Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: If Dalits and tribals in the country are being held for naxalite insurgency, the Muslim community is being prosecuted on charges of terrorism, human rights activist Harsh Mander said here on Tuesday.

“On the basis of scientific evidence it can be said that torture does not induce people to speak the truth. Rather it obscures the truth,” said Mr. Mander, addressing a press conference organised by human rights organisation Act Now for Harmony And Democracy (ANHAD) to bring to light illegal detention, arbitrary arrest and torture of five Muslim youths at Vadodara in Gujarat.

Referring to the manner in which people were taken away at random by the police, Mr. Mander said: “There is a pattern that exists in these cases. First, policemen in plain clothes pick up the individuals concerned and carry them away in vehicles which are not police cars. Next they are blindfolded and taken to farmhouses where they are tortured. The families are informed only later. Usually these victims do not have a criminal record.”

“If a person is a Muslim, then it is almost presumed that he is a terrorist and the burden of proof is on the individual to prove that he is not a terrorist,” Mr. Mander added.

Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD said the five youths in Vadodara were arbitrarily picked up by the police on the pretext that they were planning to bomb the “Ganesh Visarjan” ceremony. “They were picked up on September 1 and 2. A few days later they were produced in court and the Vadodara Police Commissioner addressed a press conference where he alleged that the detainees had been in possession of a rocket launcher and sutli bombs,” she said, adding that two pieces of pipe had been identified as the so-called “rocket launcher”!

“When the detainees were presented in court, their body language and their bodily condition indicated that they had been tortured,” Ms. Hashmi said, alleging that the youths had been detained just before a by-election on September 10 in order to rouse sentiments.

Ms. Hashmi said the National Commission for Minorities which had been approached in this regard has decided to send a team to Gujarat to investigate the case.

Grieving over the way her son had been treated by the police, young Zahir Abbas Amiruddin Shaikh’s mother Rehmat said: “My son received electric shocks nearly four times on each of the five days of his detention. I hope he does not lose his sanity.”

Naseem, whose 39-year-old husband Iqbal was also picked up, said: “My husband who was detained during this Ramzan month was not allowed to break his fast. Even after he was arrested, the police kept coming home and harassing us.”

Dwelling on the legal aspect of the arrest, advocate Vrinda Grover said: “The law does not provide for illegal detention of people. Detention of people in farmhouses which are not jails is illegal.”