The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minister drops ‘anti-secular’ bomb on govt

Calcutta, Nov. 2: A minister in the Left Front government today alleged that many of the arrests for alleged “links” with the Students’ Islamic Movement of India are, in reality, harassment of innocent citizens and raise questions about the front’s secular credentials.

Hafiz Alam Sairani, the relief minister, spit fire at the government lending seriousness yet not attached to similar charges.

A leader of the Forward Bloc, Sairani spoke to The Telegraph on the fate of some people who were forced to await trial on charges of treason for more than two years. The legal process has now limped to only the evidence-production stage in a North Dinajpur court, said Sairani.

Most of those arrested earlier in Malda on similar charges have been absolved. One of them, it later appeared, was paying the price for crossing over from the CPM’s teachers’ wing (the All-Bengal Teachers’ Association) to the CPI’s.

The Students’ Islamic Movement of India (Simi) was outlawed for anti-national activities. The organisation was accused of triggering a string of blasts in Mumbai in the past year.

The chargesheet against four of those arrested in North Dinajpur for alleged Simi links accuses them of plotting “anti-international terrorism act (sic)”. “I have heard of anti-national activities. But this is the first time I am hearing of anti-international activities,” said Sairani, alleging that the chargesheets were a result of “hasty and deliberate” police action.

Sairani said one of the four persons — all arrested from Goalpokhar (his constituency) in North Dinajpur — he was referring to was unlettered. According to the minister, a person who was not a student could not be part of a students’ body. “Abdul Basher is not a student, how can he be a member of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India'” he asked. “Does the SFI, the CPM’s students’ wing, have illiterates in its fold'”

The relief minister said he could vouch for the innocence of all four. Two of them, Basher and Mohammad Ismail, were from his ancestral village (Sirshi) in Goalpokhar. “Ismail was my student at Chakulia Higher Secondary School and his father, Maktab Alam, was my classmate,” Sairani said.

Aami oder hanrir khobor jani, are ora Simi korle aami janbo na' (I know them inside out, wouldn’t I have known if they were Simi activists)'” he asked.

The two others, Akmal Hussain (also from Sirshi) and Yusuf Ali (of Bhuidhar, a neighbouring village), are also “personally” known to him, said Sairani. “Akmal is a village quack and Yusuf a farmer,” he said. “If they have anything to do with Simi, you can also be a member of the outfit.”

The sluggish progress of the cases has been frustrating for the families. “The cases have come up for hearing in the Islampur court more than 10 times and were repeatedly adjourned. The families are now asking me whether minorities can get justice here (in Bengal),” Sairani said.

“If I, as a minister, can feel so helpless, you can understand the plight of the common man,” he added.

All the four persons the minister talked about were arrested during raids carried out in 2001 and 2002, police officials here said. “The case is going to be heard again on December 2, when evidence is going to be produced,” one of them said. The “evidence”, he added, comprises “some literature”.

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