The cynical cycle of terror arrests continues in Rajasthan

Statement by Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (Rajasthan) and Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, New Delhi, 8 May 2014

Ammar Yasir has been arrested by Rajasthan Anti-Terrorism Squad on charges of being an operative of Indian Mujahideen on 7th May. A simple chronology of events will demonstrate that his arrest is an example of how terror investigations cynically consume Muslim youth.

  • On 23rd march, at 7.00 am, the Delhi Police Special Cell picked up Ammar (along with another friend Abdul Wahid), a final year student of Global Engineering College, from Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, where he was staying in transit before leaving for umrah to Saudi Arabia.
  • He was picked up following a raid in Jaipur where his roommates and fellow students, Waqar and Mehrajuddin, had been arrested.
  • By around 10.30 in the evening, the Delhi Police Special Cell had released Amaar and Mehrajuddin, after having questioned them, and finding nothing incriminating.
  • Ammar left for performing umrah the following day, and returned to India a few days later.

It is significant to note that on 22nd-23rd March, a series of arrests and raids were conducted in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Sikar, at the conclusion of which a total of 13 youth had been arrested. Different agencies like Delhi Police Special Cell, Rajasthan ATS and Jodhpur and Jaipur police were involved in the arrests. The trigger for this action is said to be the arrest of one Pakistani national Waqas @ Zia ur Rehman from the Ajmer-Bandra arrest. In his interrogation, the Special Cell claim to have learnt of the Rajasthan module of Indian Mujahideen. (This story is itself in some doubt now as at least some media reports have suggested that Waqas may have actually been arrested in Dhaka and kept in a long period of illegal detention before being shown as ‘arrested’. During this period of illegal detention, Waqas was asked to contact alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives on web chats.)

Three of the youth arrested have been taken into custody under the FIR 54/2011 lodged by the Delhi Police Special Cell in connection with an illegal arms factory in Meer Vihar. All 13 have been booked under FIRs registered in Jaipur and Jodhpur under various sections of Explosives Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

While the Special Cell walked away with the prize catches of Waqas and Tehseen Akhtar – alleged to be top IM operatives – the Rajasthan ATS has been trying hard to build a case where little exists. It has been alleged that explosives were recovered from the houses of Waqar in Jaipur and Shakib and Barkat in Jodhpur. While none of the recoveries were made in the presence of any independent witnesses, as procedure requires, we cannot but help point out that Barkat’s father is a stone merchant and requires explosives and detonators for blasting stones.

The rest of the accused, from whom no such recoveries have been made, seem to have been drawn into the circle of suspicion only because they shared certain orthodox religious views. It appears that most of the youth arrested have been targeted for holding these views rather than any specific illegal activity. However, holding of views by itself does not constitute any unlawfulness. The FIRs too are vague on terror activities. Indeed, the entire operation falls under a cloud of suspicion, not only because of the rampant violation of all procedural requirements, but also because its centerpiece, the confession of one of the accused, Mohd. Sajjad, made before the magistrate, reveals absolutely nothing concrete.

Ammar’s arrest – more than a month after being given a clean chit by Special Cell – therefore appears to be the result of Rajasthan ATS’ desire to be seen as a dynamic investigating agency and its own definition of what constitutes terror activities.

Sd/- Prem Krishna Sharma and Kavita Srivastav (for PUCL Rajasthan)
Manisha Sethi and Ahmed Sohaib (for JTSA)
8th May 2014