By M Ghazali Khan
‘Thrown to stone age. No laptop, no mobile, no desktop. NIA people said order for raid came from the very top and they were woken up at 4 am for this great task of raiding a journalist. They had no patience. They jumped the wall to enter my house like they did with Chidambram.’ This is how Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, former Chairman of Delhi’s Minority Commission (DMC) and editor of Milli Gazette has described the scene of his house-cum-office after the raid, on 29 October 2020, by India’s National Investigating Agency (NIA).
‘I am very sad. I have just come from Milli Gazette’s office,’ young journalist and Urdu writer Mohammad Alamullah wrote in his Facebook post describing the scene at Dr Khan’s premises as, ‘The whole office has been turned into a hell. Police carried out the raid at 4 AM and have not only [thrown and] scattered everything around but have also taken away his laptop, mobile phone, computers, hard cash and cheque books.’
He added, ‘They have also taken with them several of his [precious and important] manuscripts. These include the English translation of the Holy Qur’an on which Dr Khan has been working for more than ten years, [unpublished] books, letters and 600 pages of his memoirs on which Dr Shahidul Islam and I have been working for the last one and half years.’
Interestingly, NIA officials did not miss the opportunity to oblige their blue-eyed boy Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV. In another tweet, Zafarul Islam Khan says, ‘Tell-tale proof godi media-govt collaboration: when no one had incling of the raid, we were locked in our home, our lane was blocked from both ends, no journalist was allowed in, Republic van was parked outside my house. Thanks to people’s resistance, Arnab’s foot soldiers fled.’
It should be remembered that Mr Khan’s house was raided on May 7 2020 as well. At that time the excuse used by the police was a twitter post by him, and a police complaint by a Hindutva activist against him alleging that he was trying to subvert the constitution and promoting enmity between different religious groups.
At that time his arrest was stopped on the intervention of Supreme court lawyer, Vrinda Grover, who pleaded that under Indian Criminal Procedure Code Mr Khan could not be taken anywhere because he is 72 and suffers from age-related ailments. However, there are apprehensions that this time round he may be summoned and arrested.
The real cause of the anger of the Hindutva government against Dr Khan is his persistent and a bold stand against the persecution of Indian Muslims. In an interview in 2017 Mr Khan said, ‘I started The Milli Gazette in January 2000 when I had a good job and I was working as the India correspondent of the Saudi daily, Al-Riyadh. This was a well-paid job that continued for some six years. But when I, among other issues, candidly raised the issue of the excesses meted out to Muslims in Gujarat and Kashmir etc, this caused problems. One day the Saudi ambassador in Delhi called me at the embassy and told me bluntly, “We are trying to build good relations with India and you are trying to spoil these relations.” He asked me not to write anything that was against the Indian Government. Such a gag order was not acceptable to me. He must have also spoken to the Al-Riyadh newspaper. Soon small complaints started to come from the newspaper and eventually I quit the job.’
However, the new pretext to harass him and his family is the alleged funding of terror activities in Kashmir by Charity Alliance—a welfare organisation run by Dr Khan helping poor and needy people in meeting medical bills and educational fees.
It should also be remembered that Dr Khan, during his three years’ tenure as Chairman of DMC, was the first man to breath a life in this lifeless body and enabled it to use its teeth and stand on its legs. He completely overhauled this institution which, until his appointment as its head, was merely there as a showpiece and had never performed any of the roles it was legally required to perform.
Since all of his writings and activities are in the public domain, the easiest option for the Hindutva government is to implicate Dr Khan’s Charity Alliance in imaginary and fictitious activities.
The Charity Alliance has taken active part in relief work and the rehabilitation of the victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 and then constructed a residential colony for displaced people.
Even during the Delhi riots in February 2020 Dr Khan toured the riot-hit areas and arranged relief for the riot victims.
The Central government is specially upset with him because as DMC’s Chairman he used all his legal rights and powers and on several occasions succeeded in stopping the highly prejudiced and anti-Muslim police and administration in pursuing and illegally implementing their Islamophobic agenda.
The Hindutva government has been so successful in spreading anti-Muslim hatred that, as can be seen on social media and in letters to newspaper editors, even educated people seem to be giving the least importance to Modi’s poor governance, the fast-deteriorating law and order situation in the country and its declining economy. They are happy to see Modi ‘cutting Muslims to size’ or ‘teaching Muslims a lesson’. And why should they not be happy at what is being done to the Muslims? Afterall they rumours have been spread that once the CAA is implemented and Muslims are deprived of their citizenships, all of their properties and businesses would be taken from them and given to the Hindus.
And this is exactly what Modi’s Hindutva government is busy doing. During the Gujarat massacre of 2002, he made sure that along with poor and less well-off Muslims, who are generally the target during anti-Muslim riots, prominent Muslims were particularly victimised. The raid on Dr Khan’s house is part of that old plan and strategy. This seeks to convey to Muslims a message that when the big ones among them are not safe, they count for nothing.
Dr Khan agrees with this view but also thinks that, ‘To create baseless sensational issues during election time is a well-tested trick of the Hindutva brigade. In the Bihar assembly election they have not been able to play Hindutva card as brazenly as they usually do, hence a negative propaganda against Muslim NGOs and charity organisations. In addition, this is also a tactic to frighten and to pressurise Indian Muslims to remain silent on the atrocities being committed against Kashmiris and the Government’s overall policies in the state. Indian Muslims’ stand has always been that Kashmir, with its special status, is an integral part of India. We are for India’s integrity but cannot remain silent on the brutalities the Government is committing in Kashmir.’ He told me on the phone.
He added, ‘They are trying to implicate me in terrorism by trying to prove that through Charity Alliance I have supported terror activities in Kashmir. This is a blatant lie. Our charity is involved only in providing educational aid, food aid, medical aid, shelter aid, aid to small businesses and orphans and widows.’
Dr Khan further said, ‘They came here to raid Charity Alliance but have taken everything belonging to Milli Gazette, our publishing company Pharos Group and the mobile phones, not only of us but of some relatives who happened to be at our house at that time. These are difficult times for Indian Muslims but we are not scared or demoralised. We will continue our struggle for justice in a peaceful and legal manner.’
Apart from Dr Khan’s Charity Alliance, NIA has also conducted searches at some other Muslim organisations in J&K and Delhi based Human Welfare Foundation (HWF).
While several Indian Muslim organisations have strongly condemned these raids, a damning indictment of BJP government’s highly has also been issued by the international organisations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
‘The Indian government is using counterterrorism operations to silence peaceful dissenters…the authorities carried out several raids on the offices of nongovernmental organizations, activists’ homes, and a newspaper office in Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, and Bangalore.’ Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
It added, ‘The raids are part of a crackdown by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on civil society groups. The authorities have increasingly brought politically motivated criminal cases, including under broadly worded terrorism and sedition laws, against activists, journalists, academics, students, and others and used foreign funding regulations to target outspoken groups for their human rights work.’
Amnesty International has demanded that, ‘The Indian government must immediately halt its intensifying suppression of dissent.’
Amnesty’s Acting Secretary General Julie Vehaar said, ‘These raids are an alarming reminder that India’s government is determined to suppress all dissenting voices in Jammu and Kashmir.’