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Iftikhar Gilani: The police locked up my children

By Onkar Singh
February 12, 2013 11:14 IST

'Eight policemen were sitting in my drawing room, feeling at home. They had locked up my 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son in a room that did not have a toilet.'

Onkar Singh reports on Iftikhar Gilani's plight after Afzal Guru's execution..

Senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani, the bureau chief of a national daily newspaper, on Monday met R P N Singh, the Union minister of state for home, and lodged a protest against the manner in which he and his family were harassed and detained by plainclothes officers from the Delhi police's 'special cell'.

Gilani and his family were detained on Saturday following the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in Delhi's Tihar jail.

<p"I saw two people hanging around outside my residence (in Khirki Extension, behind Malaviya Nagar, South Delhi). Mistaking them for staff from a courier agency, I told them (my father-in-law and Kashmiri separatist leader) Syed Ali Shah Geelani lived in another house."

"They asked me to accompany them, so I took them to another block and pointed towards the house where Mr Geelani stayed. Then they forced me to go to the house before revealing their true identity," Iftikar Gilani told over the telephone.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq -- leaders of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference's hardline and moderate factions respectively -- were on Saturday placed under house arrest in the national capital as a preventive measure following Afzal Guru's hanging.

Geelani was in Delhi for a medical check-up. Kashmiri separatists have protested against Guru's execution, and strikes have crippled the Kashmir valley since.

"When I returned home, I was in for another shock. Eight policemen were sitting in my drawing room, feeling at home. They had locked up my 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son in a room that did not have a toilet," Iftikar Gilani said.

"The policemen shouted at my neighbours, asking them why they allowed a person like me to stay in their vicinity," he added.

"Saikat Dutta, Delhi bureau chief for the DNA newspaper, was present with me, and he alerted the media about the incident. I was told I would have to face serious consequences. The same special cell had arrested me in 2002. I had to spend eight months in Tihar before being acquitted by the court," Gilani added.

The senior journalist then wrote letters to R P N Singh and Press Council Chairman Justice Markandey Katju, revealing how he and his family were harassed by the police.

Gilani has requested newspapers and television channels not to reveal the names of his children, fearing they would be harassed at school.

"I have no issues with what the government wants to do to maintain law and order in Delhi or elsewhere. I have affirmed repeatedly that I have nothing to do with my father-in-law's politics," Gilani noted.

'I owe my living to journalism for over two decades in Delhi. I feel totally distraught with the behaviour of the security agencies, particularly the special cell of the Delhi police. I feel so scared. I try my best to raise my children in an atmosphere of peace and compassion. I have no idea what should I do to prove myself to be a peace-loving and a law-abiding citizen,' Gilani wrote to the government.

Onkar Singh in New Delhi