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Encounter in Delhi, ripples in Azamgarh

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru | November 19, 2008 12:26 IST

The Batla House encounter generated a lot of buzz. While some termed the encounter fake, the security agencies defended it, saying the encounter helped crack the Delhi [Images] serial blasts case. 

An immediate after-effect of this encounter was felt at Azamgarh district in Uttar Pradesh [Images] and it was not long before this district was branded as a "nursery of terror".

The Jahastakshep-PUDR(People's Union of Democratic Rights) fact-finding team subsequently did undertake a fact-finding investigation in Azamgarh. The group sought to inquire the myth and reality of relationships between terrorism, place and religion and also into the fear and anguish pervading the area.

Azamgarh is one of the backward districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh, having no industry, or professional/higher educational institutions, the main economic activity is agriculture.

The few towns of the district, once known for their exemplary crafts, are getting pushed into oblivion. In this situation, young people seeking higher education and professional training go to other cities -- Lucknow, Varanasi, Aligarh and Delhi being the favourite destinations. Azamgarh residents have a history of over a century of migrating in search of work and the same continues today.

During the investigation conducted by the group it was found that boys belonging to the district are being haunted as scapegoats. 17-year-old Sajid, who was killed in the encounter and 2 others, are said to have come to Delhi  around two months before the encounter.

The residents of Azamgarh city, Saraimir and Sanjarpur say that there had been no communal tension and rift in area prior to the 'Hindutva attack' on its composite culture when MP Yogi Adityanath toured the city. The minor tension generated in the wake of BJP's provocative rally proved to be short-lived. All of them are critical of the administration and media for demonizing Azamgarh, and want that all this must stop and the people of Azamgarh should be left to regain the peace and harmony, that is to restore the original balance.

The report points out that the people, especially Muslims in Azamgarh town, Saraimir and Sanjarpur are living in constant fear.  A battalion of the RAF, scores of police personnel continue to camp in these places. The locals allege that they are being threatened everyday by security personnel.

The report points out that the custodial confessions appear to be the primary basis of the police investigation. These are not admissible in court as evidence owing to the possibility of them being extracted under torture. The prolonged police custody, allegedly to 'investigate' the cases, increases the possibility of torture on the accused.

The police have denied access to parents and lawyers, and instead made them 'confess' under duress to their families on telephone. Moreover, the family members have not been informed about the arrests. The police personnel have consistently attempted to intimidate and pressurize families of all arrested and missing from Jamianagar and Azamgarh, the report said.

 The impact of all this has been singularly terrifying for Muslims of Azamgarh. Parents and relatives of arrested boys were so scared that they were hesitant even to appoint lawyers and meeting them despite High Court order, permitting the meeting.

The atmosphere is such that out of fear parents are calling back their children studying outside. Many students studying outside had disconnected themselves from the family and relatives. In the villages in and around Sanjarpur, residents, afraid of sudden police raid, were keeping night vigil.

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