CHURUMURI POLL: Guilty until proven innocent?

Jamia Millia Islamia University’s decision to provide “legal assistance” to two of its students, Mohammad Shakil and Zia-ur-Rehman, picked up in connection with the serial blasts in Delhi has, as can be expected, stirred up the usual tsunami in the tea cup. On the one hand, the pseudo-nationalists are frothing at the mouth at the sight of a State-funded institution rushing to ensure the “well being” of “terror suspects”. And, on the other hand, the pseudo-secularists insist that they are taking the only course available before civilised human beings: of treating all suspects as innocent until proven guilty.

Questions: Certainly, the University is a centre of education and the students who come there to study have no business associating themselves with terror groups. But are the two students necessarily guilty because they have been arrested? Given the horrific record of the police and the Central Bureau of Investigation in a case like the Aarushi-Hemraj double murder, can sanctity be automatically attached to the claims of the Delhi police about the extent of involvement of the Jamia students?

Does UGC-funded Jamia Millia provide such “legal assistance” on tax-payers’ funds to students regularly, or is this a special case? If so, why? Is a University in the best traditions of humanism wrong in providing assistance to poor students who may be unfairly stigmatised? Do financially handicapped students have no right to justice just because a lynch mob sees them as guilty? And, above all, does our thirst for “tough laws” on terror imply we throw out the most fundamental rights of citizens?

Or, have we learnt no lessons at all from the extraordinary case of Dr Mohammed Haneef?

Also read: Where has our tolerance and compassion gone?