Gunfire all around, ten terrorists at large in the city of Mumbai, Hotel Taj and Oberoi up in flames, 166 people killed, and in the midst of the mayhem a terrorist captured alive. These are the reminiscence of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks of 2008. It was a face of terror no one had ever seen before. As clichéd, the ten terrorists were Muslims. But does that give the liberty to round off any Muslim and declare them to be involved in the attacks just because everyone will buy that story?
Last month all the leading dailies carried the story of three Indian Mujahideen terrorists arrested by the Delhi police. In September of this year 12 people were arrested and accused of terrorism by the Bangalore police. Just as the cacophony on their terror activities mellowed down, reports of their innocence started emerging. Today the greatest threat to our national security is terrorism. So when a terrorist is captured people should feel more secure. But now a sense of skepticism has crept in, ‘Is he really a terrorist or an innocent made to suffer at the hands of the police?’.
It’s not the first time the police have got it wrong. These cases follow a certain pattern. Initially the police conducts a press conference where every minute details are given out. They reveal the identity of the culprits, the organization they are associated with, their modus operandi, their handlers, how the plots were hatched and so on. A biased media create an impression that our cops have become very efficient overnight. It is only a matter of time their concocted stories collapses in the court of law. By the time the acquittal is granted, several months, years or decades must have passed behind bars. To save their faces the police will have another set of accused and a new story by now. Which narrative should we believe in?
Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed were alleged to be co-conspirators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The Supreme Court on August 2012 upheld the acquittal of the duo. Mohammad Amir Khan, an 18-year-old, was charged by the Delhi police of being the mastermind of 1997 Delhi serial blasts where five people were killed. He was released after 14 years of incarceration without any evidence against him. Recently, the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association released a report titled, “Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers of a ‘Very’ Special Cell” where they have profiled 16 cases that resulted in acquittals after being presumed guilty by the police. The acquittals have left many cops red faced.
The common perception of the society is, if you are an accused then somehow you must be connected. His family and friends can claim innocence but, what if he was doing his activities behind their back? In a polarized environment where communal rhetoric refuses to die down, a bad company is enough for any youth to get dissuaded into doing wrong things. But many recent court verdicts have raised a needle of suspicion on the police establishment. The police instead of solving the case is trying to find some unfortunate souls from whom they can get forced confessions.
We are living in a society that believes in ‘All terrorists are Muslims’ rhetoric. The cops are also part of that society. So arrest a Muslim and brand him as a terrorist is the easy way out. The police witch hunt due to this perception is demoralizing, it can breed anti state feelings in the community.
What happens after an acquittal? The cops are too bashful to apologize. For the media the arrest is a breaking news, but the acquittal is just a one liner story. There is no compensation from the government. No one wants to get associated with a former terrorist. It is hard to pick up the pieces and move forward in life all alone. When Muhammad Haneef, the Indian doctor who was falsely accused of terrorism by the Australian authorities, was freed, he got a substantial monetary compensation and an apology from the Australian police. After clearing his name he now has a job and a normal life. Such things are yet to happen in our country.
Now the dilemma is whether to trust a cop or not. An ideal cop is like a super hero who turns up, nabs the bad guy to deliver justice. Now the perception is, majority cops are villains who turns up, nabs any guy to result in a miscarriage of justice. To catch ten terrorists the police catch thousands and torture them. The more unnecessary arrests the chances of punishing the real culprits diminishes. Whether or not they catch the real terrorists they have definitely created hundred new terrorists. Today a police officer is the new satan who decides who should go to hell.