NEW DELHI - The Indian (UPA) government drew flak from all quarters— the Congress and its allies, as well as the Opposition—in the Lok Sabha over the rampant arrests and incarceration of innocent Muslim youths for their alleged involvement in terrorist activities.
“There has been miscarriage of justice to scores of Muslim youths who were arrested and charged in cases related to terror attacks. In some cases, these young men have remained incarcerated for more than 10 to 15 years. Later, they were acquitted by the courts,” said Basudeb Acharia of the CPM. Continuing the assault, he said these were not one or two or three cases but there are a large number of such cases.
“Even today, youths are being arrested not in one or two parts but in different parts of the country,” Acharia said.
Acharia described some provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as draconian. “The government should introduce amendments to the legislation to ensure that the innocent, particularly the Muslims, are not implicated in false cases,” he added.
The CPM’s veteran sought to know from Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde whether the government was contemplating rehabilitation and resettlement for families of such youths. Acharia also questioned whether any actions were taken against the investigating agencies which falsely implicated the youths and harassed them.
“Why can’t you constitute a special court which will look into such cases in a time-bound manner,” Acharia asked.
Joining the chorus, Chaudhary Lal Singh, Congress MP from Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir, said several people, who were not involved in terrorism, were arrested. Besides, many officers and other people who had helped the government fight terrorism, were also arrested. “I want to know from the government, what is being done to give relief to such persons,” Singh said.
Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha sought to know how many “Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians” were booked for their alleged involvement in terrorism by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). “I want to know whether the NIA maintains religion-wise data of the accused booked for their involvement in terror activities? For how long they have been behind the bars?” he asked.
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who are giving outside support to the UPA, also raised the issue.
Calling Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), more dangerous than POTA, Lalu Prasad Yadav said, “Muslims are being targeted. 35 youth from Darbangha, Madhubani districts of Bihar have been arrested and taken to Banglore jail. One of them Qateel Siddiqui has been killed.”
Demanding a debate on the issue, he said, ”These youth from Darbhanga, Madhubani and Sitamarhi have been taken by police calling them as terrorists as an eagle takes away a bird.”
Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy dismissed the government’s claim that the accused in a case automatically gets bail if the charge-sheet was not submitted to the court within the stipulated time frame of 90 or 180 days. Several other members also alleged that the government’s claims were wrong and Muslim youths had been in jails for years without any charge sheet against them.
The home ministry - that has been pushing for a centrally-driven National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) on grounds that countering terrorism was a ‘shared responsibility’ - initially tried to duck the question.
“No such data is centrally maintained as law and order and prisons are state subjects,” RPN Singh, Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs told CPM’s Basudeb Acharia in Lok Sabha.
Singh, however, pointed out that 9 people had been released on bail in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts after the NIA took over the probe. The 9 had been charged for the killing of 37 people in four blasts. By then, they had already spent nearly 6 years in jail.
Singh insisted that the law did not “discriminate on basis of colour or religion” but conceded that it was unfortunate.
Singh said it was extremely unfortunate if anybody was chargesheeted on concocted allegations.
The home ministry, however, claimed that there were provisions in law to seek redressal for such cases from the appropriate courts.