KASHMIR: Prominent journalist in Srinagar, Muzamil Jaleel, assaulted by Indian police
Mr. Jaleel is a prominent and respected journalist who is presently the Srinagar bureau chief of The Indian Express. Mr. Jaleel is also well known internationally, and he recently wrote a series of articles on many issues, including human rights issues related to Kashmir for The Guardian and The Observer in Britain. Mr. Jaleel has also assisted AHRC in numerous activities, including fact-finding missions and training programmes for journalists on human rights.
The assault on Mr. Jaleel took place around 9:15 p.m. on Saturday Aug. 31, 2002, when he was returning home from work. While crossing the road near his Jawahar Nagar residence, he noticed a road accident involving a private car and one of Rafiqul Hassan¡¯s escort vehicles. Without ascertaining Mr. Jaleel¡¯s identity, the policemen, reportedly at the behest of Superintendent of Police (SP) Hassan, grabbed the journalist and began hitting him with their rifle butts. Despite Mr. Jaleel¡¯s pleas that he had nothing to do with the car owner and was just on his way home, the SP¡¯s guards continued to beat him, not stopping even when the injured reporter fell to the ground. Threatening to kill him, the policemen then pushed him into a vehicle for a few minutes before finally letting him go.
Mr. Jaleel, who managed to reach home, was rushed to SMHS Hospital from where the doctors referred him to SKIMS, Soura hospital, suffering from injuries to his head. The extent of the injuries, according to the doctors, can only be ascertained after obtaining the CT scan report.
A complaint was lodged against the SP and his guards at the Rajbagh police station on the following day, i.e., Sunday Sept. 1, 2002. However, AHRC learned that the officers attached to the police station refused to accept this first information report (FIR) initially. It took them four days to accept this FIR as it was only accepted on Sept. 4, 2002.
The state¡¯s top police and civil officials have promised to take action against the policemen.
"The case will not die down. I have asked IG [inspector general], Kashmir, to inquire into the matter. Let me assure you that action will be taken against the guilty," said Chief Secretary I. S. Malhi.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) K. Rajendra said that Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Kashmir, Farooq Ahmad, had been asked to conduct an inquiry. "After his report, we will order a departmental inquiry," he told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, journalists in the Kashmir Valley have condemned the police action. AHRC considers the assault on Mr. Jaleel a serious violation of his rights as a person and especially as a journalist and an arbitrary use of violence by the police in Srinagar that is totally unacceptable. Mr. Jaleel was just going home and did nothing to warrant such an assault, which took place while a senior officer of the rank of superintendent of police was watching in his vehicle. The Indian police have a notorious record for torture, custodial rape, extrajudicial executions and corruption in many parts of India, including Kashmir. This incident further proves the arbitrary and violent behaviour of the Indian police on civilians.
"What has happened to Muzamil Jaleel is not just an isolated incident. Such violent assaults and torture are perpetrated by the Indian police on many average citizens routinely and systematically," said Sanjeewa Liyanage, executive officer of AHRC. "AHRC is also aware of the never-ending so-called 'internal inquiries' by the police and the use of such 'inquiries' as an excuse to show the public and media that 'some action has taken place.' AHRC, however, would like to see real, effective and expedient action on this case by the police authorities in India as well as any others in the future," stated Mr. Liyanage.
Mr. Liyanage further stated that AHRC is aware that the policemen who assaulted Mr. Jaleel are at large and that no action has been taken against them thus far. AHRC, he added, hopes that effective action in this case will act as a deterrent to prevent similar incidents from occurring to any civilian in the future. AHRC believes that the professionalism of the Indian police force, as claimed in documents, should be proven with effective and expedient action, that perpetrators should be properly dealt with based on the law and that cover-ups and delaying tactics only prove otherwise.
Asian Human Rights Commission
Sept. 5, 2002, Hong Kong
** For further information you may contact Sanjeewa Liyanage, Executive Officer of the AHRC at: +(852) 2698-6339 (office hours) or +(852) 9250-5990 (after office hours).