The dramatic but not unexpected decision of the Australian police to drop all charges of terrorism against Mohammed Haneef is the best piece of news a Friday morning could have brought for the family of the Mudigere-born doctor. And it is sweet vindication for his wife Arshiya who has consistently maintained her husband’s innocence.
But the decision, exactly 25 days after he was picked up with a one-way ticket for a flight back home, is also a valuable lesson for an increasingly suspicious world that is quick to condemn, conclude and hang. Here, then, are eight lessons we can pick up from the arrest, release, continued detention, and eventual exoneration of a son of Karnataka on a faraway continent.
8. Thank god for the media and judiciary: The war on terror has emasculated the legislature and the executive in democracies across the world. The judiciary is the only pillar preventing the war from getting totally farcical. And if it weren’t for the Australian media, especially the stellar role played by The Australian, Haneef’s civil liberties would have been sealed and sold to the lowest common denominator by now.
7. Human rights are global: The right to a dignified life is not the exclusive privilege of the rich, white or those of the right religion or language. It is everybody’s. Men and women; rich and poor; white, black and brown; Christian, Hindu and Muslim. This is not about pseudo-secularism—it’s about being human and reacting as humans, not as hate-spewing, scare-mongering pseudo-nationalists.
6. Common sense isn’t quite so common after all: Even Haneef’s newborn baby, Haniya Kulthum, would have had a simple explanation for his SIM card or his one-way ticket back home, but who in his right uniform likes to listen to a newborn baby even if it’s talking common sense when there is an asymmetrical global “war” without an end in sight to fight?
5. White police are no better than ours: Discrepancies between the Australian police interrogation transcript and their affidavit in court show that the slick efficiency of white cops is only in Hollywood flicks and they are no better or worse than their brown and black counterparts. And that white, brown or black, police have an pavlovian ability to do their political masters’ bidding.
4. Politicians will do anything to stay in power: White politicians haven’t descended from the high heavens. They too are in the game for power, pelf and profit, and will do anything to ensure their continued supply. Godhra magically happened just when Narendra Modi was about to face an election. Mohammed Haneef happened when John “Adolf Hilter” Howard was going for an election.
3. Stand up, speak up, be heard: Indian public opinion has been unduly subdued and cautious in the Haneef case. Partly because of the fear of being proved wrong, largely because of the religious hatred that the pseudo-nationalists have injected in us. But if you can’t find your spine even if—especially when—it doesn’t concern you, when the facts stare you in the face, maybe you should consult your doctor.
2. Terror laws are a joke, here, there, everywhere, anywhere: Any law which allows civilians to be picked up on the flimsiest of pretexts, to be released when nothing is found, and then threatens him with a jail sentence if he tells the world what he underwent in custody means you are just a pawn in a larger game against a faceless enemy. Fear nobody in questioning the mockery of your civil liberties.
And, finally, the biggest lesson from l’affaire Mohammed Haneef is not a cliche, after all.
1. You are innocent until proved guilty: Nothing is what it seems from the outside in the modern world. There are layers and then there are layers. Talk is cheap, but it pays not to prejudge; not to jump to a conclusion that someone else, playing on your fears and fantasies, has cooked up for you. It isn’t over till the fat lady has sung.
Read churumuri.com‘s full coverage here: L’affaire Haneef