Defaming Indian Muslims and ISI
Sultan M Hali


Muhammad Ali and Anjuman Ara, in their Op-ed titled The making of ISI agents, depict the sad story of poor Indian Muslims, who are snared by the Indian agencies and forced to “confess” that they are agents of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). These hapless Muslims are pressurised to pay huge bribes, failing which they are implicated in false cases and presented as ISI operatives. The duo presents the miserable plight of Muhammad Hanif, who has been trapped into being labelled as an “ISI agent”.

According to the Assam police, he is an ISI agent although this has not yet been proved in the court because there is no witness, nor is there any evidence against him; but in the eyes of the police he has all the traits that make him an easy scapegoat to be implicated: poor, defenceless, vulnerable with relatives in Pakistan whom he had visited once, on top of that an Indian Muslim - a deadly combination indeed. Hanif’s story is a tale of an innocent person being falsely implicated in a terror case, then the systematic harassment of the poor man who could not even afford a lawyer.
According to the writers, Hanif was leading a normal life as a tailor until the night of July 13, 2005, when he was picked up by the Uttar Pradesh police and was brutally tortured for an entire week. He was told that he was an “ISI agent”, who was involved in taking out some “sensitive” documents from the army camp, Tezpur, Assam, to hand them over to the Pakistani officers based in New Delhi. In order to extract a “confession” from him, the police employed brutal third degree methods and treated him worse than animals. When Hanif refused to “confess”, he was told by the police that he would be set free if he named some “rich Muslims” whom the police could arrest on the pretext of being a terrorist and extract money from them; something which Hanif refused to do because of the fact that it would have been “wrong.” His refusal to obey the junior police officers made them furious and they, reportedly, sent his name as one of the accused in the case which originally belonged to Assam. The main accused in the case is Hanif’s namesake, Muhammad Hanif Khan who was in 2005 serving in the Indian army in Tezpur division.
For around six months, the innocent Hanif flurried between jails in Assam and Tihar jail in New Delhi. In November 2005, after paying huge money, this poor tailor managed to get bail. His wife told the writers that “he is passing through an acute state of depression, because of the stigma attached to being a terrorist and also because his poor father had to sell his shop and other belongings to raise the bail money.” He can no longer get a job because of being branded as an “ISI agent”; his children cannot go to school because he cannot afford the fees.
Also, the authors quote senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who in the case of Hanif sees a pattern. He opines that there are hundreds of innocent and defenceless Muslims, who have been falsely implicated in cases, registered as “ISI agents” and are either suffering incarceration for scores of years or are pining away in ignominy, till they are killed in false police encounters and presented as terrorists. According to him: “The only possible solution to deal with these cases is the constitution of high powered panel empowered to withdraw terror charges.” He also advocates punishment to the concerned police officers in case any alleged terror suspect is found to be innocent.
Nevertheless, there are a number of cases of similar nature. Such cases indicate the extent the Indian agencies go to implicate innocent and poor Indian Muslims to conjure “ISI agents”, and kill them when they need proof of Pakistan’s hand in terror activities. This clandestine operation of trapping poor Muslims and propaganda against the ISI must be exposed.