New Delhi: Two days after he was detained by police along with his family following the execution of Afzal Guru, senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani on Monday said his children were still scared, and he was scared for them too.
Gilani and his family were detained Saturday by the special cell of Delhi Police. Gilani's 16-year-old daughter is a student of Class 9, while his 14-year-old son is a student of Class 7.
"Police locked my children in their rooms and about 10 officers were there. Whatever happened to me is not an issue; but the way they behaved with my children, that was totally outrageous," Gilani said.
"The treatment of my children by the police haunts me. They are scared, they are so young, this is the age when events leave a deep impact," he said.
Iftikhar Gilani was taken to the residence of his father-in-law S.A.S. Geelani, leader of the Jamaat e Islami. Gilani's wife too moved to be with her father, leaving the two teenaged children alone at home, locked in their bedrooms.
Gilani was let off after some media persons assembled at the spot and protested his detention.
"I had SMSed my office, so I was not worried about myself. While talking to a senior journalist, my phone kept shutting down, they had blocked it," he recounted.
The journalist was accused of being a terrorist by the officials.
Talking of his treatment by Delhi Police, Gilani said: "They asked my neighbours if they felt no shame in living so close to a terrorist. My children's tuition teacher was there in the house Sunday, and they interrogated her for an hour. 'What is the point of educating them?', they asked, as they would ultimately become terrorists."
Gilani added that going by the talk of the police officials, it appeared like they represented a right-wing group, not the police force of a secular country.
"Police have changed their versions so many times. First, they said I was never detained. Then, they said I was already there at S.A.S. Geelani's home when they came, insisting there was a miscommunication. I say I will still give them the benefit of doubt. But why were the children detained? I was also arrested in 2002. Whatever may have happened in jail after that, at least I was arrested in a dignified manner that time," Gilani said.
Iftikhar Gilani was earlier arrested on charge of spying in June 2002 under the Official Secrets Act. He was accused of working with Pakistan's ISI, but later acquitted.
The journalist added that the problem was the lack of accountability of the police force.
"The problem is that there is no accountability. Had those officials had the fear that they would have to answer someone, they would have behaved differently. I was pleading to them for my children," he said.
The Indian Women's Press Corps expressed its dismay at the manner in which a senior journalist like Gilani was harassed by Delhi Police.
"We have learnt from his first-hand account how he was accosted by plain-clothesmen on Feb 9 and manhandled on the pretext of seeking out some Kashmiri leader. They threatened him and locked up his children," the IWPC said, in a statement.
The IWPC joins other media organisations in demanding that action should be taken against the police officials who subjected him and his family to mental and physical harassment, it said.
The journalist's detention has been criticised by the Editor's Guild of India, which demanded an apology from the police.
Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju has, meanwhile, written to the home ministry asking it to chargesheet and suspend police officials who had kept Gilani under alleged illegal detention.
'Ask the Home Minister', says Congress
With questions being raised on the alleged illegal "detention" of journalist Iftikhar Gilani following the hanging of Afzal Guru, Congress today put the ball in the Home Ministry's court.
"...Let the Home Minister answer...I do not the circumstances in which the Delhi police did it...I do not why Delhi police detained him. So I cannot comment on it...I do not know why this sort of incident had happened," party spokesperson Sandip Dikshit told reporters at the AICC briefing.
He was responding to queries from agitated journalist as to why Gilani was being harassed "simply because he was related to a separatist leader of Jammu and Kashmir".
Gilani was detained at his father-in-law and hardline Hurriyat leader leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani's house here on Saturday after the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. He was, however, later allowed to go.
The Home Minister said that he had arrived today only from Meghalaya and "I will enquire into it now."
Slamming the police for "detaining" Gilani yesterday, Press Council Chairman Markanday Katju today had asked Union Home Secretary to charge-sheet and suspend the cops if the allegations of "high-handedness" against them were correct.
His response came after Gilani in an email to Katju complained that security agencies had illegally detained him.
The AICC briefing saw journalists slamming the government and the police for "harassment of a senior journalist" who covers both the ruling party as well as the government. The scribes even asked the party spokesperson whether "it was a democratic rule or Nazi rule".
Will inquire into Gilani's 'detention': Shinde
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Monday said he will inquire into the alleged illegal detention here of journalist Iftikhar Gilani, son-in-law of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, following Azal Guru's execution.
Shinde said he knew Gilani personally and will find out what happened Saturday.
The minister said he was in Meghalaya Sunday and had not yet found out about Gilani's detention.
"I also know him. I will inquire and find out what happened," Shinde said.
Suspend, book cops who 'detained' Gilani: Katju
Slamming the police for "detaining" journalist Iftikhar Gilani on Saturday, Press Council Chairman Markanday Katju on Sunday asked Union Home Secretary to charge-sheet and suspend the cops if the allegations of "high-handedness" against them were correct.
In a letter to the Home Secretary R K Singh , Justice Katju also sought immediate institution of criminal proceedings against such officers under relevant provisions of IPC and grant of compensation and apology to Gilani for his alleged harassment.
He said the action against the cops should be initiated by the government within 48 hours.
The letter came after Gilani in an email to Katju complained that security agencies had illegally detained him yesterday at the house of his father-in-law Syed Ali Geelani following the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and harassed him for many hours.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani is a Kashmiri separatist leader who heads the hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference.
Katju used the opportunity to ask police personnel to not carry out such "illegal" orders of their superiors, "otherwise they will be charged for serious crimes, and if found guilty, severely punished".
On Gilani's charges of harassment, Katju said, "They reveal great high handedness and outrageous behaviour by the Delhi policemen concerned in harassing and tormenting Mr Gilani and his family, including his small children. These were the undemocratic and abhorrent methods of the Gestapo during Nazi rule.
The PCI Chairman said, "If these allegations are correct, the concerned police officers... as well as those higher ups who were instrumental in ordering these shameful and odious acts are prime facie guilty of serious crimes."
Katju said the incident was a "clear violation" of the Supreme Court directions.
Journalists' body condemns 'detention' of Gilani
The Indian Journalists Union condemned the alleged detention of journalist Iftikhar Gilani by Delhi police for ten hours following the hanging of Afzal Guru.
In a statement, IJU Secretary-General Devulapalli Amar said it seemed to be a knee jerk reaction of Delhi Police and just because Gilani, a working journalist for the last two and half decades, happened to be the son-in-law of Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
"It was inhuman that even his school-going children were locked up in a room. This is not only a frontal attack on the freedom of expression and press, but violation of his human rights. It is not acceptable to the working journalists in the country," he said and demanded action against the police personnel responsible for it.