The following is a statement and charter of demands released after discussions at the public seminar organized by PEACE, Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) and Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD) at the India International Centre, New Delhi, on May 29, 2008:
Each time there is a bomb blast like the recent one in Jaipur, the Indian State reaches out its 'long arms of injustice' to pick a scapegoat from amidst the Indian population to cover up its own incompetence in providing security to its citizens.
The hapless creature, decorated and demonized by the 'fashion designers' of Indian officialdom, is then paraded before the entire nation to create a public spectacle prior to its ritual sacrifice.
The armchair warriors then call for 'tougher laws' to deal with terrorism while the scapegoat disappears forever into the black hole of the Indian prison system.
That the 'prime suspects' in such cases always happen to be bearded young Muslim men and Islamic theologists to boot is not a surprise at all. In the racist imagination of theadministration, police , intelligence agencies , security forces, sections of the media and politicians all the criminals in this country wear their 'criminality' on their faces- the suspects are always MAD- Muslim, Adivasi, Dalit.
The latest example of such scapegoating comes from Jaipur where within hours of the heinous bomb blasts that killed innocent people the state police has started harassing, arresting and deporting Bangladeshi and Bengali speaking Muslims in the city.
What we have witnessed in the last decade is that after each blast or surprise violent act, arrests are made, organisations named but the police and investigative agencies have not been able to prove their claims in any of the cases. But the people arrested continue to languish in jails or suffer other kinds of victimisation. It is very disturbing as it shows that the agencies responsible for the security of the people are incapable and to cover their inefficiency, they keep abducting people from the minority community which are produced at their chosen time. The real culprits remain at bay and the threat remains undiminished.
However, The Indian state's treatment of scapegoats is in stark contrast to the 'holy cows' it protects, irrespective of their trespasses or crimes against the people of the country.
Whether it be the Hashimpura massacre of 1987, the Babri Masjid demolition and the Mumbai massacre of 1992, the Gujarat genocide of 2002 or the Nanded bomb blasts of 2002, the real culprits are either never apprehended and even if they are - never punished. Despite the open involvement of the leaders of the BJP and Shiv Sena , RSS, VHP and other Sangh outfits in a systematic and consistent hate campaign, organised communal massacres and in stockpiling and manufacture of arms they are never declared terrorist organisations and banned. Open armed parade by the RSS , Trishul dikshas Dikshas are tolerated and allowed. They are the holy cows who are never touched.
It is time to end the division of the Indian people into scapegoats or holy cows and ensure equal justice to all irrespective of caste, class, community or religion. And to achieve this we the citizens of India have to pledge to fight atrocities of the Indian State and its holy cows wherever they occur, from the smallest to the highest levels in the country.
This convention on 'Scapegoats and Holy Cows- The State's 'Response to Terrorism' therefore condemns:
The way innocent people, especially Muslims, across India are being harassed, picked up, arrested and tortured in the name of fighting terrorism;
The existence of draconian 'anti-terrorist' laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, ASPA,1958 and calls for more new ones that will suspend basic Constitutional rights as this will only worsen the problem of terrorism and never solve it.
The victimization of the entire Muslim community in the country without a proper investigation of the role of specific individuals who may come from any community in the country;
The failure of the Indian Home Ministry and national security agencies in providing proper intelligence on terrorist activities and protecting the lives of innocent civilians;
Attempts to prevent lawyers from providing legal assistance to those arrested on 'suspicion' of being involved in the 'terrorist' act;
We further demand the Indian government:
Repeal all repressive laws that have replaced POTA at both the national and state level or are already part of the Indian Penal Code as also the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Disturbed Areas Act;
Stop promoting civil war through the unconstitutional arming civilians to fight 'terrorists' as in the case of Salwa Judum in Chattisgarh and also in the Indian northeast and Kashmir;
Closely investigate the involvement of the RSS, VHP and other Sangh outfits in terrorist bomb blasts and attacks as also their vast network of individuals and institutions propagating anti-Constitutional values;
Present a White Paper to the Indian public on the follow up and results of investigations into various terrorist attacks that have happened in the country over the last twenty years;
Present a White Paper on the numbers of Muslims, Adivasis and Dalits imprisoned in the country and the status of the cases against them;
Stop harassing human rights activists and release with due compensation to all innocent people arrested and tortured in the name of countering terrorism;
Make the Indian intelligence service accountable for its grand failures in either warning the public or catching the real masterminds behind terrorist attacks despite all the huge sums of taxpayer money spent on them;
End the culture of fake encounters that has taken hold within the Indian security forces seeking material rewards for their anti-terrorism operations;
Evolve a humane national policy towards foreign migrant labour coming into India from neighbouring countries particularly migrant Muslims, if necessary by promoting a visa-free regime for South Asia;
End the rampant corruption of border security forces that has criminalised the entire migration process and aggravated the problems of both migrants and host populations;
We on our part as citizens of India pledge to;
Fight the demonisation of Muslims and other communities in the country by the Indian state as also sectarian, communal political forces in the country;
Set up an independent Commission comprising retired judges, eminent intellectuals, retired police officials, and journalists to probe into atrocities and discrimination against Muslim as part of anti-terrorism operations.