Conspiracy of Silence by Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam (MAY 22, 2013)

Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam wonders why the vociferous TV anchors and wordy editorialisers are quiet on the mysterious death of a Muslim youth in police custody in Uttar Pradesh.

Mohammad Khalid Mujahid, an accused in a blast case of 2007, died mysteriously on May 18 while being taken to Lucknow jail from Faizabad court. The man had no history of heart disease or any symptom related to any disease that could lead to sudden death.

The police, in whose custody the death occurred, said he felt “uneasy” on way to Lucknow and was taken to Barabanki hospital where doctors declared him brought-dead. Mujahid’s lawyer alleged foul play, as did his family. Death in police custody or jail is a serious issue attracting public condemnation and fixing of accountability.

Media’s silence on the issue has been deafening. The moral outrage shown by TV anchors on recent events of similar custodial deaths was completely absent. The Indian Express put a small news item on the front page and, to its credit, mentioned that superintendents of both Lucknow and Faizabad jails said he was hale and hearty when he left Lucknow and Faizabad jails respectively. Foul play in police custody seems to be only a natural conclusion.

Recently, the Nimesh Commission, formed by the UP government, had concluded that Khalid Mujahid and his fellow accused were wrongly implicated in the case. The government, following the commission report, had asked the Barabanki court to drop the case. However, the court rejected the plea. Meanwhile, he has been removed from the scene extrajudicially. The moral crusader, The Times of India, buried the two-paragraph news item in Page 11.

So, where is the outrage and six-column to eight-column headlines and the constant, noisy chatter on TV 24x7?

The UP government has announced a CBI enquiry. But what happened to all those enquiries into all those anti-Muslim riots under Akhilesh raj? We wonder whether this custodial death too is going to be whitewashed away in a conducive environment of conspiratorial silence.

Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh must be knowing what it is going to mean in terms of Muslim votes. As a measure of appeasement the UP government nominated a Muslim ministers of state within hours, which reminded people of the lollipop Narasimha Rao offered Muslims after presiding over the demolition of Babri Masjid and mass murder of Muslims. Rao made Zafar Saifullah the Cabinet Secretary to Government of India. Saifullah was heartless enough to accept it.

Media’s conspiracy of silence is compounded by the unprofessional, communal and loutish attitude of some lawyers who physically assaulted Mujahid’s lawyer. The local police, too, do not seem to be perturbed over the decline in standards of the bar’s behaviour. The police said they could not do anything against the culprits as the FIR contained only their surnames like Verma and Sharma.

Amazingly, the thanedar sahib did not bother to know their first names. So, how do we describe this state of affairs?


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