Kazmi’s bail: A milestone, not the ultimate victory

Syed Zafar Mehdi

The incarceration of Mr. Ahmad Kazmi, a veteran journalist and political commentator, in connection with February 13 Israeli Embassy car blast case, has yet again exposed the murky underbelly of India’s police system. The routine vilification of people from a particular section of society is nothing new in this democratic secular republic. In Kazmi’s case, however, it assumed uglier proportions. Today, as he walks out on bail, after serving eight long harrowing months behind bars, it is certainly a big day for his family, and a moment of vindication for all of us, who believe he is only a pawn in a sinister game.

On a personal note, it is a small victory for me as well. From day one, as I tracked the case, I was convinced that he has been framed under dubious charges. As the plot thickened gradually and different versions began to float in air, I could see the glaring loopholes in the case. Repeatedly failing to file the chargesheet, police resorted to third-degree methods to extract confession from him under duress. His family and friends were bullied and intimidated. Phones were tapped and his house was put under surveillance. The Free Kazmi website was hacked. There was clearly more to it than met the eye.

On March 07, I was in office, doing routine stuff. Suddenly, news flashed that an accused in Israeli embassy car blast case has been arrested by Delhi Police’s Special Cell near Lodhi Road. The ‘accused’ happened to be an eminent Urdu media journalist, a noted commentator on Midde East affairs, who was often invited for debates on national television. My initial reaction was one of shock and outrage. The name sounded strikingly familiar. I dialed some of my sources and verified the details. I wanted to meet his family but it was already too late and I had to rush home from office.

The next morning, almost all the newspapers were replete with stories and pictures about his arrest. Most of them were lop-sided stories, and in all likelihood, ‘planted’ by vested interests. The loud-mouthed news anchors on prime time shows lost no time in inviting few self-styled legal luminaries, staging television trails, and declaring him a dreaded terrorist, Iranian under-cover agent, etc.

I was angry, outraged and disgusted. I wrote an article the same day for Iran-based IRIB, for which the ‘accused’ had worked earlier. The article was reproduced by many other publications. The idea was to counter the propaganda of the mainstream media, and throttle their biased narrative. It was heartening to see so many people come out in his support and demand fair trial and justice. The social networking sites were abuzz, and the show of solidarity was tremendous.

His family was shattered. His son, fresh out of college, was holding first press conference of his life, in Press Club lawns. Surrounded by some of the prominent journalists and civil society members, he managed to put up brave front, and answered all the uncomfortable questions, until he finally broke down. His face and voice were somewhat familiar. He turned out to be my junior from our boarding school. We met again few days later, at JNU, where both of us addressed a public meeting, organized by students at JNU. I was amazed how he had evolved in just few days. There were no more tears, but only strong resolve to fight for justice.

Soon, the campaign for justice intensified. Candle light marches and protest rallies were held at many places including India Gate, Jantar Mantar, Parliament Street, Okhla Head, Jor Bagh, etc. It spread to other parts of country like Lucknow, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Aligarh and even people in UK, Iran and some other countries joined in. Some young boys in UK did incredible job in keeping the ‘Free Kazmi’ site up and running. I remember how we used to coordinate at midnight to post stuff on it. The site was hacked and that was quite shocking for us.

I was moved when editors at Aljazeera English went out of their way to publish my article on the whole Free Kazmi campaign. Many people wrote words of gratitude to me after that. But, when another article of mine was published in Daily Times Pakistan, I found myself in the center of storm; I had mentioned cases of few Kashmiris alongside his case, because there were many similarities between them. The people, bunch of jingoists, who had earlier encouraged me to write, suddenly took out the daggers and attacked me.  The smear campaign against me was quite upsetting. But, I had to take it in my stride. Being journalists, we have to be ready for it always.

The campaign for justice continued, and more people joined in. A group of senior journalists and activists came together and formed ‘Syed Kazmi Solidarity Group’, which was a great move. We knew it was only a matter of time before he would be out on bail. The lies and obfuscations cannot muzzle the voice of truth for too long. Today, he is out on bail. Thousands of people went to receive him outside highly-fortified Tihar jail. But, he is not a free man yet.

Let’s make no mistake about it. It is a small milestone in the path, not the ultimate victory. The campaign will continue until he is acquitted. And, not just him, all those who have been framed under dubious charges, and are undergoing trails for the crimes they never committed. The fight is on, and it shall continue forever.

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About Zafar Mehdi
Maverick journalist, irreverent rebel, travel freak, cricket junkie, reluctant fundamentalist, student of life, dreamer, believer.

2 Responses to Kazmi’s bail: A milestone, not the ultimate victory

  1. Nazia says:

    Thanks Zafar for a nice article. Yes we do remember how we used to wake you up in the middle of the night or early morning which used to be your midnight. I too remember your first speech in JNU where I felt, you also feel deep for oppressed person equally we feel as a family. That was the only reason I approached you for freekazmi.website. I, on behalf of our family, own you profound thanks.

  2. Kumayl HV says:

    MashaALLAH (s) good
    keep it up..

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