A High Court judgement and its disturbing reporting by India’s English-language media has gone virtually unnoticed.
On June 27, the Bombay High Court granted bail to Mohammad Raisuddin Mohamman Siddique, arrested by NIA in connection with the Parbhani IS (Islamic State aka ISIS) terror module in July 2016. Siddique and others were charged with associating with IS, committing unlawful acts and recruiting people for the banned global terrorist organization.
Law enforcement found an advanced explosive device (IED) being assembled on an electricity board in the house of one of the accused, Iqbal Ahmed. They also found an ‘Oath’ or declaration written in Urdu in Ahmed’s house, declaring their allegiance to IS head Abu Bakr Al Baghadi. Subsequent investigation had revealed that the declaration was written by Siddique, who worked as a teacher at Hingoli at the relevant time, and he and others were arrested in the case.
- Two accused in the case have already pled guilty to the terror charges, been convicted and sentenced to 7 years jail. Another accused Iqbal Ahmed, in whose house the IED and oath of allegiance to IS was found, was given bail in August, 2021. SC upheld that bail to Ahmed on Feb 11, 2022.
- Multiple prosecution witnesses testified that the accused Siddique and others would support the actions of ISIS to avenge ‘atrocities against Islam’ in India and elsewhere, and that they had jihadi leanings.
- However, the HC bench in a remarkable piece of judicial analysis said, “All the statements, if perused, indicate that the statements are in the realm of discussions and deliberations that took place between the accused and the witnesses. Prima-facie, there is no material to indicate that the appellant instigated the commission of any offence or insurgency, nor that the appellant advocated violent reactions…one can reasonably conclude that, at the highest, what took place were mere discussions as to what was transpiring in India and the world and that everyone should work for Islam. The said statements prima-facie cannot be said to be incriminating.”
- On the matter of the oath of allegiance to terror group Islamic State’s founder Abu-Bakr al Baghdadi that Siddique and two others accused signed, the HC bench says this “Admittedly, the name at the end of the Oath (Baith) is mentioned as `Abu Zunera Al Hindi’. According to the prosecution, the appellant has used `Abu’ in several of his email Ids and that Zunera is the name of his daughter. The said Oath (Baith) was allegedly found at the residence of accused No. 3-Iqbal Ahmed. The said Oath (Baith), translated copy of which is at page 39, appears to be a declaration of the acceptance of one Abi Bakar Al Baghdadi Al Hussaini Al Quraishi as the `Caliph’ of the Muslims….Prima-facie, a perusal of the said Oath (Baith) does not appear to be incriminating.“
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is arguably one of the most recognized Islamic terrorists across the entire world, second only to Osama Bin Laden. Islamic State is a fanatical terrorist organization that has not just left a trail of devastation and terror in Iraq and Syria, but spawned attacks on targets across the world, including Europe. The IS-Khorasan unit based in Afghanistan has openly declared war on the Republic of Bharat, and their propaganda videos and e-magazines now openly exhort Indian Muslims to wage jihad against ‘kafirs’.
So when a High Court says that bearing an oath of allegiance to such a global terrorist and the organization he founded is ‘not incriminating’, it must make every thinking Bharatiya sit up and take notice. This is not the first time our High Courts have delivered such judgements. In April, Karnataka HC bench of Justice B Veerappa and Justice S. Rachaiah said “Attending jihadi meetings, purchasing training material, sheltering co-members not a terrorist act” while granting bail to IS terror suspect Saleem Khan.
Also, we must not forget that Baghdadi was praised by a leading Sunni Muslim maulana linked to Lucknow’s Nadwatul Ulema seminary.
In essence, both the secular state’s institutions and influential clerics are signaling to Muslim youth that it is ok to hero-worship Baghdadi and groups like IS as long as you are not caught carrying out actual terror attacks.
Incidentally, the judgement in this case states that the terror module members attended programs of an organzation called AIAMS at Akola. But further details on this AIAMS are not forthcoming. An Indian Express report informs us that Iqbal Ahmed’s bail conditions were relaxed in July after SC asked HC to listen to his plea. The Parbhani module has been accused of plotting an attack on Aurangabad ATS.
How Hindustan Times covered the judgement
Now, let’s examine the other remarkable aspect of this issue. The way it was covered by Hindustan Times reporter Kanchan V Chaudhari in an article dated June 27, 2022 titled “Mere acceptance of Iraqi militant leader as Caliph not enough, says HC while granting bail to Parbhani ISIS module accused” (article archived here)
The word ‘terrorist’ comes up 12 times in the HC judgement, and at 2 places it explicitly states the prosecution position about IS/ISIS being a banned terrorist organization –
“It is the prosecution case..was in contact with the members of the Islamic States/Islamic States of Iraq and Levant (ISIL)/ Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Daish, a terrorist organization banned by the Government of India vide Notification K.A. 534(A) on 16 th February 2015“
“It is also alleged that the Oath (Baith) owing allegiance to a banned terrorist organization was recovered from the house of accused No.3-Iqbal Ahmed.”
The word ‘militant’ comes up zero times in the HC judgement.
So why did Hindustan Times reduce a dangerous global terrorist like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to a mere ‘Iraqi militant’? For those who are confused as to why this is such a big deal, should refer to this article by a security expert explaining the difference between the two terms.
Those who understand how narratives are framed will also point out how the term ‘militant’ is attached to Hindu organizations by the West, something gleefully and unquestioningly reported by sepoys to audiences back home –
The liberal game is simple. VHP/BD (and by extension RSS/BJP) are ‘militant Hindus’, and Islamic State is a ‘militant Iraqi’ group. Both are equally bad – or good, depending on what argument you want to make.
Another thing that this judgement highlights is judicial delay. As stated by the bench, “the prayer for bail on account of prolonged delay in conclusion of trial needs to be considered in the background of the period of incarceration, the prospect of completion of trial within a reasonable time, the gravity of the charge….appellant is in custody since his arrest on 14 th July 2016 i.e. for almost 7 years (sic). Considering the number of witnesses to be examined, it is unlikely that the trial would conclude within a reasonable time.”
This is a stinging admission and indictment of Bharat’s criminal justice system. For all the talk of fast-track courts that we have heard for the last 2 decades, even trials of those accused of serious crimes like terrorism are dragging interminably? And convicted terrorists are given just a 7-year jail term? If this is not a definition of a soft state, and an invitation for more terror attacks, what is?
No praise can be high enough for NIA and other investigative agencies that have prevented terror attacks in our major cities in recent years. The staggering number of busted terror modules show that Bharat remains high on the Islamic terror list. Sadly, our inability to speedily and effectively punish these radicals and neuter the socio-religious-political milieu which spawns them, means that we are trapped in a never-ending war where the enemy holds the psychological upper hand.