New Delhi: On March 7, around 11.30 am, special cell of Delhi police picked Syed Mohammad Ahmed Kazmi, from outside India Islamic Cultural Centre, Delhi. At 9 am that morning, he had anchored a news bulletin for Doordarshan. On record, he was arrested at 8.30 pm. Later in the day, police confiscated his laptop, passport, driving license and car from his house in Jorbarh, South Delhi, where Kazmi resided with his wife and two sons. By next morning, Kazmi had become news. Police declared him as an accused in the February 13 bomb blast case in which the wife of Israeli Defense Attache was injured.
Who is Syed Mohammad Ahmed Kazmi?
Kazmi hails from Meerut district, Uttar Pradesh. He began his journalism career in 1983 with Delhi office of Iran Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iran’s national broadcaster, as a news operator. His command over
Arabic and Persian languages helped him translate and interpret news emanating from Gulf countries. Kazmi developed an interest in West Asia, particularly Iraq, Iran and Israel. Seven years into service, he started Media Star, a news agency which would give news features on West Asia. In 1993, he joined Doordarshan as a news anchor and became a familiar face for those who used to watch Urdu news bulletins on DD News. Kazmi reported America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 for Doordarshan. For the next two years, he was part of the team which produced ‘World View India’- a weekly foreign affairs show on Doordarshan. “He had fantastic insight on the region and the reason was his impeccable contacts and network,” said senior journalist Saeed Naqvi, who co-produced the weekly who with Kazmi and has traveled with him on various foreign assignments.
It was Kazmi’s network in Iran, which, according to the police, worked against him. On Wednesday, special cell of Delhi police obtained open warrants against three Irani nationals.
On Friday, eleven days after Kazmi’s arrest, Delhi police briefed the press on the issue for the first time. Delhi police commissioner B K Gupta said that during his interrogation, Kazmi has confessed to having helped the Iran nationals in conducting recce of Israel embassy. "He also disclosed that at the insistence of Syed Ali Sadr Mehndi, a person of Iranian origin, he was introduced to Houshan Afshar and he along with an Irani recced the area around the Israel Embassy. They used a scooty for this recce, which was procured by Houshan Afshar. During this recce they decided to target Israeli diplomats," Gupta said.
“We don’t know any such person. My father is a journalist and he meets hundreds of people. If some of them are found indulging in such activities, does it mean that he was aiding them?” Kazmi’s elder son, Shauzab told Firstpost. Someone who was covering West Asia for almost two decades is bound to have contacts in the region including Iran. Was there something more to it?
When Kazmi’s family moved court asking for evidence/material which lead to his arrest, they were denied the same.
Going by the timing of his arrest, many journalists and human rights activists said that Kazmi was made a scapegoat as India was under tremendous pressure from Israel to make some arrests in the bomb blast case. “He was a Muslim and has been maintaining a pro- Iran stand. He was a suitable person in this case,” said S K Pande, president, Delhi union of journalists, which has started a campaign to release Kazmi. DUJ has sent memorandums to state chief minister and police commissioner demanding Kazmi’s immediate release on bail.
Kazmi’s pro-Iran stand was not denied even by his family. It was visible in his commentary. On the night of February 15, two days after the sticker bomb explosion, Kazmi took part in a televised discussion on NDTV on ‘Iran’s nuclear capabilities and its possible repercussions’. When asked if there was a possibility of Iran using nuclear technology for war, Kazmi said the country’s Islamic leader Ayatollah Khomenei had issued a fatwa against war and Iran would never defy his call. On the ground reality of Shia- Sunni conflict in Iran, he said, “America has been talking about the Shia-Sunni divide, but tactically there is no such clash. It followed the same strategy in Iraq where 40 percent of marriages were happening between Shia and Sunni communities.” He added that the West was trying to create an image of Iran as a country which was a threat to the region.
Kazmi’s family, meanwhile, has alleged that the police is torturing the journalist, who is in 20 days police custody. They have moved court demanding a fair trail to Kazmi where they can monitor his medical condition on a regular basis. “They are forcing him to confess,” said Shauzab.