1. What were the criterion which made you include the 16 cases as case studies in the JTSA report?
This report derives from JTSA's long campaign for rule of law and due process which are often seen as dispensable in dealing with terrorism. The war cry against terrorism has allowed established legal principles to be eroded and the creation of a common sense which celebrates this erosion as a just means to fight terrorism. We wanted to challenge that common sense and document the extent to which this war on terrorism has afforded impunity to security agencies at the cost of civil rights of citizens. We had been following the acquittals - largely ignored in the media which had sensationalized their arrests - and as we saw a pattern emerging, we thought it best to document these in a single report.
2. What has been the state effort to rehabilitate the 16 in society? Have any of them been compensated?
There has been no effort to offer any compensation or rehabilitation to any of those acquitted. Many of those acquitted have faced economic ruin not only because they were often the sole breadwinners but because competent legal defence required money and resources beyond the means of these men. Not only those who underwent incarceration but their families too need rehabilitation, as children dropped out of school, wives and mothers suffered from depression. The reparations for social ostracisation and stigma need to be taken into account as well.
3. While filing the report, what were the broad patterns that emerged in the cases of citizens from conflict-ridden states like Kashmir and Manipur?
In several cases in the report the complicity between the Special Cell and security agencies of these conflict zones is obvious. In one case, the Judge categorically stated that Brojen, a resident of Manipur had been targeted by the Special Cell at the behest of Manipur Police because he had secured a conviction against the latter in contempt of court relating to his illegal detention.
Moreover, people from conflict zones such as Kashmir and Northeast are already marked out as suspect on account of their ethnicity and with the prevailing discourse of suspicion, it is easy for the agencies to pass them of as terrorists.
4. What are the five questions you would like to ask the Special Cell?
Why should the people of this country trust you when it has been proven that you implicate innocents in false cases to earn medals and promotions? Not only do you illegally detain people and produce them at press conferences as terrorists as the various court judgements cited in the report prove; your former ACP has also been found involved in an extortion racket -indeed men in other departments with records of falsely implicating people, such as Ravinder Tyagi, have thrived in the Special Cell. The current DCP Special Cell has been indicted by the NHRC in the Sonia Vihar fake encounter of 2006. In such circumstances, how do you expect the common people of this country to entrust you with their lives and security. Or is it your argument that we should look the other way when you extort and frame people as long as you are able to crack some cases?
5. Some of the acquitted have spent more than 10 years in jail for offences they did not commit. Yet, their cause was not taken up by the civil society at large even though cases like Arushi, Nitish Katara, Jessica Lall became a cause.
Arushi, Nitish Katar and Jessica Lall were people like us. On the other hand, the terror accused are not even part of our collective imagination. Their othering is so complete. Also, 'national security' brooks no questioning or dissent.