Thinking About Adam Ajmeris in Saffron Times

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between

Sixteen year old Shahwan, from Ahmedabad, who is still waiting for his Class X results, was extremely happy that day, when India’s electorate gave its verdict. He hugged his Ammi and went out in his Mohalla along-with his brother Almas, yelling ‘we have won’, ‘we have won’. And not only Shahwan and his family members but one could witness similar joy in the houses of Mohammad Salim Hanif Sheikh, Abdul Qayyum Mansuri alias Mufti Baba and several others.

Interestingly Shahwan’s tremendous joy with tears flowing down the eyes of his Ammi Naseem (40) had nothing to do with the fact that Mr Narendra Damodardas Modi, had delivered a ‘historic victory’ to the BJP.

It was a strange coincidence that the day India’s electorate decided to give a mandate to the Modi led BJP to rule the country for coming five years also happened to be the day when Supreme Court of India in a historic judgment overturned a controversial decision take by him as home minister. It was related to the prosecution of those arrested for Akshardham attack under now lapsed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

Perhaps not very many people would remember today how Akshardham Mandir in Ahmedabad was attacked by two terrorists killing 37 people and injuring several others way back in September 2002. It was reported that both the terrorists were killed by commandos on the spot itself. Shahwan’s father Adam Sulaiman Mansuri alias Adam Ajmeri, a poor mechanic along-with four others were arrested from Shahpur and Dariapur areas of Ahmedabad in August 2003 by the anti-terrorism squad of the Ahmedabad police for their alleged role in the attack. The sixth accused was nabbed from Uttar Pradesh a few days later. The lower courts sentenced Adam and one other person to death for his ‘heinous role in the conspiracy’ which was later confirmed by the Gujarat high court. Remaining four accused were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for life.

Pulling up Gujarat police for framing “innocent” people in the particular case a bench comprising of Justices A K Patnaik and V Gopala Gowda held that the prosecution failed to establish their guilt beyond reasonable doubt and they deserved exoneration from all the charges. The bench nixed their confessional statements being invalid in law and also said that the prosecution could not establish they participated in any conspiracy. After perusing evidence and lower court judgments, the SC bench underlined how the story of prosecution crumbles at every juncture. According to Indian Express ( 17 th May 2014) the bench blamed the home minister for

“clear non-application of mind ..in granting sanction,” since it was based neither on an informed decision nor on an independent analysis of facts..The court said the sanction was hence “void” and not a legal and valid sanction under POTA.

 

Shahwan remembers his visits to jail on Eid and his father’s breaking down on such visits telling him that he had nothing to give him for the festival. For Naseem, it was rather a torturous journey as her own relatives literally boycotted her for being ‘wife of a terrorist’ and was not even invited on any occasion and had to bring up her two kids by embroidery work and stitching of burqa. The only saving grace was that her neighbours who had seen Adam grow before their own eyes helping his father in his tiny workshop and always ready to go extra mile in helping others never believed the police’s theory and continued to offer her moral support.

People who have tried to look beyond the glitter and glitz would recount similar stories of pain and suffering at the hands of a callous administration and a biased civil society. One of the most discussed and rather most tragic case was that of a social worker Maulana Umarji from Godhra who went out of his way to maintain communal harmony in the area and also organised relief and rehabilitation for the needy. He was made to rot in jail for years together under the same draconian law POTA on the basis of a confessional statement of another accused taken under duress. Maulana was similarly acquitted by the courts. Tortured and humiliated by the police in jail, he died few months later. 

It is matter of days when Adam Ajmeri like other accused in the terror attack case would return home. For one who had lost all hope to meet his family again it would be like rebirth and he would definitely like to forget what travails he went through, and perhaps would like to make a new beginning in his life. It is a different matter that question will keep lingering about the impunity with which the state could frame any innocent and stigmatise one’s family for all their lives and how the state could be turned into a large torture chamber for the marginalised and the vulnerable.

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This strange coincidence about electoral outcome and Supreme Court’s damning remarks which had a bearing on the quality of governance reminds one of another not so glorious chapter in the state’s recent history. It is well reported that it happens to be the only state of the Indian Union where you find so many senior police officers and their juniors still languishing in jail for their alleged role in many of the encounter killings in the state.

May it be the case of Ishrat Jahan, the student from Bombay or Sameer Khan Pathan or for that matter Mr Soharabuddin, or Sadiq Jamal all these encounters took place at night wherein none from the police force received any injuries, despite the ‘terrorists’ being armed with ‘latest automatic weapons’ (as was announced later) and the rationale provided for these killings was that they had come to kill Mr Modi and his other colleagues from the Hindutva brigade.

Merely a week before the election results were out, Gujarat government had to face another humiliating moment in the Supreme Court itself about its plea seeking uniform guidelines for dealing with cases of encounter killings. The highest Court dismissed the pleas saying that there cannot be such an advisory in a federal structure. A bench comprising of Chief Justice RM Lodha and justices MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph said that

“Guidelines or advisory of such nature are not enforceable,” (http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-encounter-killings-supreme-court-dismisses-gujarat-govt-plea-on-guidelines-1986390)

It may be noted here that the Gujarat government in 2012 had filed this PIL (Public Interest Litigation) for independent probe into all cases of alleged killings by police in past 10 years in the country and had sought direction to deal with all cases of fake encounters in a uniform manner. It had been Gujarat government’s contention that some vested interest groups are selectively targeting its police force over the encounter killings.

The petition had sought a direction to all state governments and Union Territories to evolve and formulate a uniform nation-wide policy providing for an independent agency like “monitoring authority / special task force” created by the Gujarat government to probe into all cases of alleged fake encounters. An important aspect of this debate was that none of the BJP ruled states’ supported Gujarat government over this move and it found itself isolated.

May it be the issue of ‘encounter killings’ in the state or for that matter the troubling developments in the year 2002 variously described as Gujarat carnage or Gujarat riots where according to his own party seniors ‘Rajdharma’ was not observed, it is clear that Mr Modi begins his innings as PM of the country with a past which would keep haunting him.

History bears witness to the fact that past just cannot be wished away claiming that it is a construct of the adversaries. All those people who tried to brush aside their past under carpet had to pay heavy price for their ‘amnesia’.

Would Mr Modi be able to make a radical rupture with the period gone by and turn a new page as far as not only good but just governance is concerned.  That would be a moot question.

Chances look really dim but as of now we have no other option than to wait and watch.

 

 

9 thoughts on “Thinking About Adam Ajmeris in Saffron Times”

  1. Our great media houses who boast of their democratic spirit and who gluttonised on the “Modi-wave” did not care to focus on this news of the Supreme Court order. That was expected, because we are now in a bizarre phase, elections are won in the media before even the campaign begins, issues are determined in the media back rooms, slogans are coined by ad professionals, Medha Patekar gets defeated while Bolly-Tolly stars who have never ever fought for the massess, get thumping victory. The aspirational India as defined by the all-knowing media pundits and media driven Multitude care nothing for the Supreme Court order, care a hang about what happened in 2002. That is the new India we have constituted post 16 May, 2014. One article in today`s Indian Express talked of post-ideology vis-a-vis this electoral result. What an irony, because ignoring such Supreme court verdicts in the din and bustle of aspirational India is also an outcome of ideology, perhaps a wave ideology – something that would brush aside every thing save the simulacrum, save the mediatised, save the moneytised, save the politicised – Indeed Achhe Din Ane Bale Hai…Bha!!

    1. Sir, you seem to be a learned man, and Mr Gatade is a political and social thinker. But Indian masses are not at your level. Even educated people have forgotten about Akshardham attack and afterwards. There are not simple explanations for how and why elections are won at different time and regions of India. There are a number of secular parties all over India, and they all get significant minority support. The ‘media-sponsored” Modi wave succeeded in UP where a secular party SP got only four Yadavas elected from five constituencies, and the Congress one Roman Catholic and the other unknown. Not a single Muslim. It is understandable in a communal party, but why so in secular ones. The Modi wave failed in many states, including two in East and one in South, both led by Brahmins, and one is South led by a Syrian Catholic. So, if media had a tremendous influence, it was selective. Let me take you to past, an era just after independence when media was no so powerful and effective. Dr Ambedkar, an illustrious son of India, could not win an election against someone no one remember now. The party founded by him is now in NDA. But before you jump to a conclusion, please remember that the Hindutva ideologue and revolutionary Savarkar also lost his deposit, and his Hindu Maha Sabha disappeared from the political scene in due course. Vajpayee, a Brahmin and ex-RSS pracharak, a distinguished parliamentarian for decades, did not succeed in winning more than 182 seats in parliament. Modi, also an ex-RSS pracharak, had no presence in parliament, but far surpassed Vajpayee. Intellectuals, such as MJ Akhbar, a Muslim, and Udit Raj, a Dalit, flocked to strengthen Modi and BJP. I am briefly furnishing some facts, in order to emphasize that a simplistic interpretation of the 2014 election, using selective data, will not help to understand what is really happening in India’s political and social horizon. And without a proper understanding, it would be impossible to steer it in any direction. For me there is only one silver lining in all this that a person of very low background, socially and economically, could rise to the highest political authority in India. It does not bother me whether he was helped by Hindutva doctrine or not, as neither Congress, nor various Socialist or Communist parties, were promoted a low caste and poor person, Hindu or non-Hindu, to the highest office in their reach, in spite of taking support for a majority of people from those strata. I hope, Mr Gatade, and his comrades, will someday make a comprehensive analysis of all the facts, and provide a new direction to the Indian society.

      1. Dear RDS, thank you for your long comment. Let me assure you that I am an ordinary man and my learning does not come in the way of political analysis. But as was evident from your comment, in this dominant wave of “ordinariness” and rise of the lowest of the low, learning and knowledge would be bracketed into a category of sin to be sneered at. I can understand your points and the statistical records you have demonstrated to establish the vagaries of Indian voters are well known. The voting patterns of the electorates are indeed puzzling and need comprehensive analysis. But then, that does not mean we stop raising issues that leave us with shock and shame. The electoral arithmetic of 2014 Lok sabha election would be and is being analysed and in that direction the role of forgetting, the role of the media, the role of the corporate lobbies would also be examined and all these discussions are steps in that direction. The fact that Savarkar lost and Ambedkar lost does not take away the element of shock from the defeat of many worthy candidates and also does not allow one to ignore larger questions of democracy, voting, social engineering, money, media roles, etc. If you read Verghese K George`s article in the Hindu today, you would perhaps get the point I am trying to make – How do we forget Gujrat of 2002? That for me is a matter of grave concern and closely connected to that question is the issue raised by Mr. Gatade. Do you believe we need not focus on such verdicts and only harp on Vikas? In your comments you have not engaged with the central issue, that is the issue of Supreme Court verdict that Mr. Gatade talked about. As for your hope and assurance on the rise of an ordinary person in the highest position in this country, I would urge you humbly to give it a second thought. The 19 May issue of Ei Samay, which is a Bengali version of the Times of India had a front page report on twenty seven crores Indians still living under the poverty line and of the 543 newly elected parliamentarians who would be representing these twenty seven crores, eighty percent are Millionaires. Now I am not here singling out any specific party, but this for me is also a matter of deep thought. You may come out with another set of statistics to show that this has always been the case in Indian democracy, but then that is exactly the question that I am trying to raise. Why? Why does it happen that way? Why the poorest of the poor, vote the richest? Why the bloody cannibalistic images of Gujrat 2002 get forgotten in the seduction of Vikas? What kind of vikas is that? What kind of country is that?

  2. The media cater to public appetite. The public has no interest in knowing truth when it is against their perception. Therefore such news generally appears on the last page in small prints in newspapers. However Modi’s false tears become first page news and masses loves it. He would bow down to ‘temple of democracy’ when it suits his purpose and would kick it when it won’t.

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