Investigations into incidents of terror have been the focal point of discussion and debate over the past couple of years. Sadly the topic of debate in such cases has been more about the manner in which the police have bungled rather than solving a case. Trideep Pais, a senior advocate who used to represent the Students Islamic Movement of India has also worked with several youth who were implicated falsely in terror cases.
He explains to us the nightmare that these youth go through and how it has become so tough for them to cope up with life after spending months together in jail for no fault of theirs. In this interview with rediff.com, he says that most of the youth that he has dealt with have started carrying out a diary in which they make notes every minute about what they are doing only so that it could be used as an alibi.
The government is looking to re-impose the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India. How do you plan to fight this case?
It is a decision that will have to be taken by the national president.
Has the ban on SIMI helped in the war against terrorism?
I do not believe in bans. They just do not serve the purpose. If there are crimes go ahead and prosecute. But banning just does not help. Can you ban someone for their religious beliefs? This is a very large question of freedom of conscience.
How else do you deal with terrorism?
We have enough laws to deal with terrorism. We are unable to deal with the problem only because of poor investigation. The manner in which some cases are dealt with are sad. There is no proper investigation and a person is kept in jail denied bail until he gets so frustrated that he confesses to an offence he has not committed. This is not helping the cause. What we need is a political situation and the will to deal with the problem. Moreover the more important thing is to deal with the case in a proper manner. We need to solve these cases and not only extract confessions forcibly.
The government feels that a ban has helped solve the problem.
That is not the right way to address the problem. Let us not speak about the extra territorial organizations here. Those are not under out control. Out of the 15 organisations that are banned in India all have only been fighting for the local cause. They have a grievance and they tend to take to arms when the government is not listening to them. Those who have a difficulty with the Indian government cannot be banned as this is not feasible and does not lead us anywhere. Instead sit across the table and have a discussion and see how the problem can be resolved.
There are nearly 300 youth who have been falsely implicated in various cases of terror right from Malegaon to Mecca Masjid. Is there a danger of them taking the extremist path now?
They have come out of jail angry, but they are more paranoid. I have interacted with many of them and they are sad and dejected. There is fear in their minds and they have lost faith in the system which includes the judiciary. These youth may have come out, but their minds have been scarred forever. The fact of the matter is that they remain on the scanner for the rest of their lives.
How are they coping with it?
It is very sad to see the kind of fear that they live under. These boys carry a diary with them. Right from the time they wake up and until they go to sleep they make notes of everything they do during the day in their diary. In turn they tell me about these entries and say that this could be their alibi in court. They make it a point to keep everyone informed about what exactly they are doing so that when a police man tries to implicate them falsely they think this could be their alibi. Then there is this case in which one of the youth runs a website of his own in his own name. every minute he updates his status only with an intention of telling the rest of the world that he is not up to anything and even if the police were to think so the people would stand by him and inform about what exactly he has been doing. Their only motive has become self preservation. The way they live today is not normal. They are slow to make friends and anyone who is being generous to them they look at it with suspicion. Basically they have lost faith in the system. There is a fear to mix with the general population.
So are you saying that none of the extremists are taking advantage of this situation?
I would not say that this is not fuelling extremism. All I am saying is that the youth that I have dealt with have not gone to the other end. They may have turned to the support of their community even more today. But then that is only for shelter. But I can say with confidence that they have not turned to extremism. I have also dealt with cases in which some of them have stopped using smart phones and computers and even do not operate an email. They are so scared that this could be used to implicate them falsely. A client of mine who spent 30 months in jail on a wrong charge wont even use a computer. Even when he goes out of his house, he leaves his cell phone with his wife. He is so scared that the cell phone of his could become a headache for him.
Not a healthy trend for sure. But then we cannot sit without dealing with the problem right?
The solution lies with the manner in which the government acts. On a scale of proportionality it is the government which is more extremist and if they were not so anit Muslim this would not have happened. They should be educating the police on how to be secular in their approach.
Which party have you found to be more extremist by nature?
This problem is irrespective of the party in power. With a change in government the perception may change a bit, but the civil servants remain the same. They are the ones who need to be educated.
Any state in particular according to you which has dealt well with this situation?
It is nothing to do with the state. No state has come up with a fair manner to deal with minorities. However I would say that Tamil Nadu has done a fair job in this respect as there are no communal clashes over there. Karnataka and Maharashtra have however gone to the other extreme.