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SACW | Oct. 1 - 2, 2006 | Pakistan Bounty market ; India: Security mania, Save Afzal Guru; Malaysia: secular status threatened

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | October 1 - 2, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2296 [1] US fuels Pakistan bounty market (Tom Burgis) [2] Pakistan: General in His Labyrinth
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2006
      South Asia Citizens Wire | October 1 - 2, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2296

      [1] US fuels Pakistan bounty market (Tom Burgis)
      [2] Pakistan: General in His Labyrinth (Arif Azad)
      [3] Anti-terrorism and Security Laws in India (Anil Kalhan et al.)
      [4] India: On the Death Sentence to Mohammad Afzal
      (i) Does Afzal deserve the death penalty? (Humra Quraishi)
      (ii) We haven't even heard Afzal's story (Nandita Haksar)
      (iii) Save Afzal Guru Campaign (JKCCS)
      (iv) Petition against Mohammad Afzal Guru's Death Penalty
      [5] India: Reaping The Harvest: Images of Terror (Nalini Taneja)
      [6] India: A vicious cycle (AG Noorani)
      [7] Malaysia's secular status quo threatened by Muslim groups (Maznah Mohamad)



      Financial Times
      September 28 2006


      by Tom Burgis in London

      Bounties offered by the US for suspected
      terrorists have created a black market in
      abductions in Pakistan, according to a report
      published on Wednesday.

      People have been seized by Pakistani police,
      border guards and bounty hunters eager to claim
      rewards offered for suspected terrorists,
      evidence compiled by human rights organisation
      Amnesty International shows.

      Many were handed to Pakistan's Inter-Services
      Intelligence, which in turn passed at least 369
      detainees to American operatives, writes
      Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, in his
      book In the Line of Fire, also published this
      week. Amnesty's report says people abducted in
      Pakistan account for about two-thirds of the 759
      past or present inmates at Camp X-Ray, the US
      military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

      The report - "Pakistan: human rights ignored in
      the 'war on terror'" - found "hundreds of people
      have been arbitrarily detained".

      Incentives for bounty hunters came in leaflets
      dropped from American aircraft after the invasion
      of Afghanistan in November 2001 and recovered by
      locals and reporters. Rewards included $5,000
      (¤4,000, £2,700) for information on al-Qaeda or
      Taliban fighters and up to $25m for alleged
      terrorist masterminds such as Khalid Sheik

      The CIA on Thursday declined to comment. The
      State Department did not respond to repeated
      requests from the FT for a comment. A Pentagon
      spokesman said: "The rewards programme is
      effective in helping to protect Americans and
      citizens around the world from terrorists,
      including those who harbour or aid the enemy."

      Professor Shaun Gregory, a UK expert on Pakistani
      security at Bradford University's Department of
      Peace Studies and a visiting fellow at
      Islamabad's Institute for Strategic Studies,
      Pakistan's leading military think-tank, said
      leaflets dropped in Afghanistan spread into

      The market in abductees was at its most frenetic
      in late 2001, Amnesty said. Pakistan's security
      services continue to deny the existence of such
      detainees when pressed by relatives of the
      disappeared. The bounty trade "is the logical
      working-through of the notion that the CIA will
      pay for 'bad guys'," Prof Gregory said.

      Prisoners in Pakistani jails have allegedly been
      "groomed" to appear more like potential
      terrorists before being sold to American
      personnel, Angelika Pathak, one of the report's
      authors, told the FT.

      Mark Denbaux, professor of law at Seton Hall
      University law school, New Jersey, and a lawyer
      representing two Guantánamo detainees, said his
      client, Rafiq Alhami, a Tunisian Arab resident in
      Afghanistan, was bundled into a van during a
      medical visit to Pakistan in late 2001.

      Mr Alhami, 40, a honey broker with a heart
      condition, believes his captors were paid a
      bounty, Prof Denbaux said. He remains in Camp
      X-Ray, not charged with any offence.

      Gen Musharraf writes that since the September 11
      2001 attacks his agents have rounded up hundreds
      of suspected terrorists: "Some are known to the
      world, some are not. We have captured 689 and
      handed over 369 to the United States.

      "We have earned bounties totalling millions of
      dollars. Those who habitually accuse us of 'not
      doing enough' on the war on terror should simply
      ask the CIA how much prize money it has paid to
      the government in Pakistan."

      Western diplomats said the allegations would dent
      the image of martial democrat cultivated by Gen
      Musharraf, who dined with President George W.
      Bush and Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, on
      Wednesday. The guests, who blame each other for
      the Afghan insurgency, refused to shake hands.

      Gen Musharraf arrived in London on Thursday, and
      spent the afternoon with Tony Blair, the prime
      minister. On Friday he will address the Oxford

      Additional reporting by Farhan Bokhari, Islamabad

      Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006



      Economic and Political Weekly
      September 16, 2006


      The charter of democracy agreed on by Pakistan's two leading
      opposition politicians has given a fillip to the long dormant
      democratic process in Pakistan. If the campaign sustains and
      gathers momentum, Musharraf, who has thus far held to power by
      subverting constitutional norms and reaching an unsavoury
      alliance with fundamentalist religious parties, may find the going
      tough. The promised elections of 2007 now appear full of
      unexpected possibilities.

      by Arif Azad

      Nay, but this dotage of our general's
      Overflows the measures.
      - Opening line of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra London has become
      the hub of Pakistani politics lately, at least
      since the arrival of Nawaz Sharif
      in December 2005. The ousted prime minister and head of Nawaz-faction of
      the Pakistan Muslim League took up a "flexible" exile in London...

      Complete article at:



      Press release and a couple of wire stories about
      a recently released study by the New York City
      Bar Association on human rights issues arising
      from Indian anti terrorism and security laws:


      The NYC Bar has actively worked on this range of
      issues for some time in a variety of countries,
      including Northern Ireland, Hong Kong, and of
      course the United States since 2001.


      by Anil Kalhan, Gerald P. Conroy, Mamta Kaushal,
      Sam Scott Miller, and Jed S. Rakoff*

      The full, 135-page report is available at:





      The Tribune
      October 1, 2006

      by Humra Quraishi

      The big question now is whether Mohammad Afzal
      ought to be put to death or saved from the
      gallows. I got in touch with the well known
      lawyer ND Pancholi, who is one of those lawyers
      who has been regularly meeting Afzal. Along with
      a team of senior advocates, he is currently
      preparing a mercy petition on his behalf.

      Reacting sharply to the death sentence, ND
      Pancholi set out the facts which are likely to
      form the main points in the petition:

      "I feel it is important to know certain facts
      regarding this case - Afzal did not have the
      assistance of any lawyer at the trial stage. The
      lawyers sought by him were not provided by the
      Court. Amicus Curie advocates were given by the
      court, some of whom withdrew from the case and
      the one who remained was there only for the name

      "The court asked Afzal to cross examine the
      witnesses, which he did, but this is a task which
      can be performed by a lawyer and no litigant can
      be expected to cross examine the witnesses
      against him. In absence of a proper advocate, he
      was not able to demolish the evidence fabricated
      by the police. The Supreme Court and High Court
      have held that the police version of the arrest
      of the accused was not believable, i.e., the time
      and day of the arrest of the accused as claimed
      by the police was false.

      "The Supreme Court has admitted that there is no
      direct evidence against Afzal but certain
      circumstances if taken together can give a safe
      presumption that he was involved in the
      conspiracy to attack Parliament, though he
      himself did not participate in the attack. The
      three main accused, i.e., Mohd. Azhar, Gazi Baba
      and Tariq are stated to be in Pakistan. Three
      were given death penalty i.e. Geelani, Shaukat
      and Afzal. Afsan Guru (wife of Shaukat) was given
      ten years imprisonment. In the High Court Geelani
      and Afsan Guru were acquitted. In the Supreme
      Court the death sentence of Shaukat was commuted
      to ten years imprisonment. In such a situation,
      giving death penalty to one accused on assumption
      of circumstantial evidence is not justified."

      Pancholi adds: "In America, with regard to of
      9/11, one accused, Zakaria Mosvi, has been given
      life imprisonment because he was not directly
      involved. Similarly, in the Mahatma Gandhi
      assassination case, Nathuram Godse was given the
      death penalty but his brother was given a life
      sentence because he was not directly involved.
      The same is the case with Afzal, as he was not
      directly involved. "

      o o o


      Indian Express
      September 30, 2006

      by Nandita Haksar

      Hanging him will be a blot on Indian democracy

      Mohammad Afzal has been sentenced to death by
      hanging for the offence of conspiring to attack
      the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001. The
      news that the date for his hanging has been fixed
      for October 20, 2006, has been greeted by most of
      the media with approval, if not celebration. But
      before we endorse the decision to hang Afzal we
      need to inform ourselves of the hard facts of the
      case without emotion. It is important to remember
      that we are not discussing whether Afzal was or
      was not a part of the conspiracy to attack the
      Parliament. He has already been found guilty of
      the crime and convicted. The question is on the

      There are three principal reasons why hanging
      Mohammad Afzal would violate basic principles of
      natural justice and equity. First, the charge
      sheet was against 12 persons: three Pakistanis
      (Masood Azhar, Tariq Ahmed and Gazi Baba) who
      were said to have master-minded the attack (none
      of the three were arrested or brought to trial.
      If Pakistan were to extradite them they would be
      protected from death penalty); five Pakistanis
      who actually attacked Parliament and were
      responsible for the death of nine members of our
      security forces; and the four people who actually
      stood trial. Afzal was not responsible for
      anyone's death or injury. He did not mastermind
      the attack. The Supreme Court has noted that
      there is no direct evidence of his involvement.
      Second, all the three courts, including the
      Supreme Court, have acquitted him of the charges
      under POTA of belonging to either a terrorist
      organisation or a terrorist gang. Third, he was
      denied a fair trial. The investigation was full
      of illegalities and the courts noted with concern
      that evidence was fabricated and he never had a
      lawyer who represented him. The Designated Judge
      passed an order giving Afzal the right to
      cross-examine witnesses but even a person with
      legal training without knowledge of criminal law
      would find it difficult to conduct such a trial.
      The Supreme Court has held that "The incident,
      which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken
      the entire nation and the collective conscience
      of the society will only be satisfied if capital
      punishment is awarded to the offender." Can the
      collective conscience of our people be satisfied
      if a fellow citizen is hanged without having a
      chance to defend himself? We have not even had a
      chance to hear Afzal's story. Hanging Mohammad
      Afzal will only be a blot on our democracy .

      The writer is a civil rights activist, closely
      associated with the rights of defendants in the
      Parliament attack case and is leading the public
      campaign for mercy in this case

      o o o


      October 1, 2006

      Dear Friends,

      Mohammad Afzal Guru, 35, a resident of a north
      Kashmir town of Sopore, was arrested in December
      2001 in connection with the attack on the Indian
      parliament in New Delhi. Afzal is presently
      lodged in New Delhi's high security Tihar jail
      and is facing death penalty, the date for which
      has been fixed as 20th October 2006.

      We condemn Mohammad Afza's capital punishment and
      therefore appeal you to join our efforts for the
      withdrawal of death sentence.

      Keeping in view the international humanitarian
      standards, we are of the opinion that the Afzal
      Guru's trial was not satisfying the standards
      laid out for fair trial. In his case the
      confession that was basis of his conviction in
      trial court was rejected by the Supreme Court of
      India and according to the evidence produced by
      the State he was accused as a facilitator and not
      directly involved in the attack. Thereby, the
      death penalty is disproportionate even according
      to the Indian Supreme Court's different
      judgements and the case doesn't even fall under
      the "rarest of rare" cases in which the Supreme
      Court of India has observed death penalty should
      be awarded. The trial was completely influenced
      by the propagandist Indian media, which had
      pronounced its verdict even before the trial had
      actually begun. The Kashmiris perceive the death
      sentence to Afzal Guru as an act of appeasement
      to the jingoistic pride of India. Also the timing
      and date fixed by the Court seems to be motivated.

      Attached is the appeal for signature campaign
      [http://www.sacw.net/hrights/Appeal.jpg%5d. We also
      appeal you to either write in your individual or
      the organisational capacity the protest letters
      to the Indian President or send a copy to us.

      Please send a copy of your letters to us [at <ccs@...>].

      In struggle,

      Organised by: JK Coalition of Civil Society

      o o o


      Dear Friends,

      Here is a template of a petition addressed to the
      President of India, which is self-explanatory.
      You're earnestly requested to act on it and send a copy to <ccs@...>.


      The President of India,
      Rashtrapati Bhavan,
      New Delhi.


      Respected Sir,

      It is to bring to your kind notice that one
      Mohammad Afzal Guru, 35, a resident of Sopore, a
      town in north Kashmir, was arrested, to our
      knowledge, in December 2001 in connection with
      the armed assault on the Indian Parliament on
      Decmeber 13 2001. He is presently lodged in the
      Tihar Jail, New Delhi waiting to be hanged on
      20th instant as per the verdict delivered by the
      Hon'ble Supreme Court of India.

      In this connection we'd like to draw your
      attention further to the fact that under
      international human rights standards people
      charged with crimes punishable by death are
      entitled to the observance of strictest fair
      trial guarantees in view of the irreversible and
      most extreme nature of the penalty. Hence meting
      out of death penalty upon conclusion of a trial
      in which the provisions of International Covenant
      on Civil and Political Rights had not been
      respected, which can no longer be remedied by
      appeal, would constitute a gross violation of the
      right to life as per the article 6(1) of the
      aforesaid Covenant.

      Keeping in view the above international
      humanitarian standards, we are of the firm
      opinion that Afzal Guru's trial was not according
      to the standards laid out for fair trial. In his
      case the Supreme Court of India has rejected the
      confession that is the basis of his conviction in
      the trial court. And according to the evidence
      produced by the prosecution, he was accused as a
      facilitator and not as one directly perpetrating
      the said crime. And thereby death penalty is
      grossly disproportionate to the alleged crime
      committed by him according to the prosecution. By
      no stretch of imagination it falls under the
      category of the "rarest of rare" cases. It is
      also highly pertinent that the trial, from the
      word go, was highly influenced by the sustained
      propaganda of the Indian media, which had
      pronounced him guilty even before the trial
      started. It is no wonder and highly significant
      that under the circumstances the people of
      Kashmir valley perceive this verdict nothing but
      as an act of appeasement to the jingoistic pride
      of India.
      The verdict has come at a time when there is
      global campaign going on against capital
      punishment. So far 128 nations have reportedly
      abolished it from their statutes and more are
      expected to follow.

      In this context the impact of hanging Mohammad
      Maqbool Bhat, another Kashmiri, in 1984 in the
      same Tihar Jail, at the end of a trial which was
      perceived as patently unfair by the people of the
      valley, radically aggravating the sense of their
      alienation with hugely tragic consequences must
      also be kept in mind.

      In view of above we the undersigned earnestly
      urge you to exercise your Constitutional
      prerogative to set aside the said death sentence
      and also institute a judicial enquiry to find out
      the real truths behind the dastardly attack on
      the Indian Parliament, as facts have been clearly
      fudged and fabricated by the investigation agency
      which have been clearly acknowledged by the
      higher courts, and the flawed investigations
      carried out thereafter. This would not only set
      a healthy precedent and reinforce the common
      people's trust and faith in Indian democracy but
      also go a long way to soothe the inflamed
      feelings of the people of the Kashmir valley and
      thereby help the "peace process" now under way.

      Yours sincerely,

      Sukla Sen,
      EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity),



      People's Democracy
      September 24, 2006


      by Nalini Taneja

      The recent bomb blasts in Malegaon should force
      us to reflect on the constructed images of terror
      prevalent in our media and among the
      intelligentsia and the political leadership of
      this country. The RSS and its affiliated
      organizations have achieved such unprecedented
      success on this score-with a little help from the
      right wing western political leadership of
      course-as they would never have imagined. The
      gradual rise to dominance of right-wing,
      'embedded' journalists, and kar-sevaks in the
      name of journalists, in India has ensured this
      for them.

      Most people look on and react to bomb blasts in
      the way that the RSS would like them to. Bomb
      blasts are no longer perceived as just violent,
      abhorrent, and unacceptable forms of
      action/intervention, which they are; they are in
      the main identified in the minds of most people
      with Muslim fanatics. And the pictures of Muslim
      fanatics they evoke could as well be of any poor,
      bearded, lungi-clad or pajama-wearing Muslim,
      such as one sees anywhere on the sub-continent;
      and increasingly now, also, of burqa-clad women,
      who, simply by virtue of hiding their faces are
      seen as having much more to hide.

      The images of AK-47 rifles have been replaced by
      the mention of RDX, and bombs now equal Muslims,
      be it in any part of the world. It would seem
      that bombs are special weapons made by and for
      Muslims, unheard of by others and certainly never
      used by anyone else, if we are to go by what our
      media tells us. This of course then provides
      justifications for humiliating searches, and much
      more. They dull us to sights of Muslims being
      specially searched-whether at airports, railway
      stations or simply anywhere-of having their
      mobile phones cross checked, and of having the
      little pleasures of life denied and many human
      rights trampled on, simply because they are

      From descriptions of bomb blasts there it is an
      automatic slide into their identification with
      the highly potent and destructive cocktail of
      anti-nationalism and separatism, which finds its
      expression through a very 'legitimate' anger
      against Pakistan. Pakistan then represents
      everything we abhor and have a right to act
      against in the spirit of
      'all-is-fair-in-love-and-war', and anything that
      reminds us of Pakistan justifiably deserves our
      anger and resentment. And who reminds us of
      Pakistan, if not Muslims, identified in popular
      mind with the creation of Pakistan in the first
      place? And so it goes on, from one stage to
      another, until we are ready to accept any
      atrocity on Muslims, by seeing it as brought on
      them by their own actions.

      The Malegaon blasts had barely happened when
      headlines screamed "Terror hits Malegaon",
      supremely confident of providing the cue for what
      was to follow. Few readers of newspapers in this
      country would have imagined these terrorists to
      be other than Muslim terrorists. Even perfectly
      secular people refer only to Muslim militants as
      terrorists, and have a different vocabulary to
      account for the terror and violence perpetrated
      by Hindutva forces, even if they are equally
      critical of them.

      Therefore, apart from a few secular activists who
      have been talking of the use of bombs by the
      Hindutva forces in the recent past, and an
      initial report in The Hindu, which recalled the
      Bajrang Dal's role in the recent bomb blasts at
      Nanded and then several mosques in Maharashtra,
      there would be little doubt in the minds of
      readers and listeners of news on TV channels,
      that other Muslims could be involved in the
      Malegaon killings via bombs. The CPI(M) Polit
      Bureau statement (September 13, 2006), asking for
      an enquiry in the context of the earlier Nanded
      bomb blasts has simply been ignored.

      This is not to argue that those who planted those
      bombs in the mosques and in the kabristan in
      Malegaon, killing and wounding several people,
      could not have been Muslims simply because the
      place chosen was mosques and the targets were
      Muslims (just as the RSS could well get it own
      people killed for political gain). They could be
      Muslim groups, but what one needs to ask is: why
      was the Indian, and most western, media so
      anxious to pin it on Muslims, without proof, and
      without using elementary reasoning? It seemed
      from media discussions and news reports that
      there simply could be no one involved except
      Islamic terrorists. 'Indian Express' actually
      went so far (in its front page coverage a few
      days later) as to argue that the presence of RDX
      pointed to Muslim terrorists, and that the
      material used in the house of the Bajrang Dal
      activist was different and of a cruder variety.

      So now, when evidence of bombs used by Hindutva
      forces is beginning to emerge, we will have
      'Muslim' bomb material and 'Hindu' bomb material
      being dissected-with no prizes for guessing whose
      bombs are more deadly, and whose bombs are
      'benign'(?)! And no questions asked of course,
      that if one set of bombers wanted the blame put
      on the other side, could they not choose their
      targets and bomb material accordingly. Does it
      not achieve the same purpose, and are they all so
      dumb, and so foolish as not to think of this?
      What is being implied, and gently suggested to us
      instead, subtly, and through poignant pictures of
      victims is that Muslims are heinous enough to
      kill their own. The same may not apply to the
      Hindutva forces. Muslims are the killer agents
      when bombs explode in mosques, and of course they
      are the killer agents when bombs explode in/near
      temples. It could not be otherwise in the former
      case, and more certainly not in the latter case!

      It is amazing how, despite the activism of
      Hindutva forces in Maharashtra, and the long
      legacy of violence by the Shiv Sena in the state,
      the possibility even, of other leads is not being
      considered, by the police or in the media. That
      this should be so tells us something about the
      state of politics of this country today, the
      rightward shift that the entire polity has taken,
      and the complicity and acquiescence of most
      mainstream bourgeois politics in communalism, and
      a concern with the Hindu vote bank, particularly,
      the middle class Hindu vote bank, and is
      explainable if not understandable or justifiable
      in the context of the twin assaults from
      imperialism and fundamentalism (of all kinds).
      What needs to be noted and is a matter of grave
      concern is the naturalness with which people in
      this country accept the equation of terror and
      Muslims, and the success of the carefully
      constructed and nurtured images authored by the
      right wing western media and our own home grown
      fascist forces. They have successfully utilized
      religion and fractured historical memory to
      demonise an entire community. We need to be alert
      that we do not imbibe some of these images within



      Hindustan Times
      September 25, 2006


      by AG Noorani

      'Though the law itself be fair on its face and
      impartial in appearance, yet, if it is applied
      and administered by a public authority with an
      evil eye and unequal hand, so as practically to
      make unjust and illegal discrimination, as
      between persons in similar circumstances material
      to their rights, the denial of equal justice is
      still within the prohibition of the
      Constitution." The United States Supreme Court
      delivered this stinging rebuke in 1868 in the
      celebrated case of Yick Wo vs Hopkins.

      Of San Francisco's 320 laundries, 240 were run by
      Chinese nationals in buildings constructed of
      wood, as were nine-tenths of the houses in the
      city. The country ordained that licences were
      required "except the same be located in a
      building constructed either of brick or stone."
      All applications for licence by Chinese
      laundrymen were rejected. All others, bar one,
      were accepted.

      The order was struck down. "The court held that
      the very idea that one man may be compelled to
      hold his life, or the means of living, or any
      material right essential to the enjoyment of life
      at the mere will be another, seems to be
      intolerable in any country where freedom
      prevails, as being the essence of slavery
      itself." How much greater should be the outrage
      if 'the public authority' happens to be the
      police force with wide powers of arrest and
      detention and extra-legal powers of harassment?

      The indiscriminate arrests of Muslims in the wake
      of the Mumbai blasts of July 11 this year were a
      repeat of a similar performance by the police
      after the 1993 blasts. They were grave enough for
      Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ask the Chief
      Ministers, on September 5, to "embark immediately
      upon a proactive policy to ensure that a few
      individual acts do not result in tarnishing the
      image of an entire community and remove any
      feelings of persecution and alienation from the
      minds of the minorities."

      Five days after he spoke, came the Malegaon
      bombings near a major mosque and a graveyard, on
      an auspicious day when Muslims throng these
      places for prayer. It also happened to be a

      People recalled recent events in Maharashtra
      which had a bearing on Malegaon. At Nanded, on
      April 6, two Bajrang Dal activists, Naresh
      Rajkondwar and Himanshu Phanse, were killed while
      attempting to make a bomb in the former's house
      along with three others. The police reportedly
      recovered a second bomb, timers, switches,
      detonators and gunpowder, as well as evidence
      that they had struck before. A diary recovered
      had pictures of all ex-RSS chiefs and notes on
      bomb-making techniques. It also had mention of
      the Bajrang Dal-sponsored camps that Himanshu had
      attended. Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS)
      Joint Commissioner of Police KP Raghuvanshi told
      Communalism Combat that the incident could have
      "frightening repercussions".

      The warning was overdue. Kondwar and Phanse were
      suspected to be key figures in a bombing incident
      at Parbhani that very month, in which 25 persons
      had been injured. It was at a mosque, as were the
      bombings at Parbhani and Jalna in April 2004,
      where 18 persons were injured.

      These incidents obviously formed a pattern. A
      reasonable, though not conclusive, presumption
      arises that Malegaon formed part of this pattern.
      Pointing fingers while investigations are on is
      unfair and hazardous. Fingers accustomed to
      pointing in one direction, however, pointed in
      the same direction after Malegaon.

      From the very next day, 'sources' in the police
      began pouring out pet theories. On September 9,
      Raghuvanshi of the ATS said "our probe would
      include not only Simi but consider all other
      groups that might be involved." An unattributed
      source in the ATS said Simi activists committed
      the crime to create communal tension. This became
      a running theme in later 'disclosures'. 'Police
      sources' told the press that "the police are
      beginning to rule out the possibility of the
      Bajrang Dal's involvement in the Malegaon blasts"
      because "the bombs used in Parbhani were of the
      crude variety. The Hindutva organisation does not
      have access to the type of sophisticated bombs
      and timers used in Malegaon".

      On September 13, two unidentified packages of
      fake bombs were discovered. The Additional
      Commissioner of Police, ATS, Subodh Jaiswal, gave
      the following explanation. "The aim was to
      unleash panic". The motive: to create "rage
      against the police and Hindu residents so that
      riots could break out". With equal speed he
      asserted: "They were planted by the same terror
      outfit that triggered the Friday blasts." This
      gave the game away. By then no 'outfit' had been
      identified officially. Evidence was admittedly
      scant. The investigators seemed to be groping in
      the dark. Yet, Subodh Jaiswal was all certitude.

      On September 16, the Additional SP, Rajwardhan,
      attacked the media: "There seems to be a
      deliberate attempt in a section of the media to
      pressurise the police into taking a line of
      investigation - of Hindu fanatics being involved
      - but we will go by the ground reality and the
      rule book, and explore all the possibilities."

      Precisely what he had in mind became clear when
      he added: "But it seems to be the handwork of
      organised terrorists who want to destabilise the
      country and incite communal violence." The
      patriotic Bajrang Dal was exonerated.

      An informed correspondent found, however, that in
      Maharashtra, "the problem is that the
      intelligence gathering mechanism is focused on
      Islamic terrorist outfits. The Maharashtra
      police have few dossiers on Right-wing Hindu
      militants". Despite the arrest of a Bajrang Dal
      activist, Sanjay Chaudhari, in Nanded for the
      bomb blast outside the Parbhani mosque, "the
      probe has not progressed."

      What has 'progressed' is the confidence in police
      assertions. 'Local police backed by the ATS'
      flatly told a noted correspondent that the
      Malegaon blasts "resemble the handiwork of
      Islamic terrorist organisations". According to
      one correspondent, the Intelligence Bureau is
      also "working on the theory" that the LeT was
      behind those blasts and its men were at large

      These pronouncements do nothing to narrow the
      trust deficit. None of the 32 police officers and
      men named in the Srikrishna report on the 1993
      riots in Mumbai has been convicted.

      Muslim MPs called on the PM after the Mumbai
      blasts and on Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh
      after the Malegaon blasts to represent the
      community's grievances. They were entitled to do
      so and discharged a duty. But they must not stop

      Every injustice to any group is a deviation from
      Indian ideals. The communal bias of some
      policemen is part of a wider problem affecting
      secular values as well as the probity and
      effectiveness of the police force. It concerns
      all Indians.



      by Maznah Mohamad

      Monday, Sep 25, 2006,Page 9

      `Efforts to Islamicize the state come at a time
      when conflict in the Middle East has further
      politicized Muslim movements in Malaysia.'

      Malaysian society is now gripped by a fundamental
      question: is the country, which is more than half
      Muslim, an Islamic state?

      In practice, various religious and ethnic groups
      give Malaysia a distinctly multi-cultural
      character. But the Malaysian Constitution
      provides room for arguments on both sides of the
      question, and the relatively secular status quo
      is facing a serious challenge.

      Drafted by a group of experts in 1957, under the
      auspices of the country's former British rulers,
      the Constitution includes two seemingly
      contradictory clauses. On the one hand, Article 3
      states that Islam is the religion of the
      federation, and that only Islam can be preached
      to Muslims.

      On the other hand, Article 11 guarantees freedom
      of religion for all. As a result, Malaysia has
      developed both a general civil code, which is
      applied universally, and Islamic law, which is
      applied only to Muslims in personal and family

      Recently, however, some Muslim groups have
      pressed the government to proclaim Malaysia an
      Islamic state, on the basis of Article 3 and the
      Muslims' population majority. Ultimately, they
      would like Malaysia to be governed by Islamic law.

      For years, there was little need to resolve this
      constitutional issue. For example, if a Muslim
      decided to renounce his faith, the matter would
      be handled outside the legal system, or
      conversion records would be sealed.

      Today, however, every Malaysian must declare a
      religious affiliation, which is registered with
      the government -- a requirement that has made it
      difficult for a Muslim to leave Islam without
      formalizing the change of status through the
      legal process.

      The country is now riveted on the fate of
      ordinary citizens like sales assistant Lina Joy
      and former religious teacher Kamariah Ali, who
      are trying to change their religious affiliation
      through the legal system. Muslim professional
      organizations and the Islamic opposition
      political party hold the view that renunciation
      of Islam is punishable by death.

      Likewise, the defense by Malaysian civil reform
      movements of individuals' freedom of conscience
      has been denounced by some religious leaders as
      an attack on Islam. Currently, Malaysia has no
      law that would impose the death penalty on
      apostates. Yet public movements have been formed
      to highlight this Islamic tenet. If it is not
      applied, the argument goes, there will be a
      massive exodus of Muslims to other faiths. The
      immediate goal is to keep the courts from
      allowing Lina Joy or Kamariah Ali to convert.

      Attempts by other democratic civil society groups
      to debate this issue in peaceful public forums
      have been thwarted by threats of violence from a
      coalition of Muslim non-governmental
      organizations calling themselves BADAI (the Malay
      acronym for Coalition against the Inter-Faith

      Concerned about sparking an ethnic clash,
      Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
      has proclaimed a ban on open discussion of these
      issues, threatening to arrest Internet news
      providers and activists if they continue to fan
      such debates.

      Badawi is right to be worried. Since
      independence, national politics in Malaysia has
      reinforced group identity, especially among
      ethnic Malays, an exclusively Muslim community.
      Identity politics allowed ethnic Malays to assert
      their claims to control over land, language, and

      All attempts to reduce Malay influence serve to
      mobilize this community -- in both ethnic and
      religious terms. Malay politicians have learned
      how to play this card very effectively.

      Ethnic Malays' special status has long been
      codified in affirmative action policies giving
      them special economic benefits. However, as
      Malaysia engages with the global economy, these
      privileges may eventually be removed in order to
      heighten the country's competitiveness. As a
      result, many Malay-Muslims increasingly worry
      about the loss of familiar economic and political

      In particular, tensions have grown between the
      Malay majority and the country's large Chinese
      minority, which has been quicker to benefit from
      Malaysia's economic opening to the world.

      Moreover, efforts to Islamicize the state come at
      a time when conflict in the Middle East has
      further politicized Muslim movements in Malaysia.
      They view themselves as counter-forces to
      cultural domination by the West, asserting their
      religious identity in the face of what they
      regard as imperializing ideas like secularism and
      human rights.

      Small disputes are magnified by this underlying
      conflict. Disagreements are increasingly depicted
      as being rooted in an East-West divide, as a
      struggle between believers and apostates.

      Many Muslims are wary of this brand of identity
      politics. They recognize that the intolerance of
      Islamist groups can easily be turned against
      moderate Muslims.

      But all Malaysians must learn how to manage
      pressures that seem to be pushing their country's
      constituent communities away from one another.
      Defending a multi-cultural national identity in
      the face of religious intolerance is thus the
      great challenge facing Malaysia's state and

      Maznah Mohamad is deputy dean of graduate studies
      at the School of Social Sciences of Sains
      University Malaysia.

      Copyright: Project Syndicate




      Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on
      matters of peace and democratisation in South
      Asia. SACW is an independent & non-profit
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