Guilty until proven innocent? It doesn’t end there for some

September 5, 2008

Derided by the media and under pressure to show results following the series of terror attacks in the country, the security establishment recently announced a number of arrests relating to the explosions in Ahmedabad and Bangalore and the earlier ones in Jaipur.

While it is praiseworthy that the police acted comparatively quickly this time in tracing the culprits, it later turned out that some of those arrested, whose names the media had readily released, had no involvement in the dastardly acts.

blastBut the damage had already been done, as a ‘suspect’ told a newspaper after his release: “I will have to live with a ‘terrorist’ tag for the rest of my life.” Anwar Hussein, a doctor, said his family now faces abuses from neighbours and customers are avoiding his family’s business of iron work in his native village.

Rashid Hussain, an IT professional, said he was sacked by his employers following his arrest, even though he was released after eight days in detention.

Muslim organizations and rights groups have cried foul over the arrests, complaining that the detentions were ‘illegal’ and a violation of human rights. Indian law requires detainees to be provided a legal counsel and brought before a magistrate within 24 hours, which did not happen in this case, like many others before.

While special laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) allows authorities to detain suspects for longer periods, the detainees in this case were not charged with anything. But while many say the authorities acted ‘illegally’, experts say it is a grey area, as there is a provision in the law book which allows the police to arrest someone on suspicion alone.

“Article 41 in the CrPC empowers the police to arrest anyone on the basis of suspicion even if there is no proof. If the investigating officer later comes to the conclusion that there is no evidence, under article 157, he can say that he has stopped the probe and release the person,” Supreme Court criminal lawyer D B Goswami says.

With India losing the maximum number of lives in terrorist attacks in the world after Iraq (according to a Times of India report), many would argue that the unfortunate incidents are unavoidable in the fight against terror – collateral damage, if you may.

But what about the old adage, “Better 100 guilty men at liberty than one innocent man in prison.”

Law enforcement agencies should by all means investigate and question anyone they think is involved, or know anything about the perpetrators of such mindless violence, but there ought to be a more discreet way of carrying out the investigations, like not releasing the identity of the person until the police are sure of his/her involvement in a crime.

And the role of the media can never be overstated, with the enormous influence it has over public perception. A reputation, not least a life, can be destroyed by one incorrect report by an overzealous media.

And what can be said of the charge by Muslims and civil rights groups that Muslims are targeted by authorities every time an explosion takes place? And the trend of officials naming Islamic groups as suspects immediately after any terror strike when it is obvious that facts have not been ascertained yet.

Has “M” become the new scarlet letter, a metaphorical ‘guilty’ tag on persons by association to a particular religion?

16 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

what do u wanna say?! ha
the pic says do not specify any religion as a terrorist religion and what does the note wanna say?!!!
Point 2-
I want more news on the woman found in the suitcase!!!

Posted by abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz | Report as abusive

Muslims targetted? Who’s blind? We don’t want this UK talk in India. All over the world the ‘terrorists’ are mainly Muslims. Muslims quickly point out the ‘Sikh terrorism’ during the 80s and the Irish problem before that. But these are REGIONAL problems. But this is not the case with Muslim terrorism. You name a country where Muslims are not given a free hand (read sharia) and there is terrorism, be it India, Thailand, US, UK, Spain, Germany, or any other. So it is natural that SOME innocents might get in trouble. And let me ask, what are these so-called ‘innocents’ doing about their brothers? Most give indirect support or sympathetic support. When the Police can’t prove their direct involvement, that doesn’t mean they are angels. So, please keep these Crocodile tears for European countries. Nearly all the other religions, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Jewish, Jainism, etc all teach peace and tolerance – not just in word, but by deed. But this is not the case with Muslims. I’ve stayed in the Middle East for most of my life, and please don’t tell me how tolerant the Muslims are.

Posted by Koleth | Report as abusive

But David, it can be quite a struggle for even ordinary citizens like you and me to erase the “tag” if one had to be in a police station. It doesn’t matter what the crime/offence is. That’s just the way the system is… myopic without a cause.

Posted by Madhu | Report as abusive

I completely agree with koleth.Whereever they are ,they are at war either with themselves or with their neighbours.You name any country where muslims are:India(Kashmir),Pakistan,Afganistan,C omores,Iraq,Uk .They want freedom but they can never free themselves from their own cocoon and think what they really want.

“Kolef”

There is plenty of terrorism done in the name of christ.

sir,are we not AWARE that all religions are MAN MADE,only in order to LOAD OUR UNSOLVABLE PROBLEMS ON THE HEADS OF THE GOD WE JUST USED TO BELIEVE AS INHERITANCE OF OUR CULTURE.IS NOT LIFE SO PRECIOUS.ARE THESE FOOLS DOES NOT REALIZE THAT OUR ACTIONS GOING TO DESTROY OUR INNOCENT FAMILY.WHY THESE IDIOTS DOES NOT ASK THEIR LEADERS TO DIRECT THEM WHY DON’T U TOO COME ALONG to go straight away TO THE SO CALLED PARADISE.WHY DO U HIDE UR SELF AND UR FAMILY?ONLY ANSWER IS TO BAN ALL RELIGIONS AND ITS SYMBOLS FROM THE FACE OF THE PLANET.LETS ALL BE HUMAN BEINGS FIRST AND LAST.

The concerns raised are quite vallid and true to a large extent, but we also must realise that we aree living in a difficult time, terrorism is a huge problem to our growth, prosperity, unity everything. Sadly, Muslims have somehow acquired this ill reputation of being the trouble makers, and we can not deny that. I think if you use even common sense, am sure a Hindu in all likelihood wouldn’t bomb cities like this coz he has no where else to go sadly, some how Muslim find there brothers and sadly sympathisers every where. I feel too much centralisation of Isla mis a big problem..it is hindering blossimg and diversity in the religion world wide. or why else one of the most modern religion be perceived the most conservative one. Muslims need to go thru self-realisation and see world from a broader perspective..And its a really sad that even Idnia nMuslim are biting the global terroris bait of some muslim organisations..

Posted by ONP | Report as abusive

SO you have become a political commentator now? I thought you would work for the upliftment of the poor and fill the social and economical divide. But had not expected this from you.

Posted by Swarup | Report as abusive

Good article by David and makes pertinent points. Terrorism-the spreading of terror among civilians and innocents–does not belong to any religion.

There are Islamist terrorists, Hindu terrorists (LTTE, ULFA–Bajrang Dal, VHP, (who kill innocent christians and Muslims)), Christian terrorists (IRA) there were Sikh. So dear bigoted Dev and Koleth, don’t spawn lies and spread your bigotry against Muslims. I condemn terrorism in the name of Islam. Would you condemn LTTE or VHP, Bajrang Dal (who have attacked Christians in Orissa).
Remember, Muslims or Hindus are not violent per se or bad. There are bad elements in every community and many good elements in all communites. Open your minds, Dev and Koleth. And Koleth, you stayed in the Middle East all your life–why did you or your family go there in the first place. Money? Yet you hated the intolerant place but not enough to leave as long as money was being made. What a hypocrite.

Posted by Syed Mansoor | Report as abusive

The Indian army’s Jungle Warfare Training School at Verengite espouses the motto “Fight a Guerilla like a Guerilla”.It hides a truth.You have to fight a guerilla like a guerilla. It is not a matter of choice.Likewise to fight terror one has to adopt some of the same shortcuts.The state (and its functionaries) in order to deal with terror becomes or is forced to become a terrorist itself by adopting some of the same morally ambiguous means. All in the cause for larger good.This is the real victimhood that terror imposes on free and open societies: the various versions of Patriot acts.

I recommend watching DROHKAAL and a particularly prescient movie titled SIEGE that explores this theme.

Gandhiji wanted to win independence through non violent means and since that would take time he desired to live for 125 years.He was a patient man. Neither the government nor the terrorists nor the media can be acused of this virtue.All three , especially the media are under myriad pressures to produce results.
The terrorists want to get there fast through violence since talks would take time, the media ,if it could help it, would get there even faster to break news.

After the Constituional Convention a woman asked Ben Franklin”What have you given us?”. “A republic”, Franklin replied,”if you can keep it.”

Let us try together.

Posted by vijit | Report as abusive

I see here many commenting/putting blame on other religions; A hindu critisising a muslium and vice versa.
Finally we all are indian’s and our main motive here is to get rid from these terrorist activity’s.
I do accept that sometimes the innocent’s suffer but this is inevitable since its the responsibility of police to find the culprits; If there’s a delay in their investigation, would result in another havoc very soon.
These extremists/terrorists got to understand basically that no religion accepts killing innocent people.
Some muslium terrorist groups say that christian’s are their enemy’s and USA is their main target ; Some say they are killing
innocent’s for jihad and its allowed in ISLAM ; This is totally wrong as i have read quran and thers no phrase proving their words.Similarly LTTE have killed many leader’s and innocent people claiming that the local people and army have exploited their women ; Who asked them to go to srilanka and ask for a separate country; Its their fault and finaly trying to justify and negotiate things. Finally, I can only say that poverty and hatred is been converted to terroristm. Whatver may be the case, EVERY INDIVIDUAL HAS TO UNDERSTAND THAT HE/SHE MUST NOT HARM ANYBODY AND RELIGION IS THE ONE CREATED BY HUMAN’S JUST TO TAKE PEOPLE IN THE CORRECT DIRECTION’S
JAI HIND

Posted by Bobby | Report as abusive

Most of the Muslim clerics are not learned. All that they know is learing the Quran by heart. In fact they have not read it with an open mind. This is why Muslims are most scared of their own community. And it is not just against other religions. When they finished killing people of another religion (Hindu, christian, sikh), they start killing sects within Islam (shias, ahmedias), and when that is done they killing non-wahabbis within sunni islam. And then they continue to kill fellow wahabbi-sunni-muslim who does not follow a particular leader. This goes on everywhere. (A popular everyday example of this is Hamas killing Fatah now). And their uneducated leaders keep telling them ‘Islam is under attack, Islam is uder attack, your culture is under attack, do something, do something’. This is why you see a lot of violence on a Friday afternoon. At least the Middle East countries (especially Arab nations) are now very strict about these ‘Islamic scholars’. If they don’t preach what they are told they are immediately arrested and deported.

Posted by Kabeer | Report as abusive

Thank you for this post. As an Indian I am appalled at some of the comments I read here; put these together with the news of killings of Christians in Orissa by Hindu extremists and of Muslims in Kashmir by the Indian army and you have a truly frightening picture of what an “Indian century” might look like. There are some brave Indian reporters investigating this issue as well, at http://www.tehelka.com

Posted by small blue | Report as abusive

Syed Monsoor,

LTTE, ULFA are not religious terrorists. Please learn history. Bajrang dal VHP doesnt have guns and bombs grenades and they have not bombed anywhere so far. If you twist the truth nobody is going to listen to you. Why is it hard for people like you to do a little research before posting. ALl you say seem to make you feel better that muslims are not only terrorists. Muslims are the only global religious terrorists.

Posted by vijay | Report as abusive

Bajran dal and VHP are formed to resist Islamic barbarism more like modern version of Sikhism. IRA are not christian terrorists. they just wanted separate land for Irish people and took extremism but now they have denounced. what goals do these islamic terrorists have ?

Answer me Monsoor, why do you protest “Islam is religion of peace”. “Death to America” both banners side by side.

why do you need so much marketing for islam as a religion of peace if it really is ? Nobody questions Gandhi Mandela or MLK as merchants of peace. Why is it hardsell for Islam ? have you thought about it ?

Posted by vijay | Report as abusive

No one is born terrorist. Many are made and law has a great role in making an innocent person to terrorist. Loose of faith in Indian judiciary and at times assurance of secured life for their family.

Posted by Saly | Report as abusive