of hand grenades” on Delhi-Jaipur National Highway. They were allegedly ferrying a consignment of arms. An SI apparently had secret information about a planned strike.

The prosecution witnesses faltered and the evidence did not hold up, the “car used by the accused”. Records showed car was registered months after it was allegedly misused. The court ruled four police officers had framed the youths “at the behest of one Major Sharma (Army Intelligence) whose attempts to persuade Moinuddin Dar to work for him in getting militants to surrender were spurned.” The court directed the Police Commissioner to register an FIR against the officers.

The seventh case is about Khurshid Ahmad Bhatt who was arrested from Pampore on September 21, 2005. In police reports he was named Aslam Wani an area commander of Jaish arrested from Delhi in August 2005.
A year later, police found Khurshid was a juvenile and shifted him to juvenile justice board. In July 2008, three years after his arrest, he was declared a juvenile.

The police had claimed recovery of arms, a Jaish I-card and other evidence.

Police claimed they reached Pampore police station, gone to Khadawala chowk where J&K police checked passing vehicles, and arrested Khurshid, all between 4.30 pm and 5 pm. However the Court found the claims of doing so much in 30 minutes dubious; besides, there were no witnesses to the arrest, or evidence about Khurshid conspiring with Wani.

The eighth case is about Gulzar Ahmad Ganai, a student and government employee Amin Hajam who were declared arrested in Delhi on December 10, 2006.
Police termed the two as aides of LeT operative Abu Tahir, and alleged to have been sent to Delhi to deliver arms, ammunition and hawala money. Delhi Police had also claimed recovery of explosives and Rs 6 lakh from the two accused.

In court, a witness testified the two had been arrested on November 27, boosting defence case of illegal detention. They were supposed to have traveled in a bus; its conductor deposed that the supposed trip was not made that day; this was backed by the ticket chart. “Errors were committed while attempting to cook up a story,” the court ruled.
The ninth case is about Tariq Dar who had moved to Dhaka in 2003 where his father ran a business.
In September 2006, he had been picked up by Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion on charges of being an R&AW agent.

Released under pressure from civil rights groups and the Indian government, Dar was sent to New Delhi. When he landed at IGI Airport on October 25, 2006 it was the Delhi Special Cell that arrested him.

The police claimed that Dar has been named by two terrorists, Abu Anas and Mohammad Issa. Police accused him of helping an LeT district commander in Dhaka.

Police said arrest evidence was difficult to gather from a foreign country; prosecution had to file a discharge application rather than file a chargesheet.

In court the letters from the Indian government to Dhaka revealed that it was never mentioned that he was wanted for terror in India.

The tenth case is about Imran Ahmed, arrested from Dwarka shopping complex on November 16, 2006.
Police claimed he was the brother of LeT operative Khali and was meeting an aide, Ghulam Rasool who was also arrested. The police claimed “recoveries” included Rs 4.5 lakh and explosives.

The prosecution could not produce any evidence of LeT links, no public witnesses to arrest, contradictions between chargesheet and then ACP Sanjeev Yadav’s statement. Private vehicles were used, no log records. Defence claim was that Imran, an aeronautical engineering student, was carrying money given by his father to buy a house in Dwarka.
The 11th case is about Mukhtar Ahmad Khan who was arrested from Azadpur on June 12, 2007.

Police claimed that he was a LeT operative staying in a Delhi hotel. Police said he was under surveillance and allegedly disappeared and went to Kashmir and collected explosives, which were recovered, besides Pakistani visa. Police claimed his phone had numbers of top LeT commanders.

However, the prosecution failed to prove that the phone belonged to Khan or the numbers were being used by LeT commanders. Moreover, the numbers were operational only in J&K. Court also questioned how he could have disappeared when under surveillance.

Senior officials with the Delhi Police Special Cell, whose terror cases leading to acquittals are the subject a study by a group of university teachers have been quoted by new agencies that they follow all procedures strictly and in accordance with law during investigations.

“Delhi Police Special Cell has very stringent checks on the investigation and operations carried out by its officials,” special commissioner of police (Special Cell) S N Srivastava told a national newspaper. “The investigations are constantly monitored and also vetted by the prosecution branch of the court. Even the courts of law proceed with the case after proper appreciation of evidence.”

Emphasising that charges are framed based on the evidence in hand, an official with the cell said graver evidence “obviously” leads to graver charges. “If police find that someone played a peripheral role in the incidents, they are charged accordingly. However, we cannot leave out a suspect and compromise with national security,” the official said, refusing to be named. No matter how small a role a suspect plays, the officer added, it was the police’s foremost duty “to at least take him to the court of law” and then let the judiciary decide whether he/she is guilty or not.

Dismissing allegations of “illegal detentions” and innocents being framed to settle petty scores, another Special Cell police officer said “sporadic incidents” may make news but cannot change reality. “We only go by evidences,” the officer told the newspaper.

The group JTSA that compiled these cases was formed in 2008 after the Batla House encounter. From an initial focus on extrajudicial killings, it has expanded to illegal detentions and media trials, issues that it says it strives to bring to the public notice.