Gujarat State has done it once again !
In a predawn "swoop" on Sunday, 1st June, the City Police Commissioner O. P. Mathur, filed a complaint against the Resident Editor of the Time of India, Mr. Bharat Desai, a Correspondent, Mr. Prashant Dayal and a Photographer (actually, the photographer named is Mr. Gautam Mehta who is currently with the 'Gujarat Samachar' and not with 'The Times of India').
According to Mathur, the persons named had committed offences against Sections 124A (Sedition), 120B (Criminal Conspiracy), and 34 (Common Intent) of the IPC.
What "The Times of India" (TOI) did, was to publish a series of articles beginning May 28th, with serious questions raised on the newly appointed Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad. The first article entitled "How can Ahmedabad be safe in his hands ?" raised a key question as to whether, as the head of the Latif squad, Mathur was actually "on the don's payroll". It also highlighted the fact that as DGP, CID (Crime and Jails) and somebody in charge of the Sabarmati Jail, mobile phones and SIM cards were freely used by hardcore criminals in the jail premises including regular calls made to Pakistan.
In a second article entitled "OPM high A'bad can do without" the TOI brought to the attention of its readers, a case registered against Mathur for attempting to sexual harassment and issuing threats to a woman lawyer. Another article alongside, emphasized the fact that inspite of being the head of the Latif squad in 1992, he did not go to arrest Latif in Ahmedabad.
The final article entitled "Crooked path to the crown" very emphatically states that O. P. Mathur got the position of Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad, as a reward for botching up the probe into the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin, a close associate of mafia don Latif. The "dead" Sohrabuddin grabbed national headlines when senior IPS officers were arrested and are still in jail for killing him in a fake encounter apparently because "he was in Gujarat to kill the CM" !. Most human rights activists and other civil society members found it hard to believe that an extortionist like Sohrabuddin would want to kill the CM ! When the truth was finally revealed, an important CD which apparently had telephone records of top ranking BJP politicians of the State, went missing. This CD went missing when it was in Mathur's custody and it apparently provided the confidence, according to the TOI, to the Gujarat Government to admit in an affidavit to the Supreme Court "that the Sohrabuddin encounter was fake and that is why Kauserbi was also killed by the same policemen".
This final story seemed to be the last nail in the coffin of Mathur. On the same day (May 30th), the Times of India conducted among its readers, a high profile survey "Do you want O.P. Mathur to continue as Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad ?". The response, when it was published next day had an overwhelming 98% of the respondents saying that "he had to be shown the door", whilst just 2% said "no". With his back to the wall, the Commissioner then filed the complaint of Sedition" and "Conspiracy against the State".
Human Rights Activists, media personnel, intellectuals and others from all walks of life have come out openly to protest against the charges made by the Commissioner. Several questions are being raised :
Ø Does the media have the responsibility of revealing the Truth to the public ?
Ø Does the State / Administration have the right to gag the media, to suppress the Constitutional Right of the Freedom of Speech and Expression ?
Ø How does raking up the muck of the Police Commissioner's past (and apparently of his "dubious" links), give him an opportunity to file charges as serious as Sedition and
Conspiracy against the State ?
Ø Is the Police Commissioner The State ?
What Gujarat experiences today is yet another "milestone" in the emergence of a fascist State. The nexus between the politicians and the police in the Gujarat Carnage was very evident. When Dalits, Adivasis and Minorities are bashed up by the right-wing Hindu elements, practically no cases are allowed to be filed against the perpetrators. When the media, which is an indispensable pillar of democracy, stands up for the Truth, every attempt is made to muzzle its voice. If this is not terrorism, what is ?
Civil society in Gujarat has allowed too much to happen in too short a period time. It has to come out loud and strong to stop those who are responsible for such acts of "terrorism".
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is the Director of "Prashant", the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
' PRASHANT '
Ahmedabad 380 052
4th June 2008