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ASAD ASHRAF | 27 MAY, 2016

When I Went Into Times Now TV Studio as a Journalist And Came Out Branded an Extremist!


NEW DELHI: One question that I have been asked frequently-- ever since I have come back from Times Now Arnab Goswami’s News Hour show, where he declared me a sympathizer of ISIS along with other panelists and a cover for the Indian Mujahideen --- is why did I go to his show in the first place? Indeed, the question is valid and holds relevance considering the fact that we all know what Arnab Go Swami is up to on his shows. And the way he conducts debates, rather media trails, where he is the sole judge and advocate.

Initially, when I got an invitation to join him on the debate on Batla House-ISIS, I was reluctant and said no to the desk coordinator of Times Now. But on her insistence and assurance that I will be given a fair chance to put across my points, I finally agreed, knowing little about how shallow this promise is going to turn out to be.

However, I was very clear about the consequences of my presence over there considering the fact that I am no bigwig of the industry and recalling what the same man had done to JNU student Umar Khalid and his comrades recently.

But in the other side of my head, there was something else going on, something that has kept me disturbed since the last 8 years, an incident which caused me sleepless nights for weeks. This incident was none other than the Batla house encounter itself.

As a young student studying at Jamia Millia Islamia, I got a chance to witness the travesty of justice that had taken place right in front of my own eyes. It was an incident that made me think, made me more serious and aware. I developed a sense of social consciousness.

It was also the first time that I started thinking about myself as Muslim and what it means to be a Muslim in India.

Since then I have left no space and opportunity to articulate my concerns about the authenticity of that encounter, I have used every possible platform to question the dominant narrative hovering around that encounter in the hope that there will be justice.

And it is probably this that pushed me to participate in that show that night; it is because I did not want any to miss any chance to put across my concerns about the need for justice.. I was well aware of Goswami’s reputation, I knew he was going to target me, but I never thought that I would return home being branded an extremist, an IM cover!

Now it wouldn’t be justified on my part to merely claim that the Batla House encounter was fake without producing any substantial evidence as this would leave me and Arnab Goswami on the same pitch. And make me little different from the man who continues to scream without logic and reason in his studio.

Yes of course, I have strong reasons to believe that the Batla House encounter was fake. And I can state at least some facts, building an argument based on logic and reason.

To start with lets examine the case of Sajid Bada, who supposedly escaped from the narrow lanes of the vicinity? If one inspects the scene of the encounter, it does seem that it will be impossible for anyone to escape from there without detection, as the narrow lanes were flooded with the police. But lets presume that he did manage that feat, and went to West Asia through Pakistan, and later joined the ISIS, there have been reports now that have killed the man at least thrice: in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. When I tried to point this out I was told by the celebrated anchor---rather stupidly---how does it matter if he was dead or alive, if he was a cat with nine lives! Probably for Goswami a dead man can rise from his grave to record a video and then go back to his grave again.

The postmortem report of two men Aatif Ameen and Sajid revealed that one was shot from the back and the other was fired in the head. How is this possible in a genuine encounter? This led to questions that were asked not by me, but experts, scholars, fact finding report but how can someone make a propagandist understand, or at least appreciate, facts?

Apart from this, there were reportedly several marks on their bodies which clearly indicated that they were beaten up by some flat objects before being shot at.

I am sure Bhakti has no limits and people would still have doubts about all that I have written here, for them I would make one last attempt, though being fully aware that it wouldn’t change their mind either, because it’s not what they believe or not, it’s what they want to believe?

However, I will continue to do my duty as a journalist, Investigations revealed that Aatif, one of the ‘dreaded terrorists had gone through a proper police verification of the flat in which they were living, and for the same he had given his original documents. Now, why would a terrorist planning to plant bombs in a city give his original documents to the police.? A simple, but very important question.

Coming down to a magisterial enquiry as prescribed by NHRC guidelines, there was no such enquiry carried out except that a sham NHRC report was prepared that ignored various facets of the case and parroted the police version.

Why can’t the government conduct a judicial probe into the matter when there was such a strong demand for it ? Hasn’t there be judicial enquiries into encounters before? And if the enquiry was under an agreed upon impartial commission or committee, its findings would help in closure that is always important---but rarely happens---in such cases.

Before I conclude this piece, I would talk about the Arnab phenomenon, as that is rare, it need guts for a person to shout at such a high pitch without any reason every night. I mean of course there is a reason, that is TRP but not any moral reason, which clearly signifies that you shout not because you boil in rage, but you scream because it is the need for your survival.

If one is aware of the famous work by Noam Chomsky called manufacturing Goswami will not be difficult. He fits exactly into the category of those who manufacture consent among people. For instance that journalists like us who question, and students need to be lynched.

As for the ISIS, I strongly oppose any such ideology that engages in mindless violence. But why should I be asked to condemn it? Surely like all sane Indian citizens my condemnation of such extremism and terror should be taken for granted. I do not ask Goswami and his ilk to stand up and condemn the violence in Gujarat by his co-religionists. Or the Christians to condemn Hitler just because he came from that religion? So why now as a Muslim am I being held responsible for all crimes of terror and extremism, to the point where I am being branded as one also?

I hope the answers to all the questions I am raising here are not just blowing in the wind.

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