The hanging of Afzal Guru is a stain on India’s democracy Despite gaping holes in the case against Afzal Guru, all India’s institutions played a part in putting a Kashmiri ‘terrorist’ to death- ARUNDHATI ROY

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The hanging of Afzal Guru is a stain on India’s democracy Despite gaping holes in the case against Afzal Guru, all India’s institutions played a part in putting a Kashmiri ‘terrorist’ to death.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/10/hanging-afzal-guru-india-democracy?

Spring announced itself in Delhi on Saturday. The sun was out, and the law took its course. Just before breakfast, the government of India secretly hanged Afzal Guru, prime accused in the attack on parliament in December 2001, and interred his body in Delhi’s Tihar jail where he had been in solitary confinement for 12 years. Guru’s wife and son were not informed. “The authorities intimated the family through speed post and registered post,” the home secretary told the press, “the director general of the Jammu and Kashmir [J&K] police has been told to check whether they got it or not”. No big deal, they’re only the family of yet another Kashmiri terrorist.

In a moment of rare unity the Indian nation, or at least its major political parties – Congress, the Bharatiya Janata party and the Communist party of India (Marxist) – came together as one (barring a few squabbles about “delay” and “timing”) to celebrate the triumph of the rule of law. Live broadcasts from TV studios, with their usual cocktail of papal passion and a delicate grip on facts, crowed about the “victory of democracy”. Rightwing Hindu nationalists distributed sweets to celebrate the hanging, and beat up Kashmiris (paying special attention to the girls) who had gathered in Delhi to protest. Even though Guru was dead and gone, the commentators in the studios and the thugs on the streets seemed, like cowards who hunt in packs, to need each other to keep their courage up. Perhaps because, deep inside, themselves they knew they had colluded in doing something terribly wrong.

What are the facts? On 13 December 2001 five armed men drove through the gates of the Indian parliament in a car fitted out with a bomb. When challenged they jumped out of the car and opened fire, killing eight security personnel and a gardener. In the firefight that followed, all five attackers were killed. In one of the many versions of the confessions he was forced to make in police custody, Guru identified the men as Mohammed, Rana, Raja, Hamza and Haider. That’s all we know about them. They don’t even have second names. LK Advani, then home minister in the BJP government, said they “looked like Pakistanis”. (He should know what Pakistanis look like right? Being a Sindhi himself.) Based only on Guru’s custodial confession (which the supreme court subsequently set aside, citing “lapses” and “violations of procedural safeguards”) the government recalled its ambassador from Pakistan and mobilised half a million soldiers on the Pakistan border. There was talk of nuclear war. Foreign embassies issued travel advisories and evacuated their staff from Delhi. The standoff lasted months and cost India thousands of crores – millions of pounds.

Within 24 hours, the Delhi Police Special Cell (notorious for its fake “encounter” killings, where suspected terrorists are targeted in extrajudicial attacks) claimed it had cracked the case. On 15 December it arrested the “mastermind”, Professor SAR Geelani, in Delhi, and Showkat Guru and his cousin Afzal Guru in Srinagar, Kashmir. Subsequently, they arrested Afsan Guru, Showkat’s wife. The Indian media enthusiastically disseminated the police version. These were some of the headlines: “Delhi university lecturer was terror plan hub”, “Varsity don guided fidayeen”, “Don lectured on terror in free time.” Zee TV, a national network, broadcast a “docudrama” called December 13, a recreation that claimed to be the “truth based on the police charge sheet”. (If the police version is the truth, why have courts?) The then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Advani publicly applauded the film. The supreme court refused to postpone the screening, saying that the media would not influence judges. It was broadcast only a few days before the fast-track court sentenced Geelani and Afzal and Showkat Guru to death. Subsequently the high court acquitted Geelani and Afsan Guru. The supreme court upheld the acquittal. But in its 5 August 2005 judgment it gave Afzal Guru three life sentences and a double death sentence.

The BJP called for an immediate execution. One of its election slogans was “Desh abhi sharminda hai, Afzal abhibhi zinda hai“, which means (in stirring rhyme), “Our nation is ashamed because Afzal is still alive”. In order to blunt the murmurs that had begun to surface, a fresh media campaign began. Chandan Mitra, now a BJP MP, then editor of the Pioneer newspaper, wrote: “Afzal Guru was one of the terrorists who stormed parliament house on 13 December 2001. He was the first to open fire on security personnel, apparently killing three of the six who died.” Even the police charge sheet did not accuse Afzal of that. The supreme court judgment acknowledged the evidence was circumstantial: “As is the case with most conspiracies, there is and could be no evidence amounting to criminal conspiracy.” But then, shockingly, it went on to say: “The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.”

Who crafted our collective conscience on the parliament attack case? Could it have been the facts we gleaned in the papers? The films we saw on TV? Before celebrating the rule of law, let’s take a look at what happened.

The people who are celebrating the victory of the rule of law argue that the very fact that the Indian courts acquitted Geelani and convicted Afzal proves that the trial was free and fair. Was it?

The trial in the fast-track court began in May 2002. The world was still convulsed by post 9/11 frenzy. The US government was gloating prematurely over its “victory” in Afghanistan. In the state of Gujarat, the massacre of Muslims by Hindu goon squads, helped along by the police and the state government machinery that had begun in late February, was still going on sporadically. The air was charged with communal hatred. And in the parliament attack case the law was taking its own course. At the most crucial stage of a criminal case, when evidence is presented, when witnesses are cross-examined, when the foundations of the argument are laid – in the high court and supreme court you can only argue points of law, you cannot introduce new evidence – Afzal Guru, locked in a high-security solitary cell, had no lawyer. The court-appointed junior lawyer did not visit his client even once in jail, he did not summon any witnesses in Guru’s defence, and he did not cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. The judge expressed his inability to do anything about the situation.

Even so, from the word go the case fell apart. A few examples out of many: The two most incriminating pieces of evidence against Guru were a cellphone and a laptop confiscated at the time of arrest. They were not sealed, as evidence is required to be. During the trial it emerged that the hard disk of the laptop had been accessed after the arrest. It only contained the fake home ministry passes and the fake identity cards that the “terrorists” used to access parliament – and a Zee TV video clip of parliament house. So according to the police, Guru had deleted all the information except the most incriminating bits. The police witness said he sold the crucial sim card that connected all the accused in the case to one another to Guru on 4 December 2001. But the prosecution’s own call records showed the sim was actually operational from 6 November 2001.

How did the police get to Afzal? They said that Geelani led them to him. But the court records show that the message to arrest Afzal went out before they picked up Geelani. The high court called this a “material contradiction” but left it at that.

The arrest memos were signed by Bismillah, Geelani’s brother, in Delhi. The seizure memos were signed by two men from the J&K police, one of them an old tormentor from Afzal’s past as a surrendered “militant”.

It goes on and on, this pile up of lies and fabricated evidence. The courts note them, but for their pains the police get no more than a gentle rap on their knuckles. Nothing more.

Anyone who was really interested in solving the mystery of the parliament attack would have followed the dense trail of evidence on offer. No one did, thereby ensuring the real authors of the conspiracy will remain unidentified and uninvestigated.

The real story and the tragedy of what happened to Guru is too immense to be contained in a courtroom. The real story would lead us to the Kashmir valley, that potential nuclear flashpoint, and the most densely militarised zone in the world, where half a million Indian soldiers (one to every four civilians) and a maze of army camps and torture chambers that would put Abu Ghraib in the shade are bringing secularism and democracy to the Kashmiri people. Since 1990, when the struggle for self-determination became militant, 68,000 people have died, 10,000 have disappeared, and at least 100,000 have been tortured.

What sets Guru’s killing apart is that, unlike those tens of thousands who died in prison cells, his life and death were played out in the blinding light of day in which all the institutions of Indian democracy played their part in putting him to death.

Now he has been hanged, I hope our collective conscience has been satisfied. Or is our cup of blood still only half full?

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HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX

“The basic purpose of development is to enlarge people’s choices. In principle, these choices can be infinite and can change over time. People often value achievements that do not show up at all, or not immediately, in income or growth figures: greater access to knowledge, better nutrition and health services, more secure livelihoods, security against crime and physical violence, satisfying leisure hours, political and cultural freedoms and sense of participation in community activities. The objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives.”

Mahbub ul Haq (1934-1998)
Founder of the Human Development Report

“Human development, as an approach, is concerned with what I take to be the basic development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it.”

Prof. Amartya Sen
Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Nobel Laureate in Economics, 1998

 

The combined statistic of

  1. life expectancy,
  2. education, and
  3. income indices

to rank countries into four tiers of human development is known as the Human Development Index (HDI).  It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare. It is used to distinguish whether the country is a developed, a developing or an underdeveloped country, and also to measure the impact of economic policies on quality of life. It was created by Pakistani economist Mahbub-ul-Haq followed by economist Amartya Sen in 1990, and published by the United Nations Development Programme.

The first Human Development Report in 1990 opened with the simply stated premise that has guided all subsequent Reports: “People are the real wealth of a nation.” By backing up this assertion with an abundance of empirical data and a new way of thinking about and measuring development, the Human Development Report has had a profound impact on policies around the world. The human development approach is as relevant as ever to making sense of our changing world and finding ways to improve people’s well-being. Human development is an evolving idea, not a fixed, static set of precepts. And as the world changes, analytical tools and concepts will also continue to evolve. Yet the core insight at the center of the human development approach remains constant and as valid today as it was two decades ago: Development is ultimately best measured by its impact on individual lives. The past decades have seen substantial progress in many aspects of human development. Most people today are healthier, live longer, are more educated and have more access to goods and services. Even in countries facing adverse economic conditions, people’s health and education have greatly improved. And there has been progress not only in improving health and education and raising income, but also in expanding people’s power to select leaders, influence public decisions and share knowledge. Yet much more remains to be done in expanding choices and improving well-being for all people in all countries and communities, and for generations yet to come. The first Human Development Report introduced a new way of measuring development by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income into a composite human development index, the HDI. The breakthrough for the HDI was the creation of a single statistic which was to serve as a frame of reference for both social and economic development. The HDI sets a minimum and a maximum for each dimension, called goalposts, and then shows where each country stands in relation to these goalposts, expressed as a value between 0 and 1.

 

 

10 highest HDIs

 

                  Rank

Country

HDI

New 2011 Estimates for 2011

Change compared to new 2011 data for 2010

New 2011 Estimates for 2011

Change compared to new 2011 data for 2010

1

 Norway

0.943

 0.002

2

 Australia

0.929

3

 Netherlands

0.910

 0.001

4

 United States

0.910

 0.002

5

 New Zealand

0.908

6

 Canada

0.908

 0.001

7

 Ireland

0.908

 0.001

8

 Liechtenstein

0.905

 0.001

9

 Germany

0.905

 0.002

10

 Sweden

0.904

 0.003

 

 

10 lowest HDIs

Rank

Country

HDI

New 2011 Estimates for 2011

Change compared to new 2011 data for 2010

New 2011 Estimates for 2011

Change compared to new 2011 data for 2010

178

 Guinea

0.344

 0.002

179

 Central African Republic

0.343

 0.004

180

 Sierra Leone

0.336

 0.002

181

 Burkina Faso

0.331

 0.002

182

 (1)

 Liberia

0.329

 0.004

183

 (1)

 Chad

0.328

 0.002

184

 Mozambique

0.322

 0.005

185

 Burundi

0.316

 0.003

186

 Niger

0.295

 0.002

187

 Democratic Republic of the Congo

0.286

 0.013

 

India ranks a low 134 among 187 countries in terms of the human development index (HDI), which assesses long-term progress in health, education and income indicators, said a UN report released on Wednesday. Although placed in the “medium” category, India’s standing is way behind scores of economically less developed countries, including war-torn Iraq as well as Philippines. India Human Development Report, 2011, prepared by Institute of Applied Manpower Research, placed Kerala on top of the index for achieving highest literacy rate, quality health services and consumption expenditure of people. Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Goa were placed at second, third and fourth position respectively. Further, asset ownership both in urban and rural areas continued to be highly unequal and concentrated among top five per cent of households.

Wall Street overwhelmingly backs Romney

Again the effect of the ownership is evident and what ideology is going to be reflected now???

This Just In

President Obama and Mitt Romney may be in a dead heat as Americans head to the polls on Election Day, but the former Massachusetts governor is an overwhelming favorite of Wall Street.

Twelve out of 18 investment strategists and money managers surveyed by CNNMoney said the stock market would perform better with Romney in the White House than during a second Obama term.

As the country struggles with tepid economic growth, stubbornly high unemployment, more than $16 trillion in national debt, a looming debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff, “Romney offers the potential for a more bipartisan, pro-growth set of fiscal policy initiatives, which ultimately would be better for the stock market,” said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors.

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Dreams Yet To Be Chased

Disappointments are something that we all go through now and then. Whether you expected to reach a goal by a certain time or a relationship to last forever or someone to do something but they didn’t, the sense of pain can be enough to make many people lose hope. We have to keep in mind that what happens, the events and circumstances, has already happened and can’t be changed. What you can do though is to choose how you’re going to react to what happened. Some people use disappointments as fuel to make a change in their life while others use it as an excuse to stop trying.
Yesterday, I met a person with a same kind of approach towards life, when we were assigned a task to talk to the first stranger we meet outside the university and talk to him about his life’s worst tragedy. He was the first stranger I met.
His name is Adil. He is owns a dhaba. A young boy, of the age 24, about 5.7 feet tall, having a beard without moustaches, roughly managed curly black hair and hooded eyes, which always looked down throughout our conversation. All the time busy with his work he was answering all my questions in a very casual way.
When I asked him about the worst tragedy of his life, there was a smile on his face, with a meaning, and he said, ‘my life itself is a tragedy, what am I supposed to point out?’
This statement made by him made me a bit more curious to know about his life. I asked him to talk about some incident that completely changed the way of his living or that might have had the most influence on his life. He began to tell about it having a continuous smile on his face.
Adil has had a very beautiful childhood. He has one younger sister and one elder brother. He says that his childhood days were full of the excitement, the energy and the innocence that usually exists there. As other children of his age he also had a multitude of thoughts in his mind about what he was going to do in his future. At times he would think of becoming an engineer and seeing the power and influence of money he would desire of becoming a big businessman. According to Adil life was too easy for him, as it could have been for any normal child of his age. He took life in a very easy manner without bothering about what is going around in his family. But one day when he returned from his school, he had to peep into the happenings at his home. There were a lot of people – relatives, in his house that had come to see his father. His father was lying in his bed. He asked his elder brother about what was going on. A minor heart attack- that’s what his elder brother replied to him for the reason of this condition of his father. Adil was shocked, as for him minor and major terms didn’t matter that time, what mattered was that his father was ill and was lying in the bed. Days passed and his father recovered. This incident started fading away from Adil’s mind. He was back in his carefree life where he would go to his school in the morning and would come back late. One day when he was getting ready for his school, his father said to him, ‘why don’t you come with me today to the market, I want to buy you something, we can send a leave to your school.’ Adil was happy as he heard these words from his father. His father seldom got the time to take his family out and this time it was a lucky jackpot for Adil. His father said to him that he will go to the butchers shop first and will take Adil to the market after returning from there. Adil agreed and now started to get ready to leave for the market. Three hours passed, but his father did not return from the butchers shop yet. His mother began to worry and sent Adil out to look for his father. Adil went out to look for his father. While he was walking on the road he saw an ambulance coming with some of his neighbors in it. He forgot about his father and started to run after the ambulance out of curiosity that where was this ambulance going. The ambulance stopped outside his house and what he saw took him in the state of shock. He saw his neighbors taking out his father’s dead body from the ambulance.
Adil said that he does not remember anything after that, like what happened, what were the proceedings, the only thing that was said to him was that his father died of a heart attack, but he says that this incident was the turning point in his life. He had to leave his studies after that. He was in 5th standard that time. He worked with a mechanic. All his dreams regarding his future were shattered. The boy who dreamed of becoming an engineer and make cars at some time was now repairing the cars.
At the age 20, Adil had developed a maturity level where he was able to decide what to do with his future. He had saved enough money to start some business. He wanted to change his life. He wanted to come out of the situation that life had put him in. He got the training of mobile repairing and software updating. He opened his own shop of the same and was now happy that at least he was not doing something that his heart was never contented with. Life was now going smooth.
The 2008 turmoil in Kashmir changed the lives of many and it changed the life of Adil too. Adil met a heavy loss in his business and it finished everything in his life. He was again in the state that he came out of.
Adil had a positive approach towards life. Despite if the loses he met in his life, he was still neither angry nor disappointed. Everything that he had ever wanted in his life was taken away from him by one way or the other. He made it clear in his mind that this was not the time to chase his dreams. He has to provide a support to his family, his elder brother. He joined in the business of his elder brother who owned a dhaba, and started to work with him.
Adil concluded his story by saying, ‘I know life is not fair to anyone, I have always known that. I have seen the days in my life when we had nothing to eat in our dinner and today what I am doing is making others eat.’ Adil still has a dream that there will be a day when he will be done with all his responsibilities and then he will live for himself. His eyes were full of that confidence that one day he will prove it to the world and to himself more that he will do what he actually wanted to.

Dreams Yet To Be Chased

New Delhi based Journalist Vinod K. Jose meets Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru inside the high secuirty Tihar Jail in New Delhi. Read excerpts from this rare interview with Afzal. New Delhi, Feb 19, 2006

http://www.kashmirnewz.com/n000122.html

New Delhi based Journalist Vinod K. Jose meets Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru inside the high secuirty Tihar Jail in New Delhi. Read excerpts from this rare interview with Afzal.


New Delhi, Feb 19, 2006 (Kashmir Newz Specials):

A rusted table, and behind it stood a well built man in uniform holding a spoon in his hand. Visitors, all of them looked habituated, queued up to open their plastic bags containing food, allowing it to be smelt, sometimes even tasted. The security man’s spoon paved its way through the thick grease floating curries—Malai Kofta, Shahi Paneer, Aalu Bengan, and Mixed Vegetables. As the visitors opened tiny bags of curries the spoon separated each piece of vegetable from the other, quite mechanically. ‘Frisking’ the food of a middle aged woman the spoon took a dip at the water in the steel bowl nearby. It then moved to the plastic bags of the next in the queue, an early teenage boy. By now water in the steel bowl has all kinds of colours. The floating oil gave it a vibgyor effect when light hit at it on the winter afternoon. Around 4.30 my turn came. The man left the spoon on the table and frisked my body top to bottom, thrice thoroughly. And when the metal detector made noise I had to remove my belt, steel watch, and keys. The man on duty bearing the badge of Tamilnadu Special Police (TSP) looked satisfied. I am allowed to enter now. This is the fourth security drill I had to go through to get into the High Risk Ward of Prison No 3 in Tihar Central Prison. I am on my way to meet Mohammad Afzal, one of the most talked about man in the contemporary times.

A room with many tiny cubicles. The Visitors and inmate are separated by a thick glass, and iron grills. The two connected through a mike and a speaker fixed on the wall. Poorly audible, people at both sides of the glass strained their ears out touching the wall to listen other. Mohammad Afzal was already at the other side of the cubicle. His face gave me an impression of unfathomable dignity and calmness. A little short man in his mid thirties wearing white kurta paijama had a Reynolds pen in his pocket. Very clear voice welcomed me with the best of all mannerisms.

How are you sir?, he said.

I said, I’m fine. Am I to return the same question to a man on the deathrow, was apprehensive for a second, but I did. Very fine. Thank you sir, he answered with warmth. The conversation went on for close to an hour, and continued a fortnight later with a second Mulakat. Both of us were in a hurry to answer and ask whatever one could in the time. I went on scribbling him in my tiny pocket book. He seemed to be a person who wanted to tell a lot of things to the world. But repeated his helplessness to reach people from the current stature of ‘condemned for life’. Excerpts of the interview

There are so many contradicting images of Afzal. Which Afzal am I meeting?

Is it? But as far as I’m concerned there is only one Afzal. That is me.

Who is that Afzal?

A moments’ silence Afzal as a young, enthusiastic, intelligent, idealistic young man, Afzal a Kashmiri influenced like many thousands in the Kashmir Valley in the political climate of early 1990s, who was a JKLF member and crossed over to the other side of Kashmir, but in a matter of weeks got disillusioned and came back and tried to live a normal life, but was never allowed to do so by the security agencies who inordinate times picked me up, tortured the pulp out of me, electrified, frozen in cold water, dipped in petrol, smoked in chilies you name it, and falsely implicated in a case, with no lawyer, no fair trial, finally condemned to death. The lies the police told was propagated by you in media. And that perhaps created what the Supreme Court referred to as “collective conscience of the nation”. And to satisfy that “collective conscience” I’m condemned to death. That is the Mohammad Afzal you are meeting.

After a moments’ silence, he continued.

But I wonder whether the outside world knows anything about this Afzal. I ask you, did I get a chance to tell my story? Do you think justice is done? Would you like to hang a person without giving him a lawyer? Without a fair trial? Without listening to what he had to go through in life? Democracy doesn’t mean all this, does it?

Can we begin with your life? Your life before the case…

It was a turbulent political period in Kashmir when I was growing up. Maqbul Bhatt was hanged. The situation was volatile. The people of Kashmir decided to fight an electoral battle once again to resolve the Kashmir issue through peaceful means. Muslim United Front (MUF) was formed to represent the sentiments of Kashmiri Muslims for the final settlement of the Kashmir issue. Administration at Delhi was alarmed by the kind of support that MUF was gaining and in the consequence we saw rigging in the election on an unprecedented scale. And the leaders, who took part in the election and won with huge majority, were arrested, humiliated and put behind bars. It is only after this that the same leaders gave call for armed resistance. In response thousands of youth took to armed revolt. I dropped out from my MBBS studies in Jhelum Valley Medical College, Srinagar. I was also one of those who crossed to the other side of Kashmir as a JKLF member, but was disillusioned after seeing Pakistani Politicians acting the same as the Indian politicians in dealing with Kashmiris. I returned after few weeks. I surrendered to the security force, and you know, I was even given a BSF certificate as surrendered militant. I began to start the life new. I could not become a doctor but I became a dealer of medicines and surgical instruments on commission basis (laughs).

With the meager income I even bought a scooter and also got married. But not a day passed by without the scare of Rashtriya Rifles and STF men harassing me. If there was a militant attack somewhere in Kashmir they would round up civilians, torture them to pulp. The situation was even worse for a surrendered militant like me. They detained us for several weeks, and threatened to implicate in false cases and were let free only if we paid huge bribes. Many times I had to go through this. Major Ram Mohan Roy of 22 Rashtriya Rifles gave electric shock to my private parts. Many times I was made to clean their toilets and sweep their camps. Once I had to bribe the security men with all that I had to escape from the Humhama STF torture camp. D.S.P. Vinay Gupta and D.S.P. Davinder Singh supervised the torture. One of their torture experts, Inspector Shanty Singh, electrified me for three hours until I agreed to pay one lakh rupees as bribe. My wife sold her jewelry and for the remaining amount they sold my scooter. I left the camp broken both financially and mentally. For six months I could not go outside home because my body was in such a bad shape. I could not even share the bed with my wife as my penile organ had been electrified. I had to take medical treatment to regain potency….

Afzal narrated the torture details with a disturbing calmness on his face. He seemed to have lot of details to tell me about the torture he faced. But unable to hear the horror stories of security forces that operate with my tax money, I cut him short and asked:

If you could come to the Case…, what were the incidents that led to the Parliament attack Case?

After all the lessons I learned in STF camps, which is either you and your family members get harassed constantly for resisting or cooperate with the STF blindly, I had hardly any options left, when D.S.P Davinder Singh asked me to do a small job for him. That is what he told, “a small job”. He told me that I had to take one man to Delhi. I was supposed to find a rented house for him in Delhi. I was seeing the man first time, but since he did not speak Kashmiri I suspected he was an outsider. He told his name was Mohammad [Mohammad is identified by the police as the man who led the 5 gunmen who attacked the Parliament. All of them were killed by the security men in the attack].

When we were in Delhi Mohammad and me used to get phone calls from Davinder Singh. I had also noticed that Mohammad used to visit many people in Delhi. After he purchased a car he told me now I could go back and gave me 35,000 rupees saying it was a gift. And I left to Kashmir for Eid.

When I was about to leave to Sopore from Srinagar bus stand I was arrested and taken to Parimpora police station. They tortured me and took to STF headquarters and from there brought me to Delhi. In the torture chamber of Delhi Police Special Cell, I told them everything I knew about Mohammad. But they insisted that I should say that my cousin Showkat, his wife Navjot S.A.R. Geelani and I were the people behind the Parliament attack. They wanted me to say this convincingly in front of media. I resisted. But I had no option than to yield when they told me my family was in their custody and threatened to kill them. I was made to sign many blank pages and was forced to talk to the media and claim responsibility for the attack by repeating what the police told me to say. When a journalist asked me about the role of S.A.R. Geelani I told him Geelani was innocent. A.C.P. Rajbeer Singh shouted at me in the full media glare for talking beyond what they tutored. They were really upset when I deviated from their story and Rajbeer Singh requested the journalists not to broadcast that part where I spoke of Geelani’s innocence.

Rajbeer Singh allowed me to talk to my wife the next day. After the call he told me if I wanted to see them alive I had to cooperate. Accepting the charges was the only option in front of me if I wanted to see the family alive and the Special Cell officers promised they would make my case weak so I would be released after sometime. Then they took me to various places and showed me the markets where Mohammad had purchased different things. Thus they made the evidence for the case.

Police made me a scapegoat in order to mask their failure to find out the mastermind of Parliament attack. They have fooled the people. People still don’t know whose idea was to attack the Parliament. I was entrapped into the case by Special Task Force (STF) of Kashmir and implicated by Delhi Police Special Cell.

The media constantly played the tape. The police officers received awards. And I was condemned to death.

Why didn’t you find legal defence?

I had no one to turn to. I did not even see my family until six months into the trial. And when I saw them it was only for a short time in the Patiala House Court. There was no one to arrange a lawyer for me. As legal aid is a fundamental right in this country I named four lawyers whom I wished to have defended me. But the judge S.N. Dhingra, said all four refused to do the case. The lawyer whom the Court chose for me began by admitting some of the most crucial documents without even asking me what the truth of the matter was. She was not doing the job properly and finally she moved to defend another fellow accused. Then the Court appointed an amicus curie, not to defend me, but to assist court in the matter. He never met me. And he was very hostile and communal. That is my case, completely unrepresented at the crucial trial stage. The fact of the matter is that I did not have a lawyer and in a case like this, what does not having a lawyer mean everyone can understand. If you wanted to put me to death what was the need for such a long legal process which to me was totally meaningless?

Do you want to make any appeal to the world?

I have no specific appeals to make. I have said whatever I wanted to say in my petition to the President of India. My simple, appeal is that do not allow blind nationalism and mistaken perceptions to lead you to deny even the most fundamental rights of your fellow citizens. Let me repeat what S.A.R. Geelani said after he was awarded death sentence at the trial court, he said, peace comes with justice. If there is no justice, there is no peace. I think that is what I want to say now. If you want to hang me, go ahead with it but remember it would be a black spot on the judicial and political system of India.

What is the condition in jail?

I’m lodged in solitary confinement in the high risk cell. I’m taken out from my cell only for a short period during noon. No radio, no television. Even the newspaper I subscribe reaches me torn. If there is a news item about me, they tear that portion apart and give me the rest.

Apart from the uncertainty about your future, what else concerns you the most?

Yes, a lot of things concern me. There are hundreds of Kashmiris languishing in different jails, without lawyers, without trial, without any rights. The situation of civilians in the streets of Kashmir is not any different. The valley itself is an open prison. These days the news of fake encounters is coming out. But that is only the tip of a big iceberg. Kashmir has everything that you don’t want to see in a civilized nation. They breathe torture. Inhale injustice.

He paused for a moment.

Also, there are so many thoughts that come into my mind; farmers who get displaced, merchants whose shops are sealed in Delhi and so on. So many faces of injustice you can see and identify, can’t you? Have you thought how many thousands of people get affected by all this, their livelihood, family…? All these things too, worry me.

Again a longer pause

Also global developments. I took to the news of the execution of Saddham Hussain with at most sadness. Injustice so openly and shamelessly done. Iraq, the land of Mesopotamia, world’s richest civilization, that taught us mathematics, use a 60 minute clock, 24 hour day, 360 degree circle, is thrashed to dust by the Americans. Americans are destroying all other civilizations and value systems. Now the so called War against Terrorism is only good in spreading hatred and causing destruction. I can go on saying what worries me.

Which books are you reading now?

I finished reading Arundhati Roy. Now I’m reading Sartre’s work on existentialism. You see, it is a poor library in the jail. So I will have to request the visiting Society for the Protection of Detainees and Prisoners Rights (SPDPR) members for books.

There is a campaign in defence for you…

I am really moved and obliged by the thousands of people who came forward saying injustice is done to me. The lawyers, students, writers, intellectuals, and all those people are doing something great by speaking against injustice.

The situation at the beginning, was such in 2001 and initial days of the case that it was impossible for justice loving people to come forward. When the High Court acquitted SAR Geelani people started questioning the police theory. And when more and more people became aware of the case details and facts and started seeing things beyond the lies, they began speaking up. It is natural that justice loving people speak up and say, injustice is done to Afzal. Because that is the truth.

Members of your family have conflicting opinion on your case?

My wife has been consistently saying that I was wrongly framed. She has seen how the STF tortured me and did not allow me to live a normal life. She also knew how they implicated me in the case. She wants me to see our son Ghalib growing up. I have also an elder brother who apparently is speaking against me under duress from the STF. It is unfortunate what he does, that’s what I can say.

See, it is a reality in Kashmir now, what you call the counter insurgency operations take any dirty shape—that they field brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor. You are breaking a society with your dirty tricks.

As far as the campaign is concerned I had requested and authorized Society for the Protection of Detainees and Prisoners Society (SPDPR) run by Geelani and group of activists to do the campaign.

What comes to your mind when you think of your wife Tabassum and Son Ghalib?

This year is the tenth anniversary of our wedding. Over half that period I spent in jail. And prior to that, many a times I was detained and tortured by Indian security forces in Kashmir. Tabassum witnessed both my physical and mental wounds. Many times I returned from the torture camp, unable to stand, all kinds of torture including electric shock to my penis, she gave me hope to live…We did not have a day of peaceful living. It is the story of many Kashmiri couples. Constant fear is the dominant feeling in all Kashmiri households.

We were so happy when a child was born. We named our son after the legendary poet Mirza Ghalib. We had a dream to see our son Ghalib grow up. I could spend very little time with him. After his second birthday I was implicated in the case.

What do you want him to grow up as?

Professionally, if you are asking, a doctor. Because that is my incomplete dream.

But most importantly, I want him to grow without fear. I want him to speak against injustice. That I am sure he will be. Who else know the story of injustice better than my wife and son?

[While Afzal continued talking about his wife and son, I could not stop recollecting what Tabassum told me when I met her outside Supreme Court in 2005 during the case’s appeal stage. When Afzal’s family members remained in Kashmir Tabassum dared to come to Delhi with her son Ghalib to organize defence for Afzal. Outside the Supreme Court New Lawyers chamber, at the tiny tea stall on the roadside, she chatted in detail about Afzal. While sipping and complaining the tea for excess sugar she told me how Afzal enjoyed cooking. One picture she painted struck me deep—one of those dear private moments in their lives, he would not allow her to enter kitchen, make her seated on the chair nearby and Afzal would cook, holding one book in his band, a ladle in the other and read out stories for her.]

If I may ask you about Kashmir issue…how do you think it can be solved?

First let the government be sincere to the people of Kashmir. And let them initiate talk with the real representatives of Kashmir. Trust me, the real representatives of Kashmir can solve the problem. But if the government consider peace process as a tactics of counter insurgency, then the issue is not going to be solved. It is time some sincerity is shown.

Who are the real people?

Find out from the sentiments of the people of Kashmir. I am not going to name x, y or z.

And I have an appeal to Indian media; stop acting as a propaganda tool. Let them report the truth. With their smartly worded and politically loaded news reports, they distort facts, make incomplete reports, build hardliners, terrorists et al. They easily fall for the games of the intelligence agencies. By doing insincere journalism you are adding to the problem. Disinformation on Kashmir should stop first. Allow Indians to know the complete history of the conflict, let them know the ground realities. True democrats cannot turn down the facts. If Indian government is not taking into account the wishes of Kashmiri people, then they can’t solve the problem. It will continue to be a conflict zone.

Also you tell me how are you going to develop real trust among Kashmiris when you send out the message that India has a justice system that hang people without giving a lawyer, without a fair trial?

Tell me, when hundreds of Kashmiris are lodged in jails most of them with no lawyer, no hope for justice, are you not further escalating the distrust on Indian government among Kashmiris? Do you think if you don’t address the core issues and do a cosmetic effort, you can solve Kashmir conflict? No, you can’t. Let the democratic institutions of both India and Pakistan start showing some sincerity, their politicians, Parliament, justice system, media, intellectuals…

9 security men were killed in the Parliament attack. What is that you have to tell their relatives?

In fact I share the pain of the family members who lost their dear ones in the attack. But I feel sad that they are misled to believe that hanging an innocent person like me would satisfy them. They are used as pawns in a completely distorted cause of nationalism. I appeal them to come out of it and see through things.

What do you see is your achievement in life?

My biggest achievement perhaps is that through my case and the campaign on the injustice done to me, the horror of STF has been brought into light. I am happy that now people are discussing security forces’ atrocities on civilians, encounter killings, disappearances, torture camps, etc…These are the realities that a Kashmiri grows up with. People outside Kashmir have no clue what Indian security forces are up to in Kashmir.

Even if they kill me for no crime of mine, it would be because they cannot stand the truth. They cannot face the questions arise out of hanging a Kashmiri with no lawyer.

 

An ear-splitting electric bell rang. Could hear hurried up conversations from the neighbor cubicles. This was my last question to Afzal.

What do you want to be known as?

He thought for a minute, and answered:

As Afzal, as Mohmammad Afzal. I am Afzal for Kashmiris, and I am Afzal for Indians as well, but the two groups have an entirely conflicting perception of my being. I would naturally trust the judgment of Kashmiri people not only because I am one among them but also because they are well aware of the reality I have been through and they cannot be misled into believing any distorted version of either a history or an incident.

I was confused with this last statement of Mohammad Afzal, but on further reflection I began to understand what he meant. History of Kashmir and narration of an incident by a Kashmiri is always a big shock for an Indian whose sources of knowledge on Kashmir happen to be confined only to the text books and media reports. Afzal did just that to me. Two more bells. Time to end Mulakat. But people were still busy conversing. Mike put off. Speaker stopped. But if you strained your ear, and watched the lip movement, you could still hear him. The guards made rough round-ups, asking to leave. As they found visitors not leaving, they put the lights off, mulakat room turned dark. In the long stretch of walk out from the Jail No 3 of Tihar jail compound to the main road I found myself in the company of clusters of twos and threes, moving out silently—either a cluster of mother, wife and daughter; or brother, sister and wife; or friend and brother; or someone else. Every cluster had two things in common. They carried an empty cotton bag back with them. Those bags had stains of Malai Kofta, Shahi Paneer and Mixed Vegetables, often spilled over by the rash frisking of the TSP man’s spoon. The second, I observed, they all wore inexpensive winter clothes, torn shoes, and outside Gate No 3 they waited for Bus No 588, Tilak Nagar-Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium bus, that perhaps took them to Dhaulakuan main junction—they are the poor citizens of this country. Remembered President Abdul Kalam’s musing how poor people were the awardees of capital punishments. My interviewee is also one. When I asked him how much ‘tokens’ (the form of currency allowed in the jail) he had, he said “enough to survive”.

Vinod K. Jose is a foreign correspondent attached with Radio Pacifica Network, USA. He is based in New Delhi. vinodkjose@gmail.com
The article may be reproduced with Vinod’s permission.

Present Scenario of Print Media In India

In India, the Government uses print media to secure wide coverage of messages through various newspapers and journals. Print media as a traditional media plays a significant role in the development communication. In India, print media strengths have largely been shaped by its historical experience and, in particular, by its association with the freedom struggle as well as movements for social emancipation, reform, and amelioration.

Given national literacy rates as low as 51%, the very limited reach of newspapers and magazines, and the distinctly urban educated readership profile, the role of print media has been defined more in terms of information dissemination and advocacy. The picture is a lopsided one: circulation figures are rapidly increasing as are advertising revenues, but this is especially true of English publications, which account for 71% of the total ad revenue of members of the Indian Newspaper Society.

A key feature of these publications, unfortunately, is the increasing preponderance of glossy, ad-friendly film and TV-based reporting. That the sole trendsetter in this increasing corporatization of the fourth estate, The Times of India, also ranks 10th among the top-selling newspapers in the world, is no coincidence. Given the increasing costs of newsprint and production, and the pressure of market imperatives, newspaper houses have followed the piper in carrying ad -friendly fluff at the cost of more serious development and health reporting. Leading dailies have over the last few years dropped their special sections devoted to development and health. The low literacy rates and high production costs have also stymied the possibilities of smaller alternative publications that could potentially reflect the concerns of the development sector.

Today various modern and sophisticated technologies are using by the print media in both developed and under-developed countries and they also face stiff competition from electronic media. The circulation trends of the print media: newspaper and magazines in India and other few countries and also that how the role of print media in the development communication is changing in recent era needs to be studied. It also concentrates on what is the impact of new electronic media on the print media.

Post 1947, newspapers in India had a choice to make – either align with the government and support all its initiatives or act as a critique to the newly democratized country and its head. Newspapers at first acted as unofficial sponsors of its various initiatives and schemes. The five year plan especially came highly endorsed by the national newspapers. Most of the newspapers in India came into existence post independence. Today thousands of magazines and newspapers are in circulation. Whilst in the early days of democracy, the Indian government enjoyed full support of the media houses.

Today, due to the changing and advanced technology used in printing and communication media, print media get huge importance in mind of people. So it‘s become important to study how the trend and role of print media is changing in development communication.

Print has more than 10000+ unique titles in India. 46% of the registered publications are in Vernacular language. There are two sources of information for print evaluation – Indian Readership Survey & National Readership Survey. The Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) is a body that ratifies the circulation figures of the publications but is not used as a primary source for evaluation of publications. Out of these above survey NRS has not been updated since 2006, while IRS updates its survey results every quarter. The IRS provides both the Average Issue Readership (AIR) which based on whether the respondent has read a publication within its last period of publication (last one day for dailies, last one month for monthlies etc) as well as Total Readership. It covers both Urban & Rural India under  its  survey  representing  around  876  Million.

This is a list of the newspapers in India by average circulation (in millions) for the six month period ended March 31, 2011. These figures are compiled by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Newspaper Language City Daily Circulation Owner
1 Times of India English Various cities and states 3.146 Owned by Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd.
2 Dainik Jagranदैनिक जागरण Hindi Various cities and states 2.168 Owned by Jagaran Prakashan Ltd
3 Malayala Manoramaമലയാള മനോരമ Malayalam 10 cities in Kerala, Bangalore, Mangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi,Dubai, and Bahrain 2.048 Owned by Malayalam Manorama Group
4 Eenadu Telugu Various cities and states 1.70 [2] Founded in 1974, owned by Ramoji Group
5 The Hindu English Various cities and states 1.46 Founded in 1878, owned by Kasturi & Sons Ltd., exposed theBofors scandal
6 Sakshi Telugu Various cities and states 1.45 [3] Owned by Jagathi Publications., Mrs YS Bharathi Chairperson of the Group
7 Deccan Chronicle English Various cities and states 1.349 Owns Deccan Chargers franchise of the Indian Premier League
8 Ananda Bazar Patrikaআনন্দবাজার পত্রিকা Bengali Kolkata, West Bengal 1.277 Owned by Ananda Publishers
9 Amar Ujalaअमर उजाला Hindi Various cities and states 1.230 Mainly prominent in the Hindi heartland
10 Dainik Bhaskarदैनिक भास्कर Hindi Various cities and states 1.147 Also published as the Divya Bhaskar in Gujarat
11 Hindustan Times English Various cities and states 1.143 Owned by HT Media Ltd
12 Hindustanहिन्दुस्तान Hindi Various cities and states 1.142 Hindi extension of the Hindustan Times
13 Mathrubhumiമാതൃഭൂമി Malayalam 10 Cities in Kerala, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, and New Delhi 1.077 Owned by The Mathrubhumi Group
14 Gujarat Samacharગુજરાત સમાચાર Gujarati Ahmedabad, Gujarat 1.051 Owned by Lok Prakashan Ltd.
15 Punjab Kesariपंजाब केसरी Hindi States of Punjab, Haryana .902 Founder Jagat Narain was assassinated by Sikh militants on September 9, 1981
16 Dinakaranதினகரன் Tamil Various cities in Tamil Nadu and a few other cities .901 Bought out by SUN TV group in 2005
17 Sakaalसकाळ Marathi Various cities in Maharashtra .879 Launched English version Sakaal Times in 2008
18 Dina Thanthiதினத்தந்தி Tamil Various cities in Tamil Nadu and a few other cities .854 Founded by S. P. Adithanar
19 Divya Bhaskarદિવ્ય ભાસ્કર Gujarati Ahmedabad, Gujarat .840 Gujarati version of the Dainik Bhaskar
20 Aajआज Hindi Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh .748
21 Financial Chronicle English Various cities and states Unknown Owned by Deccan chronicle holdings Ltd.
22 Economic Times English Various cities and states .651 Owned by Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd.
23 The Telegraph English Various cities and states .465 Owned by Ananda Publishers
24 Prajavaniಪ್ರಜಾವಾಣಿ Kannada Karnataka,various city in India .565 Owned by Mysore Printers Pvt Ltd
25 The New Indian Express English Various cities and states .309 Owned by Express Publications Ltd.
26 Deccan Herald English Various cities and states .350 Owned by The Printers
27 Udayavaniಉದಯವಾಣಿ Kannada Karnataka, Bengaluru,Mumbai,Manipal .185 Owned by Udayavani
28 Hadoti Express Hindi Baran .Unknown Owned by Mr.Ajay Singh
29 The Statesman English Various cities and states .172 Owned by The Statesman Ltd.
30 The Hindu Business Line English Various cities and states .163 Owned by Kasturi & Sons Ltd.
31 Business Standard English Various cities and states .144 Owned by Business Standard Ltd. (BSL)
32 News Post Hindi Various cities and states .125 Owned by Mr.Keshav Sen

With the emergence of the television and the new media (internet), it can be argued that newspapers are becoming irrelevant in terms of providing the latest news. However, both media has its own importance. The longevity of written media is much more than the electronic ones. It is the written media which has made history recordable and accurate. The age of an old manuscript found while digging a historical site gives information about the era in which it was written, which is not possible with electronic media. Print media is durable. Anyone can anonymously post articles and raise their voices. It is difficult to track the real owner of an article. With electronic media, anyone can copy any piece of information and present it as his own; plagiarism is at its peak these days.  The information provided by a newspaper is usually more authentic and genuine but it is not in case of electronic media. Electronic media depends mainly on electricity. In areas with frequent power cuts or in the rural areas, it is not a viable replacement for newspapers. Print media is easily accessible and widely read.  Anyone can buy it since it is cheaper and available in the remotest of the villages. In a country like India, subscribing to newspapers is cheaper than taking an Internet connection. Print media is local to the city or the region and carries information about the local events like a play being screened in the town or an inter-school chess tournament. Many newspapers in India and the world to some extent have started providing analysis of the news as well and so the demand and scope of newspaper is still sustain in competitive age. The coverage of the 2009 General Elections is the proof of that. Most newspapers had their own supplements dedicated to the elections and they scrutinized every detail of the elections in a way the television channels cannot provide. As of 2000, there are at least 41,705 newspapers in India and growing every day. The media whilst flawed is one of the most precious commodities in any democracy and as India celebrates another year of its emancipation, the media has a lot to celebrate as well – everyday for millions all over the country it makes this independence count substantial instead of some word uttered as a cliché at some cocktail party. The newspapers had the information in greater detail, depth and also had images which were not shown on TV.  In the recent era, many print media are also available in electronic forms. Shortly, the print media is now available at global level using the internet on which information  came in the print media format.